The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Previously on my Self-Printing Bookclub which isn’t actually a bookclub, I hated Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual for its double duty as self-publishing evangelist propaganda, but really liked Aaron Shepard’s more ethical, sensible and modest approach which he detailed in his book, Aiming at Amazon.

Today I’m going to tell you about my latest ‘how to’ read, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won’t by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

I’ll start with the bad stuff.

First, the book is way out of date. It was published in 2004 and of course since then we’ve had a social media revolution which presents a whole new way – and possibly the best way – for authors to get free publicity and promote their books. Secondly, it constantly refers to websites, blogs, online articles, mailing lists and email addresses. Since it was written six years ago I think it’s safe to assume at least some of these are now defunct and moreover, I bought the book. I want the information promised to me by the title to be in the book. I don’t want to go to the trouble of ordering it, buying it and reading it only to find out that most of its content is in fact available online and for free. Thirdly, it made my eyes bleed.

This is, hands down, the most badly designed book interior I have ever come across in this or any other life. No word processing feature is safe. There’s different fonts (the least number used on the average page is three), different sizes, words in ALL CAPS, words in all caps and with expanded space between the characters, square bullet points, circular bullet points, circular bullet points within square bullet points, italics, underlined, indents, alignments, headings that go four or five  deep – and all of them are used without any consistency. One example: half the time, book titles were Written Like This while the rest of the time, they were W R I T T E N  L I K E   T H I S or  T H I S.  Reading it feels like being assaulted by Microsoft Word ’97. According to the copyright page, both the cover (which isn’t much better, as you can see) and interior were designed by someone called Mystique Design and Editorial. This means that someone else went about ruining Ms. Howard-Johnson’s book other than the author herself, which is a shame, because otherwise it’s a good book.

The author explains in detail things like how to assemble a kick-ass media kit and who to send it to. She explores avenues of publicity – free publicity – that in a million brainstorming sessions I’d never have thought of. Howard-Johnson also focuses on establishing a mailing list, and a newsletter to send to the people on it. Despite this book’s vintage, mailing lists are a contemporary issue – only last week Bubblecow talked about making the most of your Twitter and Facebook fans in just this way. Another good idea it explored is using a POD like Lulu or CreateSpace to self-publish ARC (Advance Review or Reader Copies) of your book – having got permission from your publisher, of course, unless you self-published – so you have total control over when they go out, who they go out to and what they go out with.

I like Howard-Johnson. She’s published two books and clearly knows what she’s talking about. She used a unique selling point of her own – the fact that she wrote her first book late in life – to promote her work, and she fills her text with personal anecdotes that confirm she’s tried out all of these publicity tricks herself.

Overall, this is a worthwhile book. It was worth Howard-Johnson writing it, it was worth me reading it and it would be worth any writer’s time to follow some or all of its advice. But it’s badly let down by the interior and cover design. Mystique Design & Editorial needs to give Ms. Howard-Johnson her money back, someone who can actually design and edit needs to redo this book, and it needs updating. All the URLs and e-mail addresses need to be taken out of the main text and if not disposed of entirely, then listed in an appendix at the back. If all that happened, I’d gladly recommend this book.

I just don’t know if it will. Howard-Johnson has also written The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Foot Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. The cover is almost identical to that of The Frugal Book Promoter, so it’s safe to assume Mystique Design have been at it again.

And that’s a real shame.

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2 thoughts on “The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

  1. Carolyn Howard-Johnson says:

    Just a note of thanks. I really appreciate this review. Of course, I wish you’d started with the good stuff first, LOL. But it has spurred me to finish the 2nd edition I’ve been working on. You see, you are absolutely right on both your positive and negative assessments of this book.

    The Frugal Book Promoter was originally designed as an e-book as support for my UCLA course. And I’ve been working on the next edition for at least a year. Things like broken Web sites keep interfering with the process. Wahhh! So this will spur me to do finish up!

    Thank you again Catherine Caffeinated. You’re doing what reviews are intended to do. Help everyone, including the author.

    I do hope your readers will look to the vital information I offer in any case. Every idea in it comes from my own personal experience with promoting a literary novel. I think that’s what sets it aside from most books on the marketing of books.

    Best, Carolyn Howard-Johnson

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      First of all, thank YOU for stopping by and commenting, and being such a good sport.

      Now that you say it was originally an ebook that makes a lot of sense as re: the formatting, links, etc. that would fit in an ebook but doesn’t translate so well to print. I was distracted by the formatting and it was a real shame because it took the “sheen” off the content for me.

      I’m glad you’ve got an updated edition coming out – I really liked the content and as you pointed out the fact that it’s based on your efforts promoting a novel sets it aside from everything else on the market as they are mainly focused on selling non-fiction. I’ll definitely give it a read as I’d be very interested to see what you have to say about Twitter, etc.

      Thanks again,

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