Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Biggest Marketing Bang for your Buck with Shelli Johannes-Wells

Hi everyone thanks for having me here…

Today, Tina’s asked me to talk through some budget-friendly techniques to get your book out there. Because let’s face it - we are not Stephanie Meyer. That means we either don’t have tons of money to spend or our publishers may not give us much.

First of all – you will spend some money. So, this is really about putting your money in the right place. To me- that is in designing any materials to be sure they look good and crisp and professional. But there are many things you can do that are fairly inexpensive.

Here are a few things I think you can do to push your book and save money.

Local avenues- You'd be surprised at the marketing support such activities can bring.
  • Local radio shows and television appearances are good but are often forgotten within hours of the broadcast;
  • Join local organizations that provide business-networking opportunities, or start your own.
  • Do volunteer work for a large charity. Partner with one that aligns with your book.

Reach out to your contacts- its about spreading the word
  • Any groups you are a part of
  • Any alum organization – high school, old jobs, college etc.
  • Friends and family
  • Rebuild older connections

Library or school visits-
  • Start tours locally, by state, then move to regional and national. Driving is cheaper than flying.
  • Visit places where you know people that can help spread the word. Friends or family.
  • Come up with a talk that they might pay for.
Organize before you start- Focusing your energy will help you do the right things for the right people. Don’t waste money doing everything.
  • Figure out your top 3 target audiences
  • Create a marketing plan for each of those – who are they, what swag do they want.
  • Spend 15 min a day building out a detailed plan.
  • By starting now and focusing – you will prevent yourself from wasting money on the wrong things.

SWAG- Be sure to do the right thing for the right people.
  • Find out what is appropriate for each audience.
  • Not everyone will use a book marker or postcard.
  • Vistaprint and iPrint – do inexpensive printing
  • If you pay – pay for the design aspect – not the printing
Email Marketing-
  • Always be gathering email addresses
  • Use MailChimp or Constant Contact to create pretty marketing email campaigns
  • If you pay for anything – pay for someone to set up the newsletter so you can populate it each month.

Online Marketing-
  • Blog Tours – look for well-visited blogs that target your audience. Contact them and offer a post. Blog writers are always looking for content.
  • ARC tours – have an arc tour and have readers sign up – send an ARC around and require a post about it.
  • EZINE – same thing – look for groups that do ezines and offer an article
  • Press releases – Don't underestimate the value of a good press release for making book sales.
  • Skype tours – reach more people.
  • HAVE one – and make sure it is professional
  • Go Daddy, Blogger, WordPress – all free
  • If you have to, spend the money on the design to get you started.
  • Create online press kit – generic press release, bio, professional picture, flyer about book, reviews, etc. Also, make sure it is down-loadable from site. This will save on printing costs and mailing costs.

A few Recommended Resources-

Complete Guide to Book Marketing- the basics
Plug Your Book-online marketing
The Frugal Book Promoter- Inexpensive ways to sell your book
Publicize Your Book -

I hope that gets you started. I’ll be popping in and out today to answer any questions you have.

I have a marketing blog called Market My Words for authors and do marketing interviews with editors and agents, run marketing contests for various stuff, and provide marketing tips to help authors sell their book. I also offer a marketing newsletter you can sign up for there.


For the week of Jan 31st, I am running a Pay it Forward contest where followers can enter a pitch and I pick a winner to recommend to my agent, Alyssa Henkin at Trident Media.

For today and SEEKERVILLE members only, I will be doing a drawing for a free marketing book. It will be open until midnight tonight (EST). If you become a follower of my blog and leave me a comment TODAY telling me you are from Seekerville, I will enter you into the drawing. Be sure to leave me a comment on today’s post telling me you are a NEW FOLLOWER AND you are from SEEKERVILLE.


Additionally, to celebrate Shelli's visit, Seekerville will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


Author Bio

Shelli Johannes-Wells started out writing for her local school paper and won a state Nutrition essay contest for “Be a Smart Cookie”. Somewhere along the way, she forgot about writing and earned an MBA in Marketing which started an 18-year marketing career in Corporate America working as a marketing and communications manager.

