What Works, What Doesn’t In Book Marketing

By Rachel Thompson | Author Marketing

Dec 22

book readingIs your book marketing the same as it was a year ago? I know mine is … and it’s kinda not (I know, such a female answer). This article is solely based on my own personal experiences marketing my three books: A Walk In The Snark, Mancode: Exposed, and Broken Pieces (eBook and now in print from Booktrope, on Amazon).

(It’s worth noting that I paid up front for professional editing, proofreading, graphic design, and formatting — something I recommend any self-published author do. Booktrope covered those costs for print.) 

Let’s deconstruct.

WHAT WORKS

Blogging. Google loves fresh content. There’s no question my Google ranking has gone up this past year by posting fresh content a few times per week on my two sites. And I don’t write it all — I invite guest bloggers, reblog (with permission), or update an old yet popular post. You can do the same.

Social Media. Many of you know I’m a fan. Social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook (and now more than ever, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram) are an integral part of my marketing strategy.

Do I tweet book links in every tweet? Heck, no. I do share book links every day or so, but in every frackin’ tweet or post? Nope. It’s annoying and awkwardly selfish. Social media is social for cookie’s sake — why don’t people get this? I still don’t know.

Advertising. Some people are fans of Google AdWords (like me), others are not. Whatever you decide to do, educate yourself. I make my husband do my Google AdWords (because it’s like math, which he digs, and um, hello? Writer here.) This right here, this is why advertising works. I’m not sure how Amazon and Google’s algorithms sync, but they do, somehow. If you don’t know what you’re doing with AdWords, you will be throwing money away. Hire someone to teach you or read free tips on TheAdWordsGuy.com.

WHAT I SHARE

Quotes: What do I share? I curate quotes that appeal to me — my aim is always to make people think and as I’m somewhat of a ‘dark’ writer, those are the quotes I tend to share. I’ve always eschewed ‘inspirational’ quotes — honestly, they just seem silly and from a branding perspective, don’t represent me at all. I also don’t share more than two per day.

Interestingly, several of my closest followers requested I share more of my own quotes (from Broken Pieces, and the next book in process, Broken Places) and I hesitated — is that too ‘me-centric?’ Will I be one of those annoying selfish authors who only share their own stuff if I start doing that?

No. I’ve learned that, shared with restraint, sharing my own book quotes offers a peek into my work and my mind. Again, the key here is restraint. Most I find on Goodreads — or I google a subject (quotes about passion, for example) and see what comes up. Whatever you do, don’t share a quote without attribution. Most people will google something if there’s no attribution and then you’ll look like an idiot.

Photography: Visuals absolutely get more retweets and shares than anything else (except for the occasional quote that pops). I peruse sites like Pinterest, National Geographic, TwistedSifter and a few others to find visually appealing content. I tend toward reds and purples because those colors subconsciously draw the eye in. No matter what you share, always give attribution (to the photographer and image source).

Be generous. The author and blogger communities are strong — get to know your fellow authors and bloggers by visiting their timelines, walls, blogs — interact, connect, retweet. This is how you start guest posting for others, doing interviews, being featured. Beyond that, you’ll make amazing friends! One of the best tools I’ve used the past few years is Triberr. It’s free and it connect you to other tweeps who also blog. I personally love it but many don’t. Try it — don’t like it? Quit.

I also started #MondayBlogs last year and it has blown UP. Thousands participate weekly and we generate over 5,000 tweets — just on Mondays! What do you do? Share any post (new, old, favorite, most popular, whatever) on Monday only — use the hashtag #MondayBlogs and we’ll retweet you. Without the hashtag, others who participate (tweeting and retweeting others’ posts) won’t know. I also own the Twitter handle @MondayBlogs so you can include that also if you want (not required).

My traffic (on both sites RachelintheOC.com and BadRedheadMedia.com) is up 300% over last year. It works.

