Promote Your Book with Your Values

From Jane Friedman:

Like many authors, I had a book to promote during the COVID-19 pandemic and still today each one of us faces the threat of illness and too little bandwidth for a promotional blitz. Shilling our wares can be draining, so I decided to ask the unreasonable from my book promotion: that it give me something back.

At first this felt like a short cut. I was juggling Long-COVID, a full-time job, and the raising of a teen, so it seemed necessary to do what made me happy rather than adding to my exhaustion. I realized, looking back on past events, that the way to gain energy from book promotion is to focus on my values.

I’ll admit that this awareness started somewhat by accident. During the long promotion for a book of essays on chronic pain, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System, I was asked to do a few workshops for people with chronic pain hosted by nonprofit organizations. As I enjoy teaching and interacting with workshop participants, I knew how to promote and prep for these events. Unlike a reading, where I often feel like I’m begging audience members to sit passively and listen to me for an hour, a class felt like a dialogue, a chance to connect, even if it was on Zoom.

Then I started to think about the numbers. As an author, I’ve experienced the discomfort of an in-person reading with two people in the audience, both of whom are bookstore employees. The time invested in planning a reading—never mind the task of getting a bookstore to agree to host a university press author—rarely offered meaningful returns in terms of book sales or visibility.

When I began to offer free workshops with writing prompts built around my book’s theme, my audience counts were ten times what I’d been able to pull in for a reading. Plus, the focus shifted from “me” to “us”: I got a chance to interact and be spontaneous, to read and hear writing from participants, to dialogue about questions that emerged from writing prompts, and even to do some writing myself.

So when I had my next book to promote—an essayistic memoir about a single day in my life (Supremely Tiny Acts: A Memoir of a Day)—I thought up a format for online classes that allowed participants to write and share on what had happened to them that very day. These “Day-Ins” ended up providing moments of calm focus amid our anxious pandemic lives and were, even over Zoom, a great social bonding activity.

This doesn’t mean that every book promotion event needs to be a class. Instead, I realized, I wanted to do book events that do double duty, that allow me to align the things I care about with the time I spend on promotion. My personal values include community engagement, but they also include a wide array of causes from disability rights to racial justice to the environment.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG recognizes that, for the author of the OP, there is more than a little desire to evangelize her discoveries and improve the lot of humanity in general.

While PG doesn’t doubt that the gatherings and classes described in the OP were an enjoyable experience for the participants and are certainly a twist on the typical book tour, he wonders whether this is the best use of quite a few hours and more than a bit of energy by an author.

How many potential purchasers of the author’s books were reached? Yes, PG is certain that at least some of the attendees told their friends about the experience and some of those friends purchased the book, but what is the best use of an author’s time these days?

The online classes were certainly more productive than an old-fashioned if-this-is-Tuesday-I-must-be-in-Baltimore book tour for traditional bookstores, but it still took a lot of time.

PG’s assessment would be somewhat different if the Zoom classes had been recorded, then put online where anyone could access them. If he missed that in the OP, he apologizes for his oversight.

His point is that an author only has so much time and energy to expend during a day, week, month, year, and he suspects that, for many authors, that time and energy might be best focused on writing another high-quality book.

But, as usual, PG could be mistaken.

4 thoughts on “Promote Your Book with Your Values”

    • Sadly, in the “self-help” subsegment, it’s darned difficult to tell the difference. Not for all authors, but a distressingly high proportion in that subsegment tend to use public presentations as “zero drafts” of their next books.† So perhaps it’s both kinds: A dessert topping and a floor wax (and just as effective… and appetizing…).

      † I’ve not only seen it in action, I’ve seen it advised by editors at commercial publishers with major presences in that subsegment. I’ve also heard an agent who handles multiple authors in the area advise others (of her client-authors) to consider doing so.

      • Other genres too.
        For the past two months Peter Zeihan has been all over dishing out recent demographic and economic data and his interpretation of what it means for global geopolitics.

        https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=zeihan+on+geopolitics

        His new book is out next week. Just a coincidence, of course…

        Lots of others play that game with their own youtube channels which after all, are revenue generators. So rather than just decorate a bookstore for a day or more, these folks put out minipresentations regularly that build their brand, present their vision, promote their books, and make money as well. Just another way the ancien regime is withering.

        (Kinda like KU vs Permafree.)

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