Hugh Howey’s ‘DUST': The Cleverest
Book Promotion I’ve Seen In Years

Hugh Howey

‘Speechless with envy’ barely conveys my reaction to Hugh Howey’s tactic for launching ‘DUST’, the final book in his ‘WOOL’ Sci-Fi trilogy. 

His idea is remarkably simple:

The ‘WOOL’ saga unfolds on a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Survivors cling to life in a giant fallout shelter, a radiation-proof underground silo that forms a subterranean city extending over one hundred stories beneath the surface.

No-one is allowed to visit the radioactive wasteland outside. It remains a forbidden world. Any attempt at doing so is considered a crime, making the radiation warning sign at the silo entrance a tantalizing symbol for the stories.

Fallout Shelter USB DriveHowey’s Book Launch Idea for ‘DUST':

Howey created a ‘cult’ object that would appeal to Sci-Fi fans: A special USB thumb-drive featuring the silo Fallout Shelter Sign, to give away to supporters who would help promote the book by spreading word-of-mouth buzz.

Each USB stick contains his books WOOL, SHIFT, and DUST in both .epub and .mobi, with loading directions for reading devices. He also includes an intriguing ‘secret file’.

Here’s Howey’s gleeful reaction on seeing the ‘Fallout Shelter’ drives:  (3 Minute Video)


It’s All About Reinforcing The ‘Uniqueness’ Of Your Book Brand With Readers

“…Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”   Walt Disney

The ‘WOOL’ radiation warning symbol helps anchor Howey’s books in a reader’s mind. Furthermore, he’s so book brand aware he even has the symbol in his signature.  Hugh Howey Kindle

Here’s the signed Kindle Paperwhite that he gave away as a prize at the Boing Boing book launch party.

You see, Howey knows the secret is not to shout “Buy my book!” at readers.

Instead he draws attention to the WOOL brand by interacting and communicating constantly at a personal level with fans, often in streaming video chat sessions.

By this means he grows and deepens their obsession with his books, so they’ll read anything he writes, and act as his ‘word of mouth’ sales advocates.

How Effective Was Hugh Howey’s Promotion?

Howey initially gave away 10 of the Fallout Shelter drives in a contest for subscribers, which generated over 24,000 entries.  Think about it… 24,000 highly interested people waiting in eager anticipation for the DUST book release.

Furthermore, he gave away several hundred of them to key media people and supporters at a Boing Boing sponsored book launch event.

The reaction was nothing short of hysteria.  Would a Sci-Fi fan ever throw away their Hugh Howey Fallout Shelter USB Drive?  Most likely they’d leave it kicking around on their desk, keeping his books top of mind forever.

I’ve actually bought one of these irresistible thumb drives.  I could pretend that it’s a cheap way to buy the book trilogy, but in truth it’s because they’re so COOL.

Of course the Fallout Shelter Thumb Drive is just one part of the overall book launch promotional campaign.  For example the ‘WOOL’ brand is further reinforced by this movie-quality trailer.  Be astounded… or disturbed.


How To Create A ‘Brand’ Promotional Idea For Your Own Books:

Identify what is unique about your books and zoom in on that

In the end the focus is on your stories.  Never be overawed by marketing ideas such as the one being discussed in this post, no matter how clever.  For any promotion to be successful, great writing is required – everything stems from that.


It’s always about your stories, so identify their uniqueness and use that as the basis of your promotional idea.

Your writing is germane to you, and you alone.  It cannot be replicated, counterfeited, or stolen.  Readers cannot get it from anyone else but you.  Once they become hooked on your work, they’ll remain loyal fans and customers for life.  And they’ll also start talking about your books.

Promotions that magnify this uniqueness in a memorable way can dramatically increase attention to your writing and reinforce your book brand.

They don’t need to be expensive either.  The most basic of these would be a coffee mug with a logo on the side, or a book-mark, except that both are devoid of originality.  Fortunately as a writer you can transcend such mediocrity, just as Hugh Howey did, because you have a massive advantage:


Take time to hunt down and identify an imaginative theme or striking brand idea steeped throughout your books that you can spread far and wide in an intriguing and unique way. It will be there.

Even if you never create a promotional device such as Hugh Howey’s thumb drive, distilling the uniqueness of your stories will give you a far clearer idea of how to talk about your books in the marketplace, and connect more effectively with readers.

Can you picture something that symbolizes your stories?  Are you clear about your book brand?  Struggling with it?  What do you think of Hugh Howey’s idea?  Do leave a comment.

Jonathan Gunson

Article written by Jonathan Gunson

Author / Book Marketing Coach / CEO Bestseller Labs


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  • September 19, 2013 at 5:58am

    Thanks Jonathan – another informative and extremely helpful blog post. I found Hugh’s unique way of branding inspirational, and will certainly use these ideas for my own books. Loved the trailer – chilling!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 6:04am

      No doubt your ‘Epic adventures’ will produce a ton of clever ‘symbolic’ promo ideas for you to pick and choose from. Standing by.

      • September 19, 2013 at 6:47am

        Thanks! This post was good timing as branding is something I’ve been working on over the last couple of weeks. Although, I have to say that attempting to create one image, or phrase that encapsulates your work is harder than I’d thought! :-)

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          September 19, 2013 at 6:53am

          Take time over it Sam. Percolate. The very best idea will emerge. Having said that, if you examine it closely, you’ll see that Hugh Howey’s idea is a perfectly obvious solution, so not too much naval gazing is required.

  • Tom Gold says:
    September 19, 2013 at 7:07am


    Yes, very slick and entirely appropriate both to subject and target audience. The trailer was superb as well.

    I love those demonstrations of marketing creativity that make you smile in admiration. This one seems to bridge the gap between the possibilities of the free download vs the physical book giveaway – you get something you can hold and that looks cool, you also get all the advantages of a digital book – something you can take anywhere.

    Still too early in the a.m here for any similar bursts of flash drive related creativity but leave it with me for a day or two…

    Thanks Jon, great post,


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 8:06am

      These promos are easily the most fun by far. I worked in advertising agencies for a decade, (don’t tell my mother) and coming up with promotions of this type for clients was the type of work we all wanted to do… and would fight for. Some of the results were truly remarkable. We called then ‘Dimensional Promotions’ or ‘Creative Promotions’.
      Looking forward to helping with your ideas Tom.

  • September 19, 2013 at 8:19am

    Excellent article Jonathan, I’m going to share it on my Facebook page for my author friends.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 8:38am

      Thank you! Good to see you here again.

  • September 19, 2013 at 8:26am

    That was a sensationally inspiring post! Thanks very much for sharing it, and for all the work you do helping other authors. I really appreciate it.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 8:37am

      Hi Gracie
      Hugh certainly inspires. He’s also energy personified.

  • September 19, 2013 at 8:27am

    Working on something similar. Remember World War Z where a Russian developed a Zombie Survival Kit which was a bottle of vodka? Haha.
    ARIA = Alien Retrograde Infectious Amnesia. The concept of infectious amnesia is original so we’re developing ASK – ARIA Survival Kit to include a copy of the first book in the trilogy. ARIA: Left Luggage.
    Still have to create a buzz to get one.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 8:42am

      Hi Geoff
      Sorry, the spam filter grabbed your comment, but I rescued it OK. And very glad I did, because yours is a very clever idea indeed. I’m now extremely curious. Alien Retrograde Infectious Amnesia -‘ARIA’. What will be its eventual physical form as a promotion?