Visuals. I discussed photography above, but there’s so much more you can share. Remember, your job is to curate great content — you do not have to share only original content. Share what interests you! (Again, always give attribution.) I’ve found that pasting some of my own quotes that people seem to like into a free program like Quizio or Pinstamatic makes it easy to create visuals from words. Very easy to share on Pinterest, Instagram, and of course, Facebook and Twitter, etc.

Groups: I’ve joined a few select groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Goodreads (i.e., BestsellingReads — for only authors who have hit #1 on a list). I love the sense of community and support, and it’s a great way to connect with your fellow writers and share info. If it’s not a good fit or you find you’re too exhausted by the effort, quit. You won’t know til you try, right?

WHAT HASN’T WORKED

Contests. Listen, I try everything so I can either recommend things to clients — or steer clear. I’ve found that contests don’t do a lot for sales or site traffic — most people who enter usually only do the minimum required in order to win whatever it is (i.e., a Kindle), they rarely share the book link, and almost never review. I’m not criticizing — we all lead busy lives and some are just barely getting by. It’s an investment to share our favorite authors and books.

Expensive Promo Sites. I find it incredibly frustrating to pay a ton of money for a promo on a high-volume site (or with ‘millions’ of email subscribers) and get little to no benefit from it. If you want to take your book free (or on a promo) with Amazon, by all means do so (short bursts are better than a long sale). List it on as many free sites as you can, but save your hundreds of promo dollars participating in joint collective promos or these types of sites — listing is free on Author Marketing Club (use their free tool), and use the money you will save for AdWords or other advertising.

I’m sure many others authors have much different marketing tactics, and I welcome anyone to share and comment. Just wanted to share a short post on what is working, and not working, for me.

Updates: Broken Pieces is now published in print! Booktrope (fabulous hybrid publisher) signed me last August and my beautiful print copy came out this past week on Amazon. It will be on Barnes and Noble and other sites very soon.

Looking for personalized, customized help with your author marketing? Check out my services page!

 

 

 

 

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About the Author

Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month – created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs,  #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Leave a Comment:

(47) comments

Terry Tyler December 23, 2013

Soooper post and first one I read on MondayBlogs this week – I’ve sent an email to the AdWords guy, as I haven’t been able to get my head around it properly yet. Each time I publish, he-who-formatts says ‘so, have you sorted your AdWords out?’ and I say yes, but I’ve only really spent about 20 minutes on it….

I shall look at the Bestselling Reads group as (hurrah!), I have been in that wonderful position – again, one day, again, please God of Independent Authors!!!

I’d love all the people who think they are promoting on Twitter by using Autotweet and RoundTeam to read this post – but of course they’re never actually ON any of the sites, so they never see all the blog posts…..!!!!

Reply
    Rachel Thompson December 23, 2013

    Awesome on the #1 spot! BSR is a fee-based group (dues are $100) which encourages authors to commit and support the community. We are a tight group and I’d love to have you on board. (check the site for email or contact me).

    Adwords is insane — complicated, but worth it.

    xx

    Reply
MM Jaye December 23, 2013

Amazing post, Rachel! It’s exactly what a newbie like me needs. From a reader’s point of view, I had the feeling that promo sites and all this hoopla don’t really work, and now you confirm it. As for quoting yourself, by all means, do it! I’ll quote you too: “Illunination only lasts until darkness decides to fall.” And then Rachel flips the switch (I add).

Merry Xmas from Greece!

Maria (MM Jaye)

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    Rachel Thompson December 23, 2013

    thanks so much, Maria! You’re too kind. and thanks for quoting me — I’m so not used to that 🙂

    Again this is only my experiences. I did have good luck with BookBub once but I didn’t find that thousands and thousands of free downloads helped my ranking AFTER the promo than not using them. Some people love them.

