Friday, March 6, 2009

Promotion 101

I know this topic has been beaten like the proverbial dead horse, but I have a full head of steam and need to get this off my chest. I was half-tempted to break out Little Miss Crabby Pants, but decided against it because I really don't want this to be a rant. No, I merely want to offer some advice, specifically to Harlequin writers.

First, a little background:

I reviewed Once An Outlaw by Debbi Rawlins for TGTBTU this month. It's a time travel western from Harlequin Blaze, and that was enough for me to try it. I found it to be an OK read, my main quibble being with the abrupt ending. Frankly, the heroine's sister is left hanging and I wanted answers. Since it screamed Sequel Bait to me, I thought I'd do a little searching.

I found out that Once A Rebel is due out in May. But no plot description since Debbi Rawlins' web site has vanished. OK fine. The cover art is similar and it's got the same "Stolen From Time" tag line - so I took a leap of faith. And fell on my face.

Someone commented on my review (thanks ldb!) and basically said, "Hey looks like there is a sequel out next month." And they're right. The heroine's sister is getting her own book, called Once A Gambler, which is written not by Debbi Rawlins, but Carrie Hudson. I didn't even consider a multi-author series. So does Carrie Hudson have a web site? No. Of course not. But thanks to Harlequin's Browse The Book feature, I find out that Carrie Hudson is really Barbara Ankrum, who wrote several historical romances back in the 1990s. So does Barbara Ankrum have a web site? Of course not.

Lather, rinse and repeat.

I'm going to be blunt here. This is way more work than I should have put in to find out about these books. And I'm a librarian for cripes sake. If I need the secret handshake, chances are your average Jane Schmoe Reader would have given up long before all of this. Plus I'm still stuck with the problem of not knowing what Once A Rebel is about. I'm assuming the hero of that story will be the drunken doctor, who was a secondary character in Once An Outlaw. But I'm assuming. I don't know for sure. Why?


Ahem. Sorry. I really don't want to rant.

Every author needs a web site. Even if the thing is bare bones. And if you're a Harlequin author? You know, someone who's books have very short shelf lives in retail outlets? It's imperative. Because readers can only buy your books during an allotted period of time, and trust me on this - not all readers are buying their books online. I know it's easy to think that they are - but trust me - they all aren't.

Oh, I can hear y'all thinking, "But gee Super Librarian, I'm just a fledgling baby author. I don't have the money for web site hosting and design!"

Seriously, just shoot me now.

Anyone, and I mean anyone, can set up a web presence for free. It's called a blog. I've been blogging (for free!) for the past 6 years. And the best part? The whole process has gotten idiot proof. With Blogger's new interface a damn monkey can throw up a blog (which I haven't converted to because I'm scared to push the button). Seriously. And it won't cost you a single dime. An example of an author using blogging software to host her web site? Long time Harlequin writer, Gina Wilkins (who is using WordPress). Oh sure, I wish she had plot descriptions of her books, but at least she's got a list there for readers, and has her series books marked.

It doesn't have to be hard. It doesn't need a ton of bells and whistles. Truly. But you all need something. Otherwise I get annoyed. And if I'm getting annoyed....

I'm thinking other readers are annoyed as well. Just going out on a limb with that one.


Rosie said...

*Standing and shaking my tamborine* Amen Sistah!

Kristie (J) said...

Yep!! I like to research books I'm thinking of getting and it sounds like this series is very confusing.
And maybe it's just me - but I don't like series books like this written by different authors (well the one exception I can think of is the 2176 series - I liked that one with it's different authors). If I notice this is going to happen - chances are I'll pass. Though it may be subtle - there are differences in the characters.

sula said...

no website? that's just crazy. hello people, this is 2009, not 1989. pfft.

Sandy said...


IMO, it's almost like you're not legite if you don't have a website.

LoriK said...

I'm going to use this opportunity to grip about a related author website pet peeve.

If you write series or books that are connected in any way you need to tell me that and give me a straightforward list of each series, in order.

I'm pretty much physically unable to read a series out of order, even if the continuity is minimal. If you make it hard for me to figure out where to start I'll simply move on to other books and that'll be it for you.

I know that I'm not the only reader who is like this. Do yourself a favor---make the minimal effort needed to avoid ticking off the anal retentives.

LoriK said...

I really need an edit function for everything because I swear I know the difference between grip and gripe. Oy.

azteclady said...

Brava, Wendy, brava!

Peeps, really, the easier you make it, the better for everyone, starting with your sales!

It's a continuity? List titles and authors for installments before and after your own! Make sure there are descriptions of the overall series.

Even better, invite your fellow continuity authors and do a group blog to promote it! (Here's a nice example)

And also, what LoriK said--even if the series is written and published out of order *shudder* please, pretty please, for all you hold dear: make it easier for the reader to figure out the reading order!

Lil Sis said...

Thank you LoriK - that is my issue too! The author will have a series but good luck figuring out the order! Ugh!

Oh, and Wendy - don't they even have like a Facebook or MySpace - I mean really that's even easier!

Wendy said...

KristieJ: I would also recommend the Rock Creek Six series that was written by Lori Handeland and Linda Devlin some years back (published by Kensington). That's a multi-author series that worked so well for me they're all in my keeper stash (6 books total).

LoriK: That drives me batshit crazy too. I don't need a lot of depth to it - just a simple list telling me the order of the series. Really. That's all I'm looking for most days.

AL: Ooooh, that is a pretty promotion by those SD writers.