      • September 19, 2013 at 9:12am

        Jonathan, I have an image of a phrenology head with the amnesia spreading. I too easily make jokes and light of my book but as my publisher and some readers point out – it is quite possible that a virus could make us lose our memories and be infectious even if it doesn’t exist at the moment – thank goodness. I am to sell a ARIA Survival Kit (ASK) which for 32 dollars or 20 GBP would contain a device to aid memory loss, an essay by the mad Doctor in the trilogy on which herbs and meds could delay amnesia, and a signed copy of the book.
        Should be fun.

  • September 19, 2013 at 8:44am

    Hi Jonathan (I’m a Jonathan too by the way),

    Thanks for sending me this – it is a great idea – and from a cool modern author. He is getting to the stage where his writing on scraps of paper or invoices will be sought after.

    Unique-ness is always a good idea – it just takes supreme effort and staying power to do it from where I am. Still, I am in no rush…


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:18am

      Joski / Jonathan
      You’re right. Hugh is creating a kind of legend for himself… scraps of paper and all. Thing is not to try too hard re your ‘unique brand, it will emerge in the same way as finding your ‘author voice’ will. Such clever ideas cannot be forced.

  • September 19, 2013 at 8:45am

    Thanks for sharing that with us Jonathan. Very interesting and inventive. I wonder what was the initial cost of this brilliant promotional venture.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 8:48am

      I don’t think it was very expensive for him to do. That’s one of the reasons I liked it so much – high impact, low cost.

      • Jan says:
        September 27, 2013 at 7:51pm

        What a great way to represent yourself. My hobby is magic and illusion and in that business we have the saying: “Packs small and plays large”. The best promotion is one that is easy to carry, easy to share, and easily remembered. His idea of using the “Fall-Out” thumb drive is truly unique and begs authors, such as myself, to seek out-of-the-box ideas for marketing. Thanks for sharing.

  • September 19, 2013 at 8:55am

    There you go again, Jonathan, cherry-picking the best ideas and serving them up to us so we can concentrate on writing (ok, and marketing) and not spend our time looking for the cherry tree.
    I STILL have not yet settled on a tagline–I know, to quote Henry Higgins “by rights I should be taken out and hung.” But the “burning pages” art on the redesigned book covers of all seven books should certainly lend itself to creative expression.
    Fire. Hmmm. Fire truck, fire hat, fire hydrant, fireMAN. Keychains? No, too bland. Water guns, maybe? That has possibilities.
    Or a flame thrower? No, a bit extreme. A blow torch? A cigarette lighter? A match?
    Wish there were some kind of salve or ointment universally used for minor burns. Now, THAT would be cool–to put on fingers burned holding the books.
    Possibilities, definitely possibilities.
    Thanks, Jonathan, for “adding fuel to the fire” of my imagination. You’re the best!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:13am

      You don’t HAVE to have a tagline. It isn’t pivotal, just another arrow in the quiver. The most important thing is the writing… MORE WRITING! More YOU.
      PS. The ‘fire’ angle sounds distinctly promising for a promo as you describe.

    • September 19, 2013 at 3:38pm

      I know when I was little, we ALWAYS had a small jar of Sayman Salve. It was used on burns, cuts, anything…. might be an option for you.

      • September 19, 2013 at 3:47pm

        Thanks, Jeanie. Sayman Salve, huh? I shall sally forth and check it out. I appreciate the idea.

  • September 19, 2013 at 9:02am

    Great food for thought, Jonathan. My series of novels have a birding theme, combined with press intrusion and media manipulation. I shall have to get my thinking cap on!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:24am

      Birding and media manipulation? That is absolutely ripe for exploitation. Depends how the manipulation is done. And to what end.
      Please do tell. I may well be able to come up with a top of the head flash idea. (Anything is possible – I love this angle on promotion.)

  • September 19, 2013 at 9:47am

    Hi Jonathan,

    That USB idea is genius, especially since finding information on old computer systems kicks off the plot in the first book. You are right in that we are creative folks and should be able to come up with ideas of our own to help our work stand apart. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Just do a web search for “giveaway items” and you’ll find companies that print whatever you want on all kinds of things in all kinds of price ranges.
    The idea of tangible items is great – especially to go along with ebooks since the digital books don’t have that physical presence of paper ones.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:02am

      You’re onto it. Readers have a fascination with novelty – especially when two previously distinct and apparently unrelated things are brought together as a remix. Writers see the connection between things that others do not.

  • jody says:
    September 19, 2013 at 9:51am

    You catch things I don’t. As always, I’m impressed.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:09am

      More to come Jody. Thanks for stopping by again.

  • September 19, 2013 at 10:01am

    Jonathan – I almost “squee” with excitement when I get a new email from Bestseller Labs because I know it is going to blow me away. I have 24 books out now – some are series and some are not. My most popular is “The Barter System” – a book based entirely on gathering research for her dissertation on male sexuality. *grin*

    I’ve written several tie-in short stories (some published on my website/some not yet) to drive traffic and I’ve also downloaded a dissertation template where I will compile all the surveys she does throughout the book, her original applications, and her journal notes.

    Hugh Howey’s idea has to be one of the most incredible I’ve ever seen.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for finding the coolest stuff out there and sharing it.


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:08am

      Shayne … Thanks, but it’s all down to Mr Howey.
      24 books you say? Impressive to say the least. And your tie-in short stories another perfect way to grow readership. Barter system? Clever that. I shall be intrigued to see any promotional device you employ. Standing by wide-eyed.

  • September 19, 2013 at 10:18am

    Those are way cool. Authors wanting to do something similar can use – most suppliers there will create something custom based on your designs, or you can get something more unique made by an artist on (most artists are open to commission works). You can bring to life any special object from the book, or memorable quotes (on a button/bookmark/etc.)

    Definitely having more cool stuff besides just the text itself is good marketing material.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:12am

      The magic is in creating special tie in that captures the imagination immediately. Valuable contribution thank you re Alibaba et al.

    • September 19, 2013 at 4:53pm

      So true about working with artists on Etsy. I have one who makes custom book charm bracelets and necklaces and another who is in the process of creating an Athena locket with Athena’s inscription straight from my series. In addition to using these as giveaways, I also created an online store for readers interested in engaging with my world outside of the pages of my books. It cost nothing to set up the store, so if no one buys, it’s no loss, and it looks cool on the website.

  • September 19, 2013 at 10:52am

    Dear Jonathan,
    Excellent if you already have a readership to market to AND THE MONEY to manufacture such stuff – but virtually impossible from a standing start without a bob! Also none of the ‘bookie’ things go on in The UK! We couldn’t even afford to print fancy T shirts with TGP artwork on the front and an ‘unconventional’ quote from the books on the back – though I have a number ready to go.
    Yours Margaret Montrose.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:19am


      More wit is required than money in these tactics. For example, some suppliers will give away free samples of things if their brand is spread around by your promo. And even a tiny readership is where it all begins. If your books have appeal and you look after them all the way, 20 people will tell 40, 40 will tell 80, and so on.

