Reflections at the Intersection of American History, Religion, Politics, and Academic Life
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).
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.