Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How'd You Find Your Audience, M.J. Rose?

When it comes to helping authors promote their work, I can’t think of anyone who is more qualified to share advice than M.J. Rose, the internationally bestselling author of THE REINCARNATIONIST, as well as several other books. As the founder of the wildly popular book promotion company, she uses the knowledge and skills she learned during her career in advertising to help other writers become better marketing partners with their publishing companies. In addition, she is a member of the board of the International Thriller Writers organization, which you can find online at

What single marketing strategy best helped you spread the word about your book to people who would be interested in buying/reading it?

Well, it's a tough question to answer without blowing my own horn. I run a marketing company and specialize in helping authors spread the word about their books, so I have to say But honestly, it is the most cost effective way to get the word out bar non.

But to be extra helpful here, the single strategy that I think helped was starting way earlier than typical.

What surprised you or was most unexpected when you first set out to help promote your book?

How off the timing is between how long it really takes to build buzz and how short the time that the publishers and booksellers give the book to take off. It takes four to six weeks for buzz to build, which really means that we should start marketing our books three weeks before they come out -- at least -- and at least eight weeks to booksellers and librarians. And then we need to keep marketing for at least four weeks past pub date. But six is even better.

I've seen this work -- the books keep selling.

Readers aren't obsessed with what's new as much with what's great, and they don't mind buying a book that's been out a while if it has great word of mouth. Case in point: THE FOUNTAINHEAD, which was published in the 1940s, sells over 250,000 books a year.

What challenges did you face during the first months of your book's release?

For my last novel, which came out in September 2007, the biggest challenge was (and still is) the crazy number of books being released and how little media space there is to spread around, especially for fiction. Review space has shrunk more than 60 percent since 1996. And yet there were over 250,000 books traditionally published last year.

If you knew then (when your book first published) what you know now, what might you have done differently?

If we go back to my first novel in 1999, what I'd do different is I would have put every penny of my advance into adding marketing dollars to what the publisher was spending. And I would have done it for every book since. I would never have quit my day job to write full time but kept freelancing and put every penny into marketing.

Any other advice for newly published authors?

Spend as much of your budget as you can on marketing -- and not on your Web site. People don't go to debut author's Web sites until after they have heard about the book. The Web site needs to be nice -- but more important -- send the readers to the online bookstores to buy the book.

Also if you think you want to hire a publicist -- for every dollar you spend on a publicist, spend two on marketing because the best publicists will be honest and tell you that they can't guarantee a single placement. So you could spend all that money and get nothing. Whereas with marketing dollars, those are paid placements. If you buy an ad, it shows up.

And lastly: Write your next book. Write it better. Focus on writing. You have to market, but you can hire people like me to do it. You can't hire people to write your next book. And you are above all a writer. That's what you got into this for.

Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share?

Read every page of your book out loud to yourself after you think the book is finished. I can never believe how many mistakes and awkward language I find when I do it. And on the books where I haven't done it, I can see the difference when I look back at them.

For more information on M.J. Rose, her books and her marketing company, visit and


Shauna Roberts said...

DeAnna, I'm finally making it to your blog, and I'm impressed. What a great idea for a theme. I'm sure when I finally sell a book, I'm going to be studying every post on your blog.

Thank you, M.J. Rose, for your advice.

DeAnna Cameron said...

Hi, Shauna!
Great to hear from you. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. M.J. is such a pro; she really knows her stuff!
See you soon!

Joanne said...

Hi DeAnna,
Nice interview! I especially like the writing tip about reading each page of a manuscript aloud. It's amazing how your eyes alone don't see all the little disruptions to flow, or grammatical errors, but giving voice to the words illuminates some flaws. Have a nice 4th!

lisaalber said...

Great post! M.J. Rose obviously knows what she's talking about. Especially about publicity dollars versus marketing dollars. And, very interesting: investing our advances back into our publishing careers (which makes sense for any start-up business). Thanks!