      It works beautifully in England too. Let me quote Mary English, from your neck of the woods, who is also at a relatively early stage. (She’s one of the other authors who leaves comments on this blog.):

      “…I now have some VERY nice subscribers, who have been ‘with me’ all the way in my series, critiquing, giving quotes, proof reading, celebrating with me, having free PDF’s when my books are published and reader offers… and I treat them like friends, they’re truly lovely people…


  • Gof C. says:
    September 19, 2013 at 10:58am

    Thank for sharing this valued information. This blog reminds me of the good stuff Hugh has always impressed his readers and fellow authors alike on his website. Will immediately share this among our indie authors so their marketing creativity can run wild in order to reward their beloved fans. Although our concept for authors to connect with their fans is the autograph service that they can send along their eBook to their fans, this particularly out-of-the-box idea is always a breath of fresh air esp. among genre-based fans. Since we have a lot of Romance/Erotica authors, do you have any special advice for them to gift their fans? Any thought is always welcome.

    Hope to see his professional trailer being expanded into a movie very soon. Admire his mentality how he would price the awesome USB card reasonably.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:30am

      Dear Gof C. (Katherine?)
      Pick an icon that is central to your books.
      Maybe an uber-low cost version of the ‘Ruby Brooch’ as a prize? See the comment below by Eva Pohler who has them made on Etsy for her.
      Or less expensively a printed map of the Oregon Trail that I see in your book. Work something up around that.

  • Jim says:
    September 19, 2013 at 11:12am

    Thanks for sharing this! Excellent examples of brand development and marketing. It really made me think about ways to promote my own book….I appreciate your hard work and willingness to share information. As a debut author, I learn something new every day about getting the word out there…writing and publishing is only the first step. Who knew?! Lol! Take care my friend.
    Most Appreciatively,

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:49am


      As a debut author it can appear to be a very long haul, but if the books have reader appeal, and you view it all from the right perspective (it takes time, so just push on) it pays off.
      Here’s another article that will encourage:

      ~ Jonathan

  • Larry says:
    September 19, 2013 at 11:29am

    Great refresher on marketing and branding. Reminds me that “there’s nothing new under the sun.” We sometimes focus so much on finding a new trick to promote our books that we forget the tried and proven. Give away items, or “baubles and beads” as one sales team called them, are an effective way to promote and brand. Finding that special niche for your particular product is the key and Howey appears to have found it for his. Thanks.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:35am


      That pretty much sums it up re promo ideas: “…Finding that special niche for your particular product (book)…” The key is to enlarge on the main idea in the book.

      But we always need to remember that what really counts is the writing. These ideas are simply to help draw attention to it in a story oriented way, so that the recipients are given an intriguing taste of the books.


  • September 19, 2013 at 11:33am

    Hi Jonathan

    Wow! What an inspirational man Hugh Howey is. A great idea that is so unique and simple that it demands the traditional response: Why didn’t I etc…?

    Thanks for the email. I am getting used to the idea of looking forward to any communication from Best Seller Labs. Saw the line above about bird watching “theme” and damn it’s something I had thought about but not got around to! Though I’m more about Garden Wildlife etc? Ho hum is it back to the digital drawing board?

    Thanks again!


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:41am

      Garden Wildlife … have you thought of a Thumb Drive that looks like your book, that contains the sounds of a garden? Rain, Breeze, Birds, Voles, Bees, Crickets, Badger, River…

      • September 25, 2013 at 7:26am

        I am now! Thanks! Still working my way through your book(s).

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          September 25, 2013 at 10:55am

          Please, PLEASE do keep me posted. I’ll help if I can.

  • Westin says:
    September 19, 2013 at 12:09pm

    This is a great example, Jonathan. At my day job we have a big annual trade show we go to, and we always try to come up with awesome little tchotkes – stuff you would actually want to wear/use, as opposed to pens, white company logo t-shirts, etc. We did sunglasses one year, and got an email from a guy three years later begging us to send him another pair because his had broken.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 12:46pm

      Sunglasses would be perfect if the story was about a surf Life Saver… or the Blues Brothers! Seriously, the idea needs to link to the story. But the point you make is more than valid. i.e. pick something one would actually USE.

  • September 19, 2013 at 12:18pm

    Hi Jonathan!

    Great great Case Study – really enjoyed it! :)
    Now because of the level of creativity, I wonder out loud how it can be made more accessible for starting authors who might be struggling with where to get creative promotional items sourced.

    Beyond custom USBs, would you be able to share a few ideas of web sites or items that starting authors may want to browse for ideas?

    And do you envision giveaways beyond physical ones?
    (Digital ones might be even more accessible to starting authors, because of the non-existent variable cost…)

    Thanks again, Jonathan!

    Been enjoying your work since Traffic Cafe! :)

    Bolaji O |

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 12:31pm

      Bolaji O
      One interesting way to proceed is to search Google for brand promotional ideas. Here’s the first one that came up for example:
      There will be many more, but in my view such sites can be quite limited.
      I would use imagination to see how a symbolic idea for a story might be applied in an intriguing and different way to a normal object. It’s all in the idea. The principle is not to just stick words on a fridge magnet or on the side of something unrelated, but match the item to the story, just as Hugh Howey has done. There are a myriad of low cost household objects that can become highly interesting if used in a clever way.
      PS. I think 100% digital giveaways do not have the same excitement as something real.

  • Precarious Yates says:
    September 19, 2013 at 12:25pm

    I love suggestions that force me to think outside of the box. Thanks!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 12:32pm

      Thinking all the time Precarious.

  • Massimo says:
    September 19, 2013 at 12:25pm

    Great ideas, and the one message that needs to be repeated time and again is: ‘do not shout Buy My Books’. Nobody will.

    • Engage people, they might become your readers one day.
    • Be available, and likeable. Yes, as a likeable character keeps a reader in the story, a likeable author attracts readers.
    • Being clever is fine, but nice and clever is better.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 12:34pm

      Quoting you…”.. as a likeable character keeps a reader in the story, a likeable author attracts readers.” You’re onto it.

  • September 19, 2013 at 12:34pm

    As usual, Jonathan, you’ve provided information that forces me to think in new directions. Now I’ll have to create a text file on my PC’s desktop for giveaway ideas. Great post!

    What I’d like to give away would be an e-book reader that can read all popular formats without having to download extra drivers. Is there such a thing?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 12:40pm

      Keeping a file of ideas handy … now there’s an idea :)
      Plus, there isn’t one reader that handles ALL formats. However, a tablet can have various types of reader software installed.
      The best thing to give away in my view if you are really are going to the expense is a Kindle Paperwhite.
      Best make sure that you gain enough entries to a contest to make it worthwhile though. One great way to do that is to partner with a large site such as Writers Digest or Huffington Books, or Smashwords maybe – there are scores of large sites.

  • September 19, 2013 at 12:45pm

    Love this…. urgh! trying to think of my own brand…. hair-pullingly difficult… it almost needs an outsider to tell you, maybe am too close!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 12:52pm

      Siobahn (Totally love that name.)
      It would be best to let it all percolate. There’ll be something in your stories that will definitely do the work of symbolizing – it might be something almost mundane. No matter. As long as it reflects the story or characters somehow. It will emerge.
      Overall this is not a vital element of book promotion. Great writing will do most of the work. Plus forming relationships with people who will help, and promo items can simply play to that.

