Posted On October 17, 2011 by Print This Post

Marketing For Debut Authors by Eleanor Elliott


After experiencing the excitement of being a debut author, there is one thing I know for sure. What is that one thing? For me, trying to figure out how to market my debut book became a daunting task. With that in mind, we asked Eleanor Elliott, Director of Digital Properties and Social Media for Harlequin and Carina Press, to give us recommendations on marketing a debut book. 

This is good stuff, gang!

Making a list, checking it twice…

I love lists. I love the clarity and order they provide, and crossing off an item on my to-do list gives me a very tangible sense of satisfaction. When a project seems overwhelming, the best way for me to get a handle on it is to sit down and write out a list of the individual tasks I need to do. It’s so much easier to tackle something huge when all you have to worry about is the next immediate step. And I doubt there are many things bigger in the life of an author than the launch of their first book! So when RU faculty asked me to write a marketing checklist for debut authors, I was happy to oblige.

I know ‘marketing’ can seem daunting to an author, but it doesn’t have to be! It really boils down to one simple thing: get readers interested in your book. There are many, many ways to do that – but just remember that the core of it is about your book, and about getting into the hands of readers who will love it as much as you do.

Note: I’m going to assume you’re working with a publisher – for self-published authors your experience will be different and much more of the marketing load will be on your shoulders, but many of the recommendations below will still apply.

And now, onto the checklist!

Congratulations! Your book has been acquired! Contract is signed, you’re working with an editor, and you’ve been told your release date. It’s 4 months away.

  • Work diligently with your editor on any revisions you’ve been asked to make. I know, this isn’t marketing – but always remember that marketing must come secondary to ensuring your book is the best book it can be.

4 Months before launch day:

  • Figure out what your author-brand positioning is, and come up with a statement to describe it. Your author brand is a promise to your readers – what they know they can expect from you. A couple of well thought out and executed author brands from authors I’m familiar with:
    • Maria Zannini – Maria writes paranormal/science-fiction/fantasy, and that’s very clear on her website, both with the visual design and her tagline: Tales of Otherworlds
    • Shirley Wells – Shirley writes mysteries, and communicates her positioning as: Dark Crimes, Deep Secrets, Powerful Stories. What I love about Shirley’s website is that it’s simple design is quite in line with her brand. Now, if Shirley wrote sexy historical romance, I’d have quite a different opinion!
    • Start a website or blog under your pseudonym. I recommend the WordPress platform because it functions as both a blog and website. The website should be simple and clear and should be a visual reflection of your author brand. Do you write romantic suspense? Flowers and butterflies might not be the best way to convey that visually.
    • Start a Twitter account and Facebook page under your pseudonym. BUT, only if you can commit to participating for 10 minutes per day. To effectively utilize social media, you have to be an active participant. Follow & ‘Like’ other authors and industry professionals and engage in dialog with them.

2-3 months before launch day

  • As soon as you receive your cover (and you’ve received to go ahead from your publisher), post it on your website for the world to see!
  • Write a press release about your book to send to local news media. Include the cover of your book, an author photo, details about your book, and any interesting facts that might make your story relevant to local media: is your story set locally? Is there an interesting connection between you and the stories you write (i.e. were you a vet and now write shifter stories?)
  • If you receive digital or physical review copies of your book, reach out to bloggers and ask them if they’d like to receive a review copy. Many publishers already make your book available to reviewers, however, it does not hurt to reach out directly.
  • Reach out to your publisher to discuss their marketing plans for your book. They may have developed marketing materials or a tagline that you could use in your own efforts; they may also be interested in knowing what plans you have in place so they can develop complimentary plans or have suggestions for you.

1 month before launch day

  • Develop a plan to engage potential readers on Twitter and/or Facebook. Come up with a series of tweets/posts that are related to your book in some way. You want the posts to be interesting enough that readers will either ReTweet or ‘Like’ them, thereby sharing your content with their followers/friends. For example: Does your heroine love to bake? Share recipes cleverly retitled to reflect themes in your story. Is your story set in ancient Egypt? Share cool facts/quotes about the setting and why it inspired you. Always link back to your website/blog where you make the connection to your book/characters. The campaign should begin about a week or so before launch day.

At least once per week until launch day:

  • Blog about your experience of getting your first book ready for publication. If you have more to say, blog more frequently. But try not to blog less frequently than once per week. Whenever you post a new blog post, make sure to post a link on your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Every day to launch day:

  • Participate for at least 10 minutes in social media (Twitter, Facebook). Developing a direct connection with potential readers is a great way to build an audience.

On launch day:

  • Participate in whatever marketing activities your publisher has arranged for you (i.e. blog tours, posts on the publisher’s social media properties, etc).

Remember that marketing doesn’t end on launch day! Keep up your social media campaign for at least 2 weeks post-launch (so about 3 weeks total). Note any positive reviews that your book gets, and forward those to your publisher. And start working on your next book.  Your best marketing tool is your book. The more you write, the more you will publish, and the more you publish, the more marketable you become (because your backlist serves as great promotion of your backlist and vice versa!)

