Over 300,000 new books are published each year in the United States. How will yours stand out from the crowd? Although a publisher will handle some marketing duties, it’s helpful to know how you, the author, can work with your publisher to promote your work. A new book also is an opportunity to introduce yourself and your research to a wider audience and to help raise your visibility as a scholar. This section covers:
- Publisher's Marketing
- Book Reviews, Advertising & Publicity
- Social Media
- Lectures, Conferences & Book Tours
- Bookstores and Libraries
- Personal Contacts
- Further Reading
Most presses issue a catalog of new and forthcoming titles twice per year, which is sent to booksellers, sales representatives, and librarians. You may be asked to write a brief description of your book for the catalog. What’s unique about your book? How does it differ from other books on the same topic? Is your book similar to another title that was widely read and sold well? Even if you aren’t asked to contribute a description, it’s a worthwhile exercise to come up with all the reasons a library, bookstore, or individual should buy your book. Your publisher's marketing staff will develop a strategy for a title long before the book actually rolls off the press. If your book might see use as a textbook, for example, a publisher may schedule the publication date so instructors can assign it for fall or spring reading lists.
“Blurbs” -- complimentary quotes about the book, usually placed on the back cover -- are your responsibility. Identify 5-10 people who would be willing to read a sample of the work and provide a quote. Some publishers may only require the list of names, while others will expect you to do the legwork of contacting people, sending them a portion of the manuscript, and following up. Read more about gathering blurbs from Booklab.
Book Reviews, Advertising, and Publicity
As early as you can, talk with your publisher’s marketing department and the Office of Strategic Communications for suggestions on how you can be involved in publicizing your work. They can provide helpful advice on everything from media interviews to Twitter feeds.
Your publisher will send complimentary copies of your book to book review editors at journals and magazines, in the hopes the journal will review the work. Most publishers have an existing list of media outlets and reviewers, but you may asked for specialized journals or other niche publications that should get a review copy or press release.
If you want an ad in the New York Times or another publication, you may have to pay for it yourself. Publishers are moving away from expensive print advertisements to more targeted communications via email, Twitter, and other social media. Are there bloggers, email lists, or online forums where your book could be announced?
Social media is a great way to share the news of your forthcoming or recently published book. In addition to your publisher's marketing, you can promote your work to a wide audience of interested readers through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or your personal website or blog. Other social media that might be effective are Amazon Author Central, YouTube, Pinterest, Goodreads Author Program, and Google+. For ideas and examples of how to use social media effectively, read these tips from two university presses:
Lectures, Conferences, and Book Tours
If you have lectures or conference presentations close to the book’s release date, alert your publisher. Most would be happy to supply you with flyers and order slips or attend themselves, with copies ready to sell.
If your book generates substantial interest, a publisher may arrange a speaking and signing event at a local bookstore. It’s rare for an academic publisher to offer a lavish book tour across the country, but if you’re traveling for other professional reasons, let your publisher know if you’re available for engagements in your destination city.
Bookstores and Libraries
If you are in a bookstore that stocks academic titles, it can be worth asking the manager to carry your title. Let them know why their customers would be interested in your book, such as favorable reviews or media coverage. If you wrote catalog copy, this is another opportunity to use it! It is not unusual to hear “no” or “I’ll think about it” for an answer; few managers will make on-the-spot decisions about stocking a new title.
For most scholarly works, academic libraries will be the core audience. Feel free to email your subject specialist when your book comes out so that we may purchase a copy for the Library; we try to purchase all works by GU faculty authors. If you want to pitch your book to non-GU librarians, ask your subject specialist or see “Marketing to Libraries,” a fact sheet by the American Library Association.
Booksellers and librarians receive hundreds of purchase requests each year and do not have a budget to purchase all of them.
Don’t underestimate the power of relationships. Many people might be interested in your work because they know you as a relative, friend, teacher, or colleague. Once readers have established a connection with you, they may be more likely to read your future work -- so even if they don’t read your first book, they might read your next one.
For More Information
Read more about how you and your publisher can promote your work:
- Marketing FAQ, Johns Hopkins University Press
- Marketing - How Authors Can Help, Oxford University Press
- Marketing Your Book, Stanford University Press
- Marketing FAQ, Penn State University Press
- Promoting Your Book, Brill
- How Professors Can Get Publicity for their Scholarly Books, Michael Chwe, Professor, Dept. of Political Science, UCLA