Book Promotion: Publishing’s Worst-Kept Secret

Are you publishing your book through an academic press? If so, let’s talk about book promotion.

Worst-Kept Secret in the Industry

Not every academic press publisher will tell you directly but they’re all thinking it. It’s known as the worst-kept secret in the industry:

Don’t count on us to promote your book beyond listing it in the current catalog and sending out a few press releases and review copies.

The traditional publishing contract is adversarial. It pits publisher against author in a win-lose arena, or just treats the author as nonexistent. It offers little in the way of promotional help.

But it doesn’t have to be that way

What They Should Do

In negotiations, you have a right to expect a minimum promotional effort. For instance, although they probably won’t put you on tour, they certainly should send you an author’s contact sheet where you can list

  • academics who you think might adopt your book for classroom use,
  • every journal you know of that might review it, and
  • any other individuals or organizations that you think might review it on their blogs or purchase bulk copies;

They should reach out to your contacts when you send the list.

They should give you a page on their website.

What You Can Do

Suggest conferences and book fairs where they should display the book or where you should do signings and give talks. Covid-19 has changed the landscape; far more events now take place on Zoom. But live events will return.

Find out how many review copies they plan to send out and demand double, and have names for them. Remember, many review copies can be sent as PDF attachments.

Negotiate in your contract a fair resale clause that allows you to purchase books at fifty percent off the list price to resell at list (see my upcoming “The Drunk Lawyer Clause,” coming March 14, 2022). With that incentive, set up your own website and sell books from it.

Reformat Their Book Promotion Press Releases

Make sure they send you electronic copies of any press releases they write. You then can reformat them on your own personal or business letterhead, personalize them, and change the contact information to your own.  

Their promotion budget is based on the assumption that you have no interest in doing any of the legwork to sell your own book. Why wouldn’t you? You care about its success.

You Do Promo; They Pick Up Tab

On the other hand, if they do want to use you for promotion, make sure it is clear that they pick up the tab. For instance, your boilerplate may contain the following clause:

The Author agrees to appear in person at reasonable times and places upon the request of the Publisher.

If it does, insert the following sentences:

Publisher shall pay all related costs for lodging, transportation, and meals. Speaking fees will remain negotiable for each appearance.

Initial all changes.

Be Partners in the Book Promotion Adventure

Remember, no matter who publishes your book, you have to promote it. Educate your publisher to see you as a partner in your book’s success, not a competitor, so you can afford to promote it.

By sharing their promotional material with you, they encourage you to sell your own books. Your sales bring free money to the press. It’s a win-win.

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This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. Ken’s other books may be found here and here. For book coaching and editing help, or to invite Ken to speak at your meeting, email Ken at [email protected].

Do your members need to understand book contracts? Contact Ken at [email protected].

Schedule your complimentary 30-minute coaching and editing session now.

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