(Previous entries in this series: Pts. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.)
One of the things I never expected to do was market my books. In my ignorance, I assumed that a team of press staff would make sure the books were in every bookstore from Barnes & Noble to the museum in my home town. I thought they would set up book signings and interviews, in the process making me (and them) MILLIONS!
Okay, my expectations weren’t that extravagant, but I really had no clue that a lot of the responsibility for getting publicity for books published by university presses fell to authors. So be prepared to answer a marketing questionnaire at some point in the process, and expect it to be one of the more onerous tasks of publishing a book.
Why is that? Let me give you a sense of what LSU Press asked for in its questionnaire. In addition to basic questions addressing the book’s title, main arguments, and target audiences, it asked for publications, both academic and general, that might review the book. Listing academic journals was easy, but beyond that, I struggled. The questionnaire also requested the names and contact information for media outlets, bookstores, and other entities that might host a book signing or conduct an interview. It also wanted a list of prizes that the book might be submitted for. (Was listing the Pulitzer a mistake on my part?) I also had to compile a list of e-mail addresses of individuals who might want to receive notice of the book’s publication. Finally, I had to recommend colleagues who might write a blurb for the dust jacket. (Parents aren’t explicitly banned, but assume that they shouldn’t go on that list.)
As you can see, the questionnaire takes a bit of time to complete, and the work falls on the author. Don’t get the impression that university presses don’t want your book to succeed. They do, but they simply don’t have the staff to give each book the individual attention that the authors hope for and expect. Press staff are doing the best they can with limited resources, and the questionnaire helps them focus their energy in the most productive ways.
Ultimately, the author has to become his/her own publicist. S/he will need to take the initiative and personally generate buzz about the book. It probably won’t come naturally, and you should remain modest, but don’t avoid asking your local newspaper to give you an interview about your book and don’t be shy about calling up a local bookstore and asking if you could have a book signing. In all likelihood, if you don’t do it, no one will.
Update: Or you can just watch Joseph Adelman‘s suggestion:
Pt. 11 is here.