First time book authors often assume that the marketing comes after the book is published, and is primarily the responsibility of the press. Like the author of this article on “7 Mistakes I Made When I Published my First Academic Book,” I wish I would have thought more seriously about marketing my book before it in the world.
Below, I have compiled a list of things that I either wish I had done, wish I had done sooner, wish I had done more intentionally, or have heard worked well for others that you can begin now, regardless of where you are in the book publishing process. I have added commentary on whether, when, and how I did these activities to give you an idea of why I have organized things the way I did.
In the end, of course, this is your project, so feel free to implement what seems useful to you and your project, and leave the rest.
Non-Time-Dependent or Ongoing Activities
- Make a list of the disciplines and subfields in which you hope your book will contribute. Familiarize yourself with the major journals and associations (both international/national and regional) for those fields and disciplines. You will use this information to select the most effective conferences and journal outlets for your work, to compile a list of review venues for your publisher, and to submit your book (or have your publisher submit your book) for prizes and awards. [I ended up doing this but much, much later. Doing it in a systematic way early on would have made things much easier in the long run.]
- Present your research at targeted conferences for the fields and subfields in which you hope your book will contribute. Smaller to medium sized conferences are often more conducive to productive conversations and feedback. [I presented my research at targeted conferences in my main fields, but did not think to seek out conferences outside of my main disciplines. These papers were also mostly about other research projects, not the book.]
- Set up an author and/or book website (or, at the very least, buy the domain name) and social media handles. This is, of course, totally optional. Having a large social media following or large numbers of website visitors, though, can lend weight to your proposal because you are coming to the press with an existing “platform.” I highly recommend Reclaimhosting for academics because it’s cheaper than other services with better customer service. If this is your first website, the Student/Individual plan is completely sufficient for what you will be doing. Use code EMDASH10 for 10% off! [I did have my own personal website, but did not make the book’s website until after it was published. That was completely fine. My personal website didn’t have enough traffic to even be worth mentioning on my proposal, but I am still glad I had it, and glad I set up my book’s website, even if it was after publication. I did mention, though, in the proposal, that I would be creating a website for the book.]
- If you are writing on a topic of general interest, consider signing up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out), a service that connects journalists with experts in particular fields. Note that academic publishers won’t likely be so interested in your having been quoted in the New York Times, but it will lend credibility to you as an author/expert in more public outlets. [I have not written for HARO and don’t plan to yet. It could still be a good idea if you are trying to position yourself as a “public intellectual,” or are hoping to market your book to “the general public” rather than an academic audience.]
Before the Proposal
- Publish approximately 1-2 articles based on book chapters in top journals for fields/subfields in which you hope your book will contribute. [I did this.]
- Seriously assess whether your book could be used in the graduate or undergraduate classroom. Begin or continue establishing relationships with professors who teach those courses at other institutions, as opportunities arise naturally at conferences, etc. [I did this, but only as I was writing the proposal, and I did not think to ask other professors at conferences which texts/sources they were using in their graduate and undergraduate classrooms.]
When You Submit your Final Manuscript (or sooner)
- Make a list of academic journals in your fields and those in which your book will contribute. Your publisher will later ask for this list to know where to send review copies. Be sure to add the host of the New Books Network channel in your subfield to the list, or, if you’re not sure, consult the “Publish your Book on the New Books Network” page; they will get it where it needs to go. [I did this, but much later, when the press asked me to fill out paperwork around the time of the book’s publication. I wish I would have had a better/more complete list to send to them.]
- Using the list of disciplinary organizations you made, research book prizes associated with the organizations you identified, or search for “[your field] first book prize.” Calculate the total number of books you will need, compile addresses and other logistical information, and join any organizations you must be a member of to submit a book. [I did this but much later and in a haphazard, rather than systematic way. I was therefore ineligible for certain prizes because I had let my memberships in smaller organizations lapse. Those in language/literary fields: don’t forget that some regional MLAs award book prizes!]
- If you made a website, consider developing guides and activities for faculty to use parts or all of your book in the Graduate and/or undergraduate classroom that you make accessible on your website. [I did not do this, but have seen others do this effectively. If you are really positioning your book as useful in the undergraduate or graduate classroom, developing some materials might lower the barrier to entry and therefore make faculty more likely to say “yes” to adopting your book.]
- Consider pitching and writing a piece (it is better if it is related to your book topic) for a popular outlet such as the New York Times, the Chronicle for Higher Education, Slate, etc. Notice, for instance, how many of the author bylines in the Chronicle Advice section contain a link to a recently published book. [I have not yet done this, but plan to in the future. It will not be related to my book, but my bio will include a link to the book.]
- Do your New Books Network interview. [I will be doing this soon]
- Create a clickable image email signature–or, at the very least–update your email signature with a link to the book on the publisher’s page. [I created this about a year after my book’s publication. For some reason, it felt “weird” to “advertise” my book in my signature, but now I realize that people can’t engage my ideas if they don’t know about my book in the first place!]
- Email a book publication announcement to any discipline-specific listservs that welcome these submissions (in my field, for instance, both francofil and h-france welcome these announcements). [I did not do this but should have.]
Have questions about any of the above steps? Or, thinkof something else that might be particularly useful? Feel free to add suggestions in the comments below, or submit them to me by email.