Publishing Industry

Announcing Shannon Aviles!

This week’s guest blogger is Shannon Aviles, here to answer your publicity questions. Shannon is a multi-media specialist and promoter. The questions she answers below were posed on this blog post, which also contains more information about what a multi-media specialist is and does. Shannon will also be appearing on a panel for the PAN group at RWA National next month, as well as presenting a workshop with Levy and Pam Nelson.

Without further ado…

Heeeeeere’s Shannon!

Finally! Here are the answers. I find it an honor and a privilege to be invited to do this with you and your blog readers. I feel terrible about the delays–but, I really enjoyed answering the questions below for your readers.

How much work/effort should I put into publicity vs. actual writing, at this stage of the game? I’m pre-pubbed–I know I’m close, but not there yet. Should it be 75% writing / 25% publicity? More/less on either side? I’m sure it’s different in every situation, but what’s a good ballpark to start with?
If you haven’t been published yet–all your time should be focused on getting published. You’re basically putting the “cart before the horse” to do otherwise. Becoming aware of how to promote does not hurt and creating a web site will not hurt either. But you must have a “product” to promote and a “Brand”–otherwise, you’re wasting time, effort and money.

Does most of the responsibility for promotion lie with the author?
Yes and No, it lies with the author and the authors respective Publishing House. However, due to the “realities” of the today’s literary lines of business–it falls to the author to “motivate” their PH to do more for them.

What are the biggest mistakes you see people make when self-promoting?
They are not thinking “saturation” and they are not thinking “big/broad enough” and they are putting all of their focus on cannibalism. Which means–they are placing their focus only in one market (ie Romance) which does not provide for growth.

Should branding be a concern for unpublished authors?
ABSOLUTELY! It is the MAIN focus! The “Brand” is the author’s name and also the “product” is their book–these are not an either/or scenario.

For authors with multiple (possibly branded) pseudonyms, are there pros/cons to having two separate web sites and/or being public to one group of readers that you are also the author for the alternate genre?
Separate web sites for each pseudonym confuses the “Brand” which is a HUGE mistake. Key and consistent messaging is the goal.

Sometimes authors take a pseudonym because their previous author name is tied up at an ex-publishing house or their previous series/line/genre/book bombed, etc. In these situations (where the author doesn’t necessarily want to broadcast that she was the original author) are there any special considerations for promotion? Or would it be like “starting fresh” with a brand new author?
There are proven successful strategies to fix these challenges. Anyone who wants to know what they are can contact me directly. The important thing to know is that it is fixable and/or manageable.

What are the top two things an author can do to self-promote?
Create a successful Web Site and make sure that it is SEO (Search Engine Optimized)!

When is it time to call in a publicist?
When you can afford one and when you have reached a certain position in your line of business that will allow you to market your “Brand” and “Product.”

How effective are banner ads on the various romance writer/reader sites? Does anyone notice them? Click on them? I personally don’t, but they seem inexpensive, and I was curious if they make a promotional impact.
Studies show audiences are “Banner Ad Blind” these days. I do not advocate them. As most are done very badly to begin with, it supports the studies.

Do you see very many common names with successful marketing, or is it better for someone with a name as common as Mary Jensen to use a pseudonym?
A name is a name is a name–a rose by another name would smell as sweet.(g) Although names are important–more important is the Brand and its placement.

When is the best time to start promoting a name or book?
When you are published (contracted).

I think although forums, blogs, websites and sometime loops can be good, online chats are pretty much a waste of time. Am I wrong?
Any and all exposure to wider audiences is all good. However, blogs, loops, chats, etc…. take a lot of time and the time is taken away from writing. If any author does these, I always advice them to be “guests” and to plan them a couple of times a month on their calendars (scheduled time) and no more.

How do you get your name out there without having to go on book tours? Is the internet the most effective way?
The internet is one of the most effective ways–but, if “time” is the concern–there is nothing to save time in “Promoting.” Time and money is a must to promote ANYTHING. Managing both is the “key.”

How much help can an author expect from the corporate world in terms of $ for promotion? About how much does the “average” author spend out of pocket to get out there? What’s the cheapest yet most effective?
Well, this is a loaded question as it is so DEPENDENT ON POSITIONING STATUS within your Publishing Houses. Political as is everything. No one has done studies on the “average expenditure in promotions by authors.” In terms of “cheapest and most effective”–this one is easy: “Viral Marketing.”

