Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to Promote Your Academic Book

During my visit to the AHA book exhibit this weekend I noticed that Mark Cheatham's new biography of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Jackson: Southerner, was prominently displayed at the Louisiana State University Press booth.  In fact, while I was visiting the booth I noticed someone buying a copy (the next to last one). 

Over at his blog, Jacksonian America, Cheatham has been doing a series called "The Evolution of a Book."  He began (Part 1) with "Choosing a Topic."  His latest post in the series (Part 15) is "Promoting Your Book."

Here is as taste:

Once I had a pretty firm idea of when the book would be out, I began targeting approximately 100 groups and organizations with e-mails about speaking. (I prefer corresponding via e-mail for a couple of reasons: it allows me to preserve an accurate record of who I’ve contacted and what was said and because I’m not sure how many people keep track of snail mail nowadays.) I compiled the list from my professional and personal networks, groups I’ve previously spoken to, groups with a clear connection to Andrew Jackson, and suggestions from other colleagues. I have had a booking success rate of approximately 25%, and I have received answers (either affirmative or negative) from almost everyone I contacted.
Scheduling talks in some organized manner is key. For example, once I booked a talk in South Carolina for spring break, I reached out to other organizations in that area or along the way to see if the timing would work for them. In that case, I was able to schedule four talks in one trip. Organized coordinating has also been important because of my teaching schedule. With limited days on which I can travel, even if it’s in the area, I need to know what dates/times are feasible for me and if I can offer an alternate date for a group if there’s a conflict.
The South Carolina trip I mentioned actually offers a nice segue into a dicey topic: honoraria/travel funds. Some groups are upfront about whether they will offer either of these; most, however, are not. Some have even asked me to name my fee. The best advice I can give is to try to at least break even financially. If you have to travel two hours to give a talk, I don’t think it’s uncouth to ask for enough of a fee to pay for your gas. If the talk requires an overnight stay, requesting lodging shouldn’t come as a surprise to the organization.
Anyone who has published an academic book with potential crossover appeal to a general reading audience should read Cheatham's post.