Thursday, February 23, 2012

Texas A&M Press Author Liz Carmack Gives Excellent Advice on Promoting Books

By: Liz Carmack, author of Rodeo Austin (Texas A&M Press, 2012)

As an author, your efforts to promote your nonfiction book are every bit as important as the work you put into writing it. If you realize a few facts about the process and include a few key tasks in your to-do list, it can make your life easier and help your book achieve greater success.

Inconvenient truths

1. The success of your book is largely in your hands. You must take the lead in promoting your work. This includes figuring out (often before you even write the first word) who your target readers are and devising creative ways to reach them. Expect to set up your own book signings and speaking gigs even if you have a traditional publisher.

2. You’d better love, love, love your subject. After spending several months, or years, researching and writing your manuscript you may be sick of your topic. Get over it. Remember why you wrote the book in the first place. Your work will brand you as an authority, and you’ll be expected to speak intelligently and passionately about that subject for years to come.

3. Book signings at book stores are often a waste of time. Unless you’re David Grann or Malcolm Gladwell, folks probably won’t line up for hours at Barnes and Noble to see you. Instead, schedule signings at conferences, festivals or other events attended by your target readers. Signings at independently owned bookstores can be successful if their loyal customers include your market.

4. You can’t wait until your book is published to start promoting. Share details about your evolving manuscript or the trials of your project’s research through blog posts and other social media. Comment on the blog posts of others who write about your subject area. Avoid being overly promotional in your posts. Instead, provide interesting, engaging content. By the time your book is released, you’ll have built a fan base.


1. Have a plan. Early on in your writing, draft a strategic communications plan to promote your book with a scheduled list of to-dos. Clearly define your audience and the best ways to reach them. Include sections on how you’ll use social media, public speaking, face-to-face networking and media outreach. If you have a publisher, coordinate your efforts.

2. Tweak your plan. Stay flexible. When my book Historic Hotels of Texas was released, I booked speaking gigs and book signings with anyone, anywhere, anytime. After I realized that women 40 and older bought more copies than any other group, I targeted organizations with that demographic. I instantly sold more books at those events.

3. If you have the money, hire a publicist. A book publicist experienced in your genre is worth every penny. Interview two or three companies before you select one; I did and then hired PR by the Book. When Historic Hotels of Texas was released, the firm helped me land several radio and TV interviews that I wouldn’t have gotten on my own.

4. Polish your presentations skills. You’ll engage more readers and sell more books if you can combine public presentations with book signings. If you’re not a polished speaker, get help from a speech coach. Offer your presentation to groups whose membership best fits your target market and schedule your own workshops or presentations centered on your book’s topic. Also consider posting videos and podcasts.

I realize that book promotion has many more truths and to-dos than those included here, but I hope this information will at least give aspiring authors a reality check about what’s ahead. What would you add to either of these lists?

Liz Carmack is a freelance writer, editor and researcher. She founded Liz Carmack Communications in 2006. Liz began her career as a newspaper journalist and has also helped craft messaging and manage communications projects for nonprofits and government agencies. Her most recent book, Rodeo Austin: Blue Ribbons, Buckin’ Broncs, and Big Dreams, is published by Texas A&M University Press.