  • Miranda says:
    September 19, 2013 at 12:48pm

    This is a great idea Jonathan. I’ve actually seen something like this done a couple of times by authors on book blogs. A rafflecopter ticket is placed right beneath a review of the book and sometimes the winner gets an earring that is similar to what a character wore or a mug with the book banner as a logo on it, just like you said, along with a book as part of a giveaway. And yes, it is always successful. But I’ve seen it this successful. Definitely an idea for keeps.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 1:01pm

      The ‘earring’ idea is spot on. Perfect. Powerfully re-inforces the book brand every time the owner sees it, because it’s something that comes out of the story. An amazing thought yes?
      But remember as I keep repeating… it’s always your story that takes center stage. Clever promo ideas can help, but the real focus needs to remain is 1) on the writing, and 2) making sure your sales page and categories are set up to optimally on Amazon.

      • Miranda says:
        September 19, 2013 at 2:17pm

        Spot on Jonathan! Needed to be reminded about Amazon. Thanks!

  • September 19, 2013 at 1:04pm

    I like the way Hugh talks as if he personally knows his audience. And the over sized knife just added to the excitement of trying to open the parcel.
    Definitely food for thought.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 1:13pm

      The oversize knife Hugh Howey is wielding in the video certainly has a disturbing je ne sais quoi. It’s all part of the moment. Showbiz, razzle dazzle. Love it!

  • September 19, 2013 at 1:11pm

    Wondering how cash he had to invest up front? Would seem to be a rather expensive venture.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 1:21pm

      I doubt the thumb drives were hugely expensive when compared with other forms of promotion. That’s part of what appealed to me: High impact low cost. A great ROI.
      Given that authors don’t have many spare dollars in most cases, it still pays to remember that genre fiction (self-publishing in particular) is a business requiring investment like any other business.
      More pivotally, if Hugh Howey makes just one powerful new book blogger connection or major media connection with his thumb drives, then the ongoing, life long publicity and sales driven by that alone will pay for them.

  • AuthorsPR says:
    September 19, 2013 at 1:14pm

    Thanks for this post,this is an original idea.
    I want to share with your followers an idea for promoting children books: employ an IT specialist and create a game with the personages and places from the book.Kids will love both,the book and the game.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 1:25pm

      A masterful idea indeed for children’s books. The right freelancer can make great iPhone / iPad games extremely inexpensively too.

  • September 19, 2013 at 1:33pm

    Love the use of the fallout sign as a brand. In an attempt to create a Greek-mythology-for-girls vibe, I created a brand using a sword and shield in pastel pinks, purples, and creme. I use it as the background on my bookmarks, business cards, website, banners, and other promotional items. I also designed a cool button to hand out at book signings and conferences. The sword and shield are in the background, and in the foreground, it reads, “I’M A BOOK G[R]EEK.” I love how they turned out, but I’m sure they’re not as coveted as the fallout thumb drive sign!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 1:38pm

      I wouldn’t throw your brand button away if I had one. And re: “I’M A BOOK G(R)EEK” … Clever that – bet it generates curiosity and questions, a perfect outcome.

  • September 19, 2013 at 1:43pm

    Wow, Jonathan, I’m sold. I am in work on the fourth book of a four part fantasy saga, and this makes so much sense for it. Thanks for sharing this. I’m currently in the process of new cover designs, and your timing couldn’t be more perfect. I believe I know how I can incorporate the symbols the books reference into the cover designs for visual association, and marketing that may be the key I’ve been looking for. The symbols are simple, yet powerful and easily recognizable. Until now, however, I hadn’t thought to utilize them for branding. I’m very excited to take this approach and bend it to fit my work. Again, thank you for sharing this–Chris

  • September 19, 2013 at 2:03pm

    This is interesting and I appreciate the idea behind it, but I think it’s misleading to call what he did “very simple.” I can’t imagine the time and expense he had to put into making his own thumb drive. What would be more in reach for the majority of us would be the bookmark, coffee mug, but as you said those things are highly overused.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 2:42pm

      On the contrary. I have no doubt that was very simple indeed to produce.
      All Hugh Howey will have had to do is give his books in 3 formats (which he already had) and the ‘Fallout Shelter’ sign art (done by a freelancer on Fivr for $5) to the Thumb Drive production company with the idea of what he wanted, and they will have done everything else – entirely.
      The ‘production’ time and effort by the author himself would have been minimal.

  • September 19, 2013 at 2:03pm

    Wow. What a clever, clever way to market your books!

    I’m still stuck in the “I just want to write, not sell!” phase of this whole publishing thing, but slowly, I’m beginning to see that if I want my work in front of readers, I’ve got to actually put it there! The problem is that I’m not a natural-born sales person, so marketing and publicity are incredibly hard for me. And that, my friend, is part of the reason why I love your newsletters so much! They’re chock-a-block full of clever, fun, and most importantly, easy tips like this one.

    I’ve come up with a couple of symbols for my urban fantasy trilogy that just might work, but now I’ve got to sort out where to put them to get the maximum impact.

    Thanks again, Jonathan, for giving me another clever way to get my books in front of people!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:42pm

      There’s never any need to become a ‘sales’ person. Pushiness not required. It’s more about finding ways to build the relationships you need with supporters.

  • September 19, 2013 at 2:12pm

    Hugh Howey is a maverick in the indie scene – I’ve following for a while now, and I keep keep keep learning.
    I think his original ideas stem from the fact that he loves his readers – he wants to provide the best experience, both in creating compelling stories fans will love, and in the way he’s treating them.
    If you watch the videos and spontaneous fan visits, you see what I mean.

    I think he’s a good example of how we always should be fresh, and not rely on old legacy publishing methods (e.g. just pitch old media, write a press kit etc.) to stand out today.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 2:43pm

      “…he loves his readers…” You’ve got in one Sir.

  • Suzanne Lucero says:
    September 19, 2013 at 2:20pm

    I hadn’t thought of an object to use in promoting my book, but when I got to the end of your post I realized–hey!–I already have one in my story: a dream journal. The journal itself plays a central role in the story, so why not tie in a journal with the promotion somehow?

    Problem is, journals, even plain ones, cost money, of which I have a depressing lack right now. Should I just buy one and run a contest for it? Buy several to give as gifts? Would I have to ask permission to use a clan tartan on the front cover? Can I even afford to have one customized like that?

    Maybe this is all a bit premature, since my novel is being beta read right now. Whatever. Just bouncing ideas around. Thanks for giving the ol’ creative brain a jog.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 2:52pm

      It’s never too early to start the marketing planning and activity. I doubt you’ll need permission to use a Tartan. Speaking of which, why not use Tartan cloth itself in some context? That would feel as if it has come straight out of the story, an is extremely evocative and tactile.

    • September 19, 2013 at 5:09pm


      I created a reader’s journal at Createspace using the book cover from the first book in my Gatekeeper’s Saga. I had my book cover artist tweak the text to read: The Gatekeeper’s Saga Reader’s Journal. Then I created a 200-page document of lines. At the top of every three to four pages, I put in a quote from my series from the various Greek gods that appear. The whole venture cost me $75 for the cover artist. If you already have your own artwork, you could produce it for nothing. Once the book is live on Createspace/Amazon, then you post the link to your website. I priced mine at $5.50 to keep it cheap. I ordered a dozen for my street team. They cost me $3 each.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        September 19, 2013 at 9:45pm

        That is outstanding – a journal as motivational support for the ‘street team’. I’m discovering all sorts of great new tactics in these comments.

      • Katy Pye says:
        October 11, 2013 at 6:52am

        I’m new to this site, and all I can say is WOW! I’m so impressed with the article and all the responses. I’m new to marketing, too, and only have one middle grade/tween novel. The basic marketing thing is overwhelming, even before getting to the clever, fun, original idea stage. Luckily, my book has some solid ideas I know I can capitalize on. But you’ve made me open more doors to look through.