Ok, I know many of you will read this and think….uhhhh….but what about…? What about promo items? What about advertising? What about GoodReads and Tumblr and my Amazon author page?

Yes. There are many more activities you CAN do to market your book – but it’s my personal belief that it’s better off for an author to focus on fewer activities and do them really well, then to spread themselves too thin on activities that don’t have as big an impact.

So, in summary, a really simplified checklist:

  1. Make your book awesome.
  2. Have a clear understanding of your author brand
  3. Create and maintain a simple author website/blog
  4. Develop an active social media presence
  5. Engage local media
  6. Reach out to reviewers
  7. Develop and launch a book-specific social media campaign
  8. Keep in contact with your publisher about your plans, and take advantage of whatever opportunities they present you with.


RU Crew, here’s your chance to ask a marketing professional for help. Go get her.

Thank you to Eleanor for the great advice and for hanging out with us today. Join us on Wednesday when author Dee J. Adams shares her tips on pitching to an editor or agent.

 Bio: Eleanor Elliott is the Director of Digital Properties and Social Media for Harlequin and Carina Press. She’s worked in the digital space for 15 years, and in publishing since 1999. An avid reader since childhood, she always has at least 2 books on the go at any given time. She loves almost every kind of genre fiction, but has a soft spot for sci-fi and fantasy romance.




Similar Posts:

Share Button



22 Responses to “Marketing For Debut Authors by Eleanor Elliott”

  1. Hi Eleanor,

    On Facebook, people openly complain about people pitching their books. How should you mention your book without being obnoxious?

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | October 17, 2011, 6:00 am
    • Hi Mary Jo,

      Do you mean bloggers/reviewers complaining? If so, there are a couple of things I’d recommend:

      – know your audience (in this case, the blogger). Read his/her blog – if she doesn’t have an affinity for your type of book, then don’t send it to her.

      – address the blogger by name (if you know it), and be professional. A short, simple, email query is perfectly acceptable. If she doesn’t respond, leave it as is. If she doesn’t respond and ask to see your manuscript, send it, and then leave it as is. You never want to pester!

      – if the blogger complains a lot about authors pitching their books to them, then I would just avoid that blogger altogether. They may just prefer seeking out their own review copies directly from the publishers.

      I hope that helps!

      Posted by Eleanor | October 17, 2011, 6:31 am
      • Ooops – I should have said “If she does respond and ask to see your manuscript” not “doesn’t”.

        It’s early, and I haven’t had a full cup of coffee yet 😉

        Posted by Eleanor | October 17, 2011, 6:37 am
      • I mean people who put it as their status or a general invitation to follow them on a blog.

        Posted by Mary Jo Burke | October 17, 2011, 6:37 am
        • Oh, so just regular friends/followers?

          As a rule of thumb, you don’t want to be promoting your book 24/7. Social Media is all about an authentic connection – that’s why I’m recommending that you start early, and participate in social media well before your launch date. If you participate and form authentic connections well before your launch date, your fans/followers/likes should be responsive to your promo activities surrounding your launch.

          Posted by Eleanor | October 17, 2011, 6:41 am
  2. Good morning, Eleanor. Thank you for being here with us today.

    Part of what I struggle with on the marketing front is figuring out how much is enough. The marketing end of a book launch could definitely be a full-time job for an author. Sometimes it feels like an addiction! Is there a litmus test for an author to know when they are doing enough?


    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | October 17, 2011, 6:19 am
    • Hi Adrienne,

      My pleasure! Thanks for having me!

      I think that in the month preceding your book’s release, marketing should be your focus. But beyond that, as an author, you should be much more focused on your craft. A great marketing campaign (and great sales on your first book), won’t mean much if you don’t have a second (and third, and forth…) that you can deliver to your readers.

      So, if your book has been out for a couple of weeks, and your spending more time on marketing activities than you are on your next work-in-progress, I think it would be time to reevaluate your schedule.

      I do think it’s important to keep steady at marketing activities (especially social media), but keep it in it’s place. Schedule a small amount of time to it each day, and then move on to the bigger and more important task….your writing!

      Posted by Eleanor | October 17, 2011, 6:36 am
  3. I try not to be too “in your face” with my marketing. I post each new cover on my blog and Facebook author page when I get it. I post release dates once on my blog/FB/twitter. (Note, since my book is published internationally on different dates, this requires one post per release date.) I also post links to good reviews on Twitter/FB/Blog. And I have wonderful friends (you know who you are) who retweet my tweets and help me to create buzz about my books by posting to twitter when they read them and how they liked them. And I return the favor!!!

    Posted by Wendy S. Marcus | October 17, 2011, 7:20 am
  4. Hi Eleanor,

    Thanks for the fantastic list. Now I know why Adrienne’s always singing your praises. 🙂

    My debut releases next April and I find myself getting really nervous about preparing for the launch. After reading your list, I’m feeling much better!