In 2000, Shelli traded in her expensive suits, way-too high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. She started her own marketing & communications business, Bilan, inc where she continues to work with clients, including Spanx, Goody Hair Products, Chick fil-A, Delta, CARE, and the Boys & Girls Club of America.

Shelli’s dream is to publish children’s books and is represented by Alyssa Eisner Henkins at Trident Media Group. In addition to juggling nap schedules and client meetings, Shelli focuses on her writing, speaks about marketing at SCBWI conferences, and runs a popular marketing blog, Market My Words that gets over 50,000 hits a year. There, she helps other authors by providing book publicity advice.

In her spare time (yeah right!) and if the kids allow (yeah right!), Shelli obsesses over movies, wishes she could squeeze in Bikram Yoga sessions, and dreams of sleeping in on the weekends. She currently lives in Atlanta with her dog Charley, a British-accented husband (yes it is sexy), and the imaginations of a little prince and princess that someday will change the world.


  1. Great post for me. When I talk about some of the costs associated with publishing (or trying to get there in my case), my lovely significant other is one who believes that I should "spend wisely." (And she alrady thinks I'm nuts.)

    I will visit your other blogs before the day is out


  2. What a wealth of information, Shelli. I'm bookmarking this post to refer to when I set to work on the marketing plan for my debut novel.

  3. Been thinking about this kind of stuff too... Not that I even have a contract yet... Ah well.

    But - Chick-fil-A! My fave! Panera is my fave place to go write, but I worked at CFA for eons and still love it.

    Snowmaggedon has started here. We're still in the 15-20" of snow swath. Sleet or something started right at midnight. All schools have canceled. Many businesses are going to be closed. Thank God. Apparently, we've never had a blizzard warning here before... Ever.

    But now it's bedtime for me =D.

    Here's a bunch of cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

  4. hi everyone! at work..night shift - blech! first one is always a toughie!

    ooh cinnamon rolls! I have some tea - spent a couple of years in a tea swap so have a lot of different kinds1


  5. Ouch. My head hurts. Are you sure we can't just stay hidden in our writing caves and let birdies do this?


    Well, then pass me the cinnamon rolls Carol. I need some comfort food. Fast.

    Helen left me directions so I started the COFFEE!

  6. I'm printing this now because it's a wealth of wonderful information, Shelli!

    And then I'm heading to your website where I will bookmark you and re-visit frequently.

    Wonderful, marvelous stuff. Thank you so much for being here, for spending the day with us.

    I brought breakfast pizza. Not the old, stale, Mary Connealy kind.


    The Ruthy-kind, with bacon, ham, eggs, cheese and onions. Light on the onions, though.

    Heavy on the bacon and cheese.

    Deb, thanks for the coffee. It's great. And getting snowed in should be equated with "writing time from heaven"

    Put on the tea-pot, cozy up with hot chocolate and work.

    Best therapy ever.

  7. Thanks for sharing these great ideas, Shelli! I bookmarked a few of the sites that you mentioned and checked out your busy blog. It's good to see youth novels highlighted. Blessings!

    reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  8. I always wondered about this.

  9. Good morning, Shelli, and welcome to Seekerville. Where you will NEVER go hungry.

    Have you folks SEEN her gorgeous web page?

    And the agent contest on her page, is a once in a life time opportunity!!! Do not miss it.

  10. Light on the onions? Ruthy, I Knew there was something special about you.

  11. Hi Shelli!

    What great information for writer's in all stages of their careers.

    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  12. Great post, Shelli! Thanks for all the advice and information. This is definitely one to save. I'm just starting to learn all the biz behind writing, so posts like these are golden.

    Your website is gorgeous!!


  13. Welcome to Seekerville, Shelli!

    What a blogful for great suggestions.

    So, why weren't you scheduled to blog with us BEFORE my January debut was released?? LOL! No matter. I can use you ideas now and am bookmarking your site to gather tips from now on!

    I think Ruthy has an exceptional breakfast spread, so I'm grabbing a plate and snacking before off to work in minus 10 degree temps!!

