All of these I either learned the hard way (the only way to learn!) or else experienced second-hand with some sense of either embarrassment or schadenfreude.
Top Five Things Not To Do When Promoting Your Novel
1. Never say the thing about the book that you don't absolutely believe in that deep place inside you where you actually have shame. I mean -- believe in the way that, say if your skin were being ripped off you would still believe it. You know, in that Joan of Arc-at-the-stake kind of belief, not the kind where you believe it one day and are not sure the next. For instance, "This is the best book ever written," undoubtedly will come back to haunt you...ten minutes after you say it. Remember, if you're afraid they're laughing at you -- they probably are laughing at you.
2. Don't be the performing monkey just to get readers. If you dance enough with bells on your head and on your toes, yes, you'll get noticed. Some people may even throw you quarters and ask you to spin around a few times. Crazy antics make for a lot of attention -- and if you intend to be a stand-up comic or an actor or even a politician, go for it. But this might not get a reader to open a book. It might, in fact, cause them to step away from the book once they realize it's you who wrote it.
3. Just because it works for Ann Coulter, doesn't mean it'll work for you. I've seen this happen -- someone sweats and strains to grab the limelight by saying something so offensively outrageous it just gets everyone angry or burning to respond. If you're a political pundit, this is your stock-in-trade, but if you're a novelist you might want to think twice. All I'm sayin'.
4. Don't keep 'em waiting, no matter how important you are. And if you do, at least have an entertaining reason why they had to wait. Some people still think that being late to the party makes them a wee bit more important and noticeable. Ha ha, says me. Ha ha. Whether it's a panel, a chat, or a booksigning or another event, give yourself plenty of time to get there.
5. Don't promote your own books by slamming the writing of others. This one is a point that several writers I've known would deny, but they've done it regardless. I've seen it on message boards and heard it at conventions, and at book signings. Worse: don't ask for a blurb from writers by telling them they're your favorites and their prose saved your life on many occasions, only to go around badmouthing them on message boards. What, you think people never Feedster or Google their names just to see what people are saying? Well, I don't. Really, I don't. But I know those who do...Back to blurbs: that blurb is another writer promoting YOUR BOOK and YOUR NAME, so you might consider returning the favor when their name or book comes up.
Top Five Things To Do When Promoting Your Book:
1. Be respectful of others -- no matter what. I know there will be a group of you reading this who think, "Hell with that, I'm going to just say whatever I want and who cares about respect?" And here's what I say to you: the lack of respect you show for others is indicative of your internal lack of respect for yourself and those closest to you. This is a bigger problem than you think, and there are some really good therapists out there who can help.
2. Present the world of your book in a concise and interesting way when you promote it. My friend M.J. Rose is so good at this. I want to re-read her books after she's talked about them, she's that good. And so are her novels.
Make it scintillating. Nobody wants to hear a boring story about the writing of a book. Make that story thrilling when you tell how you sat at your desk and typed away and stared at the walls and then you drank buckets of hot coffee and nearly got divorced while you tried to figure out why you were writing at all.
Give 'em the world of the book, either in the inspiration for it, the creation of it through vivid and fascinating recollections, or entice them with what's between those covers in the story itself.
3. Be the first to do something with regards to your novel or its promotion. This is the single-most successful thing I've ever seen with novels, and I've done it -- once. It's hard to come up with "firsts," related to novels. But if you can, you're going to get some attention in the media.
4. If you can't be the first, be a close-second but with a whole new approach to what's already been done. After second place, nobody really cares about third- and fourth- and fifth-placers. This just seems to be how it goes.
5. The best promotion you -- as the author -- can do for your book is to write a better novel. People really do respond to novels when they find something special between the covers. I think we all forget this at times.
For more specific tips and tricks:
To really find out how to promote your book, you might try www.PublicizeYourBook.com where you can find out about Jacqueline Deval's excellent book, Publicize Your Book.
Another excellent resource is John Kremer's 1001 Ways to Market Your Book. This one is really a brainstorm magnet, and worth checking out.
Or...try that little ebook called Buzz Your Book written by M.J. Rose and me. You can find it at Booklocker.com or Amazon.com or Fictionwise.com
NOW -- let me know if you can add to these lists. I barely scratched the surface, but some of these recently came up simply because, well, I've seen them more than once...