Maria Zannini Puts the Reader FIRST!

When my first book, Touch Of Fire came out, I was a babe in the woods. Frantic to make some sort of noise to call attention to a total unknown, I studied what other authors were doing to market themselves. I was in for a shock.

The authors I studied belted out their elevator pitches like street vendors at a Tangier market. They parroted the same excerpt on every blog stop, shamelessly plugging, begging, and grandstanding. It was all about them and very little about the reader. New as I was to the world of publishing, my gut told me that was the wrong way to approach a prospective reader.

At first I followed their lead, but it made me uncomfortable so I scaled back and reevaluated my strategy. I started by asking myself: What does a reader want, and how do I fulfill that need?

People read novels to be entertained, amused, and distracted for a few hours. Carrying that a step farther, I put myself in the reader’s shoes. What’s more likely to encourage a reader to try a new author: a book brag, or some little anecdote that makes the author appear accessible and personable?

I decided to use blogging as my main vehicle, but rather than addressing my peers, I’d try to appeal to a broader audience. To reach the folk in all of us, I’d talk about my homestead, my dogs, and only a little about my writing. Regardless of the topic, it would strive to be relevant and comment-provoking. 

My purpose is to engage the reader with posts that are informational, entertaining, and sometimes anecdotal.

That’s not to say I won’t have the occasional ‘commercial’. I give myself permission to sell my book at least once during its release week. Other times, I’ll pitch fellow authors’ books.

My theory is if I come across as interesting 80% of the time, readers won’t mind shop-talk the other 20%. If they like what they see, they’re likely to visit my sidebar or the other pages on my blog to learn more about me and my books.

There’s no shoving on my blog. We’re all just folks who like to read.

Here are my tips to make your promo more about the reader and less about you:

 On Twitter

• Retweet other people. If you found it interesting, chances are good others will too.

• Share things that are useful, entertaining, or clever.

• Tweet late-breaking news.


• At least once a week, blog about something personal (but not too personal). The topic should be something most everyone can relate to.

• Rather than blurbing or excerpting your book, talk about your research or a personal experience while writing your book.

• Host other authors that your readers might enjoy. (Make sure it’s not promo porn.)

Anywhere you’re seen in public (either live or on the internet)

• On Facebook, stay light.

• Practice your funnies. People love to laugh.

• Be a people person. If you’re a guest on someone’s blog, be sure to reply to every comment or greet every visitor.

• No matter where you appear, the audience should be made to feel important. Never forget to put him first.

And now dear reader, it’s your turn. I want your opinion to this burning question. In a battle for uber suaveness, who could melt your butter fastest: Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, or Cary Grant? Or write-in your candidate.

No giggling. This is a scientific poll. I’m trying to visualize my next leading man.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels. 

Blurb for APOCALYPSE RISING: The only place to hide was in the past. Leda and Grey have one chance to escape a madman and that’s through a portal to a time before the apocalypse. But nothing has prepared them for 21st century culture, and every misstep draws them closer to the End Times. The world is teetering on extinction, and they may very well be the cause of it.

Apocalypse Rising is the sequel to Touch Of Fire. I hope you’ll try them both.

35 Responses to “Maria Zannini Puts the Reader FIRST!”
  1. Either Johnny Depp or Colin Firth. Depp because he makes me laugh. Firth because he’s the perfect Regency hero. Good advice — thanks!

  2. Heide Katros says:

    Maria, I believe you have the right attitude to become recognized. As for leading men, Cary Grant was always suave, but Johnny Depp is my favorite these days. His voice makes you think of warm honey.

  3. Margo Benson says:

    I think you’ve pitched that perfectly for the reader. I dislike authors being condescending or shamelessly plugging. To learn how a story came about and the progress on the road to success is the journey I’m happy to learn from.
    Colin Firth is adorable and Johnny Depp is adorably quirky.

  4. Jean Watkins says:

    Hugh Jackman and Hohnny Depp are my current favorites, but Cary always makes me smile too. 🙂 Love the post and the little bit of personal stuff at the end about fighting for bed space with the dogs was just hilarious…I feel ya there! Thank you for the wonderful suggestions.

    • LOL. Jean, I wish I were kidding about the dogs stealing my bed space, but it’s all true. And they’re so big I often end up with a little corner of the bed while they lounge like kings. I love ’em though, even if they are bed hogs.

