August 2013
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MARKETING OUR BOOKS: HOW CAN AUTHORS HELP?
Joe McVeigh, Independent Consultant, Middlebury, Vermont, USA & Laurel Pollard, Educational Consultant, Tucson, Arizona, USA

 

Joe McVeigh

Laurel Pollard

Now that your book is published, it’s going to sell thousands of copies, isn’t it? Well, you certainly hope so, and with luck, your publisher is out there doing most of the work for you. But chances are your publisher has lots of other books to sell, too, so what are you going to do to help? Many of us who are writers are not the most outgoing types, but we need and want to get the word out about our books. This article identifies three ways to think about marketing our books: working with the publisher, using traditional marketing tools, and marketing in the digital age. In preparing for a discussion group on this topic at TESOL 2013 in Dallas, we solicited ideas from publishers on how authors can help in the marketing process. Those ideas are included as well.

Working With Your Publisher

First off, try working with your publisher. If you can, get together with the marketing department. They’ve crafted a specific message for your book. Find out what it is and stick to the story line. Publishers are busy, so offer to do what you can for them. Can you give a commercial presentation? Spend time at the publisher’s booth at conferences.

  • Be available and approachable at conferences at the booth and after sessions. Attendees enjoy talking to the presenter and sharing their own classroom experiences. We are still in a business where personal connections matter. Let instructors get to know you and your approach. It's likely that the instructors you talk to just might help to spread the word to other instructors and market your product for you, too!
    Sheryl Borg, Cambridge University Press
  • Don’t criticize the publisher when presenting your product. (E.g., don't say, “I wanted feature X in the book, but the publisher made me take it out.”) It makes you look unprofessional. Likewise, don't bad mouth competing products. It's fine to point out the strengths of yours, but not to denigrate someone else's.
    Janet Aitchison, Cambridge University Press

If you know that you will be attending a particular conference, let the publisher know six to eight weeks in advance so that they can have a few copies of your book shipped there. Offer to give or to help give commercial presentations. Depending on where you live and how far you are willing to travel, some publishers encourage their authors to visit schools that are either using your book or considering it. You may not think that having written a book or having worked on a series makes you special, but some teachers will be very excited to meet you. Having your book in print gives you a certain authority and, in the right circumstances, celebrity status!

  • Volunteer to travel with your publisher’s representatives on sales calls. In addition to helping market your books there is the added benefit of hearing firsthand what customers are looking for.
    Ian Martin, National Geographic Learning/Cengage
  • If your book is part of a larger series, get to know the other components of the series and be a team player, rather than pleading ignorance because you didn’t write a particular part.
    –Andreina España, RedNova Learning/Macmillan

Publishers may also want you to help in other ways. If there is a marketing campaign for your book or series, volunteer to help write some of the marketing materials, such as “a letter from the authors.” Volunteer to record a short video or to give a talk. Increasingly, publishers are also asking authors to give webinars that may be academic in nature but that refer to your book. Some publishers would love for you to write a short article or blog post. Don’t wait to be asked, volunteer to do this.

You can also ask your publisher to give you some copies to send out for reviews in journals and newsletters. For example, all the TESOL interest sections are looking for book reviews related to their members’ focus and many TESOL affiliates publish newsletters and are looking for material to fill their pages. For the IS newsletters (including this one), simply write to the newsletter editor through the TESOL community list. For the affiliate newsletters, find someone who lives in that part of the world and ask them to write a review of your book. Publishers are also increasingly willing to display part or even all of a book in an online format. One publisher calls this a virtual book fair. Find out if your publisher does this and, if so, lobby to have your book included.

  • Ask your publisher to provide you with high resolution digital files to use in your presentations [or marketing materials].This looks much more professional than the scans you can make on your own.
    –John Brezinsky, Cambridge University Press

Using Traditional Means of Marketing Your Books

Many authors started out as conference presenters and now is no time to stop. Did you write a reading text? That makes you a reading expert! Submit conference proposals on the topic of reading. Think of how you can contribute to the profession and share your knowledge. Perhaps there might be some useful examples from your book, which you can mention briefly at the end of your talk. You can also use your professional expertise to give professional development workshops. These might be done for a fee, or perhaps you’ll do them as a professional courtesy, but be sure to mention your materials or use them as examples. If you aren’t comfortable speaking in public, practice!

