Different Flavors of Interactive and Intriguing Promotion

Behold: three very different but very interesting bits of book promotion that have made their way to my inbox or mailbox.

First: Nora Roberts’ alter ego JD Robb is releasing her 30th book in the Eve/Roarke series. And check out the promotional bundle that appeared with a copy of the book: evidence bags! Each bag contains key evidence from one of the prior books, and there are 29 sets in all.



Included is a memo from Eve Dallas that refers to a website where you can see all the different evidence bags that were sent out to reviewers and media (Thank you Penguin!). Missing evidence is a key feature in the plot of Fantasy in Death, so this promo draws all the previous books into the present one. How cool. I wish there were more for me to do with the evidence bag or the online site, but already I’m supremely curious about the book in question.

Beginning February 23, readers can enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Fantasy in Death. I also think the evidence bags will be quite a prize collectible for any Nora fan.

Second: Alex Lencicki is a very fine gentleman, and his colleage Devi Pillai has great taste. So when he sent me an email with the subject line, “A Romantic Comedy … WITH BRAAAAAINS” my thought was, “Oh, crap. Zombies.”

I’m not much into zombie romance, alas. But his email read, and this was the whole damn message:

I’m pleased to say that Orbit has solved the perennial publishing question: “How can you mix zombies and Romance.” (Hint: The answer does *not* involve sexy zombies)


Hmm? So I click and check that out. “Married with Zombies: the couple who slays together, stays together.” HA.


But what gets me all giggly and curious and desirous of a copy is the “post-apocalyptic marriage advice:”

  * Balance the workload in your relationship. No one person should be responsible for killing all the zombies.
  * Put the small stuff into perspective. It’s better to be wrong and alive than right but eating brains.
  * Talk out your big decisions. Hear both opinions before you decide if you’re going to flee the city or hole up with Campbell’s Soup and CNN.
  * Share in your activities and interests. If you’re going to kill zombies anyway, why not do it together?
  * Plan romantic getaways. Or just getaways.
  * Show physical affection. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like bearing the entirety of your spouse’s body weight.

Now that’s cute and funny. I want to read more of that – and while there’s a Facebook page, I can’t find an author page to find out more (darn it). Wait – I found it. After hunting on her Facebook page: but JessePetersen.net

doesn’t work!

WOE! Woe is me, curious reader after more info.

ETA: YAY! A page is up and it’s rather cute. Ecards for Valentine’s Day? Spiffy.

(See, this is why a website is important. Curious readers are curious!)

And thirdly, remember that Neil Gaiman Twitter write-along compilation thing where I went ‘Huh?’ and many others went ‘Huh?’ with me? There’s another one coming from BBC Audiobooks, this time with… Meg Cabot.

Oh, the Cabot, she is a very personal brand of crack for me. From the BBC Audiobooks press release:

Cabot will tweet the first line of the story and fans can jump in and continue it with their 140-characters-or-less contributions. To participate, fans must log into Twitter (registration is free) and post in this format: @BBCAA Your Tweet Here #bbcawdio. The lines that best continue the story will be retweeted on BBC Audiobooks America’s Twitter account (@BBCAA).

The finalized short story will be recorded by a professional narrator and posted online as a free iTunes podcast at http://www.BBCAudiobooksAmerica.com/trade.  It will also be available as a digital download at iTunes and other audiobook retailers.

So while I’m still not 100%… or even 10% beyond my initial “Huh?” reaction, I’m still curious and will check out a sample when it’s ready.

I love seeing new or different or interactive ways to spread the word about an upcoming book. Some of these are funny and interesting, and some of them are updated versions of what’s been done previously – including swag with a book is not new, and author/fan collaborations are not new. But exclusive or social media-driven promotional efforts are newer and interesting, and then there’s the CabotCrackCatnip factor, which I fully admit is a-workin’ the mojo on me. Funny, however, like the marital advice from zombie hunters,

What’s worked for you lately? What promo methods do you think are hella cool?




Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Bonnie says:

    Just saw Jane’s tweet about JD Robb’s promotion. 