  14. Hi Shelli,
    I checked your website out yesterday. Very attractive. This information is wonderful and since my first book debut's in May I'm in the midst of doing a lot of work.

    Question: I'll be attending a Reader Appreciation Day event our local writer's group does with Barnes and Noble. I was able to get 3 mock ups of my book. In order to have something at the event I was going to make postcards with the cover on the front, a blurb about the book on the back and 2-3 endorsements. Is there anything else you could recommend to help me (and others of us in the same boat) make this successful?

    Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  15. WOW, Shelli, you said a mouthful here, and although the "P" word gives me literal cold chills, I learned a lot from your VERY informative (and relatively painless) blog -- THANK YOU!!

    I'm curious -- what's your opinion on the effectiveness of book signings? I do not think they are an effective means of promotion unless you send out postcards to your son's wedding list AND your local newsletter recipients, which I do!! But even so, to me it seems like they don't offer much bang for your (time) buck, and my publisher is inclined to agree. What's your take?

    Thanks for being our guest on Seekerville today, Shelli, and I suspect your website is going to have a VERY busy day ...


  16. Hi, Shelli! Thanks for the marketing tips. I try to do as much as I can to market my book (soon to be books, plural!) on my tiny budget, but I found that after a while I get so overwhelmed I have to pull back.

    To me, marketing is such a mysterious thing. It's so hard to know what is working and what is not because it's so hard to measure that. I've formulated my own ideas about what works and what doesn't. I think the key is just getting your book in front of people. They will either be intrigued or they won't. But just getting it in front of them seems to be the key. But what do I know? LOL! I'm still new at this.

  17. Thanks for the great information! This post is definitely bookmarked for future reference. I just wish I was far enough along in my WIP to enter the Pay it Forward contest - but it's a great incentive to get it done so I'm ready if something similar comes along in the future!

    Breakfast looks great! I'm adding in some fresh chocolate/chocolate chip muffins (okay, we'll stop cheating and just call them cupcakes...)

    Carol M - we're just now starting to get some of the snow that's headed your way (I'm in NE Kansas). Everyone stay safe and warm!

  18. Thank you. I will have to check out the extra links and your website!

  19. Okay, Shelli! I have two dumb questions. What does MA stand for...I'm thinking mature as opposed to YA being young adult, but I'm not sure. The other thing is, what is a "post it forward?" Never done that before as far as I know.


  20. Good morning Shelli! Thanks for these wonderful tips---I'm saving them for "future reference" *smile*. ~ Am thrilled to see you live in Atlanta! I'm an Atlanta native and have lived in the area my entire life. So in honor of your visit today I'm bringing Georgia Pecan Praline Pancakes! Yes, very rich but very yummy! I figured Ruthy's wonderful breakfast pizza will run out quickly (sounded so delicious---mmmm). ~ Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

  21. Thanks so much for sharing! Great advice!
    Susie Sheehey
    susiesheehey (at) verizon (dot) net

  22. walt - your significant other is right :)

    Keli - congrads on debut!

    CarolM - you are making me hungry :)

    Debra - thats the cool thing about marketing - you can do it AND eat cinnamon rolls :)

  23. Very helpful post, Shelli. Thank you! I can only dream about needing to put all this info to use!


  24. Ruth - look forward to mtg you! I love new blogger buddies :)

    Renee - You are welcome - look forward to meeting you!

    adge - good that is a great first step :)

    Thanks TINA for having me!!!

    Rose - love the cover in your avatar!

  25. Kirsten - thank you - I have to give credit to my hubby - he is my graphic designer - kinda not fair right??? :)

    Audra - IT IS NEVER TOO late! Get on it! :)

  26. Jillian! congrads on your book.

    1) if it is for kids - bookmarks are better. Postcards are usually for mailings

    2)book plates to sign and put in book are always good

    3) or some kind of sign to attract attention is good

    you can email me offline if you need to :)sjohannes@bilaninc.com

  27. Julie - "what's your opinion on the effectiveness of book signings?"

    I think signings are always good BUT only if you do them the smart way

    ....I would only do them locally, state or regional or in a place where you know someone that can help you drum up publicity.