    Good luck and any questions, let me know.

    xx

    Reply
      MM Jaye December 23, 2013

      Oooh, I will, Rachel. You can bet on that. But first, I will post my 5* review on Amazon. Because I might be new in the game, but I’ve learned that first you give and then you ask. Am I a good student or what? 🙂

      Reply
Michael cairns December 23, 2013

Hi Rachel
Really handy post thanks, lots of good stuff to take away.
Also, thanks for the pinstamatic tip, I’ve been looking for something like that for ages 🙂
Cheers
Mike

Reply
    Rachel Thompson December 23, 2013

    quite welcome. It’s fun and easy to use. there are also a few mobile apps but I haven’t found them to be as detailed as I’d like.

    xx

    Reply
Tracey Best December 23, 2013

Rachel,
Good post. I’ll have to take a closer look at Adwords. I’ve been helping my husband market his books and I like math….so when I have time to try and digest it, I’ll do that. We did have a huge bump in sales just recently from being highlighted by Ereader News Today http://ereadernewstoday.com/bargain-and-free-books-for-12-19-13/6738644. They charge a percentage of sales from their promotion which won’t be much. It’s nice since it will be after the sales and not up front. I’ve read good things about Book Bub as well but haven’t tried them. I really enjoy connecting with people on a more personal level as you said; however, as the followers increase, it seems to be harder and harder to do. Any suggestions on that? Congrats on your new print book. Have a great Christmas.

Tracey

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simply scott December 24, 2013

Rachel, you didn’t mention Blog Tours. What are your thoughts on those?

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    Rachel Thompson December 24, 2013

    you’re right — oops! LOL. I do recommend them, if for no other reason than increasing your visibility online (Google ranking and SEO). There are lots of great tour companies out there, so it’s really a matter of choosing one that fits your genre and your budget.

    I like blog tours — I don’t like blog tours that required a new post for each stop. It’s labor intensive and honestly, many of the blogs get so few hits and do no promotion – so why bother? Do your homework and see what kind of work they will do. I frequently use Orangeberry Book Tours — Pandora is the owner and she’s very easy to work with and thorough, as well as being reasonably priced.

    Book tours don’t sell books – that’s the biggest misperception about them. The sole reason to do them is to increase visibility. Hope that helps!

    Reply
Lara Lee Sweety December 24, 2013

Thanks for the cool post. It’s always good to know what is working for folks!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Lara

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Frederick Wysocki December 26, 2013

Rachel,

A quick question for you. I am self publishing my first novel in february. Just found out about Hootsuite and Google Pages. Do you think an author should set up a Google Page as their book or as themselves as an author? Happy Holidays!

Reply
    Rachel Thompson December 27, 2013

    HI Frederick! and grats. Very exciting.

    Always set everything up in your own name — ‘brand the author, not the book’ is the saying — because hopefully you’ll write more books and then what? Unless your book is erotica or something where you’re using a pen name, keep it all YOU. That said, with Twitter, for example, you only have 15 characters total for your ‘handle’ (aka name), so be sure it all fits in. If not, add ‘author’ or ‘writer’ somewhere in there.

    hope that helps! A great book to purchase if HOW TO MARKET A BOOK by Lori Culwell and Katherine Sears (Amazon). A really good guide.

    Reply
Vicki Keire December 28, 2013

More great marketing advice from a black belt in the subject! 😉 I was so glad to read this. Some things I’ve been doing already, and have a happy little groove going, like with blogging. But some others I definitely need the pointers- like with my sadly neglected Twitter friends. I love the idea of “curating” content- it takes some of the pressure off having 100% original and interesting content all the time. We have to save *something* for our books, right?

I had great luck with BookBub, but my book ran at 99c instead of free. Wonder if that had anything to do with it?

Also, do you have any posts about some of the newer social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram? I log on to Pinterest and immediately feel lost.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson December 28, 2013

    Hi Vicki! So great to see you here an thank you 🙂

    I have done posts on Pinterest and Instagram — or had guests to do them.