    Did you get a bloody nightgown, too?  :/

  2. 2
    LG says:

    What’s the URL for the Eve Dallas web site? The link seems to be broken.  I’m so jealous about the evidence bags, btw.

    And romance with zombies and humor?  I am intrigued.

  3. 3

    I’m so on board for the zombies.

    Wonder if Woody Harrelson gets a cameo?

  4. 4
    SonomaLass says:

    My problem with the JD Robb and promos like it promos is part of my usual problem with mainstream publishers. It’s all about making books that are already going to be best sellers into HUGE sellers, while your mid-list authors are stuck promoting themselves. It’s a catchy idea, but the mindset it reflects depresses me.

    That “couple fighting zombies together” vibe was my favorite part of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and worked (in different ways) in both novellas in Half-Past Dead. I love the marriage advice!

  5. 5

    JD Robb’s, “Eve Dallas” series is one of my favorites. I just started “Kindred in Death” which I have had for a month. I didn’t want to start it cause I knew I’d read it in less than 24 hours and shoot damn if I’m not already down to the last 50 pages. I’ve deliberately left it on the coffee table today(so I wouldn’t finish it) and ever time I catch sight of it out of the corner of my eye, I’ve had to slap myself from picking it up. I looove series but generally after 6 or 8 books they get too predictable. Not so with this series, each murder is fresh and unique. I love that it is set just enough in the future that Robb has this great technology but so do the criminals. Even though it is at book 30 only about 2 and 1/2 years has passed so the romance is still exciting and the humor still makes you chuckle out loud when Eve is forced out of her role as a detective and into a wife and woman’s role. The secondary characters are just as exciting as the main ones. This is a series that I could read another 30 of. Just wish there were 2 or 3 a year.

  6. 6

    What’s worked for you lately? What promo methods do you think are hella cool?

    Check out this

    Action Interview. Hear author Kathy Carmichael talk about her brand-new book, Diary of a Confessions Queen, while experiencing the story as it happens. You’ll get to meet the characters in a pub, sip tea in their home, and join a wicked séance! Oh, you also get sprayed by a skunk!

    A different type of blog that I enjoyed much more than the book trailers that a lot of authors use.

  7. 7
    Laura (in PA) says:

    I totally want to see those JD Robb Evidence Bags.

  8. 8
    Lori says:

    I agree with SonomaLass’ frustration about how promotional dollars are spent.

    I’m dying to read Married With Zombies though. It sounds like exactly my sort of humor.

  9. 9
    Karen H says:

    There’s a typo in the Eve Dallas URL reference.  Here’s the actual link that works:  .

    Note that I haven’t used html in one of these boxes before so if the link isn’t really a link, just copy the part between the quotes and paste it into the address box of your web browser.

  10. 10
    Karen H says:

    Sorry!  I forgot to close my html (I wish I knew how to preview this first).  Let’s try again:


  11. 11
    Stacia K says:

    I tend to think that the best promo is excerpts, as long and as many as you can manage. Promo items are nice but hopefully the writing will sell itself, or will convince people they want to read the rest of the story, or whatever.

    Of course, saying that, I have an idea for t-shirts that will hopefully be really cool. I probably won’t be able to do them this year, but…

  12. 12
    Joanne says:

    Can of worms: Be Opened.

    It hard to believe that what SonomaLass calls “mid-list authors” wouldn’t be happy to see publishers doing promotions- like the Robb one- especially for one of the leaders in romance book sales.

    When another author has continually earned that kind of investment shouldn’t it be rewarded and celebrated? Isn’t that the writer’s goal, the dream? To be a big earner, a big seller.

    Robb/Roberts was once a newbie (and not-so-great back in the day) author who graduated to mid-list and then to bestselling author. I don’t think that it happen through anything but hard work and good writing no matter how it looks from where others stand right now.

    When publishers are having public break-downs all over the place it’s nice to see them putting some effort into the authors that keep them on the charts.

    Maybe it’s me being fan-girl stupid but it also seems a little petty to be snapping at a hand that is willing to promote any book.

    No one person should be responsible for killing all the zombies{/quote]This! I’ve been telling him this for 38 flippin’ years.

