Sarah Neofield's Reviews > The Frugal Book Promoter - 3rd Edition: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher

The Frugal Book Promoter - 3rd Edition by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
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it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read September 28, 2019 to October 6, 2019.

If you’re looking to transform your writing hobby into a writing career, or are a published author who feels they could be doing more to promote their work, Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s The Frugal Book Promoter may be just what the doctor ordered. What sets this book apart from the many hundreds of books promising to show you how to promote your book is its focus on frugal, strategic, ethical promotion.

For anyone aiming to become an author, the statistics on what happens to books once they hit the shelves aren’t all that rosy. You might think the hard part’s over once you’ve finally gotten a contract, or once you’ve finally hit ‘publish’ on your platform of choice. But, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or partnering with your publisher by Carolyn Howard-Johnson points out that around a third of all traditionally published books that make it to bookstore shelves are returned to the publishers. They are then remaindered, or, when that fails, shredded.

As Howard-Johnson plainly puts it: ‘If you don’t promote yourself and your book early, the same thing (or something like it) could happen to your book.'

Many writers, Howard-Johnson points out, suffer from the fear of being successful as much as from the fear of being rejected. We worry that, if we promote our work, people may not like it. But also that if we are successful in doing so, we may be considered ‘sell-outs’ or ‘fakes’.

Marketing, promotion, whatever you call it, is something many authors have an aversion to – if not a downright fear of. And, myriad excuses to avoid. Howard-Johnson covers many of these excuses, and offers rational antidotes to them, in Section I of her book, ‘Getting Started and Getting on with It’.

Others among us feel that it isn’t our ‘job’ to promote our books. That marketing is something the publisher should do. This idea is grounded in the reality that most writers aren’t trained publicists. Yet even when a publisher does assign a publicist to an author or book, as Howard-Johnson points out, their efforts will be much better rewarded if the author is proactive. ‘A publisher’s publicist can only do so much without an author’s cooperation’.

Recently, the internet has been abuzz with stories of writers and other creatives losing shocking amounts of money – even winding up in debt – thanks to their self-promotional efforts following a lack of support from their publishers. Reading these articles, I couldn’t help but think how many of these authors – and, I’m sure, many others– might benefit from reading The Frugal Book Promoter – a book which, in its first edition, was originally subtitled ‘How To Do What Your Publisher Won’t Do.’

I recently tweeted my appreciation for this classic, saying ‘I read an earlier edition of this book (cover-to-cover, twice!) and it remains one of the most comprehensive and best I’ve come across!' and when the author offered me a copy of the updated edition, I was overjoyed to accept.

Having worked not only as a retailer and journalist, but also as a publicist, and with a publicist (for the release of her own novel, This is the Place), Howard-Johnson is better placed than most to write about marketing. Although the book promotes a frugal approach, it does not claim that every effective promotion is free. Instead, the author explains clearly how writers can use their time instead of their money to promote their books, as well as giving examples of when spending is warranted, and when it offers little (website design, for example, can be largely DIY with the free yet professional-quality tools Howard-Johnson recommends, and promotional gifts or ‘swag’, with the exception of quality thank you gifts, she also warns against).

Aside from its focus on frugality, another stand-out feature of Howard-Johnson’s book is its inclusion of ‘classic’ media, such as newspapers, television, and radio. While The Frugal Book Promoter also provides extensive information on ‘new’ media (author websites, blogging, social media), the advice in these sections may read as if it is targeting an older audience – one that needs convincing that online engagement is worthwhile, for example, as opposed to a younger audience which might need convincing to stop scrolling through social media all day and actually write something.

As someone who is perhaps between these two extremes (among the first generation of teenaged internet users, and someone who went on to teach technology to both those younger and more mature than myself), I find Howard-Johnson’s approach refreshing.

For ‘digital natives’, her advice on TV, radio, newspapers etc. is a much needed balance to the internet-focused messages out there. She points out that competition for appearances in these outlets is perhaps less than ever, since everyone is so focused online.
For ‘digital immigrants’, the Frugal Book Promoter helpfully translates new media through the lens of old media which might be more familiar to this audience. Howard-Johnson holds the reader’s hand through the process of setting up a website or a blog, providing just enough technical detail for it to not be too overwhelming.

Comparing the updated third edition with the earlier version I previously read, while the book is thoroughly up-to-date, overall, I did not find many major changes. This, I believe, is because the advice in The Frugal Book Promoter is designed to age well. If you’ve already read an earlier edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, you already know that the book is like a fine wine. It’s a classic. You probably don’t need to buy the updated version (I’d recommend getting one of the author’s other books instead – seeing How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically mentioned in this book has sparked my interest, but she has many more titles to choose from as well).

On the other hand, if you haven’t come across this book promotion classic before, I really recommend it, no matter what stage you're at in your writing career. While some of the specific media outlets it mentions may change, the principles of frugality, efficiency, and ethics it espouses will never date. It’s the perfect companion to all of those more online-focused books out there, and who knows – it might just save you a lot of heartache and a lot of debt.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 28, 2019 – Started Reading
October 6, 2019 – Finished Reading
October 8, 2019 – Shelved

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