How Your Publicist Can Help You Promote Your Book

Most publishers–even university presses–will assign a publicist to your book.  Over at the blog of Princeton University Press, publicist Debra Liese answers some common questions that she receives from authors.  Here is a taste:

One of the best things you can do after writing a book is… write some more! If your book’s research can be leveraged to comment on current events and you’re able to write a short (750 words) piece with a definite argument, you can pen an op ed positioning yourself as an expert, mentioning your book in the byline. Your publicist can help you  to get this into the hands of the right people. Never written an op ed before? Start by reading them.

Notice they are free of jargon, written for a general audience, and feature a strong point of view.Here’s a good place to read about the dos and don’ts of op ed writing.

Take advantage of other writing opportunities too. Guest blog if you are asked. Respond quickly to reporters who solicit your expertise. Reach out to personal contacts and colleagues who may have an affinity with your work and be interested in covering it.

How to Promote Your Academic Book

During my visit to the AHA book exhibit this weekend I noticed that Mark Cheatham’s new biography of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Jackson: Southerner, was prominently displayed at the Louisiana State University Press booth.  In fact, while I was visiting the booth I noticed someone buying a copy (the next to last one). 

Over at his blog, Jacksonian America, Cheatham has been doing a series called “The Evolution of a Book.”  He began (Part 1) with “Choosing a Topic.”  His latest post in the series (Part 15) is “Promoting Your Book.”
Here is as taste:
Once I had a pretty firm idea of when the book would be out, I began targeting approximately 100 groups and organizations with e-mails about speaking. (I prefer corresponding via e-mail for a couple of reasons: it allows me to preserve an accurate record of who I’ve contacted and what was said and because I’m not sure how many people keep track of snail mail nowadays.) I compiled the list from my professional and personal networks, groups I’ve previously spoken to, groups with a clear connection to Andrew Jackson, and suggestions from other colleagues. I have had a booking success rate of approximately 25%, and I have received answers (either affirmative or negative) from almost everyone I contacted.
Scheduling talks in some organized manner is key. For example, once I booked a talk in South Carolina for spring break, I reached out to other organizations in that area or along the way to see if the timing would work for them. In that case, I was able to schedule four talks in one trip. Organized coordinating has also been important because of my teaching schedule. With limited days on which I can travel, even if it’s in the area, I need to know what dates/times are feasible for me and if I can offer an alternate date for a group if there’s a conflict.
The South Carolina trip I mentioned actually offers a nice segue into a dicey topic: honoraria/travel funds. Some groups are upfront about whether they will offer either of these; most, however, are not. Some have even asked me to name my fee. The best advice I can give is to try to at least break even financially. If you have to travel two hours to give a talk, I don’t think it’s uncouth to ask for enough of a fee to pay for your gas. If the talk requires an overnight stay, requesting lodging shouldn’t come as a surprise to the organization.
Anyone who has published an academic book with potential crossover appeal to a general reading audience should read Cheatham’s post.