Monday, October 13, 2008


Janet here.

My debut novel, COURTING MISS ADELAIDE, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical released in September, a wild, wonderful, wearing month. I was blessed to have a freelance writer get an article into our local newspaper. Some other media coverage fell into my lap. I learned a few things about promotion, distribution and even about myself. I’ll share a few things I learned. Some things I didn’t expect. Even a couple I’m embarrassed to admit, but will because we’re honest here at Seekerville.

I DIDN’T EXPECT THE SENSE OF URGENCY. Love Inspired books are on the shelves one month. I knew Steeple Hill has great marketing and distribution, but when the book released, I was surprised how frantic I felt about having only one month to impact sales.

I DIDN’T EXPECT THE AMOUNT OF TIME AND MONEY PROMOTION WOULD TAKE. I got little done the entire month except to promote the book. I bought “autographed copy” stickers and new business cards for booksellers, but here’s where I spent the bulk of my time and money:


I used my author copies from Steeple Hill for reviewers/influencers, family and blog tour giveaways. I needed more books to enter contests (five books per contest) and bail out book signings. During the month, I bought five cases (48 to a case) from Author-Author at a discount of 35%, less than my publisher’s 40% discount, but I got royalties. I learned there are four Ingram distribution centers in the country and approximately how many of my books they carried. I learned Levy doesn’t restock category books at Meijer and WalMart. I learned to keep a comprehensive list of those receiving free books for tax purposes.

Blog Tour/Book giveaways

I didn’t blog every day during the month, but some days I was a guest on two, once three blogs. It took time to write the posts or answer interview questions. Announce my appearance to loops, pop in and out on the day and mail free books to winners. What I learned. It takes lots of time and expense, but a blog tour created buzz the book wouldn’t have had otherwise and brought it to the attention of readers I wouldn’t have reached on my own.


My critique partner, Shirley Jump, designed them or they would’ve cost more. My name and cover appear on the front. The book’s blurb, my photo and Web site on the back. I considered bookmarks my business card for readers. I ordered 2500 two-sided bookmarks at at the cost of $150.00 with shipping. I should have paid another $40.00 more and gotten twice that many. Instead I made another 2500 order a week later and then decided to double it. How did I use them? I e-mailed friends and family and asked if they’d like to help promote my debut. Most everyone said yes. I sent the bookmarks and a letter with suggestions on how to distribute them and where the book would be sold. One friend in AZ asked for 250 for an upcoming library event. Another in TX asked for 100. Most asked for 25 or less. I could mail 7 bookmarks and letter in a business envelope for the price of a stamp. I left bookmarks with tips at motels and restaurants. Friends passed them out locally, coming back for more. Owners of my hair salon and Curves put them out for clients. I took them to conferences. When COURTING THE DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER releases in May, I’ll put them inside the second book, hoping readers who missed the first will order it on Amazon, assuming it’s still available. What I learned. I should’ve bought 5,000, not 7500.

Postage and envelopes
To mail books and bookmarks. It cost $2.03 to mail a book in a padded envelope. Less if I wasn’t overprotective of my books. J

E-mails/calls and visits

I called librarians, bookstores, even the historical museum in the town where my book was set. I notified people by e-mail the day my book hit the shelves. If anyone mentioned the possibility of their book club reading my book, I offered to attend. I have two book club meetings scheduled


I didn’t expect rejection. I may be a local author, but that didn’t mean bookstores wanted to host a signing. I was turned down twice. I was surprised the rejections hurt my feelings. I’ve learned many signings result in minimal sales and some expense for the store so I try not to take it personally.

I didn’t expect the bookstore not to have books. At my first signing, the bookstore ran out of books. At the second signing, my books were on back order and hadn’t come in. Both times I loaned the stores books. We checked with an accountant on the legality of selling books and paying sales tax at year-end filing.