        Looking forward to reading more, getting the newsletter, and letting the creative juices perk away.

        Thanks, Jonathan. Your generosity and talent are appreciated already.

      • Katy Pye says:
        October 11, 2013 at 6:55am

        Bingo! Thanks, Suzanne!

  • September 19, 2013 at 2:21pm

    Hello Jonathan
    thanks for your advice re what do do concerning my book, I WANT TO LIVE. I made a few mistakes while using a ” middle man, ” ie a self – publishing publisher, while putting my book onto Amazon, but was able to upload the kindle edition myself. I’m about to start I WANT TO LIVE, Volume 2, and will as normal to upload the Kindle version myself. The question I wanted to ask you;

    While I’m typing the book itself, somebody told me I can save the typed pages – one at a time – and put them onto a CD without using A4 pages and the expense of computer ink and to do away with the A4 pages altogether. Will a blank CD in the computer CD slot have enough space to record the entire 200+ pages, or will I have to use several CD’s? I’ve never done this before. When I’ve done that will I have to just send the CD off to Amazon and they will do the rest. Is there button to press on the Word Programme after I’ve completed each page? thanks for your time Jonathan, and just to let you know before I sign off here, the first book, I WANT TO LIVE, is selling very well, with just three reviews so far, with another seven book reviews in the bag. regards Jonathan, and thank you, Patrick…

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 2:49pm

      Amazon supply clear guidelines as to what they need. I’m not meaning to be unhelpful, but please do contact them direct about these in-depth technical matters.
      With regard to your book, it is enthralling to see that your book project, which has been such a heartfelt project for you is succeeding.
      Congratulations once again.

      • September 19, 2013 at 3:53pm

        Thanks for that Jonathan,
        your advice and input is very much appreciated, I will contact Amazon straight away to see what their views are on it and what their instructions are. thanks again Jonathan , Patrick…

  • September 19, 2013 at 2:29pm

    Hi Jonathan,

    Great post, as usual. I’ve been pondering the branding idea for a while; and when I see such amazing success stories, it adds to the hype. I have some ideas, but my problem is knowing how to get them made. My main character in “I of the Storm: Death is Watching” is struck by lighting through her cloud-and-lightning-bolt pendant, which scars her with a similar mark. So I wanted to make those pendants as giveaways (costume jewelry, of course). I have trust issues with websites, so I end up remaining stuck with the idea and no follow through. Great thing about your posts, though, is that the comments tend to be just as helpful thanks to feedback from others. :) Thanks for always sharing!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 2:53pm

      Best to check the feedback on suppliers – usually to be found on the sites suggested in other comments here.

  • September 19, 2013 at 2:40pm

    We’ve just had new covers consisting of just a celtic knot logo type thingy made up for my “Celtic Cousins” series; they’re not as pretty as the previous covers, but they do make a stronger statement, and are clearer ‘thumbnails’. So I’m keeping the pretty ones for the paperbacks – which will still bear the Celtic Cousins logo.

    I really like this challenge to come up with a unique marketing point. Though it took a couple of hours before my sub-conscious came up with an angle for one of mine – which serendipitously is being re-edited and reproofed & will be relaunched on an unsuspecting public very shortly – so thank you so much for this post! Very timely:)

    Julia x

  • Jonathan Gunson says:
    September 19, 2013 at 2:59pm

    Great to hear your series is being refreshed with new covers. The Celtic knot is indeed a strong symbol. It’s not unfamiliar either; you can see traces of it in the border of ‘The Merlin Mystery’ book cover and Wizard’s Wand at the foot of this page.

  • Mark says:
    September 19, 2013 at 3:08pm

    Great info! Will be applying it to my own marketing strategy! I do have a slight disadvantage since I write nonfiction books mostly — but am sure I can still find someway to implement this amazing technique!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:24pm

      Non-fiction has different advantages, such as the audience being far easier to identify. They put their hands up. (e.g. “I’m looking for ” or “How to…” in Google searches.) Fiction readers don’t do that.

  • Jan Moran says:
    September 19, 2013 at 3:29pm

    Love your insights, Jonathan. I have an indie book that’s been sold to a traditional publisher, but whatever the distribution, I’m still an indie entrepreneur and am planning marketing and pr campaigns.

    To the writers above, who are concerned about costs, perhaps a unique crowd sourced plan would kill the proverbial bird with two stones.

    This article really got me thinking about new angles, thanks. My books are set against luxury industries in the first half of the 20th century, with female entrepreneurs as the driven protagonists. Which got me to thinking…

    A few years ago, I heard about an author who had a high profile corporate sponsor. Many books might be good tie-ins for corporate sponsorship. Any thoughts on this, or how to explore this possibility?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:00pm

      Corporate sponsorship is about promoting their brand / making them look good. I guess one way would be to supply free digital copies of your book to all their clients, but would need careful selection of the sponsor. For example if your book was set in a vineyard, then you might choose a large wine company.
      Crowdsourcing? Definitely a great way to absorb costs. e.g. If the concept is intriguing, then each supporter gets a copy of it — or more than one.

  • September 19, 2013 at 3:52pm

    Great inspirational post—thank you. I am in total agreement with you about developing a brand. It leads to speaking opportunities—that’s why I tell writers to develop something that requires a lot of research (in their story) so they can use that as their speaking springboard. Another way has been to join similar interest groups on social media sites and post interesting newsletters and engage people in conversations. It’s time consuming but really works. I just posted something in a group on Facebook and several people have bought my book—and I didn’t do a thing to promote it, only the brand is obvious, that I was a POW in Shanghai during WWII. It’s the quality of the newsletter and regular postings that also indicates whether it’s worth having a look on Amazon. There’s a wealth of information and helpful people, like yourself, out there.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:05pm

      Good point – this is not about direct sales, but growing the support group who spread the word – such as a clever promo appealing to conference organizers needing speakers as you say.

  • Alex says:
    September 19, 2013 at 4:14pm

    Great ideas! I put together a video trailer for my last novel, which was a political thriller (here is a link to it I never thought of the type of giveaway Howey did! Thanks for sharing this, as it has given me some ideas for book promotions.


  • September 19, 2013 at 4:46pm

    The number of comments you’ve received so far on your article indicates how many authors of how many books are looking for ways to get the public’s attention (and I’m certainly one of them). We should know by now that “buy my book” doesn’t work, and identifying uniqueness is essential. Some of it is like pitching rocks into the void, but we need to be alert for opportunities and follow the pathways presented to us, however blind they turn out to be. Ah persistence!

  • September 19, 2013 at 4:52pm

    “You’re killing me, Smalls!” Well, at least hurting my brain. My four novels have common themes, sailboats, firsts… but that ethereal SOMETHING will take serious mental sweat. Thanks for the workout, and, hopefully, the buff marketing bicep that will develop.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:36pm

      Ann Lee
      Sailboats. That is absolutely full of material. Ocean maps, compasses, navigation devices, telescopes, tide charts, distress flares it goes on and on.
      PS. I live in New Zealand. We are just one race away from winning the Americas Cup. Wear some red socks for us!

  • September 19, 2013 at 4:58pm

    Hi Jonathon,

    This was a great post. I’m sure I can use the ideas to build and promote my brand for my soon to be released self-help book “FORMULA FOR DYNAMIC LEADERSHIP”.

