Sunday, September 20, 2009

Frugal Marketing Guru Carolyn-Howard Johnson

Award winning writer and frugal marketing expert, Carolyn Howard-Johnson joins us today at Writers in Business.

Carolyn is a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction books and a marketing guru referred to in writer’s networks as the Queen of Frugal Book Promotion. Her new series of books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success have both won USA Book News’ awards and are certain to become frequently read favorites in the writing world. She is also an instructor at UCLA Extension's world renown Writers' Program and a popular speaker.

In order to prepare for this interview, I spent many hours over several days learning about Carolyn and the work she is doing to help writers and editors discover affordable marketing. I’m amazed at what she has accomplished and all the information she has to share. Today I’d like to focus on Carolyn’s book, The Frugal Book Promoter.

~As a former publicist and current author, you have spent a lot of time honing your marketing skills. What are some important concepts writers should utilize when promoting a book?

Ha! Well, I did write a whole book about this--just because I wanted to share that information. I think the most important concept is "branding." Branding is at the root of all marketing. Too many writers publicize their book. Most writers will not be one-title wonders. Think about who you are and brand your name--or your pen name. The other most important concept is that it is never too early to start. If an author gets this message a year or two before her work is published--well, that is not too early to start.

~ There are hundreds of low cost promotional ideas listed in your book. Can you share three of these ideas with us and why they work well?

My favorite ways to promote, in order of importance are:

1. Speaking. That can be reading at book signings (not just book signings) or speaking on themes related to your book at conferences, tradeshows or anywhere else. If speaking scares you, take a class now. At a minimum you'll need to know how to talk to people from book fair booths at bookstore events.

2. Teaching. Not only is it enormously satisfying, it gives you credibility as an expert. Even novelists need credibility. Yep, even poets.

3. Online promotions. Because they're very, very frugal. Of course, that is a broad category. If I have to narrow it down, I choose blogging--and then promoting the blog. If you'd like to know more about how to go about that, go to and download a chapter for a future book I'm writing with partner Phyllis Zimbler Miller.

~ What key components should writers include in their media kit?

The list is very long. Kits should include whatever an editor or agent (or whoever else you're sending your kit to) needs to do their job quickly and easily. Then once all the elements are prepared, the author should prune what won't help a particular recipient from their kit.

Picture this: It's deadline. A harried editor is looking for a story. She comes across a query you sent her two weeks ago. It includes a complete kit. In it is a first person essay with permission to print it. On her desk she also has a famous person's pitch but there is almost nothing there for her to work with. Guess who will get their story printed? If you guessed the famous person, you're wrong. She's on deadline. She has to be ready when the presses roll.

~ There are travel costs and other fees associated with attending a writers conference or book fair. In terms of promotion, do you feel these events are cost effective?

I adore conferences because they can make such a difference in a writer's career. Networking. Finding agents. Learning more about our craft. Giving us a needed break from our computers. Having said that, they are expensive. So, Lea Schizas and I sponsor an online conference. I'd like to see writers go to real hands-on conferences but when they can't, this one can work well, too. You'll find it at:

You'll also find a list of writers' conferences, book fairs and even some tradeshows on my Web site in the Resources for Writers section:

Book Fairs & Trade Shows

Carolyn, thank you for the very informative interview. Your insight and experience with book promotion are valuable resources that we can all benefit from. The Frugal Book Promoter is a must-have book for every author! Please visit Carolyn’s web site at or

Coming Soon! Carolyn will share her "15 Commandments for Getting FREE Publicity" with us at Writers In Business.


  1. Speaking also pays quite well, too!

    Looking forward to the Muse Conference.

  2. I must apologize. I had a mini emergency today and didn't get to my computer until evening. I love this interview and plan to at least let my Facebook friends and Twitter followers know about it. Brigitte, you are a wonder.

    And, Diane, I'll look forward to seeing you at the Muse Conference. Also, agree about speaking. In 2009 my speaking income has beaten my book royalties, though that is a first.


  3. I first realized the importance of "marketing for writers" through Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Her advice is indispensable, regardless of your writing genre. BTW, I found your site through Carolyn's Facebook link. Great interview!

  4. Its highly informative. I would be visiting your blog hereafter regularly to gather valuable information.

    Freelance Web Developer India

  5. I'm new to the whole "literary world" and it's idiosyncrasises. In the few weeks that I've been following Carolyn on Twitter I've learned so much and feel a little less "in the dark" on marketing and promotion. Thanks Carolyn!

  6. I share the same views. Liked your blog very much.

  7. Thank you all for sharing your comments. Carolyn is an expert at frugal marketing, and quickly becoming a good friend. :)

  8. I highly recommend Carolyn's books. Good blog!



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