I didn’t expect the wrong books. Thankfully this was rectified in time. J

I didn’t expect that whether some bookstores carried the Love Inspired line depended on the store’s manager whereas the decision is made at the corporate level at other bookstores.

What did I learn? To check with the store a week before the signing to make sure there’s no surprises. I always carry books in my trunk along with a receipt in case I must supply the books. I learned to sign where there’s heightened interest in the book and to keep track of mileage. I learned to ask buyers to write the name I was to autograph books to.

I DIDN’T EXPECT TO FEEL SO WACKY ABOUT REVIEWS, RANKINGS AND INDIFFERENCE. My first review was Romantic Times’ 4 ½ stars. The best RT gives, unless a book is named Top Pick so naturally I was thrilled. The next reviewer gave the book 3.75 out of 5. I was hurt, almost like a new mom when visitors don’t rave about her infant. And this was a decent review. Following rankings on Amazon can be damaging to mental health. I’m dismayed that family members I sent the book to haven’t bothered to let me know if they liked it or even read it. I learned to get over it. LOL

I DIDN’T EXPECT THE DEGREE OF SUPPORT: All of my friends and many of my acquaintances knew I’d tried to get published all these years and were almost as excited as I was when the book came out. The lesson: Whining pays. J

· Of friends: One friend hosted a party to celebrate the book’s release. I learned covers look great on a cake. Another friend contacted our hometown newspaper and got a mention in a column. One friend got her church bookstore to carry the book and passed out countless bookmarks.

· Of family: Our girls rounded up friends for signings, passed out bookmarks at MOPs, neighborhood gatherings, and chatted up the book. My husband carried bookmarks everywhere. He came to my book signings and handled the business end. He made post office runs.

· Of readers. I knew book club members sometimes sent notes or e-mails, but I was amazed to get cards, voice mails, e-mails and notes from others, too. I’ve never written a writer when I loved their book so I was blown away by the time people took to contact me. And by how much their approval meant.

COURTING THE DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER will release in May 2009. I hope I’ll find a way to take less time and use less money promoting this one. Or maybe I’ll figure out all the efforts to promote didn’t make much difference in sales.

I hope all the Seekers pubs will share their experiences. If anyone has questions or suggestions, I’d love to hear them!


Ann said...

What an exciting month for you, Janet!

That does sound like a lot of unexpected craziness. It has been fun to follow your adventures as revealed here on the island.

I loved seeing the book cover cake -- must show that to DD, who decorates cakes for one of her 4-H projects.

CatMom said...

Hello Janet! Thanks for posting these details of what was involved...I'm trying to learn everything I can and reading your experiences was very helpful to me. ~ I'm SO PROUD of my copy of your book (I won it from Keli and you signed it for me at the ACFW book signing at MOA) and I must add, I LOVE IT!! I'm about halfway through reading it, and it's GREAT!! I'm looking forward to your next book in May! Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

Audra Harders said...

Janet, wow, what a whirlwind month!! Thank you so much for sharing that incredible experience. BTW, I've printed off your wild schedule and incident report and have filed safely at the back of my daytimer for when such information might come in handy, LOL

I loved your book. I've promoted it to my friends and whoever will listen, but I'm afraid I'm guilty of not gushing about it to you!!! I'm so sorry!!! I think Steeple Hill found a diamond in you Janet and I know they, and us, appreciate all the heart you pour into your books, even after they hit the shelves. You go, girl!!

Oh, and Ann? As the 4-H secretary for our county here in Colorado, yes, encourage all the creativity possible in those cakes!! I've seen some gorgeous ones over the years!!!!

Inspire said...

Hi Janet,

I can't imagine the pressure you felt to market your novel in one month. How long did it take you to write your book? If it is only out for one month, does it go out of print?

Janet Dean said...

Hi Ann, my photo doesn't do the cake justice. Adelaide looked so lifelike, we could barely stand to cut into her face. But the chocolate cake underneath won out. :-)


Melanie Dickerson said...