How soon should you have a blog and or website?
If you have signed a contract to be published–get a web site! First web site–then blog…

What pub/promo errors scream “Green newbie!” and keep everyone who’s anyone away from your book?
Heavy promotions of yourself before you’ve been published. However, do not let any of this deter your efforts to write and get published.

If marketing yourself makes you feel productive working towards your goal and you have the time and the money–do it. Never listen to anyone telling you to give up and not do anything.

However, REMEMBER–promotions and marketing are for sales of products. If you do not have a product on the market for the consumer to purchase–what are you marketing?

I’ve love to know about budgets. I don’t have a lot of money to spend, but know I need to self promote. Starting out, how much should I be allocating and where are the best places to invest? I’m e-pubbed so websites? Magazines?
Contact me and we’ll talk. Budgets are HIGHLY private and personal discussions and are TOTALLY individualistic. There are many things taken into consideration when planning any budget. There is no magic number out there and if anyone tells you so–don’t listen!

Is there a specific % of a budget that should be spent on publicity–hoping 100% is not the answer!
Well, a good strategic budget will incorporate not just Publicity–but, also Marketing, Promotions, Advertising, etc… Did I confuse you? I bet I did… Publicity is only one part of any strategic planning to promote a Brand and/or a Product.

What works to promote e-books?
Viral Marketing.

Sometimes I feel like my online promotion flops and I wonder if I’m wasting valuable writing time. Where should I concentrate my on-line efforts? Blogging, chats, banner ads, newsletters, or excerpt loops?
Doing a little bit of everything gets to be exhausting. Strategize. Create a plan for a period of time–4 months, 6 months, 12 months–whatever, you can handle.

In this plan, identify everything you’ve done in the past including costs. Summate what you’ve spent in the past per annum and break down by your decided time frame. Evaluate your final expenditures and evaluate all that you’ve done and then look to do something more moving forward and/or different if you decide that what you’ve done in the past hasn’t worked for you.

Adjust the future budget by the past and STRATEGIZE and PLAN! Don’t just spend money to do something that is called Publicity/Promotion/Marketing–because, you know you should be doing something. Most important–learn to ask questions–lot’s of questions and learn to research the “right” questions to ask before you spend another dime.

Should different venues be targeted in small chunks (all over the internet) or is it better to blow the budget on one big ad that reaches 1000’s (like a RT ad)?
Never and I mean NEVER spend your whole budget on any ONE THING! You’d be better off spending it all on ONE lottery ticket and hoping that you win big! In essence you’d be gambling your money away placing all your balls into one court. You should be “saturating” the markets–ALL MARKETS–not just one.

What does she think about characters blogging?
I’m feeling the “LOVE” everyone! Brilliant!

QUESTION: What are you doing to drive business to these sites??? And–are you competing with your own web sites? This is called “Cannibalism.” If this is done incorrectly, you WILL compete with your own promotion (web site) AND YOU WILL HURT your web site. If this unique idea is done well, you will drive business to your site, which will drive sales.

Does Shannon have a web site I can visit?
I will eventually. I intentionally stopped the launch as I am scheduled six months out with authors waiting to come on board. Web sites are for promotions to drive business.

All of my business started through referral and as I started doing “guest speaking, panels and workshops” locally and nationally in an effort to help authors–I quickly realized that the “fall-out” became unmanageable. I HATE disappointing authors and having them wait for my services. I want to be able to help everyone–I’m an overachiever and my health began to suffer.

So as I strongly advocate web sites for all authors to promote their brands and products, I found that this advice was not necessary for my business. Therefore, I’ve redirected the design for my web site to be informative for authors so that I can help as many as possible without killing myself in the process.

Is it possible to measure buzz impact on sales?
There are no “formulas” to measure “Buzz.” I am now going to turn the tables on all of you by asking you a question: Can any of you tell me your Publishing House’s ROI – which impacts your Royalties? …I’m waiting.. (g)…I’d bet you can’t. In fact, I know you can’t–why? Because, Publishing Houses will give NO ONE this information–not unless they are court ordered to do so.

Don’t expect any Marketing person to be able to provide you with an ROI answer for any campaign done on you and/or for you. In order to determine ROI (Return On Investment) you have to be able to provide the total sales figures from your Publishing House for each book sold.