    I do love them both and find them useful. I’ll definitely revisit! We learn by doing as you know, so just check it out and see what you think. Pinterest is actually becoming one of the largest search engines — and it’s a great way to find wonderful visuals to share or create idea boards.

    I’m adding it to my editorial calendar now. Thanks, girl. and grats on how well your books are doing!

    Reply
Susi M. December 30, 2013

Thanks for the great tips. I hope to someday publish what I am working on. I enjoy reading your tweets and advice.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson January 5, 2014

    Hi Susi! thanks for reading.

    You will publish — so many amazing options now to make it happen! but don’t rush it. It will happen when it’s supposed to. Thanks for your kind words.

    Reply

[…] What Works, What Doesn’t In Book Marketing […]

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Claire January 4, 2014

This is incredibly helpful, thanks – particularly the section on “what”
to blog about. People are always telling you blogging is important, but rarely help much with what you’re supposed to say in the blogposts. Thanks for being generous with your secrets!

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    Rachel Thompson January 5, 2014

    You’re so welcome, Claire. Definitely follow Molly Greene — she wrote a FAB book on blogging and blog topics.

    My advice is always the same for any authors: blog about what you write about, what interests you. Choose 4 or 5 topics and rotate them. You should never have to sit at a blank screen and wonder what to write with these topics in your back pocket.

    Good luck!

    Reply
Rick Marchetti January 4, 2014

Very informative post. In all honesty, I was just skimming along until I got to “Be Generous”, which answered the question that was uppermost in my mind: How to get from 20-30 Twitter followers (me) to 72,785 (you) & about to become 72,786. Thanks!

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iHealthReviews January 4, 2014

There are way too many marketing tips when it comes to book “awareness”. I guess that’s fine and articles that treat the subject provide a clear insight on what works and what doesn’t. Thanks for your input.

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donna morang January 4, 2014

Hi Rachel,
Thanks for your interesting article. I have a question for you. Everything I have ever read says not to respond to reviews of your book, whether good or bad. However, I see you respond to many reviews. I’m curious as to how that works for you.
Gracias
Donna

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    Rachel Thompson January 4, 2014

    For a long time, I said nothing, whether it was good or bad.

    Now I thank people, whether it’s good or bad. I refuse to disagree with someone because they don’t like my work — that’s THEIR right. If something they say is easily explained, then a sentence is fine. Again, don’t make it defensive or sarcastic. We learn from the bad reviews, even if we vehemently disagree! But like politics or religion, we have no right to tell someone what to (or what not to) believe.

    hope that helps!

    Reply
Charles Fudgemuffin January 4, 2014

Thanks for the tips Rachel. I like the idea of the #MondayBlogs hashtag, both for promoting my own blogs and also for discovering interesting new blogs to follow.

One other promotional strategy I sometimes use is flyers. There are lots of cool promotional opportunities available on the internet, but some of my best sales spells have followed periods of flyer promotion so it’s worth taking advantage of ‘real life’ opportunities as well as the internet.

I wrote a blog a while back about my own promotional efforts with flyers. The flyers are out of date now, so I’ll have to do an updated post, but the general gist of the blog post still applies:

Flyers: An Overlooked Promotional Opportunity For Authors

Reply
    Rachel Thompson January 4, 2014

    interesting — any kind of face to face marketing is always good. Appreciate the share!

    #MondayBlogs is helpful because not only do we receive more traffic, but we also help others. It’s a win/win.

    Reply

[…] Thompson at badredheadmedia.com has some useful advice about marketing your work on her site: http://badredheadmedia.com/2013/12/22/works-doesnt-book-marketing/  In my eyes, it’s applicable to any […]

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Vikram January 5, 2014

Lots of useful tips in here Rachel. And congratulations on your sustained success. One related issue is about pricing. Most authors pricing their books too low will not have the marketing budget that they would need in order to drive traffic to their books. On the other hand, readers won’t mind paying a slightly higher price if they know that the book is a good read. And a higher price may even signal higher quality.