Thanks for the helpful information, Janet! (Believing, hoping, praying that someday soon I'll need this information!) And I'm not surprised your friends helped you so much, because you're such a sweet person. I really enjoyed meeting you at the conference!

That cake is definitely gorgeous!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patty Jo, glad my experiences helped. Though each publisher, even each release may differ. I'm so new at this, I'm learning as I go.

Signing at the MOA was a blast. I'm delighted you're enjoying Courting Miss Adelaide!!!! Hope you like it to The End. :-)


Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, and I haven't had a chance to read Courting Miss Adelaide yet, but I will soon!!! I'm dying to read it.

Janet Dean said...

Audra, you're a wonderful writer and like all the Seekers, will leave Unpubbed Island!!! I can't wait for that day!!!

Thanks for plugging Courting Miss Adelaide! No you haven't gushed. I didn't even know you'd read the book. LOL Thanks ever so much for your sweet words!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Inspire, Courting Miss Adelaide evolved over the years as I used contest feedback, editor feedback and my growth as a writer to revise and revise some more. When I submitted it to Steeple Hill, I cut about 20,000 words, no small feat. So to answer your question, I'd say it took me six years to write it right.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Melanie, you will need the information. Trust God's timing and hang in. Praying for soon!

Meeting you at the ACFW conference was a joy. You have such a lovely glow about you. What make-up do you use? LOL. You're the sweet one!


Janet Dean said...

Melanie, Chores and kids can wait. Read the book! LOL


Patricia W. said...

What a whirlwind, Janet! Thanks for sharing all the details, giving us a birdseye view into the life of a debut author.

Kristi Holl said...

Wow! No wonder all you got done that month was promoting!!! Having just a one-month shelf life sounds like extreme pressure to me. Does everyone spend so much money on promoting now? We always needed my advances and royalties to live on, so I did very little spending. I did the school visits and public speaking though (for the money again). I certainly applaud all the organization and work you did! Can you tell how it's impacted sales yet? Or which efforts paid off the most? I expect it's a bit early to tell. You sure got baptized by fire in September!
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid blog

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patricia, I'm not sure my experience is typical. Some of the Seekers will add their two cents. It's not like them to sleep until noon. Soon the aroma of the chocolate cake I popped into the oven should lure them in.


Lisa Jordan said...

Wow, Janet, sounds like a wild ride. Thank you for sharing your adventure. Reading posts like yours are so beneficial for unpubbed writers like me, so I'll know what to expect when my time comes! Looking forward to reading your book. The cover is gorgeous.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Kristi, I wish I knew if what I did increased sales. Several LI authors told me they promoted their debut hard, but didn't do much for the second release, which had higher sales. I'm hoping an editor or my royalty statements will give me insight into sales, but I may never know. Perhaps Seekers with multiple Love Inspired books out will give their thoughts.


Erica Vetsch said...

That was one jam-packed month of promotion and excitement, not to mention a trip to a major conference in the midst of it all. But how thrilling too! You struck while the iron was hot, and it's paying off.

That cake looks fabulous, and the sweetest of all was how your family and friends rallied around you to support you in your dream.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Lisa, if you don't have a copy of Courting Miss Adelaide and it's no longer on the bookstore shelves, you can get it at eharlequin and Amazon.

Now if they'd show it's sold out, that would tell me something! :-)


CherryBlossomMJ said...

I absolutely love bookmarks that go with books! Like I told you a couple weeks ago, it was from getting a bookmark for your book that I discovered you. *grin* And that is how you came to be on my TBR list.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Erica, our daughters definitely earned the dedication to them in book two. :-)

Seriously, I'm very touched by how much they cared about the book's success and how hard they worked to promote it. But what touched me most of all was they loved the book and are proud of me. Sales figures can't top that.


Janet Dean said...

Thanks Cherryblossommj for making me look wise in Seekerville. :-)


Jessica said...

wow, what a great post! Seriously, can I copy it? LOL This is all good stuff to know. btw, the cake looks scrumptious. I hope you got some :-)
I liked your book a lot and can't wait to read the next one. I'm very curious about what kind of hero she'll get.

