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
- 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,
–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
–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
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
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and let people know about your book. Good luck!
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.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: email@example.com.