Author’s Note: The Po-Biz

Well, while doing my best to find an agent, I’ve also been writing up a bunch of fantasy-romance short stories and sending them winging off to my publisher. It keeps my name out there and keeps income… well, coming in.

I’ve also been marketing.

Marketing is the part of writing that nobody likes. I was talking with my dad about finding an agent and doing marketing, and he was commiserating — he’s Stephen McDonald, a poet. My dad said that in his circles they call it the “po-biz.” I chuckle every time I think that word, and I’m commandeering it for writing in general, even if it doesn’t quite make sense! He also mentioned that it’s at this stage that many would-be writers downshift and aren’t able to get published.

What is it about the business side of writing that’s so difficult? Well, first off, if you’re doing business then you’re not writing. If someone asks me if I’d rather be working on my next book or doing paperwork, I bet you can guess what I’ll answer.

Writing seems more productive, too. I mean, I can’t sell a book until it’s been written, can I? So I want to get it done! Writing is the fun part, the creative part, the part that sets my brain on fire and gets me all excited. Heck, I could almost write for no pay (isn’t that what we do with fanfic, anyway?), but the thought of doing nothing but writing all the time is worth dealing with the po-biz!


Well, not everyone agrees. There are even people out there who’d rather do it as a hobby. I guess I can understand that; I enjoy dog sledding, but I don’t want to do it full time. Many people do agree that they want to write full time and get paid for it, but the business aspect is daunting.

I’ve talked about looking for an agent, and bits and pieces in passing on looking for a publisher, though I’ll go through that in more detail some other time. Another important bit of po-biz is marketing.

I don’t like marketing. I’ll be honest with you — when am I ever anything but? — I think marketing sucks. There are different types of marketing, though, and more and more I’m realizing that it doesn’t have to suck. Heck, it can be really easy!

Marketing is easiest when you have a publisher, rather than self-publishing. The publisher will help you market your book when it first comes out, through sending it to review sites or giving you free blog days or putting the cover up on their mainpage. There’s a dozen ways publishers will help you, and one of the biggest is that they constantly market their own publishing house where someone who’s clicking around can see your book for sale.

But there are ways to help yourself, and if you really want to sell (or if you’re self-published), I’d suggest them. In list format, because who doesn’t like lists…

-Guest blogging
-Author interviews
-Sending to review sites

Let’s talk about each, shall we?

Guest Blogging and Author Interviews

These both require that you know, or know of, other authors in your genre who might be willing to blog-swap for a day, or reviewers or authors who run interviews on the side to drum up readers. Many small authors are happy to do interviews for exchanges: they’ll interview you, you interview them. You can find people like this through our friend Google. Look for small publishing houses in your genre, and then start contacting the authors. Do your research, though; you want to make sure they have a blog, for instance, before you suggest swapping! Find their website (or blog) and click around; Google their name if a contact isn’t listed, or contact the publisher. Most publishers will forward an email on to their authors.

Sending to Review Sites
Most review sites are happy to take free books! Let’s be honest; most review sites are run by one to four people who are book hounds, and do it for fun. Again, Google is your friend! I just Googled “Romance novel review” to see if my point would stand, and sure enough, the entire first page of reviews brings me the “big” review sites — all of which take books from small publishers, most of which I’ve been in contact with and are run by a few people at most, people who have day jobs and do this for fun. That’s right — even the “big” sites are mostly just doing this for fun.

If you contact one of these people and say, “Hey, I’ll send you a free copy of my book for review!” (Check their site first and make sure they don’t have a policy against this, and if you’ve gone through a small publisher check with your publisher to make sure they didn’t send a copy already!), they’re probably going to respond with, “Cool! I’ll put it in the list!”

What does this mean? It doesn’t mean they’ll review it. It definitely doesn’t meant they’ll give it a good review. It means they’ll put it in the pool of books they choose from, and if it looks interesting to one of their reviewers, someone will review it. That’s really the best you can hope for.

Go to a publishing house. Find their blog. Start commenting on their posts. Go to a review site. Rinse, repeat. You’re NOT trying to get the title of your novel in there. In fact, that gets annoying fast when authors do that. It drums up the wrong sort of attention. You’re just trying to get your name out there so that someone goes, “Hmmm, who IS this person?” and goes to find out. Once they’re at your blog, you can hook them with your novel info.

This works better if your own publisher has a blog where you can comment; the readers are more likely to be familiar with your titles, even if they’ve never picked them up. I’ve picked up quite a few books I would NEVER have picked up, because I saw the author over and over on a blog and finally got curious. I should note here that the author never promoted their own work, unless the blog post was specifically asking for that. They were just there to talk, and seemed like nice people.

This also works better if your signature name is familiar! For instance, I write under “JB McDonald,” but my blog is “jennabreen.” Consequently, I sign everything with “JB” so people know who the heck I am, and my name gets familiar. If your blog name isn’t obvious, make it so.

Finally, the least time consuming and most expensive method is plain ol’ advertising! This is my favorite option, I admit. I go to, say, a review site like Dark Divas or Cryselle’s Bookshelf, and I look around. Do they have ads there for me to see? If not, I move on. But if so, well, someone is paying for those ads! I poke around a little.

$5 on Dark Divas will get me the picture of my book cover and a link to it for an entire month. $20 gets me several covers that rotate. And don’t discount  off-the-wall places: is for R and higher rated fanfic, and has millions of people viewing it. For the same $20 I can have a banner ad there. Now, people visiting Dark Divas are ready to pay for what they read, but there are a lot more readers at Which is better? I have no idea. It’s a judgement call. If I only have $20 then I’ll have to choose, or look elsewhere, or go for something smaller.

If I have more money, I can submit an ad to RT Book Reviews and their huge readership, or submit multiple ads, or — well, all sorts of things! Some places will put an ad together for you if you send links and images, other places want you to do it. It just depends on how much time you have versus how much money you’re ready to spend. Either way, check their FAQ or info about advertising or whatever they have, and it will usually say.

I, for one, typically would rather go without several fancy Starbucks coffees than deal with finding someone who wants to do interviews, so I’ll happily pay a reviewer to put an ad up. Then again, I’ve had months where money is tight, so I take blog days through my publisher or join in chats they arrange.

There’s options, and remember that the marketing side of the business isn’t really that terrible, and marketing is worth it, in the long run. Sure, maybe my book runs a few days later because I was marketing instead of writing, but the leap upward in income is DEFINITELY worth it. I used to think that my books would speak for themselves… but that’s only true if people know your books exist! So, go market, my fellow authors. It’s not so bad as all that!

Of course, if you’re really lucky you’ll have a daughter with a column. Then maybe she’ll link to your poetry book and you can say, “Aw, thanks sweetie. That was nice of you!” But that’s only if you’re really lucky!

JB McDonald is a fanfic and published author who is very excited about her new website. You can check it out at

Posted on August 29, 2011 at 10:52 by JB McDonald · Permalink
In: Uncategorized