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Jennifer Lawler talks about promoting romance novels, Part 3: Inspirational examples

The first post in our three-part series on romance novel promotion with Jennifer Lawler introduced Crimson Romance, the new Adams Media imprint she’s managing.  In Part 2, we discussed what is and isn’t working for authors and publishers  promoting romance novels. In today’s final conversation, Jennifer shares examples of authors she feels have it figured out and talks about how her publisher will work with authors.

Can you provide an example of a romance novelist who is particularly good at book promotion? What do you like about what she does?

I love Jennifer Crusie and Suzanne Brockmann, and for different reasons. Jennifer Crusie is all about sharing all the crazy details of her life and drawing on her fans for support. She has them act as beta readers, she asks them for ideas, she wants their input on plot problems. She blogs about wanting to kill her coauthor – she is just out there. She talks about how she comes up with story ideas, she posts outtakes from her novels (scenes that were cut from the final), she treats her characters as if they were real people. Love her.

Suzanne Brockmann takes a different approach, what you might call a more professional approach. She has an extremely straightforward website, not a lot of bells and whistles, and a newsletter that keeps readers informed about what’s going on, but I don’t really get the sense that I know much about her as a person. And that’s okay! They’re both best-selling authors, and they both focus on writing fantastic novels.

I think these two demonstrate that your approach to promotion needs to be *your* approach – what works for you, what you can sustain, what resonates with you.

What’s the one thing you will encourage your authors to do to promote their books – if they do nothing else, what do you think they must do to get the word out?

They have to have a website/blog – a landing page for readers. That’s the bare minimum. A huge number of romance readers report visiting romance authors’ websites – by far outstripping other related activities they do like following authors on Facebook.

Beyond having a website, authors just have to tell people! I can’t believe the number of writers who are shy about sharing any publishing news on their FB page. It’s a big deal to get a publishing contract! It’s okay to share.

How will you partner with your authors on book promotion – what will Crimson Romance do to help promote its books, and what will you expect from your authors?

The publisher can do a lot to generate sales – get media coverage (especially reviews) for titles, partner strategically with other companies and organizations, distribute to the right places, create a community (and we plan all of these things). Our authors will be given guidance for author promotion, and through their editor they will have access to our publicity department. This partnership ensures that any special ideas the author has are heard and supported.

We do expect our authors to be generally available for promotional opportunities that we develop – that’s just our basic expectation. Beyond that, we encourage authors to devote some time to promotion of their own devising (with our guidance) because there are many things that only an author can realistically do (see above about readers connecting with authors, not with imprints). But we want authors to find what works for them and use that, not try to follow some prescribed ten-step plan. You like Facebook? Then that’s a great place to start promotion. You prefer to blog? Then that’s what you should do.

I think that with fiction, in particular, it helps to let readers sample the author’s work – even if it’s a sample chapter on the author’s website. Some publishers are making novels available on Kindle for free, or for just $.99, for a very short period of time to generate “sampling.” What do you think about this tactic?

Samples do sell books, and I firmly believe that a sample chapter on an author’s website is a great tool. We will also be doing this type of thing on our dedicated website. I’ve seen studies that show that free downloads of entire manuscripts can convert lookers into buyers, in large enough numbers that this is clearly a tactic that can work, but this type of decision is not one I would make unilaterally – I would only do it if an author is enthusiastic about giving it a try.

Would you like to add anything else related to promoting romance novels or your new imprint?

Publishing has changed so much in the last five years that it can feel so strange and threatening to writers. But a good story never goes out of style. That’s why I always come back to. You have to learn to tell the story first. That’ll take half your life. The rest will take a lot less time to figure out and it will change tomorrow anyway. So focus on the craft.

Remember to read the first post in this three-part series on romance novel promotion here and Part 2 here. What other suggestions for romance novel promotion can you offer?

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