  13. 13
    Bonnie says:

    Regarding the JD Robb promo:  I think this is great if you’re into that kind of thing.  Me?  Not so much. 

    I’m a fan of Nora Roberts and JD Robb, but I wouldn’t really want all that stuff.  A signed copy, yes.  But the other stuff?  Doesn’t appeal to me.  Especially when you can buy personalized signed books from her husbands book store.  That, to me is something.

  14. 14
    Jennifer B. says:

    It just totally depressed me to think that cops in Eve Dallas’ time are using the same Word Memo templates we use now. Other than that, I think this is a pretty cool idea and a way to freshen up a familiar series.

  15. 15
    Katie says:

    Jesse Petersen is Jenna Petersen/Jess Michaels (an author I love in both formats, though I don’t know about zombies…)

  16. 16
    orangehands says:

    Jennifer B: LMAO! And I agree, good way to get people rereading old books while waiting for the new one.

    Joanne: Though its dangerous to talk for someone else (and I could be totally wrong on her reasoning), I think she was pointing out that J.D. Robb doesn’t need the extra promotional marketing because she is already a huge bestseller, whereas mid-level authors who do need the marketing help (to boost them up to that level) aren’t getting it because they’re not big names yet. And low-level authors definitely aren’t getting help, which is a shame because a little promotional help could be the difference between getting another contract or being dropped.

    The zombie one looks funny.

  17. 17
    Kim says:

    Ditto to Jennifer B’s comment that JD Robb’s evidence bags are a “cool idea to freshen a series”.  Following this example, a creative author can ignite his/her her own buzz.  The blogs on Smart Bitches, Dear Author, and even the RT Message Boards have helped new and midlist authors get over that hump.  Plus authors can use readers’ groups to promote themselves.  I email authors each month to request promos for my literary projects for military readers, including the SOS Newsletter.  More likely than not, it is the new and midlist authors who support me (and the military readers appreciate it).
    My favorite promo this month is the two-in-one measuring spoon from Cathy Maxwell, engraved with “Love your life.”  What sage advice!

  18. 18
    snowballfight says:

    Sorry, I’m with Sonoma.  I would rather see a fraction of the money it took to conceive, design, produce, and mail these evidence bags go towards five or six midlist or debut authors. No, Joanne, it’s not that I hate Nora Roberts or begrudge her success. It’s just that the money has to come from somewhere, and spending it on making Ms. Roberts’s already-bestseller into super Ultra MEGA Bestseller means somebody else isn’t getting the money to have a breakthrough book. If I have to choose between Ms. Roberts having ten weeks of NYT bestsellerdom or a mere six, but with that six, I learn about new authors and discover a new book…. well, I’d rather give the newbies a chance.

    I don’t like what this signals: that publishers, like movie producers, are losing their desire to try something new.

    Of course, if Ms. Roberts is paying for this whole thing herself, then all my comments are void. Because it really is clever (in an attention-getting kind of way; God knows I don’t need more crap in my house). It’s only my concern about what lies behind it that causes me to worry.

  19. 19
    SheaLuna says:

    For me, the only promo that has EVER convinced me to buy a book (other than word of mouth, including recommendations on SBTB) is an author’s blog.  I discovered Alyssa Day through a collaborative blog she used to co-write (I can’t even remember now how I stumbled on the blog.).  Her blog posts didn’t really have anything to do with her novels, but I loved her sense of humor and writing style so I went and bought the first Warriors of Poseidon book.  Voila!  She’s now on my auto-buy.

  20. 20
    Nora Roberts says:

    I love this promo. My publisher and marketing came up with the fun and clever.

    Like most writers, I did my own promo for years—and still do considerable. A major promotion like this was structured to celebrate 30 books in an on-going series.

    I’m grateful for the time, effort and creativity the publishing team put into conceiving and implementing it.

  21. 21
    scribblingirl says:

    I just ran over to Jesse Peterson’s Facebook page and the Orbit website reading about this and it sounds like a lot of fun. I can’t wait for it to come out :)

  22. 22
    SheaLuna says:

    OMG, I just let out a little fan girl squee that Nora Roberts posted.  How embarrassing.  I swear sometimes I am SO 15 inside.  Bizarrely, I just had my nose buried in Kindred In Death during my lunch break.