    Thanks for all you’re ideas,
    Tom Drummond

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:38pm

      Non-fiction is far easier to promote. The audience is more easily identifiable. Pick a theme in your book, and work with that.

  • September 19, 2013 at 5:14pm

    Actually it was Hugh’s USBs that got me thinking about my brand even as I was still finishing up the draft. Then I got it, and now everything about the book is moving toward that brand. I have a romance, and everything about it is butterflies, and I even started a social media movement surrounding the butterflies where people leave butterflies on the profiles of other Facebook pages, and it’s become very close to my heart!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 25, 2013 at 10:58am

      Re Butterflies: From what you describe, it’s a perfect tie in. Please keep me in the loop – highly interested.

  • September 19, 2013 at 5:35pm

    Hmm – need a little time to try to think of a good idea for my HF book – agree there has to be one. In the meantime thanks for the post JG and I suspect trawling through the comments here might give me some ideas!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:32pm

      Great community contributions to this idea. And all focused on the writing. That’s the most valuable aspect.

  • September 19, 2013 at 7:35pm

    Great post Jonathon! Like you, my whole career has been in advertising. I have worked for Advertising Agencies as well as owning my own agency, and these promotion pieces (we called them trinkets and trash) were super fun to develop. Clients loved them!

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:33pm

      I spent a decade with McCann Erickson, and Needhams. Probably where my fascination with clever promos comes from.

  • September 19, 2013 at 7:52pm

    What a creative, novel idea! This is sparking ideas in my own mind for my own book launch. Thanks so much for this post!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:30pm

      Standing by for the product of the sparks.

  • Sue says:
    September 19, 2013 at 8:40pm

    Very creative! Thank you for such useful information Jonathan. Something to keep in mind when I am ready to launch my book!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:29pm

      Keep me posted Sue. Always like to hear of authors’ promo ideas.

  • September 19, 2013 at 9:44pm

    Great article, Jonathan

    When I self-published my first novel, I used several friends’ names in the book and happened to find a freebie promo on So I ordered MANY T-shirts with the book cover and “I (heart) Being in The Book,” and “” below that (just paid shipping) and gave them to most of the people whose names I used. They’ve worn them around and people have asked them about them several times. I’m expecting many of them to show up at my first book signing on September 30th.

    I also ordered many MORE T-shirts with different character names from the book after “I (heart),” e.g., Pamela93, The Mimosa Twins, Stevie Bruce, etc., and will have those available at some future date for fans of each character. Also pens, notepads, tote bags and mouse pads, magnetic business cards, calendars, posters, lawn signs, letterhead and lots more stuff, again all for just shipping (e.g., $11 for ten different items).

    (For some reason, though, Vistaprint has not been sending any more emails with the free promos. Hope I didn’t trigger that all by my little old self.)

    • September 19, 2013 at 9:55pm

      If I may make a suggestion, use GROUPON. Then, go to Groupon’s site and look for VistaPrint’s $70 for $17 coupon code — it’s always there, with a 6-month expiration.

      *If you let them know you were referred by me, I would very much appreciate it. We both would receive a $10 gift certificate… just sayin’ ~ Anne

      • September 19, 2013 at 10:08pm

        Thanks, Anne. Didn’t know about that. I’ll check it out and use it, f’sure, giving you the credit. (I also checked your web site briefly; I’ll look at it more later tonight.)

        Maybe others will use it, too, and you’ll be swamped with GCs.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 9:56pm

      Yet another great idea – building that crucial initial support by putting actual names of friends in the book. That would make turning up to the launch and buying the book irresistible to them. Clever. And they’ll tell other people too, plus they’ll be asked about the book by even more people since your ‘ad’ is on the TShirts. An all round winner.

  • September 19, 2013 at 9:51pm

    Thank you, JG,
    This was a helpful post! I write HF adventures, and was thinking a shot glass for my new release, “BODIE.” But after reading your post, I think I will go with something more relative to my logo, horse-feathers, to include both books plus the WIP I am finishing up now (yes, I totally ripped off the Marx Brothers). It’s percolating…

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 10:00pm

      The way to think about it: If Bodie is constantly using a shot glass in the story or works in a bar, that would work beautifully. Re The Marx brothers and ‘Horse Feathers': Is your book about college football?

  • September 19, 2013 at 9:58pm

    Thanks Jonathan! As always, your posts emerge at the most opportune times. Branding is something that I have had experience with when transforming a public school into an International Baccalaureate World School. I know from that, how important branding truly is. Now as I write my Frenchie Series, I am constantly thinking of prizes that align with the MG novels and have tween appeal. I know that branding is key to the promotion process and will have to narrow it down to a single concept/symbol. This was most valuable. Thanks again!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 10:08pm

      A fascinating experience you’ve had with the International Baccalaureate World School. Good example of what is required.
      In this case, as you can see, the idea is to draw attention to your books by magnifying a key theme or element in the writing. The overall idea being to draw attention to your work and reinforce it in reader’s minds. This makes the brand a REAL brand that is integral to the stories that will be talked about by them. (Not something extraneous or unrelated bolted onto the outside such as a logo on a mug!)

  • September 19, 2013 at 10:58pm

    Fantastic post, Jonathan! It is incredible how branding can transcend way past the book/story and into the author. I think this is very important. We can create a brand around a book, but if we ourselves as the author of that book don’t add our own identity to it, it is only a job half done. By this I mean interacting with our readers. Just recently someone wrote me an email to tell me how much they enjoyed my collection of short stories. I replied and she was absolutely stoked, just because I took the time to interact with her. The job of writers is not selling books, is selling their writing style (and everything that goes with it.) Only then will readers continue coming back for more, because they want to read from that specific writer, no matter what his next story is about.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:16pm

      The author is the cornerstone of any book marketing. So you’ve hit the nail right on the head by identifying the need for an author to grow a relationship with a core group of readers and supporters, not just doing direct response selling, but getting to know them and encouraging them to talk about it. For example, Hugh Howey LOVES his readers.
      This is the real ‘secret’ of book promotion: Word-of-Mouth buzz.
      A clever promotional idea drawn from the writing works in with this perfectly.

    • Debbie says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:35pm


      This is great advice. I’m so glad you’re getting good feedback on your stories. I’m sure it makes you feel good. The interaction with your readers has to be so exciting, too.

  • September 19, 2013 at 11:20pm

    In the final analysis, it’s about the book. Marketing leads. But there had better be something worthwhile to be lead to. He has a good product that people see as quality and worth their time.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 19, 2013 at 11:22pm

      It’s always about the writing. Everything stems from that.

  • September 20, 2013 at 12:52am

    You’ve done it again. I love this idea of branding, Jonathan! I’m still struggling with how to brand own work, but once again, you’ve given me food for thought and some great ideas. Thanks a bunch!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 20, 2013 at 2:27am

      Sending book brand vibes. Hope they arrive intact.
      ~ Jonathan

  • September 20, 2013 at 2:16am

    This is a very good example of clever marketing that works well with an established series. Might not work so well with a new book or writer without a fan base. Still, it goes to show what a bit of out the box thinking can do without blowing wads of cash. Great article as usual!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 20, 2013 at 2:25am

      “… works well with an established series… not so well with a new book.”
      It might seem that way, but if the writing is excellent and the idea is clever / brilliant enough, it can grab attention right out of the gate, with a very small group of readers who love it so much they spread the word. That is how it all begins. So it would be upside down thinking in my view to wait until one is already famous before doing things that help to… make one famous.

