Michelle Marchetti Coughlin is an independent scholar and the author of One Colonial Woman’s World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (University of Massachusetts Press, 2012). Completing a book manuscript, and then gaining support for that manuscript from a university press editor, peer reviewers, and a faculty editorial board represents an enormous amount of work.
But having your manuscript accepted for publication by an academic press does not mean your efforts to make your work available to a wider audience are over.
In order to make your investment of time and energy truly pay off, you need to participate in the promotion of your book.
Many university presses have small publicity departments tasked with publicizing not only multiple new titles each year, but also backlists numbering in the hundreds.
As a result, the time, attention, and funds these departments are able to bestow on the promotion of a single book are often limited.
The good news is that there are 5 steps authors can take that may dramatically increase the reach of their work.
5 Steps for Marketing Your Academic Book
An attractive, easily navigable website is an invaluable tool for the promotion of a book.
A website will not only expose your work to a much wider audience, but will provide potential readers with information on how to contact you and where to hear you speak.
Setting up a website can be expensive, but it is a highly worthwhile investment (and a service you might obtain at a discount from a talented college or graduate student).
Tip: Be sure the pages on your site are encoded for Google Analytics so you can monitor your traffic, and take care to keep your information up to date.
2. Utilize Social Media
If possible, publicize news about your work and speaking engagements through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or a blog as an additional measure to help colleagues, friends, and others interested in your writing keep current with your activities.
3. Contact Print and Other Media
Although your publisher’s publicity department will notify appropriate media outlets about the release of your book (be sure to thoroughly fill out that marketing questionnaire!), you may want to personally contact your hometown media or alumni publications.
Try to arrange an interview with your local radio station or with “Fieldstone Common,” a weekly podcast that reaches an international group of history enthusiasts. These types of non-specialists are an important but sometimes overlooked audience for scholarly books.
Arranging speaking engagements for authors is often outside the purview of university press publicity departments, but these events are necessary for promoting your work.
You should plan to contact libraries, museums, and other institutions offering programming in your field as well as historical, genealogical, and lineage societies to ask if you might present a lecture on the topic of your book.
Create a simple Power Point and make your presentation as interesting and approachable as possible to a general audience.
Try to avoid reading from your notes.
Make sure you have business cards on hand as well as books for sale, if this is appropriate.
Talks that are well received often lead to other opportunities and invitations to give additional lectures, not to mention productive relationships with host institutions.
Be sure to keep your press’s publicity department informed of your appearances (and any other professional developments) so they can broadcast this information on their own social media pages.
Create a file of contact information for individuals you’ve met through your speaking engagements and who’ve reached out to you through your website or social media pages.
Whenever possible, thank those who write favorably about your book in blogs or online reviews, such as Amazon or Good Reads.
The connections you make in the process of promoting your book can be wonderful resources that may also provide an audience for your next book.
The above are just a few suggestions for new authors (and do not include opportunities to network with colleagues or publicize one’s work in the academic arena, such as through conferences, panels, and journals).
For further information, you may want to consult William Germano’s chapter “Promoting Your Work” in [amazon_link id="0226288536" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books[/amazon_link] or any of the many other online and print resources available on this topic.
Best of luck!
Do you have any additional tips for marketing your academic book?
For non-academic writers, do Michelle's tips differ for trade publishing?