Promoting Your New Book: What It Really Takes

My second non-fiction book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Portfolio) was published April 14. Yay!

But as every author knows — and every would-be author must learn — I’ve been working on promoting it long before the manuscript was finished and accepted for publication, in September 2010.

Today, (for which I’m grateful), it’s two radio interviews — Phoenix and D.C. — and a New York Times interview. Yesterday it was the Brian Lehrer Show and Tuesday was an hour of live radio with the legendary Diane Rehm, who has two million listeners.

(All of these are archived on their websites.)

Sleep? Sleep?

Here are some of the many things I’ve been doing to help get the word out, from local attention and events in my little town of 10,000 north of New York City to reviews and blog posts about it in Australia, Ireland, Canada and Holland:

Registered the domain name and hired my longtime web designer to create a website for the book. He updates its press and media page almost daily with new audio, reviews and clips.

Created a Facebook page. Please visit and like it!

Signed up at HARO, a three-times-daily website heavily used by 5,000 reporters worldwide seeking sources/experts to interview and quote. (This works only for non-fiction writers, but well worth it. I snagged a Wall Street Journal blogger this way.)

Began blogging in July 2009 for True/Slant, a website (later bought by Forbes,) with a final monthly audience of 10,000 visitors and 239 subscribers

Began blogging at in September 2010

Began blogging here at wordpress in August 2010

Reached out to every single person I interviewed for the book to let them know the book’s publication date, asking them to tweet, blog and mention it on all their social networks and tell their family, friends and colleagues

I visit LinkedIn once a week to answer as many questions as possible, using my book title as my professional signature

I tweet about retail, the subject of my book

I started targeting colleges, universities and community colleges, locally and elsewhere, that teach retailing to see if I might give a guest lecture and sell books; three have said yes, so far

I reached out to the Canadian consulate in New York, (I’m Canadian), and asked them to mention the book in their newsletter and on their website and to create an event for me

I did the same with the University of Toronto, my alma mater; I’m speaking there May 28 at 10:00 a.m. Come visit!

I contacted local businesses and asked some of of them to keep a stack of my book’s postcard on their desks and counters

A local coffee shop — which has more than 2,000 Facebook friends — is letting me do a reading there

A local reading non-profit group where I volunteered is holding an event for me in their space and inviting their friends and fellow volunteers

I contacted a local indie film center to see if we could schedule a film night linked to my book’s themes of shopping, low-wage labor or working retail

I attended the two-day 15,000 person National Retail Federation annual conference in Manhattan and took two people to help me walk the entire floor for two days to hand out postcards and gather potential contacts for speaking, consulting, writing and book sales

I did a brief video for NRF while there extolling retail as a possible career

I collected contact information at the conference from several professors of retailing who might use the book as a text or have me guest lecture or speak

I contacted a Canadian retail blogger attending NRF who did a long video interview with me which will go up on YouTube and who blogged about me twice

I met another high-profile retail blogger for coffee, (while in her Canadian city on family business)

I asked my publisher to give me 5,000 postcards with the book’s cover on one side, a great blurb on the other, and a description of the book and my contact information on the back; I use them instead of a business card now, have used them for book party invitations and hand them to anyone who might find it useful

I’ve written — without pay — several guest blog posts at sites with far more readers than I have, like the Guide to Literary Agents (they approached me) and the Harvard Business Review blog (ditto)

I read dozens of blogs every single day to find sites and posts where I can leave a useful comment

I called a local language school teaching foreign students — who all shop like crazy in Manhattan! — and asked if I could come and talk; they said yes

I called a local independent bookstore and asked if I could do an event there; yes

I reached out to an editor I know at a regional magazine and they did a Q & A with me

I wrote, for pay, an essay for my alumni magazine about working retail

I contacted a local freelancer who profiled me for a local monthly newspaper

I contacted a local radio talk show host who is giving me an hour of air-time

And that’s not even the half of it…

So far, I’ve lined up more than 14 speaking events, several well-paid, like the closing keynote for the retailcustomerexperience conference this summer. I’m always looking for more!

What sorts of things have you done to successfully promote your book(s)?

Any great blogs or websites we should know about?

I’ll give a copy of my book to the person who offers the best suggestion!

24 thoughts on “Promoting Your New Book: What It Really Takes

  1. Wow– I haven’t written any books of my own to promote (yet), but it sounds like you have done an incredible amount of work to get word of your book out to the masses! I hope that your strategies reward you with increased exposure and, of course, plenty of book sales. Fingers crossed! 🙂

    1. Dana, thanks….It is a crazy amount of (unpaid, even expensive) work, but when my competitors are doing this (and playing games like trading services with clients who’ll buy a ton of their books), you gotta do it!

  2. Your efforts will definitely pay off, Caitlin. You are dedicated and determined (and very organized!). This is a great list. I’m going to keep it as a reference for when I finish a draft of my novel. I wish you great success with your book!