  • September 20, 2013 at 2:30am

    What a fantastic promotion! Even I, the least Sci-Fi fan you’d ever meet, want this.

    Kudos to Hugh for being so original and putting himself out there with this! Congratulations on your continued success.

    Thank you for reading and sharing,

    Sarah Butland
    author of Arm Farm, Brain Tales and Sending You Sammy

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 20, 2013 at 2:39am

      Enthusiasm is strength. Good to see you – all the best with your books.

  • September 20, 2013 at 4:51am

    Intriguing and certainly a unique promotional campaign. And yet, I cannot help but think whether deep down in our collective subconscious mind, we may be haunted by the ever-present specter of Fukushima’s very real radioactivity that is STILL leaking into the oceans.

    Fiction mirrors life.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 20, 2013 at 5:39am

      Good point re Fukushima radiation.
      I used to suffer from a constant nightmare as a child that I was lost at sea, and the ocean turned into a vast tower, miles across, reaching far up into the clouds, and about to fall on me. It turned out to be based (subconsciously) on movie theater news footage I had seen at the age of 8.
      Here’s the footage. The scale is still terrifying.

  • Diane says:
    September 20, 2013 at 2:03pm

    My mind’s rolling in all sorts of directions after reading this inspiring branding post. I’m working on a novel set in the 1940s-1950s. Not sure if a sequel will evolve out of it or not. I’ve thought of a few branding ideas, but not sure if copyright is an issue for images of that era. I totally agree that good writing is the top priority. Thanks Jonathon for supporting authors with your wide range of knowledge, expertise and resources. Greatly appreciated!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 20, 2013 at 11:56pm

      I expect that if you contact the brand product companies involved they will be more than happy to allow your endeavors to proceed. Just make the shape of your ideas clear to them. Tell them all about your wonderful book, a sentence about the story, and how you’d like to do a book promo using the brands. (But avoid directly saying it will be great publicity for them – that is too salesy. They’ll quickly figure that out for themselves.)
      Great idea Diane

  • Jeevan Jacob John says:
    September 20, 2013 at 6:34pm

    Awesome case study Jonathan.

    I don’t plan to write a book, at least not yet. Right now, I am planning to launch my new blog. I am still thinking about what makes my blog unique; thinking about how I can make my blog stand apart, and this post will really help.

    Howey’s idea is clever, definitely could do something like this when I publish my book. I am writing on non-fiction topics though, so it would be a bit harder to apply these ideas to my book – at least to me. I do plan to incorporate my own experience/stories in my book, so it would be interesting to read. Perhaps I can capitalize on that?

    Anyways, thank you for sharing your insights :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 20, 2013 at 11:45pm

      Thank Jeevan
      All the best with your blog. Non-fiction is easier to sell than fiction. Non-fiction has the advantage that the audience is far easier to identify. They put their hands up. (e.g. “I’m looking for ” or “How to…” in Google searches.) Fiction readers don’t do that.

  • September 20, 2013 at 7:03pm

    I am wowed. Usually it takes money to make money, but this idea is totally awesome. I wish Hugh Howey all the best. I wish I could be envious LOL but I also wish that he’ll have fun with this promotion. And thank you Jonathan. You are the most unselfish guy I have ever come across.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 20, 2013 at 11:47pm

      ‘Envious’ is definitely the right word.

  • September 20, 2013 at 9:09pm

    Thanks so much, Jonathan.

    I so appreciate how you always have your finger on valuable news concerning the writing world. This was an “aha” moment for me. I already have a few story-related items set up on my Heaven’s Wait website, but I’ve just been letting them sit there while I work on completing Book 2 of my fantasy series.

    My idea is to eventually offer story-related items to any readers who wish to stay connected to the stories. It never occurred to me to use some of those same items for promotional events in the meantime. The characters in my stories spend some of their time producing and selling roasted coffee (RJ’s Blend and Jungle Decaf) to Heaven’s Wait’s capital, New Life City. Well, in real life, my husband and sons and I own a coffee roasting company. So, duh, I already have all I need to get the ball rolling. I just have to figure out how to organize sweepstakes or giveaways as part of my next book launch.

    The wheels are now turning. Thanks.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 20, 2013 at 11:51pm

      “… selling roasted coffee (RJ’s Blend and Jungle Decaf) to Heaven’s Wait’s capital, New Life City…”
      The inventive genius of writers never ceases to amaze me. Your idea is easily the equal of any that Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett might dream up.

      • September 21, 2013 at 4:37am

        Wow, thanks so much for the kind words, Jonathan, and also for the mention.

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          September 21, 2013 at 7:20am

          I meant every word.

  • R.V. Doon says:
    September 21, 2013 at 7:14am

    This article highlights your other ‘how to” posts on branding. I’m missing a PR chip, but I’ll take your advice and percolate. After all, HH didn’t come up with the idea on book one. Helpful post, Jonathan.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 21, 2013 at 7:19am

      RV.D. (Robin?)
      How right you are HH’s first book, such skills take time to develop. The famous syndrome “If I knew then what I know now…”.
      ~ Jonathan

  • katharine mac says:
    September 21, 2013 at 11:50am

    Just started reading your articles and emails and I’m starting to understand how it works. Its a bit late because book is coming out in October, but Ill be setting up a blog and trying to build relationships. I’ll let you know how successful the book is. I know it worked for you.. so I’ll see what happens to my book and let you know.

  • September 21, 2013 at 6:12pm

    Great post Jonathan! I’m going to brainstorm to try to find a striking brand idea for my book. This is very encouraging. Thank you for sharing.


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 21, 2013 at 10:43pm

      Hunt down the essential theme or idea in your story – base your brand identity line on that. Thing is, a book brand isn’t in fact a logo or a strap line, but an idea held in readers’ minds, a repeatable experience they return to for more. This is why a book series is such a powerful strategy for brand building. It’s also around the third book that word of mouth buzz and the brand effect starts to kick in.
      The secret of series:

  • September 23, 2013 at 5:12pm

    Jonathan (and Hugh), great concept. We linked to your article and referred to Hugh’s marketing approach in our blog today (, a little tongue-in-cheek, but we’re taking the idea seriously. Thanks again for all you do.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 24, 2013 at 12:08am

      Enjoyed your article. Very amusing Book Club / Vampire anecdote.

  • September 24, 2013 at 8:46am

    Dear Jonathan, no fault with your method which I would adopt if I had even ONE reader. The ONLY person who has read The Golden Path is my Readers Favourites reviewer, who ‘loved’ it to 5*. Prophets don’t have friends while ‘A prophet hath no honour in his own land’. Also I am concerned to preserve my anonymity as an author amongst those who do know me as I am not what I seem – so I have absolutely no base from which to ‘advertise’.. I wonder if you can remember back that far!
    Yours Margaret Montrose

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 24, 2013 at 11:40am


      Your website is not being found by readers in meaningful numbers. It also seems to be the only place to buy the book, so this is the initial reason you’re not making sales.

      Here is what I suggest: It would be best to put it up in two new places: Goodreads and Amazon Kindle.

      1. Upload it to and fill out the details (particularly Romance), carefully making it sound like a romantic read that people would enjoy, and not too obscure or ‘important’, that outlines in a clear way the magic of the storyline, as a love story that happens between two people. Then give it away for free for a few days – that should get some readers and some feedback.