    If you do a signings in bumbleville and no one is there you know and no one knows you are coming - waste of time.

    If you have family is crazyville and they can help get the word out locally and you are spending money to visit them anyway - good use of time.

    does that help?

  28. Melanie - I think people get overwhelmed b/c they do not focus on a few things. So they end up spending money on alot of stuff that doesnt work.

    That is why it is critical you organize your plan - choose 3 audiences and target them smartly.

    is - if you have a knitting mystery for teens set in georgia, your targets are not just teens. They might be Knitters, teens who like crafts and georgia teens. This is in addition to school, bookstores, and librarians of course.

    Now take those 3 groups and find out how to reach them. research knitting teen clubs online, maybe approach michaels or Holly hobby craft stores to see if you can do an event, then maybe target georgia regionally.

    does that help?

  29. jan - Im doing an agent pitch contest in march that takes queries - that might be a good contest to enter to test the strength of your query ;)

    T - hope to see you there :)

  30. Linette - i dont see what you are referring to -

    but it is YA for young adult and MG for middle grade

    also i think it is pay it forward? means to pass on good deeds.

    hope that answers it?

  31. catmom - yay local person. are you a member of any writing groups here? scbwi - for childrens books, or atlanta writers or Georgia writers. Im a part of those groups. Hope to meet you in person.

    suzie - you are welcome

    mary - dont we all :) good luck to you. You will get there.

  32. I'm with you, Ruthy! The storm headed our way should give me the time I need to FINISH this book.

  33. I should tell you that Missy Tippens and Debbie Giusti, who should show up any time now are also Atlanta gals.

    Thanks for being such a good chatterful guest!!! We love that.

  34. These are such excellent ideas, but I have to tell you it is never, ever too early to start getting things ready to go.

    Unpublished or not. Check out prices, ask friends who they use for webpages, printing etc. At least have a preliminary plan in place with Shelli's tips..because once you sell (ask Keli-heck as ME!) you are suddenly thrust into MACH IV and everything should have been done....


    And then there is that pesky day job...and the family. Yes, the family..who somehow thought things would get EASIER once you sold.


  35. Hello Shelli,
    This is a great marketing tips and will be helpful when I set out to market my book.
    Thank you,


  36. Shelli~

    You told, Audra it's never too late to start. I suppose it's never to early either. I've barely started out on this crazy writing ride, but I'm gonna think positive and look at some of your ideas, as though I actually need them now. :)

    Andrea Chermak~ I love your name :)

    Our weather is finally starting to change from sleet to snow. It's not 2 feet an hour like they predicted, but if it keeps up, we'll have a pretty white blanket before the day is over.

  37. So much great advice- this is fantastic! Hopefully I'll need to use these tips one day... :) Am putting the page in my favorites file, just in case!

  38. Andrea S. - we're at 6-7" - changed to snow about 8am. You may be SE of the snow to sleet/ice line though...

    Blizzards. Fun.

    Kids going stir crazy. More fun.

    Our local Chick-fil-A is closed, which means my mouth is watering for some nuggets. The owner/wife is supposed to come over Friday for Christmas/birthdays [yes we do it late - one year we were 18mos late...]. Maybe I'll make him bring a nugget tray...

    A friend did a book signing of her Daniel Fast book in Dec. They sold nearly 100 copies. More than Karen Kingsbury did when she was here.

    I'm friends with a guy who does a drive time radio show and with marketing people at a couple other stations. I'd guess I'll be heading there when the time comes...

  39. Thanks for the great marketing advice! I've signed up for your newsletter. And what a cool contest. Too bad I don't have a YA ready to go :)

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

  40. Finally just pure ol' snow coming down. It looks like feathers from a pillow.

  41. Shelli,

    Does your agent only look at YA?

  42. I've had surprising luck with local media and not THAT local and not that small.

    The Omaha World Herald, circ 8 zillion (or so) routinely puts in a mention of my book signings in Omaha.

