Book Marketing: Branding, anyone?

FictionReboot2Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot (the fiction component of the Daily Dose|Medical Humanities)!

Today, we seek to answer a question many author’s pose: I’m published–now what? It turns out that getting yourself into print is only the first step. There are many ways of putting your novel in front of people; here’s just one: branding. I’ve asked Claire McKinney, of the PR firm by the same name, to share a bit about what she does and why “branding” matters. Welcome, Claire!

Our Website:

What we do:
logoClaire McKinneyPR, LLC is a full service public relations firm that creates and executes individualized campaigns for authors and books, thought leaders, CEOs, and spokespeople. We have over eighteen years of experience working with a wide range of people and projects though we do specialize in fiction and in non-fiction: health and wellness; popular science; business; public affairs; cooking; and history. Our philosophy is that there are no generic campaigns and that each project or person needs to be evaluated exclusively for what it/he/she can bring to the conversation.

What is it about branding these days?  I will argue that before radio, TV, and now the internet, what you had to say was more important than what you represented or how the masses “felt” about you.  I’m sure there were stars in their midst but without the power of satellites and jet planes, the number of people in your fan club was probably pretty small.

So enter radio and all of a sudden there are dozens of voices out there, perhaps talking about the same thing.  Add TV and it’s not just what they are saying, but it’s how they look on screen.  Add the internet and part of the game is about how many people can you entertain in 140 characters or less?

Recap: We used to be invested in the ideas and information we consumed because we had to DO something to get it, either actively listen or read it.  Now, we are bombarded with hundreds of thousands of images and sound bites, our attention spans are limited and our loyalties shift rapidly.

Personal Anecdote: I once worked with an author who wrote a book about the rise of brands that was very controversial and sold a lot of copies.  I guess it made sense that she would know all about branding herself, and she was super specific.  There were some media outlets she absolutely had to do, as they related to her message and kept her close to her core audience.  She had a uniform of jeans and short black boots with a blazer.  And most importantly she did not go anywhere publicly without a professional blowout. In other words, she was her own brand. And it worked.

Current Authors:

Richard Barrios, Oxford University Press (Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter)

Gretchen Archer, Henery Press (New book, Double Strike)

Jon Derek Croteau, Hazelden Publishing (Memoir)

Cathi Unsworth, House of Anansi (Mystery)


The Reboot presents E. C. Ambrose: The Dark Apostle and Book Promotion

FictionReboot2Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot! Today I am happy to announce the latest release from E. C. Abrose: Elisha Magus: The Dark Apostle! You may remember Ambrose from his previous visit to the Reboot with his first book, Elisha Barber.

Today, Ambrose is back to talk about the fine art of promoting your work once it has been published (not an easy task!) All writers want to know: how do I get this story into the world? Welcome E. C., with some answers!


I think the key to effectively marketing your book is knowing what it has to offer that sets it apart, being able to articulate that core in a way that’s powerful and fast, and then reaching out to the people most likely to respond to it. When you have your book’s core in a memorable form, then you’re able to share it early and often, and make it easier for others to share it, too.

I attend a lot of science fiction and fantasy readers’ conventions (not media events, but ones run by fans who love books), and I have the same conversation repeatedly. It goes something like this:

Me, on meeting a new writer: So, what do you write?

Stranger: fantasy. (or, even more vaguely, “Science fiction and fantasy.”)

Me. . . Uh. . . that tells me exactly nothing about your work, much less why I would want to buy or read it.

The other side of that conversation:

Stranger: So, what do you write?

Me: Dark historical fantasy about medieval surgery.

Stranger: Sounds creepy (or exciting or different or disgusting or –) or, I’ve never read a book about that. . .

Basically, like every promo opportunity, this is a chance to create openings for the potential reader to learn more and ask more.

Marketing starts with understanding your book—where does it fit in the world of reading? (“historical fantasy”) And what makes it stand out from that area? (“about medieval surgery”) Now you have what the real ad-men call your unique selling proposition. You can use it as above, in person as the start of your elevator speech; use it as a theme on your website, emails, or social media profiles; put it in advertising or copy, and use it to focus your marketing approach. Brainstorm some places to reach readers who might be especially excited about what you’re offering.

A few months before Elisha Barber launched, I looked for compatible blog and review sites in line with the novel’s core (medieval history sites, sites about historical medicine or literary medicine) and found some folks I could connect with, who would already be excited about some aspect of my work. On my own blog, I also focus on the interactions between history and fantasy, and frequently talk about medical issues in history. I wrote an article about the brighter side of medieval surgery for Renaissance Magazine, a glossy publication aimed at Ren Faire enthusiasts. I have a collection of medieval-style surgical tools which I bring to appearances—and mention in my emails and press releases to spark Elaine Isaacinterest from the media.

I used my tagline at one of those “speed dating” type events for people in the arts—to attract the attention of my local NPR affiliate station host, and get an interview that spiked my ranking big-time.

Basically, I’ve been building my brand and carving a niche that sets me apart from other fantasy authors. I made an off-beat book trailer extolling the virtues of medieval medicine which opens with the line “Are you worried about health care?” For the sequel, Elisha Magus, I’m expanding the brand in some fun ways. At Readercon in Burlington, MA, I’ll be giving away copies of the mass market edition of Elisha Barber to anyone who donates at the Heinlein Society Blood Drive.   I’ll also be sharing a panel with my medical advisor for the series.

One idea I haven’t acted on yet: doing a costumed talk as a barber-surgeon at libraries, and perhaps filming it for my local access cable channel.

The more distinctive your message, the more likely it is to get attention—and nothing brings people out like offering minty maggots to those who attend your readings. . .


In Elisha MElisha_Magus(1)agus, the barber-surgeon, feared and hunted for the spectacular magic that ended a war, finds himself under the protection of a duke, and offered the duke’s daughter, Rosalynn, in marriage. Elisha escorts Rosalynn to a retreat in the New Forest, hoping to recover the dread talisman stolen by his lover and teacher, Brigit, after the battle. Elisha learns more about the shadowy nature of witches and the truth of his own power: that he has become so close to Death that he is indivisible from it—a power that Brigit is desperate to learn. Does his knowledge make him a necromancer, feeding on the fear and pain of others?

When he befriends the discredited Prince Thomas, Elisha has the chance to forge a more just nation, but his enemies grow stronger and more vicious, wielding the power of death to craft a reign of horrors that will blacken the future of England—and maybe the world.

Also look for book one of The Dark Apostle, Elisha Barber, now in paperback!

E. C. Ambrose links