Lorna said...

Janet, I just finished Courting Miss Adelaide a couple of days ago,and I loved it. I only wish I would have remembered to bring it with me to me MOA so you could sign it. I still enjoyed meeting you. You were so sweet and encouraging. I can't wait to read your next book as well.

What a wild month that must have been! Thanks for sharing the ins and outs and ups and downs.

Myra Johnson said...

Wow, Janet, I am sitting at your feet in amazement! (And taking lots of notes!) The whole promotion thing has me just a teensy bit concerned.

But, hey, if whining during the unsold years makes a difference in how much support I can expect from family and friends, I should be in great shape!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jessica,

Are you kidding me? I'm honored you want to copy the post.

Oh, yeah, I got cake. Too much. It was huge! The flowers were like porcelain. Very cool.

Only seven more months and you'll meet the hero on page one of Courting the Doctor's Daughter.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Lorna, if I figure out how to make bookplates, I'll send you an autographed one. So far I can't get it to print right, but my cp is a whiz at this stuff so she'll figure out what's wrong. Send me your snail mail address at and as soon as I can, I'll get one off to you.

So glad to have met you! Making making new friends and hanging out with old ones is one of the biggest blessings of attending conferences.


Janet Dean said...

Myra, you and I must have been stitched from the same cloth. :-)

I've heard of writers who never told anyone they wrote until they sold. That would eliminate those questions about why I hadn't. But after nine years, my friends had a vested interest. Or so I tell myself.

You've moved around a bit so that should help. And you're computer savvy so you could design your own bookmarks, or even make them. All pluses. You'll do great!


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Janet! Wow, girlfriend, you're amazing!!! I'm breathless just reading about your month. All your planning paid off with a fantastic launch for your debut! And Courting Miss Adelaide was well worth the effort! Great story, great read!

My latest, COUNTDOWN TO DEATH, is on the shelves today, and I've got a busy month lined up -- although not nearly as busy as yours was. Still, the marketing occupies most of my time during the launch month, and I always wish I could do more.

One nice plus is that I'm often invited to book clubs and for speaking events in the following months when my schedule isn't so busy. As a personal goal this year, I'm considering scheduling two author events each month whether I have a book out or not. And I'm trying to do more blog interviews and chats, although as you mentioned, they take time.

A writer always has to balance marketing with writing the next book and that's a challenge.

Thanks for a great post! Lots of good information.

Janet Dean said...

Debby, it's a comfort to know that you take the month to promote. Too often I feel pulled in two directions. Actually more than two, but that's another post. :-)

You say you're thinking about scheduling two author events each month. How do you find these opportunities? Or do they come looking for you?

I love your books and can't wait to read COUNTDOWN TO DEATH! I'm not getting in much reading time right now, trying to make up for not getting much writing done. As soon as I finish Camy's Single Sashimi, your book is next.

I feel compelled to add that Single Sashimi is my favorite of Camy's three books. A wonderful read if any of you haven't picked it up!


Mary Connealy said...



Getting published is as full of uncertainty and doubt as not getting published. Very confusing new world you've entered.


Julie Lessman said...

Hey Janet,

Great eye-opening post to those debut authors out there and future debut authors too. I wish I had had your blog before my debut book came out in January to give me a heads-up on all the work/time involved. It's a whirlwind, to be sure, and one you don't quite expect. BUT ... we're not complaining, right???


Missy Tippens said...