  5. Of the three you mention, Hugh Jackman, hands down. He can do anything–sing, dance, act, and be a decent husband/daddy at the same time. For a while, he was rumored to be gay. I think that was just because of a role he played on Broadway. But who cares? There’s something about those Aussies that really rings my chimes. Guess Gerard Butler is Australian, too, but he always looks grimy to me. Also consider Maks from “Dancing with the Stars!” Sigh!

  6. Since you’ve opened the door to going back in time…Yul Brynner. No, not because of the bald head – because of the eyes. And the hands. And the body. I saw him on stage once and you could feel his sizzle all the way to the balcony.

  7. Joanne says:

    I agree with your philosophy here Maria. If all the blog talk is about writing, you’ll attract only writers to your blog. Not that that’s bad, but we hope for more than writers as our readers, right? I try to keep my blog posts relatable to people with any passion, from writing to cooking meals, whatever someone may love to do.

    Now, for your choice of three. With that list, I think of Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember, and my vote goes to him.

    • I’ve had a crush on Cary Grant since I was a kid. I especially liked how great he was as a comic actor.

      As for the blog, I figure we’re all readers under the skin, so it makes sense to talk broadly rather than just one topic.

  8. Csathy in AK says:

    No giggling? How about drooling? Those are some yummy guys you mentioned. I’d go with Gerard Butler. He can be grimy/down and dirty, but he also cleans up nice too 🙂

  9. Cathy in AK says:

    Oh, and thanks for the advice. We can be a tad self-indulgent as writers, and I guess it’s understandable, considering the amount of work necessary, but yes, the reader needs to come first.

    • It’s hard not to be self-indulgent these days when the brunt of promotion is placed on the author rather than the publisher. That’s why I like to step out of the limelight.

      Butler cleans up very nice. 🙂

  10. (I’m posting this on behalf of Kate Hofman, who sent her comments to me via e-mail.)

    Susan — I was delighted with your guest, Maria Zannini. She is so right — put the reader first.
    When my first book was published, I realized I could do very little for it, because I am a total Klutz on the Internet. 32 books later, that hasn’t changed. So I put small cover ads on TRS, and give them my latest book for one of their TRS Book-a-Day giveaways, and when I get the list of people who have signed up for the book, I send one to every 10th person on the list. (This is for eBooks – print books I give only one and the rest receive the eBook version).
    Usually, a list is around 120 people. When I had the cover with Julian Christian strewn strategically with periwinkles and pretty leaves, over 200 people signed up. That way at least I reach the readers, and not other writers. Admittedly, these readers are looking for freebies, but if they like our books, maybe next time they have a few bucks over, they might buy one of ours?

    I wish you great success, Maria.

    • Thank you, Kate! And I love your idea of giving a free book to every 10th person. It’s a great way to introduce your work to new readers. Thank you so much for your email. You made my day!

  11. Thanks for your great post, Maria. You are one of my favorite guests here at Embrace the Shadows. Please know that you are welcome back…anytime. In answer to your question, I’ll go with Gerard Butler. I was in NYC this past weekend, and I caught a snippet of Dracula 2000 in my hotel room…in HD, no less. I’d forgotten what a compelling vampire he could be. I loved him in Phantom of the Opera, too.

    And I’ll take him with beard stubble, s’il vous plait.

  12. LOL, Maria! First you ask for hawt young men to help you build fences. Now you’re looking for leading men for your next book. You SO get me in trouble every time!

    Gerard Butler is a favorite…something about that Scottish accent and those gorgeous eyes…sigh. Clive Owen, Adrian Paul, and Hugh Jackman are up at the top of the list too 😉

    As to your approach, you are spot on!

  13. Dru says:

    Cary Grant or a young Pierce Brosnan

  14. rbachar says:

    Great post!

    Cary Grant, clearly. The Philadelphia Story is one of my all time favorite movies. 🙂

  15. Amy says:

    Gerard Butler for sure. his Dracula could bite me anytime he wanted! 😉 Love the post!

  16. Hugh Jackman is gorgeous. But it has to be Cary Grant. All those old movies like “Bringing Up Baby”.

  17. Cate Masters says:

    Great advice, as always, Maria.
    As far as the answer to the burning question, I’d need to know what role he’s up for first. Any of those would make excellent heroes, but certain parts call for certain *ahem* qualities. Maybe you could spend a little time on the casting couch with each (imagination is a wonderful thing!)

    • There are *certain* qualities that all the men mentioned so far have in spades. LOL. But I can see the wisdom of a casting couch. We must do proper research. 😉

  18. Ellie says:

    Awesome advice, Maria.

    For your next leading man I’m thinking a cross between Morten Harket and Professor Brian Cox. Sigh.

    Ellie Garratt

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