  23. 23
    Dana L says:

    I love the In Death series and I think the promotion is a good idea and it ties into the book.  I don’t think that just because an author is already a best-seller, that the publishers shouldn’t help to promote them.  I believe they have earned it and the publishers need to show them that they are appreciated.  I think it is just like working in a corporation, you have to earn your way up.  (Well, it’s suppose to happen that way.)

  24. 24
    Jesse Petersen says:

    Hello SB Sarah and all!

    Thanks for all the very nice comments re: MARRIED WITH ZOMBIES! I had such a great, great time writing them! I do apologize that the site isn’t running yet, Orbit is putting the final touches on something that should be up today or tomorrow (we’re all so excited it got done just a little backwards). For now, I’m updating my Facebook Fan page regularly: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jesse-Petersen/246153580904?ref=ts

    As for promo, I’ve always done all of my own, but since the publisher has so much wider reach, it’s always nice when they get excited about a book and start talking about it (like Orbit has with MARRIED WITH ZOMBIES), but in the end if you all pick up the book and like it, that’s going to be a huge part in the success of the next ones. Books sell books, don’t you think?

  25. 25
    kytten says:

    Now this kitten likes zombies s will probably pick the book up.
    Have you read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? It’s actually extrememly funny and sick all at the same time. And as a fan of Austen I quite like the rewriting to involve zombie mayhem.

  26. 26
    Jesse Petersen says:

    I LOVED P&P&Z! I thought it was brilliant! Told you… zombie junkie…

  27. 27
    Castiron says:

    The most…interesting…book promo I ever saw was one done by Duke University Press for Terri Kapsalis, Public Privates: Performing Gynecology from Both Ends of the Speculum.  That’s right, at their booth at a scholarly exhibit, they were handing out plastic specculums, complete with a little sticker with the book information.  It certainly had us talking about Duke for a week….

    I also recall the one Johns Hopkins UP did for John Jakle’s The Motel in America—little keychains with room numbers on one side and the book information on the other.  I may still have that keychain around somewhere.

  28. 28
    Stacia K says:

    See, this is the thing, though (I was going to say this in my earlier comment but was in a hurry).

    Yes, this is just my opinion (shared with several other people I know who’ve been in the industry a lot longer than I have), so take it with a grain of salt if you like, but in my experience and my opinion, promo doesn’t sell book. I’ve never bought a book because of a clever piece of promo. I’ve never bought a book because the author gave me a yummy-smelling lip gloss or a pen or even a nifty rubber wristband bracelet. Sure, I *might* have looked the book up if I liked the promo item, but I very well might not have, and if I did, and ended up buying, it was because the story sounded good and the writing grabbed me.

    Unless the book is highly recommended to me by a friend or site whose opinions I trust, I don’t buy books I haven’t had a chance to read any of, at least not fiction (non-fic is different; if it’s on “my topic” I’ll get it). I can’t believe that especially with the economy being what it is, most people aren’t just as cautious as I am.

    Promo and advertising for big-name authors isn’t to sell the book. It’s to make sure the book’s audience knows the book is out there, or that it’s coming, and when. It’s aimed at people who buy everything Nora or Stephen King or whomever write, because they love the writing and trust the author, and just need to know when to be at the store.

    Publishers could do this sort of campaign for a new author, sure. And what would happen, in all likelihood, is people would get it, think, “Oh, what a neat promo idea! Never heard of the author. I’ll see how the reviews are before I get it,” and set the thing aside until they’ve had a chance to peruse the book at a store or see a review on a site they trust or get it recommended from a friend who liked it.

    Maybe I’m being negative here. It’s entirely possible. But seriously, has anyone here bought a novel from an author they’ve never heard of, sight unseen, because they saw an ad or a clever promo gift? (If you have I’d be *very* interested to hear about it.)

    To me, promo gifts are more for established readers; a fun thing for them as a thank-you for reading. Sure, if you can pique some people’s curiosity and get them to check the books out, that’s great, obviously, but the writing and story still have to be good to get them to buy.

