Self-Published Marketing

Nikki and MJAnother writer once asked me why, OH WHY, did I bother with live models? They asked, “Isn’t that time-consuming? Expensive? What if the photos don’t come out right? What if the models don’t understand their characters’ emotions?”

The questions went on and on . . .

I simply responded, “Well, first of all, what would you do if you went to the movies and the actors were cut out and only had voice overs?”

No response . . . blank expression. My interrogator was not getting it.

Fine – simple answer is best: “My cast and photographer are brilliant. They seem to like each other and, incredibly, the characters they represent.”

My interrogator cocks head and thinks. “That’s too much work for me and I don’t see how it would make a difference.”

I smile politely, for two reasons: A. This writer got wind of what I had been doing and took the time to talk with me about it. and B. This writer got wind of what I had been doing and took the time to talk with me about it.  Nope – that’s not a type-o.1487337_10202326327257512_844088049_n

You see, there are thousands of books released every year. THOUSANDS.

I am but one person with no agent nor publisher. And yet . . . this writer heard of me, not because I just threw a book on Amazon and prayed, but because I did something insane – I launched a book like a movie and used REAL TEENAGERS. In fact, people come to book signings because of the media attention UNDERTOW has received, often thanks to the fact that I used real models.

This, my friends, is what I like to call “Insane Marketing.”

Pronounced MAR-KET-ING, this strange approach to selling books is often overlooked by novelists who are self-published or published by smaller presses.

Emily Penn poses as the face of Elizabeth Walker of the UNDERTOW series

Emily Penn poses as the face of Elizabeth Walker of the UNDERTOW series

UNDERTOW I launched like a film series, branding the characters with real faces right from the get-go. In doing so, they move off the cover, transforming into real “actors” of sorts, with posters and character cards available to hard-core fans (and yes – the book actually has a lot of those).

Boys are branded as “Teams,” though I avoid love-triangles like the plague. The girls are defined as kick-ass high schoolers by their looks in front of the camera.

What is even more incredible is how these young people transform from who they are, as real people, into their characters in seconds. Take the photos below for instance. The first one is my “cast” shot as themselves – their true personalities. In the second, they are posing as their characters. My tireless and freakin’ awesome photographer, Alex Duanais, does an outrageous job with lighting and framing the cast.


Emily Penn, Megan Jones, Sean Potter, Colby McWilliams, Leslie McKinnon, Christa Mullaly and Justin Blaze Elizabeth Walker of K.R. Conway’s UNDERTOW

glamor shot

The UNDERTOW series cast by K.R. Conway: Raef, Eila, Ana, Kian, MJ, and Nikki

Below is also an example of the first time Leslie (EILA WALKER) and Colby (RAEF PARIS) posed with each other versus the second time. The photo to the left was before UNDERTOW was even released and Colby had yet to read it (Leslie had read the ARC copy). The shot to the right, 6 months later, shows Leslie and Colby, who have now both read the book and been in the newspapers and on television as their characters.

5 months difference

Between takes of channeling their characters, my cast would hang out together with their various iPods and laptops, chatting and laughing. They were remarkable at being able to “flip the switch” from being themselves to being their characters. I suspect this is what it would be like on a movie set, minus all the voices in the background. Below, from L to R, Leslie, Colby, Christa, Sean, and Megan.

They could go from this photo . . .


. . . to this in seconds.

Eila and Raef storm front blog

AND . . . then back to this. LOL!



At one point, Leslie got into a fit of the giggles while laying on Colby, which got him laughing as well:


But then they nailed the shot . . .

IMG_5274 cover 2

Christa and Justin were less giggle-prone, but could go from serious to melting the camera in milliseconds. Ironically, the same could be said for their characters, Ana Lane and Kian O’Reilly.

IMG_4963 flattenedCRUEL SUMMER final cover

Yes, using real models takes a great deal of time, but I would never change it for the world. For me, the author, there is no one, anywhere, that could take their place. These kids and my photographer go with the series, blended as one.

Get used to seeing them all and enjoying Alex’s fine skills behind the lens. They are all destined to do great things in this lifetime and I, for one, am privileged and humbled they let me and my stories come along for the ride.

Now if I could only decide on what shots to use . . .


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