Janet, I'm finally here! And I'm with Mary. I want that cake!! (Well, with my cover on it. :))

I did a lot of the same things you did, Janet, but not as many book signings. And I did postcards instead of bookmarks because they were less expensive-- I could design them myself on (and actually get them free except for shipping). Once I get permission for use of my second book cover, I plan to get bookmarks made--I'll be splurging! :)

Another thing I've done that might be something for you and others to consider, is that for several events (like reader luncheons, bookseller/librarian events, and the ACFW booksigning) I put together clear little bags (in the kids' party section of the dollar store)with a postcard, excerpt booklet and piece of Dove chocolate. I've heard in multiple places that excerpts are the way to go to hook a reader. So I give away these baggies at events where people aren't actually purchasing a book. I think it's more cost effective and hopefully more useful than paying to have pens or other gadgets printed with my name/title.

I print the excerpt booklets myself, and if anyone is interested, you can email me from my website in finding out how. missytippens [dot] com

Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary!

The cake was awesome! And so were the little bonnet cookies and molded candy the hostess of the party made.

Great point about the confusing world of publication. With four books out, do you feel more enlightened?


Ausjenny said...

Janet I have to tell you I got you book at wallmart in Port Orchard WA.
I was so excited as I really wanted it. (being jetlagged and now with a chest cold again I am not reading yet)
I also found some of the line in the koorong bookstore in australia so I would think yours will be there shortly they had to July I think.

thanks for the insight into promoting a book. As a reader it helps me appreciate what goes into it.

Janet Dean said...

Julie, not complaining at all.:-)Has life settled down for you now that A Passion Redeemed is out a month?


Mary Connealy said...

There is no one who will deny that I am not only not enlightened, I seem to grow dimmer every day

But I keep on typing!!!!!!!!

Janet Dean said...

Missy, I'd like to know how you print excerpts of your book. Your goody bag is great. Debby does something similar.

Could you explain reader luncheons and bookseller events?


Janet Dean said...

Hello Jenny! Sorry to hear you have a chest cold. Hope you're feeling better soon!

I'm delighted you were able to get Courting Miss Adelaide while you were in WA. And happy to hear stores are carrying the LIH line in Australia. Fabulous!

Take care.

Janet Dean said...

Mare, there's nothing dim about you. Glad you're typing away. I love your books.


Pam Hillman said...

Goodness, Janet, my head is spinning with everything you did in September in addition to attending the ACFW conference!


What I learned today: clear the decks the month your book comes out!

Camy Tang said...

Great post, Janet! I agree with a lot of what you said, minus the bookstore signing woes! How in the world did you not commit murder?

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Oh My, what a month!

Congrats on the release though.

I hope you took time to stop and enjoy whenever possible....there's nothing like that "first" release. :-)


Debby Giusti said...

I'll add to Missy's comment about the plastic bags with candy, a postcard or bookmark and an excerpt. I made them up before I had copies of my debut and passed them out all over town -- to the teachers at Christian schools, to the gals in my dentist's office, to my doctor's staff, etc. The excerpt gives readers an idea about whether they'll like the book, plus I add information such as contest wins or quotes from reviews that might be of interest as well. And of course, everyone likes candy!

Readers Luncheons? Two great Alabama RWA chapters have them, in fact, the Birmingham Southern Magic gals are hosting a lunch on Nov 1, which I plan to attend. Authors host a table and readers sit with their favorite authors during lunch. I always have a cute little container filled with goodies and a copy of my latest release for all the ladies at my table. Authors bring a huge basket or container of some sort filled with books and goodies for a drawing following a speech by the keynote speaker. Other book baskets are raffled off and a book signing follows. The Huntsville Heart of Dixie Chapter hosts their Readers Luncheon each year in May. It's a fun day for readers and writers alike.

Janet Dean said...

Pam, if I'd gotten all the blog posts written ahead of time, I would've had less pressure. I don't want to over emphasize the hectic aspect of a book's release when it's also a fabulous time for a writer.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

The cake is beautiful Janet!

And I can relate to the urgency thing.

I wish I'd known to clear my calandar the month prior to my book's release. LOL!