    1. Cool! Email me off the website and I’ll get the publicist to send you a copy right away…thanks!

      I’d also really appreciate (if you like it!) a short review on where such things really make a difference to would-be buyers.

  3. Have you read The book by Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing? – – From memory I think 101 ways to make poems sell. Its on my bookcase but I’m moving house so lots of stuff hidden away. But you seem to have got a lot of what he talks about covered. Networking, personal contacts and appearances, etc. Good luck with it all, I hope it goes well.


  4. This is amazing, Caitlin! I’ve watched (and applauded!) the way you grew this idea from the start, turned an experience into a book, and promoted it masterfully. You’re my hero.

    I read about your book everywhere now, and that’s the way it should be. People don’t realize the intensity of the work of book promotion that leads to your “discovery” by the media. It’s paying off now, congratulations.

    I hope I can follow in your path as I promote my upcoming book, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex.

    Best to you and your book!

    Joan Price

    1. Thanks!

      You, of all people, know it is an insane amount of non-stop work to let people know about your book(s) and hope they care enough to buy it and tell others they liked it.

      Some of “Malled’s” visibility right now is luck and timing…my book benefits — and I do not use that word lightly — from a recession that will not end anytime soon. Many, many people are taking low(er) level jobs they do not love because they now must. There is current interest in this topic that did not exist even a year ago, and I am very aware of that.

  5. Pingback: Promoting Your New Book: What It Really Takes (via Broadside) « Cheryl Andrews

  6. Thanks very much for sharing your success steps, Caitlin. I’d like to explore the best tie-in to my own retail-related topic to help get the word out about your book via!

    1. What a terrible story you have! I hope you are recovered from your injuries.

      I’ll mention this on Malledthebook’s FB page. I’d appreciate you adding a link or doing a blog post about “Malled”…

  7. Very interesting and informative list. Just shows that writers simply cannot expect their book to market itself, especially in today’s crowded market. Shows that with a bit if initiative and motivation, and the embracing of social media (of which I’m not a fan, but, hey, what can you do – kinda like shopping malls), a book might have a chance out there. All the very best for your book’s success!

  8. Nigel, thanks.

    I wonder if it would be any different in a smaller market like Australia or Canada….the U.S., where I live and work, has 300+ million people, only a small fraction of whom buy books (mostly female.) I am not a huge fan of social media in this respect but it has made reaching out quickly, cheaply and globally possible. I can also, (and am doing so) focusing through SM on a number of niche audiences for Malled: retail employers and workers; managers; management consultants; HR experts, book bloggers…

    Any writer who thinks a book will market itself is unaware of the intense competition for readers’ very limited time, money and attention. I know, from my newspaper writing work, how tough it is find and keep eyeballs on one’s copy!

  9. Gee, you really challenge yourself! Moving from one difficult, life-consuming job to a surprisingly difficult, life-stifling job, and then writing a book about it! I worked for 4 years in retail to support myself through college and it varied between slack and unbelievably tough. The stereotype that floor workers are just people who don’t have the brains or drive to ‘go higher’ is, as you say, alive and well, and is so deeply ingrained in our culture that even after a couple of years in the role I still saw it as ‘just a crappy job’. I think if the successes of a good retail worker were actually documented, like the way accountants or scientists produce documents to show off what they’ve done – rather than just slipping into the memory of a satisfied customer – it would be more appreciated as a role.

    1. Thanks…

      The retail job (I hope you’ll check out the book!) was really, as I write, a refuge for me…I was let go from my newspaper job and had really lost self-confidence after a not-fun year there, then couldn’t find a proper “$$$” job…so retail seemed like a place I might work (hard!) but put myself back together again. I learned a tremendous amount about myself and others, and was grateful for the kindness and humor of my retail managers (much nicer than journalism!) I needed to just show up, work hard, see what happened next. I needed a warm, dry, forgiving place. I found all that in our store.

      You, the scientist who truly understands the value of hard data, are so right about this! I mention this problem in every media interview now, because the “soft skills” with which we sell so well are never ever captured or quantified. In which lies permanent wage-slavery.

  10. All I can say is, “Whew!” An eye-opener for someone with dreams of becoming a freelancer. Thanks for giving me a boost of excitement as I sit here bored, with a false sense of security, at my day job, planning my next move.

    1. I grew up in a family of freelancers so I saw firsthand what kind of energy, determination and hustle it takes! I think many people have tremendous “get me outta here!!!” fantasies of fleeing a job….but you are also fleeing benefits, paid sick leave and vacation and holidays, steady income that will be there every few weeks. I have waited months for payment from some freelance clients and even had to sue two publishers in the fall of 2008. Not fun!

      Jobs can be tedious as hell, but so is chasing freelance checks owed to you when the rent is due.

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