Lil Sis: Well I find MySpace confusing as hell - but that's just me. But yeah, you can see a MySpace page without being a member - so an author could go that route as well. As for Facebook? I think a reader would have to be a member to see an author on Facebook wouldn't they? And not everybody is. I'm all about open access - and a blog is really the easy way to go. Especially since there are several free blog programs to choose from. And damn, Blogger (I can't speak for WP) has really made it easy for people ever since Google bought them out.....

Tracy said...

I am SOOOOOO with you on this one.

I have, in the past, bought a book online randomly. If I like it I go to see what else they've written. Nothing, nada, zilch, zip. How am I to buy anything else of theirs if I don't know what they've written because they have no site?

I did go to Gina Wilkins' blog and it looks like she's put up descriptions of her books. :)

As long as I'm talking about author websites and annoys me to no end when the author puts the book on their site and then just an excerpt with no blurb. How the hell am I to know what it's about to see if I even want to read the blurb? *ahem* I'm done. :)

LoriK said...

I 2nd Wendy's rec for the Rock Creek Six books---they were quite good. They're out of print now so they can be hard to find. For some reason it was easier to find the Lori Handeland titles than the Linda Devlin titles.

Wendy said...

LoriK: They were published under the "Ballad" imprint - which was a line Kensington devoted strictly for series books. Unfortunately, the line folded right around the time the Rock Creek Six series was wrapping up - and I *believe* distribution for those last books was seriously wonky. At one point Nate and Cash were selling for big bucks on eBay. Last time I checked though, they were now back to more reasonable used prices.

Shit, now I want to reread that series, and I can't right now. Damn.

Renee said...


The first thing I do when I hear of a new author is look for their site. If they don't have a presence, odds fall substantially that I will seek them out.

For reading in order (which I'm a bit ocd about, I will head over to if I can't find a coherent back list. It's an excellent resource.

Another thing that confuses me is Harlequin's site. Am I just missing their "upcoming" books somewhere? When I hear an author has an upcoming pub over there, I can never find info until the same month the book is released. I just don't get that. I'd think they'd want to generate some advance "buzz."

Wendy said...

Harlequins posts details for books one month in advance. You need to to go the individual imprint (for example: Blaze) then along the top, underneath the big ol' Blaze banner you'll see New This Month, then the current month (in this case March 2009) then the following month (in this case April 2009), then All Available. The following month and All Available are hyperlinked - so just follow the link.

For books farther ahead than one month - Harlequin only gives you a list. No gory details. On their homepage underneath their big splashy banner (right now it features Blaze titles) you'll see Shop, Talk, Read and Write. Under "Shop" you'll see a link for upcoming books. That will show you the next 3 months. But again, no gory details - so you need to rely on 1) the author having a web site and 2) if they do have a web site that they've actually, you know, updated the damn thing.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Hi, just wanted to leave you a comment because I recently started following your blog and really love it. Also, I just have to give props to anyone who is a Buffalo Bills fan - GO BILLS:)

I also agree about needing a website. I am an aspiring author, and started a blog a bit less than a year group on the advice of my crit group who told me it was important to start early establishing an online presence. You're right - not having one just doesn't make sense.

jenifer said...

I take order-reading a step further, and like to read an author's works in publication order (if there aren't too many). I guess I like to follow their growth as a writer? Who knows?

So why do so many author websites fail to have any kind of order to their book lists? Sure, highlight the latest book, but always, always, always have a link to a list of books with original (not reprint!) publication date.

If you just throw a bunch of covers on a page I get frustrated beyond all get out. Some of us are anal retentive and aren't likely to change any time soon. Spend fifteen minutes and appease us, please.

Evangeline Holland said...

You know what I hate? The lack of collaboration between, author websites, and publisher websites. For example, I just visited your wetpaint website for upcoming historicals. I click on covers that interest me. Then comes trouble.

I hate, hate, hate it when Amazon has the cover but the author hasn't updated her website to tell me what the book is about, and the publisher's website doesn't either. Or, when there is a cover on amazon, the author lists the upcoming title (and doesn't have the cover yet), but no synopsis! Or, the publisher has the title up, and amazon does as well, but since the book isn't to be released for six-eight months, the author has no info about the book on her website. Or...just mix and match the aforementioned situations.

I want the information released around the same time, or not at all. I like anticipating a release for months ahead rather than stumbling upon the book a month after its initial release.

Wendy said...

Kate: I went to college in Buffalo. When they handed me my two degrees, they also planted a microchip in my brain making me a Bills fan for life. Although, sigh, I've grown despondent over their continued determination to mire in mediocrity. It's been rough the last few years.....

Jenifer: I agree. Include the date of any reprint editions, but don't wipe out the original publication dates! I'd like to see more authors include the multiple years - although for authors who get reprinted a lot (like Nora Roberts), that could get too cumbersome. Could you imagine what her book list would look like? Book Title: 1993, 1996, 1999, 2004, 2009 etc. LOL

Evangeline: That annoys me too! Especially when the author has nothing (nothing!) on their web site about a book that's coming out in like 3 months. At least give readers some sort of plot description. It doesn't even have to be the official blurb! Just give us a morsel to chew on.

And I just did a massive update on the wiki this past week.

Renee said...

Thank you, thank you, Wendy! You're super-powers are mighty!

I've seen the one month thing (lame! I want things much farther out so I can obsess about when the next book is coming out.)

The link from the home page, while not all the info I want, is more than I'd been able to find before on their site. Their homepage is so busy, that as much as I've looked, I'd never found that link before.

Lori said...

Clapping. 100% Agreed. Soooo frustrating!