GREAT post!!!!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Camy, I couldn't be upset when it's not the store's fault books are on back order or more books sold than we expected. The lovely thing is the back ordered books arrived and the bookstore decided to keep them until December, not what stores do with LIs. I was relieved they didn't plan to rip the covers off and send them back for a credit. And my local independant will carry them as long as they sell. So things worked out great.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Pamela, I had a fabulous time! I cherish the memories of the party, book signings, flowers, readers notes. Just holding a copy of Courting Miss Adelaide makes me happy. :-) Sorry if I sound like I didn't have fun. The book's release was a blessing beginning to end.


Janet Dean said...

Debby, I wish we had Readers Luncheons in my area! What a great way for readers and authors to bond.

I love the idea of taking the bags with your excerpts, etc. to the staff of Christian schools and your doctor and dentist offices. I'll try that with book two.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Cheryl, two months sounds good.
:-) I can't fathom doing all this with children. My hat's off to you. Well, Adelaide's is. I don't wear them.


Kim said...

Sorry I didn't get a chance to join this party yesterday. As a reviewer and blogger, it's fascinating to learn about the experience of a new release from an author's point of view. It's an encouragement to me to do the best I can to get the word out about good books!

Thanks for the terrific insight!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Kim, glad you made it! We writers need reviewers and bloggers who help get the word out about our books. Thanks for what you do!!!!


Ruth Ann Nordin said...

Hi Janet,
This was an eye opening post. I had the illusion that if you got your book through a traditional publisher (and into bookstores) that the marketing would take care of itself. I've only done self-publication, so I expected it on my end. But hearing you did it after getting with harlequin? I was surprised.
Does the stress of promoting your book take away from the joy of writing?

Anita Mae said...

Hey Janet - It was the Cdn Thanksgiving yesterday so I missed my usual blogs, but I'm so glad I caught up with your post.

Thank you for over-riding the embarrassment you may have felt over a couple of the mistakes you mentioned in your post, but out of your misery comes our success.

I know blogging tours and freebies take up time and money, but I didn't realize to what extent.

I am one of the lucky readers who won a copy of Courting Miss Adelaide during your blog tour and I truly appreciate it.

I guess my main question is, how do you get a blog tour? Do you canvas all the blogs? Is there a "blog central" you can pick and choose from?

Thank you for the insight into an author's 'splash' into the limelight. Well done.

Chris said...


Keli Gwyn suggested that I read your blog as I have just sold a historical fiction, THE QUEEN'S DOLLMAKER, to Kensington and have no idea how to handle publicity. I know you feel like you had a lot of "lessons learned," but it reads like you are just an old pro at this!

Congrats on your book's release, and thanks for sharing all of those wonderful lessons and tips! I plan to print it all out so I can use it when my time comes...

Christine Trent

Janet Dean said...

Hi Ruth Ann,

Harlequin has a fantastic marketing and distribution system, but as a debut author I wanted to do all I could to get my name out. That was my decision. And I may not have needed to. That's the odd part about promotion. It's hard to know if it made a difference. It didn't ruin my joy. Just kept me hopping for a month. But life is back to normal now. If there is such a thing. LOL


Janet Dean said...

Hi Anita Mae, I know of no blog central. I asked friends. Others asked me. The list grew. :-) I didn't rely totally on the blog host to get the word out since they might not belong to the same loops I did. I try to answer each person who leaves a comment.

Hope this helps.


Janet Dean said...

Chris, congratulations on your sale!!! How exciting!!! When does The Queen's Dollmaker release? The title fascinates me. It was nice of Keli to send you our way. She's a sweetheart.

Wishing you much success with the book!


Chris said...

The Queen's Dollmaker - about a London dollmaker falsely accused of smuggling money and jewels to the imprisoned Marie Antoinette - releases in early 2010. I don't have an exact date yet. No worries, I'll be shouting it from the rooftops when I find out. :)

Keli is indeed a sweetheart. I met her in San Francisco this year, and we've been corresponding regularly ever since!


Janet Dean said...

Chris, the research for your book must've been interesting!

I met Keli in San Francisco, too.

All the best,