    Yes, you could argue that things like front-table co-op or endcap co-op would be better given to debut authors or low-midlisters. But some of it is, and the presence of names like Nora’s beside them on those front tables is what makes that co-op valuable (and even then, table or endcap placement doesn’t sell books if the writing is bad or the story is bland and cliche). It makes people stop and look. Unfortunately not everyone can get that kind of co-op, because the tables and endcaps just aren’t big enough. :)

    Like I said, this is just what I was told, and what I’ve seen prove as true over the last few years. And it’s why although I’d love to do t-shirts, I want them as gifts for readers, not to entice them. Because my work has to do that on its own, and that’s why I think longer excerpts are the only sales technique or strategy or whatever that actually works to sell books. Of course, do whatever you can to get the book attention, but in the end, given the number of times people have to see a title or authors name or product name before it sticks, vs. how well they remember that same title and author if they read two chapters and get totally sucked in… I just know which one I think is more effective, that’s all.

    Like I said if you have a different experience I’d love to hear it!

  29. 29
    Kim says:

    Responding to Stacie K, “To me, promo gifts are more for established readers; a fun thing for them as a thank-you for reading”, I tend only to take promos I can use, such as the folding hand fans (great for the heat), luggage tags (sets my suitcase apart on the conveyor belt), and zippered pouches (always useful).  These items remind me of the author, how I received the promo, and the fun time I had at the event. 

    At the very least, bookmarks are useful – larger versions of business cards.  The RT message board includes a post about Sabrina Jeffries’ folded bookmark that mimics a gossip rag to promote The Truth About Lord Stoneville.  The book hit the NYT’s list, most likely from returning fans, but I’m sure the “buzz” helped.  And the bookmarks helped generate the “buzz.” 

    In fact, Sabrina sent me bookmarks for my literary projects.  Their unique design attracted attention from military spouses who held preconceived attitudes towards historical romances.  The bookmarks inspired them to consider Sabrina’s book might be as fun to read as the bookmark. 

    I offer one more example.  Military spouses tend to be more conservative than the general public … so imagine what happened when I gave away Condom lollipops from Ellora’s Cave at a tea party.  They laughed!  And it led to an open discussion about women pursuing writing careers in all genres. 

    Amending my first paragraph, I also take bookmarks, especially any related to Scotland, as I like to collect Handsome Highlanders.

  30. 30

    I was just about to comment on StaciaK’s remark when I read Kim’s mention of my bookmarks. Weird!

    Here’s my take on promo—as Nora said, I did my own for years and years. But having had a previous writing career under two other pseudonyms, I learned that promo for promo’s sake is worthless (other than maybe generating name recognition). My second time around, I made sure that my promo was unique and tied effectively to the book. It is possible to do that on the cheap.

    I did my Parasol Papers for years, focusing on making them funny and interesting (they’re fake newspapers that contain such things as lessons for avoiding rakes or letters to the editor written by the hero/heroine complaining about the author choosing them for each other, etc.) . If I couldn’t make my promo creative, I didn’t do it. I got a lot of readers based on those Parasol Papers. As I had more success, I improved the quality, made them slicker, with better images. Almost from the first I made my own galleys and offered them to any bookseller who asked. I spent hours and hours stuffing envelopes and managing lists, etc.

    Would I have been better off writing more books? Maybe. But my publisher (Avon, at the time) wouldn’t publish me more than once every 9 months and I could write a book in 6 months so rather than split myself between two houses, I did promo. For YEARS.

    Now my publisher does some of my promo, but I still do a good portion of it myself. And I still say if it can’t be original and creative, there’s no point. Of course, I don’t have much say in my publisher’s choices for promo, but for my own I do try to make it creative.

    And yes, I do think people bought the book based on the promo. They got a taste of my voice and decided the book might be worth looking at.

    Also, we forget that the average reader doesn’t get inundated by bookmarks, newsletters, etc. the way those of us in the industry do. They ENJOY getting this stuff, and it does pique their interest.

    JMO, of course.

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