Oh and by-the-way, Publicists/Publicity does not work in ROI as “Promotion/Publicity” has no dollar value on it as it is valueless–meaning PRICELESS! You cannot place a dollar amount on people talking “positively” about you and your books. You can however, measure Marketing/Advertising Campaigns–but, then we go back to the beginning of the discussion on ROI. =)

In closing…

I want to be able to help as many authors and aspiring authors as possible. Feedback is always a wonderful and appreciated thing…

Thanks, Shannon! I now open the floor to the readers… Questions? Comments?


  • Kimber An

    Good answers. I do disagree on a couple of points, however.

    1) Aspiring authors shouldn’t waste their time establishing a web presence through blogging or whatever.

    2) Authors shouldn’t waste their time blogging and interacting on the Internet.

    I’ve seen the opposite of these two answers to be true. If you want to see my perspective, pop over to my Star Captains’ Daughter blog and scroll down to the column ‘Wooing the Readers I know.’

  • cosproductions

    As an online marketing specialist myself, I share in many of Shannon’s assessments.
    I wholehearted disagree with the statement someone else made – “Authors shouldn’t waste their time blogging and interacting on the internet”.
    Having attended BEA, I found that many of the trend setters and surveyors all agree that online marketing isn’t a passing trend, it is an absolute necessity.
    Booksellers are online. Readers are online. Why wouldn’t an author want to be online?

  • Carrie

    Wow Shannon – thanks so much! You mention viral marketing a couple of times. I’ve heard this phrase, but don’t really know what it means. Can you talk about that a little bit more – what it means, how it works, etc?


  • Vicki

    Hi Shannon and welcome to Erica’s world. It’s great to have you here.

    Thanks so much for all of your wonderful advice.

    Although I’m not yet published I do have a blog. At this point I blog on it twice a week. No more than that since I don’t want to take more time away from finsihing the wip.

    I believe that this is a great way to get my name out there now so that when the time comes to promote the book people will already have an idea of who I am.

  • Shannon Aviles

    Hello Everyone!

    I will try to answer some of the questions that have come out of my blog answers.

    SEO means “Search Engine Optimazation”

    Web Site Optimization – Need and Benefit of Search Engine Optimization:

    A well-designed Web site is paramount in getting perspective clients or customers to stay or revisit once your site has been found. For most Web sites, search engines are the single most important source of Web traffic. It has been reported that more than 85 percent of Web users use search engines to find what they are looking for and some 55 percent of online sales are obtained through search engines.

    Hope this explains is a bit for you.

    Thank you for your question.
    :)Shannon Aviles

  • Shannon Aviles


    SEO is very complicated. So, I’ve gone to my “Team SEO Leader” that works for me and asked her to make it as simple as possible to explain.

    Her name is “Melissa” and she talks in Algorithms and Code… I think she lives within the “MATRIX!” …lol

    This is what she reported out to me to share with all of you:

    Steps To Conducting A Quick Web Site SEO Analysis

    1. Determine three high ranking competitor Web sites and top key words/phrases used on these sites.

    2. Analyze the target market for the type content provided by the site where the user does not know the name of the author.

    3. Analyze the type content provided by the author’s site and the purpose(s) of the site.

    4. Based on the findings of 1., 2., and 3., above, determine the top three key words/phrases to use in optimizing the site.

    5. Review existing Meta title, description, and top key words/phrases for each page and recommend replacements, if needed.

    6. Determine Google Page Rank for home page and three main 1st level pages.

    7. Assess Web page file names for key words/phrases.

    8. Assess search engine friendliness of links on each Web page.

    9. Assess page headers for keywords/phrases, header tags and font size.

    10. Conduct Spider check to determine top-of-page text and recommend changes if any are required. If css is used for text block placement, recommend layer relocation.

    11. Analyze the internal, outgoing and incoming links, and recommend changes.

    12. Determine if listed in major search engine directories.

    13. Determine Google Page Rank for home page.

    Nothing quick and/or easy about SEO – which is why its smart to make sure you hire a “Web Designer” who knows how to do this or even knows what it is….

    One of those “research” questions I mentioned earlier that you should know how to “ask the right questions.”

    :)Shannon Aviles

  • Shannon Aviles

    Hello Carrie,


    Viral marketing refers to internet marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce exponential increases in brand awareness, through a self-replicating “viral” process.

    It can often be word-of-mouth delivered and enhanced online; it can harness the network effect of the Internet and can be very useful in reaching a large number of new audiences rapidly.

    Thanks everyone for asking such great questions! I hope I have the opportunity to see many of you at RWA in Dallas next month.

    It’s been a pleasure “blogging” with all of you and thank you for having me participate in such a great forum.

    :)Shannon Aviles

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