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The Philodoxer
Thoughts on writing and publishing, and the various sources of entertainment...
A weekly column by Abel G. Peña, best known for his Star Wars work.

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THE PHILODOXER for 07/29/2007
5 Essential Self-Promotion Practices and "Closing the Circuit"

Writers know: getting the exposure you need to reach the audience interested in your work is tough.

A good source for proactive writers to cut their teeth on is The Frugal Book Promoter. Subtitled, "How to do What Your Publisher Won't," this god-send of a reference is written by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a teacher at UCLA and former fashion publicist. Howard-Johnson's previous occupation obviously gave her valuable insight into an aspect of the writing world many of us don't have a clue about. The Frugal Book Promoter gives indispensible advice about taglines, media releases, using the web, the all-important concept of branding yourself, and tons of ways of getting free or near-free publicity. It's the marketing bible for us writers whose surnames aren't King, Rowling, or Crichton.

Frugal Book Promoter

Here are five fundamental branding/publicity tricks that have been drilled into me via experience in these last two years since I decided to take a more active role in promoting my work (use 'em; they work):

1) Pictures: This is something I picked up hanging around a lot of illustrators. We're visual creatures. Anytime you can have a picture go with your words, by all means use it. Your writing will get a lot more attention.

2) News: Let readers know what you've been up to on a regular basis, preferably by newsletter, a news page on your website, and if possible both. Otherwise, they'll think you're dead.

3) Web Presence: Get a virtual office, either a website or a blog, so people interested in you or your work have some place to loiter. With profiles on networking sites, this is easier than ever, and with multiple virtual offices, you can benefit from "viral marketing," which I discuss below.

4) Label Yourself: It's not always easy to do justice to our complex, highfalutin selves, but a good nickname or catchline can do wonders for your notoriety. I've seen Howard-Johnson billed as "The Queen of Frugal Promotions" numerous times, and the name sticks. As for myself, it looks like I've monopolized the term "Philodoxer" on most search engines (save for a few stuffy academics).

5) Logo/Icon: This is your symbol. Time magazine has the immediately identifiable red border around its cover, McDonalds has its golden arches, Penguin Books has its penguin, Marvel Comics has that giant "M," and you can probably name a ton of movie studio symbols (the lion for MGM, the mountain for Paramount, the world for Universal, the shield for Warner Brothers). For my Star Wars work, I have an image of myself as a Jedi. Now I'm working on one for my other writing.

One thing I've learned about marketing from Howard-Johnson is that basically anything can be news, and one mere news item can produce a chain reaction of "viral marketing." When you have both a website and either a blog or a column (or both), suddenly your news starts compounding synergistically. As an example, take for instance my nomination on the Wookieepedia website as one of "the coolest things ever" in Star Wars, an award created in celebration of Star Wars' 30th anniversary this year. As soon as I learned that bit of news, I blogged about it and put it under the news section of the blog index I created. I then posted a stub on my website's news page with a link back to my original blog post, which linked to the actual nominations page on Wookieepedia, which has a link to my Wookieepedia entry, which in turn has links to all my chief "virtual offices": my website, Philodoxer column, and Star Wars blog. That's a lot of mileage and cross-pollination for one little news item.

It's a version of what I call "closing the circuit," which facilitates the potential desire of interested parties to jump from one author-related link to the next. This is somewhat obvious within a website perhaps, which is built around such links, but can also be done in blogs with a little more creativity. Notice the links at the end of my Star Wars blog for my blog index and my MySpace profile. They're just saying, "Click me. You know you want to." Then, when a reader does, a similar "trap" is sprung, ad infinitum. Circuit closed.

A little too premeditated for your taste? Or not aggressive enough? Grab The Frugal Book Promoter, devour it, and take away whatever you feel comfortable using to get the word out about your writing. Don't count on luck (or even your publisher) to connect you with your audience.

- Abel G. Peña

P.S. Go watch The Simpsons Movie! Surprisingly awesome. Read my review on 8/12/07.

<< 07/15/2007 | 07/29/2007 | 08/12/2007 >>

Discuss this column with me in World Famous Comics' General Forum and at Pop Culture Bored.
Also, visit my website at

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