Have you played around with pricing high and low?

What have been your results?

Thanks again for your generosity!

Reply
    Rachel Thompson January 5, 2014

    Hi Vikram! And great question.

    I have played around with pricing quite a bit. With my humor books, I’m selling a decent amount at 2.99. However, with Broken Pieces, I sell more at 5.99 than at 2.99. I believe that has to do with perceived value more than anything else, given how well-reviewed the book is and the various awards. The genre of all three is nonfiction, but as you know, Pieces is serious as the other two aren’t.

    The biggest mistake I see are authors with only one book out pricing it at 5.99 or above. Most readers don’t want to take a chance on an unknown (especially if they have too few reviews). Pricing it at 3.99 to start is generally a good idea (again, depending on genre, backlist and platform) but much higher and they price themselves out of the market.

    My thoughts anyway. Others may have different advice/experiences.

    thanks for asking and always a pleasure.

    Reply
Judy Koot January 5, 2014

Rachel, thank your for sharing your insights!
I really loved your article.

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Elizabeth Ann West January 13, 2014

I think the biggest problem is how authors use advertising. Something like a contest for example, you shouldn’t use that as a vehicle to sell mass copies, but to make connections with readers. A month down the road or so, that’s the email list you thank again for participating in your contest and “Oh by the way, my new book just released and I’d love help getting the word out and your feedback.”

Early in my writing career I hand-signed 200+ ebook files for readers in a “contest” where everyone won. When I was part of an anthology a year later, I let them know and they helped with the first week sales. Those who couldn’t buy a copy were happy to help share. 2 years later, I STILL get the occasional email or message asking me if I have a new book out.

You have to realize customers come in all different types. Some are there to give you their time and energy in exchange for “free” stuff. Some just want to buy and go. And others want to buy and brag about liking your content. That last group is what authors have to cultivate to make a lasting career. And that takes a lot of time.

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Scarlett Flame January 15, 2014

Thanks Rachel

Some of this I knew, and other suggestions like the free web site were recently recommended to me by another writer friend. John Satisfy told me about Triberr the other day and I am still trying to understand how it works, but am willing to give it a go.

I hadn’t realised how time consuming all this was or how much time-management is needed to co-ordinate all these different media.

Thank you again

Scarlett

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    Rachel Thompson January 15, 2014

    It’s definitely a time management thing, more than anything, or it becomes this huge beastie monster and takes over everything.

    Hootsuite, Pluggio, and ManageFlitter are my trifecta for managing all of my (and my clients’) social media. Triberr is great to increase reach. They have a wonderful ‘how to’ section and lots of FAQs to help get started. Connect your blog and Twitter and you’re pretty much done — w/ regard to getting going. Like anything, interaction is key.

    Reply
Martha Witt January 15, 2014

Great article on using the www to build a presence and a following. The detailed how-to/not-to is valuable advice for more than just writers. Actually, you have some of the best ‘not-to’ advice I’ve read.
I’ve bookmarked this page and will refer to it often, as there is too much to take in in one reading.

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    Rachel Thompson January 15, 2014

    Thanks Martha! appreciate the feedback.

    funny you say that — a guy (always a guy) recently complained to me that I need to stop telling people what NOT to do, and focus on the positive.

    I told him not to tell me what to do LOL. Seriously though, I see so many easy to fix mistakes, I find it helpful to point out what not to do and also, what to do instead.

    Reply
Dave Freeman January 27, 2014

Thanks Rachel for the continued posts that “nail it”. I began he journey to self-publication a year ago, after writing 12 motivational children’s picture books/short stories with a lesson. The past year has been a massive research and self-education process centering around choosing the best information from BadRedHeads and other notable trend setters.

SPOILER ALERT: I am working up to a question involving AUTO RESPONDERS (in a good way). I’ll explain my logic and hopefully can find some advice at the end.