People can’t buy your book unless they know what it is and how to find it. When you give a talk or a workshop, bring along promotional materials with information about your book. You can make small handouts or flyers with a photo of the cover and basic information. Many teachers enjoy bookmarks with details about the books. Some authors make business cards with their contact information on one side and book information on the other. Be sure to include information on how teachers can learn more about your book—perhaps a link to your publisher’s website or to your own. You can make buttons online or stickers using a color printer to give away at the end of your talk. You can also give away your books themselves. Many regional conferences have a raffle of materials. Be sure that your book is included.

Marketing in the Digital Age

To be well-known these days means to have an online presence. Do you have a website or blog? It’s time to get one. It isn’t as hard as all that and if you need help, just ask someone or turn to the many tutorial website design sites on the Web. You can also make use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. There are entire communities of ESL teachers and learners out there. LinkedIn is a good place to connect with others in the profession and you can promote your materials there. You can also publish your conference presentations on SlideShare.

  • Become actively involved in social media and become knowledgeable about digital learning.
    –Mariela Gil, RedNova Learning/Macmillan; Pietro Alongi, Pearson
  • Your book will probably become an ebook and future projects may not even be “books” at all!
    –Jeff Krum, Cambridge University Press

These days, the average undergraduate student knows how to make and edit digital video. If you don’t, find someone nearby who would be willing to help. You can post short videos highlighting your expertise, your book, or your conference talks on YouTube, Vimeo, or your own website. You can also link to these videos using Facebook or Twitter.

Remember that idea about visiting schools? You can now do this remotely while sitting at your computer in your office or at home. Using technology such as Skype or platforms such as Adobe Connect, you can talk to a class of students or a group of teachers who are on the other side of the world. You can also offer webinars on subjects of interest to teachers.

Where is the first place that you turn when you are looking for information about a new book? Chances are that it’s Amazon.com. Even if you aren’t planning to buy the book there, you probably turn there for information. And if your book is on Amazon, you can set up your own Amazon author page complete with a bibliography of all your books, biographical information, photos and videos, and a link to your blog and Twitter feed. Just look for the Author Central section and they’ll explain how easy it is to set it up.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and let people know about your book. Good luck!

SUGGESTED RESOURCES

Hockly, N. (2013). Webinars: A cookbook for educators (Kindle edition). The Round/Amazon.

Johnson, C. (2004). The frugal book promoter: How to do what your publisher won't; or, Nitty-gritty how-tos for getting nearly free publicity. St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands: Star Publish.

McVeigh, J. (2012). Improving your virtual presentation skills. [Electronic resource: online webinar recording]. Retrieved from: http://lancelot.adobeconnect.com/p18p78ycu9v/

Redish, J. (2012). Letting go of the words: Writing web content that works (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann/Elsevier.

Zarrella, D. (2010). The social media marketing book. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly.


Joe McVeigh is coauthor of two books in the Q: Skills for Success series from Oxford University Press and of Tips for Teaching Culture: Practical Approaches to Intercultural Communication from Pearson. He works as an author and independent consultant, often speaking at conferences and providing advice to intensive English programs. He is based in Middlebury, Vermont, USA. You can follow him on Twitter @Joe_McVeigh or email him at  joe@joemcveigh.org. His website, joemcveigh.org, is being renovated, but will soon be open to visitors.

Laurel Pollard is coauthor of six books including the Zero Prep series from ALTA Book Center Publishers and Finding Family from the University of Michigan Press. She works independently as an author and educational consultant, speaks at conferences, and provides professional development workshops for schools. She is based in Tucson, Arizona, USA. Visit her website at http://laurelpollard.com or e-mail her at: lpollard@dakotacom.net.

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Mark Your Calendar
2013
Sept: T&AA Webinar: Pushing Your Writing, Raising Your Profile 17/9/13; 4-5 ET
Dec: Deadline for MWIS Newsletter Articles

2014
Feb: MWIS Newsletter
March: TESOL 2014, Portland (26-29 March)