      2. Also put your book up on in the romantic section with the same blurb.

      Note. You need to update the storyline blurb you use. The current blurb on the website is not easy to understand as a ‘story’, and the only real clue is a brief sentence by the reviewer: Nineteen-year-old Julie finds her way to the Cathedral, a place which will ease her troubled soul and guide her way toward the enigmatic Ellen MacAlister. Does love ensue? Say so! Use this attractive, much clearer storyline on Goodreads, Amazon and on your website.

      I would also put up a picture of the book cover too in all places that looks like an actual book cover. The current image on your website is designed as a website header, there is no image of a classic romance book cover.

      Here is my article on book covers:


      • September 27, 2013 at 10:43am

        Thank you Jonathan, I recognise the problem. Am engaged with KINDLESERIES but it is proving slow work I suspect because at 36 chs and 450k words it is some three times as long as anything else – hence my ‘by chapter’ method. The next is 850k words in 60 chs, so completely undhandleable as a conventional book. Pricing is a problem too as no-one is going to entertain £15 but will be happy with £0.5 each ch while to sell anything so ‘epic’ for £3.99 is prostitution. The first book doesn’t have a cover because it is only the start of the journey despite its end being a spectacular marriage I do have a picture my artist did for this which I will send to your direct for a view). Also I am revolted by the endless stream of ‘Romance’ covers, all bare-chests and soft porn which TGP is absolutely not. Even branding it as ‘Romance’ these days of soft-porn’s ascendency is going to damn it into the wrong market.

        I recognise your point about ‘not being too important’ so will indeed ‘re-think’ the synopsis, though a conventional ‘book description’ is a no because far too much goes on – while I strongly believe your duty as an author is to lead your reader through a series of wonderful surprises and joys he has not had laid out before him. I have been reading ‘descriptions’ to be shown I don’t need to read the book as it’s all laid out!! Yours VS Margaret Montrose.

  • leo effi says:
    September 25, 2013 at 10:55pm

    before i say anything i must say these is a GREAT POST very inspirational and witty as well.
    I am nearly done with my fantasy novel & i have completed a science fiction one as well so i was discussing with a guy on which one i will love to see published first when these guy gave me some bad news i hope is not true. He told me that i have to focus on just one of them,that its better if my readers in the future know that i will always deliver a great fantasy or sci fi, just like stephen king is all about horror or grisham about law.
    Please tell me its not true i enjoy writing fantasy,sci fi & even greek it possible for me to be an author in all three or not.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 26, 2013 at 1:18am

      The question you ask is in fact about branding. Yes, of course you can write in all 3 genres, even more if you want to. There are no rules that say you cannot.
      However, your friend is correct: It is plain common sense that if you become known for something specific, Sci Fi for example, and put energy into it, then you will develop a strong brand around that, and the Sci-Fi reader community will start to talk about your books, and also about you as a Sci Fi writer. Word of mouth buzz and genre-focus is largely how authors become successful.
      If instead you are scattered across several genres, then it is going to take you far longer to build a reputation. Focusing on one genre has huge advantages, just as your friend describes. i.e. “Don’t become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific.” Zig Ziglar
      See point 2 in this article:
      Plus here’s an article on ‘brand’ that will also help:
      As I say, you are not obliged to write in just one genre, there are no rules. But your chances of success are dramatically enhanced if you do.

  • September 26, 2013 at 1:35am

    Interesting idea! Very clever… and the uniqueness of it definitely goes a long way toward sticking in people’s minds.
    Not sure how to translate that for my low-fantasy YA novels… but the angle is one to keep in mind. We’ll see what percolates out of it!
    As always, thanks for the solid helping of truly intriguing facts about other people’s marketing; we less masterful appreciate the hints!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 26, 2013 at 1:43am

      Low fantasy has a ton of opportunity for creating your own point of difference. The solution to identifying exactly what it is – your unique brand – will occur eventually if you keep asking yourself the question, but without trying to force it.
      Article on ‘brand’ that will help:

  • leo effi says:
    September 27, 2013 at 11:46pm

    hey jonathan i have been doing some research and i found out that most black authors books are mostly in the AA true is these, i write a fantasy novel which does have a black protagonist cause thats how i saw him in my mind. however in my work race is not even an issue i write my characters how isee them in my work almost all races can be found in it because i am creating an entire universe(what a task it has been ). i am not writing for black people i am writing for the general public regardless of race. so will my book be sent to the AA section because am black or not.pls elaborate cause its not clear to me thanks

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      September 28, 2013 at 2:17am

      Amazon doesn’t work that way. Your best bet is to examine and research what other similar authors are doing on Amazon re categories, and mirror their approach.

  • leo effi says:
    September 28, 2013 at 11:34am

    thanks for the tips jonathan really means a lot. keep up the good job helping us aspiring authors

  • October 1, 2013 at 6:48pm

    An impressive promotion, no doubt about it. And what’s more: very motivating. I am on the trail of a unique promotional tool for my own crime novel series (your timing is very convenient), and in the middle of getting things done, but this story has boosted my enthusiasm and energy again. If what one writes is truly “in character”, then finding the right unique promotional idea should not be incredibly difficult. Even if it’s not as good as Howey’s. After that… it’ll be hard work getting it done. I especially l ike the moment where Howey shows the contents of the box: thousands of thumb-drives. The design and the amount prove that a lot of effort has been going into realizing the whole idea. It’s also clear to me Howey has professionals working on all of this (the design, the video) – a luxury not every author can afford. Thanks for posting this, it’s put this topic high on my to do list again!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      October 2, 2013 at 1:14am

      M H V.
      Exciting to hear. I like your entrepreneurial spirit.
      “… If what one writes is truly “in character” then finding the right unique promotional idea should not be incredibly difficult….
      Absolutely true. Keep me posted re your progress with a promotional tool. Remember, it does need to intrinsically reflect your work, unlike a coffee mug with a logo on the side!

      • January 16, 2014 at 3:06pm

        Hi Jonathan, as promised I’m reporting back on my comment of October 1. Proceeding as planned with my first promo for my crime novel series in the form of a sound clip. The sound clip fits the nature of my main character —the “radio detective” who also runs his own business talk radio show— and that I can use on Twitter. I’m currently experimenting with a YouTube version and a SoundCloud version on my own website. The true challenge now is to create tweets that will draw people to the sound clip.

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          January 21, 2014 at 7:22pm

          Yes that is ALWAYS the issue. How to attract people to your site / books. I find that saying something intriguing / teasing / irresistible in Tweets attracts the clicks. e.g. “Who on earth can figure out this strange mystery? [link] ”
          ~ Jonathan

  • Isobel kay says:
    October 19, 2013 at 12:07pm

    Fab post. Thanks. Lots of synapses sparking off now! My initial thought was that it works only for certain genres and for my novel (‘literary thriller’ based in Cambodia about human trafficking/child prostitution) wouldn’t have any hooks for giveaways etc. But have since ditched that negative view and focused on the imagery that runs throughout – so for example I could use the dancing apsara ( also title of book) which is a beautiful divine goddess/celestial being in a range of jewellry and other promo items.
    Question though: would this be too “gimmicky”?
    Just thought of another one – I’d love to run tours out there. Maybe I could cross promo travel agent…

  • December 15, 2013 at 5:44pm

    I am reading Wool now; BRILLIANT as is Hugh’s Branding campaign! Thanks for sharing it.