    Regarding social media…I’ve had a TW and FB account for a while now. I’m not a chatty type of person, so I find myself doing more retweeting and liking/sharing someone’s FB comment.

    Based on your suggestions, is this enough interaction or should I try to reply more, leave more comments, and/or come up with my own tweets/comments? Geez, did I make any sense? LOL

    Thanks again!

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | October 17, 2011, 7:22 am
    • You made sense 😉

      Replying/Retweeting/Sharing is a great way to get into social media, but I do think that as you get closer to your release date, you should attempt to develop your own voice online. It doesn’t have to be scary, though! Just think about what’s prompting you to share/RT someone else’s content and add your own two cents as you do it. And probably the easiest content for an author to share on Social Media is what you’re reading/enjoying! Read a great book? Write a quick tweet about it…it’s a great way to create a sense of community. I know I’m always looking for a great book, so seeing what other people are reading is never boring for me.

      Posted by Eleanor | October 17, 2011, 12:15 pm
  5. Eleanor – Thanks for being with us today.

    I’m on FB anf Twitter and I’ve recently joined Klout. I’m not avtive in Link’d In and Google+ – I just don’t have time. Am I spending my time where I should?

    How helpful are blog tours?

    Posted by Robin Covington | October 17, 2011, 7:36 am
    • You’re definitely spending time in the right places. Twitter and Facebook are the most mainstream social networking sites – so you’ll definitely get the most impact for your time spent there.

      I think blog tours are a good way to expand your reach – but there’s no need to go nuts (especially trying to think of brand new content for every stop on your tour).

      Posted by Eleanor | October 17, 2011, 12:16 pm
  6. This is REALLY helpful, Eleanor – thanks for the timeline, especially!

    As to Mary Jo’s Facebook question, one easy way to promote there is to use your book cover as your profile picture. And if you’re doing book signings or blog tours, be sure to mention those on the site.

    The problem is, all the authors on FB want people to “like” their pages and buy their books. I don’t think sending/posting “like” requests is helpful, though.

    What does work is making a connection with people on FB so they become interested in you and your work. Just chat and put yourself out there – it’s the same with Twitter, although I’m somewhat less comfortable there.

    Are any of you on Google+? I am, but I’m not really seeing the benefit of it yet. And what about MySpace – does anyone update their MySpace pages anymore?

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | October 17, 2011, 8:01 am
    • I absolutely agree – you have to post relevant content and have an authentic voice. Just posting requests for people to ‘like’ you or buy your book is not a good way to develop a strong readership.

      As for Google+ and MySpace…

      Google+ is still relatively new and despite an initial clamour for invites, hasn’t quite hit mainstream yet. Feel free to dabble, but if you have limited time don’t feel pressured to participate heavily there.

      MySpace isn’t a great use of time any more – there just isn’t the audience there.

      Posted by Eleanor | October 18, 2011, 7:22 am
  7. Hi, Eleanor –

    Welcome to RU! I agree that this is a fabulous list that will probably make a number of first-time authors sigh with relief.

    As an author has a larger backlist, do you suggest adding more promo? Or do you find those authors need less?

    Many thanks!

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | October 17, 2011, 8:08 am
    • Authors with a backlist definitely need to continue to do promotion for their new releases.

      In some ways, it will become easier because you’ll already have amassed a readership who will act as ambassadors (reading/reviewing/recommending your book). But it’s important to continue to engage your existing readers and grow your readership.

      The big plus side for authors with a backlist, though, is that when you do promo for your new release, you’re going to see the benefit on your previous releases too.

      Posted by Eleanor | October 18, 2011, 7:25 am
  8. Morning Eleanor!

    What a great list! Seems there’s always so much to do and so little time to do it in….but narrowing social media down to 10 min a day might help!

    How effective do you think blog tours are?

    Thanks for posting with us today!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 17, 2011, 8:30 am
  9. Hi Eleanor!

    Terrific checklist!

    While I realize the importance of plugging one’s book, the excessive tweets from authors pushing their books on Twitter drives me nuts!

    I agree with Becke. Authors need to give readers a glimpse into their lives. That allows the reader to get to know the author as a person, not a marketing machine. SEP, Susan Andersen and Anna Campbell do a bang up job of this on their FB pages.

    Thanks for joining us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 17, 2011, 3:27 pm
  10. That’s very interesting. I currently have an all encompassing writerly brand (i.e. poetry, haiku, flash fiction, prose of various genres) and have started writing more romance recently with Romance friday Writers blog challenges.

    I wonder should I rebrand my romance writing side by having a second blog?

    Posted by Madeleine | November 5, 2011, 5:43 am


  1. […] It’s herpes, isn’t it.Oct 13 via BrizzlyFavoriteRetweetReplyOff to the market we goA comprehensive marketing checklist for debut authors. Good stuff.Another extensive checklist for before and after a book’s […]

  2. […] I thought this article from RU last week was such a great resource. Though it’s geared toward the debut author, I think any author could glean some information from it. And, who doesn’t love a checklist? […]

Post a comment

Upcoming Posts





Follow Us