While we are putting the finishing touches on a family friendly web-site, entertaining YouTube trailer, FB Fan Page, as well as establishing a presence on Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ & LinkedIn, we are almost ready to push the GO button on all of these.

CONCERNING FB GROUPS: I’m afraid I have gone to the far extreme, by joining quite a few groups, only to find as you noted, a massive amount of boring and self-serving “BUY MY BOOK” posts, many of which are repeated on an hourly basis by the same Authors, over and over again. Not surprisingly, I ignore almost all of them, which I’m certain was not the intended response.

After studying the mechanics of the FB Algorithms and listening to endless discussions of the how to make them work for you and the presumed importance of hitting a “Best Seller’s List” in the first 30 days, I have returned to my senses (I think) and am convinced that Zig Ziglar had it right with his observation that “A person will become successful, once they have helped enough others become successful, FIRST”. (or something like that).

There is a question brewing here and I’ll get to it ASAP! Based on the idea of “Paying it Forward”, I established (yet another) FB Author’s Group, with that as the stated mission. The objective is to assist other Authors, by offering to Like, Share, Download, Borrow and Review as many other authors (in their personal area of interest) and hopefully receive similar attention in return.

NOW, HERE’S WHERE I WENT A LITTLE OVERBOARD. In my search for the “perfect group”, I joined many. OK, I joined 180. Then I compiled a list of those 180 groups and by extension, their membership which is somewhere in the vicinity of 511,000 members. Obviously, there are many, many, many duplicate members. Some (like me) actually belong to all of them.

Having created this monster list, I have considered applying it to a somewhat self-serving variation of the “PAY it Forward Project”. While I sincerely promote the concept of helping others, I would like to offer this list to anyone who sees value in this FaceBook Fan List on steroids.

THE PLAN & FINALLY, THE QUESTION: I plan to offer this list of my newest Half Million friends to my new group of a Half Million friends. To do so, I would like to find a way to employ an AUTO-RESPONDER, that would allow me to program an activity which would allow my friends to respond to a FB Posted invitation to SHARE MY WEBSITE, in exchange for a free copy of my Mega-List in Excel Spreadsheet form. HOW IN THE WORLD DO I DO THAT?

Rachel, if you or any of your friends have an answer to my question, I would appreciate your suggestions. In the mean time, if anyone would like a copy of THE LIST, let me know by posting a comment here or connecting with me at your convenience.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson January 28, 2014

    Hi Dave — I do not have an answer for you. Sounds like something you’re going to have to research, or maybe connect with a programmer who can figure that out for you. Check some of the geek sites (ie, PC World, Mashable (geek section), etc.) most of those guys write code.

    good luck! I appreciate your comments and wish you well — sounds like it could really help a lot of people.

    Reply

[…] What Works, What Doesn’t In Book Marketing […]

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Julia M. Chambers January 29, 2014

Rachel,

As someone who’s been following you for what, about 3 years now? Maybe 4? And as a freelance writer who hasn’t yet gotten her first books together, I really appreciate the time and tips you put together in this article. You helped confirm thoughts and ideas I already have in my social media work for others, and gave me food for thought in new ways I haven’t tried yet. Thanks for giving a real and honest take on things through your experience.

Blessings,
Julia

Reply
Nicole Cleveland January 29, 2014

Great post. Love your tips and info you share with other indies.
Thanks again.

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[…] What Works, What Doesn’t In Book Marketing […]

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[…] What Works, What Doesn’t In Book Marketing […]

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[…] What Works, What Doesn’t In Book Marketing […]

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[…] What Works, What Doesn’t In Book Marketing […]

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Literary Liaisons September 4, 2014

[…] What Works, What Doesn’t In Book Marketing […]

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[…] What Works, What Doesn’t In Book Marketing […]

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Teri March 17, 2015

This piece of writing will help the internet users for creating new website or even a
weblog from start to end.

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