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Publish, don't perish – Instalment 34

Marketing your book

A few postings ago, we talked about considerations to keep in mind when writing a book. For those of you who took up our advice, or who think you might someday embark on the book publishing adventure, here are some ideas on marketing your own work.

Publishers in the library field, working with tight budgets and multiple authors, tend to lack the marketing resources of the bigger publishing houses - and even they put few resources into promoting most of their authors. The sales success of any title relies in large part on the efforts of its author, whose intimate knowledge of the subject and its audience combine with their passion for the topic to make them the best promoters of their own work.

A publisher's efforts to market your book will likely take the form of one or more traditional marketing avenues, including:

  • Mailings to individual libraries or to members of particular associations (divisions, roundtables)
  • A highlighted "new title" listing in the publisher's print catalogue
  • A listing on the publisher's website
  • An effort to get the book listed in and other online retailers
  • Advertisements in relevant magazines
  • Mailings of review copies to library-related and/or subject-related journals
  • Availability of your book at the publisher's booth at relevant conferences and meetings

Some publishers will be better at making these efforts than others; some will have a larger budget for advertising; some will also have more name recognition and have made their way onto libraries' standing order lists. Be sure to help your publisher as much as possible. If they have you fill out a marketing questionnaire, for example, suggest alternative or niche publications to which they might send review copies and spend some time thinking about well-known names that might willing to endorse your title.

Even the best publisher marketing efforts, though, leave plenty of room for any author to attract an additional audience to her work. So, what can you do to help yourself and your title get noticed?

Talk the talk

All of our professional activities interact to make us well connected and well rounded librarians. Better yet, many of our professional activities, especially presenting, help bolster name recognition and build a new audience of librarians interested in what else you might have to say.

You've already done the heavy lifting: you've written the book! Now, promote your willingness to speak on related subjects. Submit conference proposals, see if your publisher sponsors a speaker's bureau in which you can be listed, offer to appear on panels, offer to present at a conference sponsored by your publisher's larger company, or give local workshops.

State and regional conferences often have a conference store hosted by a local bookseller. Be sure to be an effective liaison between the bookseller or conference organizer and your publisher. Put them in touch with the right people to get copies of your book there for sale after your talk; offer to do a book signing.

If you're going to be at a large national conference, be sure to let your editor know. Your publisher will often arrange a book signing or other publicity at their booth in the exhibit hall, especially if you are presenting at the event.

Remix, repurpose

If the thought of getting up in front of an audience gives you palpitations, think of other ways to reuse and remix the content you've created. Submit articles on the topic to relevant journals and magazines, and be sure to include the title of your book in your bio line. Offer to submit an article related to your book's subject to association newsletters and other targeted publications.

If you have existing contacts with editors at library-related publications, see if one might be interested in printing a pre-publication excerpt. If you lay the groundwork here – making contact, ascertaining interest – your publisher should be able to work with the magazine or journal to choose and print an appropriate excerpt. This helps build buzz and increase awareness of your work right before it is published.

Get online

Always create an online presence for any book you write. Whether you choose to do this as a companion blog or as a website, you want people doing a search on related terms to turn up your title, and you want to give them a reason to visit. If you have limited technical skills, you may wish to create a blog at and use their built-in WYSIWYG tools and templates rather than trying to build a web page from scratch.

The authors of Grants for Libraries, Stephanie Gerding and Pam MacKellar, created a companion blog at They provide timely and useful information on grant opportunities for libraries, which both gives people a reason to visit and subscribe to the blog and keeps their search engine ranking high (as of this writing, they're ranked second in a Google search for "library grants"). Once visitors – who most likely have an existing interest in the topic – enter the blog, the first thing they see is information on and links to purchase the Grants for Libraries book.

Meredith Farkas, author of Social Software for Libraries, registered a domain and created a companion website at Here, she provides ways for people to find out more about the title, such as a table of contents, an excerpt, reviews, resources, and more – as well as information on her speaking availability and list of topics. (Ask your publisher if you can post an excerpt online; they will often send you a formatted PDF version to post.)

Beyond your book's companion site, think of other ways to get active and reach a broader audience online. If you often post to discussion lists, for example, be sure to add a link to the book's site to your e-mail signature file. (Be wary, though, of posting blatant advertisements for your title on lists; always have substantive and relevant information to offer in your posts.) If you already have a blog, post about your book and add information to your sidebar. Think about adding some information to your book's page on Amazon and linking to its website.

Always be on the lookout for ways to get the word out about your work. After all, you wrote it because you had something to say – now, give people a reason to read!