Promoting a Novel, Then and Now

“What should I blog about tomorrow?” I asked Proman (short for project manager and not coincidentally, my husband.) “I’ve spent the past week working on my BookBub ad for From Glowing Embers. Nobody wants to hear about promoting a novel.”

“Of course they do,” he said. And whether he’s right or wrong, you’re about to.

Promoting a NovelFirst let’s spiral back in time. There I was a newbie author, not just damp behind the ears but sopping, wringing wet. I thought writing a book would be entertaining. Excruciating months passed, and as it turned out, lots of those months were not entertaining for me or the people who knew me. But I wrote and I wrote and eventually I had something resembling a novel. Lady Fortune knocked at my door, and almost without trying, I found an agent who liked my work, and I had my first sale.

Lady Fortune has a lot to do with publishing careers. Don’t kid yourself.

Back in the eighties, when this story began, those of us who sold contemporary romance novels often sold them to publishers who put out a “line” of books, a certain number each month that had elements in common. In those days there was no email, no Facebook, no blogs like this one. If we wanted to publicize a novel, we printed up newsletters, went down the street to the office supply store to copy them, and stuffed them into envelopes with actual stamps. Our mailing list was hard won from bookstore signings and reader mail that our publisher sometimes forwarded to us.

Truthfully in those days publishers discouraged us from promoting our own books. They wanted to sell lines. They didn’t want to sell individual authors. Wouldn’t we be better off just writing more books?

This is the same question I’ve asked myself all week. I still write for a traditional publisher, but I’m also putting some of the older books I now have rights to online with new covers and new editorial. From Glowing Embers is an example. So I’m a little bit indie and a little bit rock and roll.  Cue Donnie and Marie.

Since I began, traditional publishing has seen lots of changes. Authors may not be “encouraged” to help promote their books, but publishers do promote us individually. If we’re lucky they involve us. If we aren’t, at least we aren’t penalized if we call attention to ourselves.

But indie publishing—authors who have conceived, written, and published their own novels–is a whole different thing. We have to make the contacts, pay the dollars, and do the hard work of promoting a novel. The upside is that we then can make sure everything possible is done, and we can be as creative with our promotional ideas as we are with our novels.

Today From Glowing Embers appears in a BookBub ad. BookBub, a daily newsletter with suggestions for free and discounted books, is so popular it gets hundreds of requests to advertise daily. I was lucky enough to secure my ad a month ago, and since then I’ve been working hard to be certain my book is listed as free in bookstores around the world.  A fair amount of arm-twisting is involved. I was twisting right up until the beginning of this week.

I also had to be certain all the back matter (everything after “The End”) was updated and rewritten. I had to be certain all the books in the Tales of the Pacific series were properly connected. Then all the new versions had to be reloaded at multiple bookstores.

I won’t tell you how much time that took. Would I be better off just writing more books?

But here’s another question. With thousands of new books being uploaded each week, how would anybody find my book if I didn’t promote it? Even if it happened to be the best book I’ve ever turned out?

I’m looking forward to seeing how well a free novel combined with a BookBub ad sells the other books in my Tales of the Pacific series. If people love From Glowing Embers, I hope they will want to buy one or all of the next three. The hard work has been interesting, and next time I’ll know much better what to do and not to.

Meantime, if you like to learn about new authors and find free or discounted books to read, you, too, can sign up for BookBub. You can specify the genres you most enjoy and then download books that sounds appealing. It’s a win-win.

Want more good news? Today you don’t need BookBub. You can go to any of the bookstores listed on this book page, and download your own free copy of From Glowing Embers. I recommend it.


  1. Susan Sands on February 17, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Hi Emilie!
    I’ve read your books for years, and loved them! Writing was my mid-life crisis, so my second novel i will be released in mid-April. I’m nobody in the great, big world of book-writing and publishing, which means I’m lost in the sea of promotion and trying get some name recognition. I’m with a small publisher whom I adore and who does a fantastic job, but if you’re nobody, it’s a hugely uphill climb. I also had a .99 BookBub ad back in June after the release of my debut novel, Again, Alabama. It was a fantastic shot in the arm for promotion. I think with the sheer volume of books out there online, it’s hard to be noticed above the din unless you’re able to find the right mix of either having a large publisher putting big promotional dollars behind you, or, a good dose of Lady Fortune, as you referred to right place and right time.

    I love to know my favorite authors’ thoughts on their careers, and how things have changed in the industry and watch how authors adapt to those changes! Thanks so much!

    • Emilie Richards on February 17, 2016 at 10:52 am

      It’s all great to hear from a fellow traveler. I wish you the absolute best on your book journey.

      • Susan Sands on February 17, 2016 at 11:01 am

        Enjoy the thrill of the BookBub ride! Even as a seasoned pro, you’ll get a kick out of all those downloads. Such immediate gratification!

  2. Lynn Ross on February 25, 2016 at 12:51 am

    Hi, Emilie:
    I enjoyed reading about how you promote a novel. It’s very interesting. I’m so glad you share so much with us. Thank you.

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