    Not a BIG article but it's nice.

    smaller local papers are great about it.

    I've had fairly large radio stations include signings of mine in their 'calendar of events' moments.
    Definitely ASK. If they say no, just move along.

  43. Wow, awesome advice! I'm definitely bookmarking this one for reference. Thanks for stopping by!

    sarah (at) sarahforgrave (dot) com

  44. Interesting post! I live in GA also (90mi.from Atl)! Headed to Shelli's web now!!

  45. Okay...so your manuscript thingy you're doing is for youth and middle age manuscripts, not just any manuscript.

    The "paying it forward" was on your website as one of the requirements to enter the contest/drawing...

  46. Andrea and Tina - yes you can never start too early - whether it be web site or now.

    plus if you are not yet agented - you are "marketing" to a different audience - so agents or editors are your market. Market to them.

  47. Great guest post Shelli (she has an awesome blog)!! Great tips to make marketing affordable.

  48. janet and andrea - yes - you can start now. Plus agents and editors are your target audience so you should be marketing to them now!

    Jess - Im sure you will :)

    Carol - it always helps to have connections :) and 100 books is alot - wonder what he did to spread the word?

  49. Tina and Andrea strong - my PIF contest is only for Middle Grade AND YA but my agent does look at character driven picture books too.

  50. Mary - sometimes what you think is a littel goes along way!

    sarah - nice meeting you :L)

    Jackie - are you a member of any writer groups in atlanta?

    Linnette -
    yes my contest is only for MG and YA. To enter one of the things Im asking is that people do a post thanking others for helping them in their writing or life.

  51. Kerri C - small world :) good to see you hanging here too.

  52. This post is GOLD! Especially since I just signed my first contract and am starting to think a lot more about marketing!!

  53. BTW - CATMOM just onw the marketing book

    email me your address at sjohannes@bilaninc.com

    hope to see you all again and thanks for having me today! hope i helped!

  54. That CATMOM is on a roll. She needs to buy a lottery ticket, QUICKLY.

    Thanks so much for having us today, Shelli.

    And the Amazon gift card winner will be announced in the WE Ed.

  55. Oopps..I meant being with us, Shelli.

    Brain fart. Or cold fingers. It's like -5 below here in Denver

  56. Gotcha! Well, I can at least be thrown in for the Amazon gift care, right?


  57. Lots of good information in your post.


  58. Thanks, Shelli, for great marketing tips!

    You make it sound so easy. :)

  59. Shelli, thanks so much for being with us today! Great info! I'm always wondering if I'm doing enough and whether I'm spending my marketing budget wisely. These are some helpful guidelines.

  60. I just realized you're in GA, Shelli! I'm a member of Georgia Romance Writers but not the other organizations you mentioned. But we're practically neighbors! :) (I'm NE of Atlanta, near Athens)

  61. Loves 2 Read Romance - LauraFebruary 1, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    Thanks for sharing with us Shelli and what great tips. I hope everyone is doing okay with that massive storm hitting the USA and to our Aussie friends I hope that the Cyclone I heard about a few days ago is heading away from you. Have a good night everyone!

  62. Thanks for this! Totally up my alley!!! My book should be ready this summer so your timing is perfect. :)

    (My Mom had cataract surgery so I was there to help her and Dad and just got home last night. She's doing GREAT. Other eye coming up next week. So exciting!!!)

    VistaPrint does beautiful work. They have the cutest templates and I always get comments on my biz cards.

    I'm heading over to your website now. Thanks for these great tips.

    One thing I plan to do is market where people are ready to spend money but I'm one of the few or only book folks there - like say - big craft show or... since mine is doggie - groomers, pet shops, shows, etc.

    We'll see how it goes!

    Thanks again - If I'm not too late please enter me: may at maythek9spy dot com

    Sending warm thoughts everyone's way. It's cold here but we don't have the horrible snow so many do. Be careful out there!

  63. PS: May sends Charley her best greetings!

  64. Thanks guys for having me - I met alot of great people and found new blogs :)