Advice for Understanding the New Age in Publishing and Promotion

Sarah Wendell, the creator and blogger extraordinaire from the site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, offered an extremely insightful presentation on future trends in the romance market at the monthly New Jersey Romance Writers meeting.

I hope my interpretation of our meeting might help writers gain insight into the evolving, complex world of publishing. I suggest you visit Sarah’s site, for more information—and to check out the plethora of interesting articles, reviews, and laugh-out-loud comments posted regularly.

I.                    Online Marketing Opportunities for Authors


This site is a terrific venue for building an audience because it is a readers/booklovers site. A friend informed me that it is easy to build readership. If you have a pre-established twitter account, you can shift your followers onto Goodreads friend list. One on Goodreads, Sarah suggests establishing a bookshelf called Authors That Inspired Me where you’d link books in similar/same genre.  So, readers of a like mind will be able to find you.

     Goal: Build a presence and establish followers on Goodreads. A great way to find someone’s inbox, someone who likes to read your genre of story. And, they want you to be there! (A subtle—not in your face, Here I am and Here’s My Book, approach. Goodreads is a great way of doing a more subtle less obtrusive way of promotion, with an audience that likes clearly to read.


A great way to socialize, build followers, and get your name out there. But, it is annoying when people self-promote as it comes across as being obvious and pretentious. Do tweet about interesting events, situations, the business, writing, etc. Do so intentionally, knowing you are building a following and that people might be interested in what you have to say.

Those loyal followers might turn around, and promote your book for you.

     Goal: Establish followers who get your voice and who would like your work.

Note: The verdict is out on buying Twitter ad space. If regular tweeting outperforms that initiated by Ad Space, then what purpose does it serve? Please check out the Smart Bitches website for more information.


Unless you set up a completely different user name/facebook account, it’s an awkward avenue for promotion. Weird to talk about your kids in one breath, and a book sale in another. It’s important to keep private and public separate.

Goal: Remains to be established as a useful marketing resource.

Mailing Lists

Sarah thinks this is a key promotional tool. An author should build their mailing list, and use it wisely. Goal: Build a loyal readership that you can connect with on an ongoing basis.

Suggestions: When offering giveaways, a form (including e:mail address) needs to be completed with a note saying “by providing your e:mail, you are subscribing to XX newsletter”. Or send private e:mails individualized to each and every person giving them the option to subscribe (using e:mail info they provided).  A few highly successful authors online did this, and this was how they established a mailing list.

Blog tours. A great way of acquainting readers with your book.  Goal: Marketing P&P – product and publicity.

Review sites

Reviews boost sales, even negative onesGoal: Marketing P&P.

Think Madonna, and how every time she had a new release, some type of controversy came into play. The attention was on her, negative, but attention nevertheless. (Note: I am not saying I’d be happy with a negative review or wouldn’t do cartwheels over a positive one—but would take this information into account when deciding whether or not to take the plunge and have a book reviewed.)

II.                Self Promotion Do’s and Don’ts

Shameless Self Promotion

Let’s face it, it’s a big turn off.  Readers will hone in on the fact that you are self promoting a book. It is better to be less obvious. For example, tweet about other things that sell your personality, rather than a specific book/product.  A follower will connect better with you, and your voice, and want to follow you. Want to buy your book.

Do have other writers help promote. This is a much better and more subtle way of getting the word out without coming across as pretentious.

Discover Other Avenues of Promotion

Think outside the Romance World box. Tap into other avenues of promotion, whether its newspaper articles, women’s magazines, etc. Better yet, use the research you’ve spent hours gathering as a promotional advantage. Interview a military man, if you write in that genre, then compose an article/review for a newspaper. If your writing a book that falls into a subgenre, use that niche and all of the newsletters, flyers, magazines within that niche to your advantage. A feisty Italian family, why not write a recipe for a Italian Cooking Magazine and mention you’re an author of warm, home-spun Italian contemporaries.

III.             Trends

Subgenres are the way to go.

What readers want, and what publishers say readers want, are two different animals. Publishers are under pressure to produce dollars—a business would not succeed without income. Readers want variety, like what ITunes offers, where they can pick and choose from a whole online menu of books. Subgenres will have more of a market, but perhaps not a huge chunk as Mega-genres like Regency Historicals.  But even Regency Romance is splitting into subgenre categories. Sarah said, “We’re getting out of the ballroom.” And, being a lover of Regency myself, I think she’s correct in her assessment. Writers are creating new, exciting worlds set in other countries and outside of London’s townhouses.

Readers Love of Historicals Is Alive and Well

If historicals are dead, explain Downton Abbey’s success? Granted it is not in the Regency  period—which seems to be the focus of all the talk about the market being dead. But Downton Abbey proves that viewers (i.e. readers) want historicals, with history, class strife, woman’s issues, romance, and conflict of interests.

Contemporary Trends

Contemporary writer?  Sarah mentioned five emerging subgenres:

Hometown sweet, hometown sexy (Susan Mallory), hometown hot (Toni Blake, Jaci Burton), hometown visiting (Robyn Carr, Virgin River Series, where you go back to visit town and characters, hometown glamorous (where the story takes place in a city rather than town like Julie James’s series with the Chicago Elite).

IV.              In Summary

Write what you love. Keep in mind, though, how to clearly position your manuscript within an emerging subgenre. This will help an editor decide how to sell your book. This will help make it easier for your reader to select your book, knowing what they are purchasing. This might be the way to find your niche within the ever-changing publishing world.

Leave a comment


  1. Jenna Blue

     /  January 22, 2013

    Great recap, Michele! I so enjoyed her presentation–very humorous and informative, too! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for this recap, Michele. You took much better notes than I did!

    Sarah was great and had a lot of insightful information for authors. I’m so glad I came to the meeting.

  3. Sarah’s presentation was great. Thanks for capturing the key points. Personally, I was happy to hear about the sub-genres for contemporary. I got some new author suggestions to try out, too.

  4. Thanks for the recap, Michele! Now I don’t have to transcribe my notes, lol! 😉 Sarah was a really entertaining and fun speaker, with some great information to share. As someone with access to so many new releases, she definitely has her finger on the pulse of the romance market.


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