Your Book Is Out! Ten Tips For Promoting It

Strap in and hang on! It's a wild ride ahead...Image by via Flickr

My second book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” was published April 14, 2011 in the U.S. and April 19 in Canada.

It’s been full-on ever since!

I’ve done:

Radio interviews with shows in: D.C. (four, three of them national), St. Louis, Irvine, CA, Portland, Ore.; Vancouver, Winnipeg, New York, Chicago, Buffalo.

One TV show, a half-hour in Toronto on BNN with a retail analyst and professor of retail management.

Print interviews, including the Financial Times, New York Times and Associated Press and Marie-Claire to the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and Canadian Press.

I’ve also spoken at six events in a month, with engagements lined up through October.

If you’re about to publish a book, these tips will help you through the fun, wearying, non-stop job of telling everyone about it:

Carry your book and/or its postcard everywhere. (And business cards.)

I mean everywhere. I’ve handed them out while airborne, while standing in line to check my baggage at an airport, at the hair salon, at my local framing shop…I missed the opportunity of a lifetime recently when I bumped into Anderson Cooper at a Toronto television station — and had nothing to hand him. Most people are delighted to meet an author. Having something tangible to refer to will help them remember to buy the book.

Stay well-groomed and dressed.

Many writers work alone at home, often in sloppy and comfy clothes. Once you’re out and in the public eye, you’re on! People who’ve never met an author are often thrilled to do so; in their eyes, (true!) your ability to get a book published is a huge achievement. Look and dress the part! Keep your hair cut (and color) in top shape, mani and pedi fresh,  so that surprise invitations to speak or do a media interview won’t panic you.

Splurge on a few new, confidence-building outfits. I spent a heart-stopping amount on some terrific clothes, and made sure they fit and were accessorized before the book was out.

When I received a surprise invitation to address the sales staff of Marie-Claire, a women’s fashion magazine, (while I was on the road with no time to go home from Toronto), I was fine, thanks to my new go-to gear. I felt totally comfortable in a room full of very chic listeners.

Ignore reviews.

OK, you won’t, but try.

Like me, “Malled”, has a strong voice and unvarnished opinions — and outspoken women, especially in the U.S., can really piss people off.

It’s already got 45 reviews on amazon, many  of them positive. But many of the negative ones attack me personally, calling me everything from princess to racist. It’s stressful to be name-called, and really annoying to know you just can’t reply. Unless a review is truly libelous or defamatory, it’s not worth it.

Book-sellers are your new best friends!

Visit as many bookstores as possible and autograph any copies of your book they have on hand.

If they have the time or interest, tell them a little about you or how the book came to be. If you’ve done, or are about to do, any local media coverage that might bring shoppers into their store, let them know so they can be sure to have copies on hand.

Say thank-you. Be gracious. They’re our ambassadors!

Stay rested, exercised, hydrated and well-fed.

Every event is a performance that demands focus, and emotional and intellectual energy to do well. Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Keep a full cup of cool water at hand every time you speak.

Take some media or speech training to prepare.

I discovered a great coach on LinkedIn, a young woman named Christine Clapp, who prepped me for NPR’s popular Diane Rehm show — I would be on-air, before two million listeners, for an hour. She taught me some vocal and physical exercises to do before every interview or event and reviewed, and critiqued, the video of a keynote I gave last year at a retail conference. My confidence has improved immeasurably as a result.

It’s a roller-coaster.

Strap in and hang on! It’s a wild ride.

You’ll experience lovely highs: your book party, publication date, good reviews, positive media attention — and some tough lows: negative, even nasty reviews, people who just don’t get your point, events with an audience of one, events where no one buys the book, radio show call-in hecklers.

Enjoy the experience, but don’t take it to heart.

Stay on-message.

I did a Chicago radio show that had promised me four to eight minutes…and barely gave me one. Good thing I named the book’s full title in my first sentence! Decide the three key things you want to share with your audience and repeat them in every media interview.

Keep a cheat sheet handy.

I have a one-sheet, in 18-point type, of my major talking points. It’s easy to forget or get caught up in the moment, certainly on live radio.

While I was on the Diane Rehm show, a male caller sneered: “Why should I buy this book? What value does it have beyond being….entertainment?” I had my talking points beside the mike, made them, and got emails from listeners praising my poise.

Enjoy it all!

It’s easy to freak out — sales are too low, too slow, audiences too small or silent. Authors who have published, as I have both times, with a commercial house, face their very high expectations of fast, steady sales.

With 1,500 books published every day, we all face challenges getting ours noticed.


It’s a thrill to see your book in the store, to get to know book-sellers and hear their thoughts, to know that total strangers all over the place are reading and loving it; to read the Google alerts letting you know that libraries are buying it; watching your little map at amazon’s Author Central tell you how many people bought it where — 47 in Chicago! 45 in Phoenix!

Bonus tip:

Always being your A-game, as you never know who’s in your audience or who they know.

Two recent examples: I went to lunch recently with my softball buddies of eight years, all old friends. Some new guy was there, 73. I said hi and introduced myself — he’s a producer for a major network TV news show and now wants a copy of the book. Yesterday I spoke at a local library event and the author sitting beside me is a freelance producer for CNN.

Even events that feel like a wash — like one where I drove 40 minutes each way, sold no books and did not get paid — had in its audience a friendly and helpful local journo who hooked me up for a great event, some serious library sales and three great ideas for events in her area — complete with names and contact numbers.

Now….what’s your next book about?

36 thoughts on “Your Book Is Out! Ten Tips For Promoting It

  1. Great tips, thanks!

    They read like a long list of things that could be taken for granted, but this is coming from someone who has never published a book, of course.

    Even so, these are great tips for any writer who is busy trying to make something of their career – have answers to your opinions, have copies of your written material available, always dress well/impressively when out and about, always be prepared to meet you don’t expect to meet, don’t listen to reviews (or as I like to think, be careful what reviews you listen to), life goes up and down so keep your head up all the time, know what you know and how to talk about it quickly and to the point because you never know who is going to be listening for thirty seconds – they might just stop and say “can you elaborate on that?” or “would you like a book deal?” – yeah, right!!! 😉

    So, all I need now is a publisher and to be independently wealthy so as I can find the time to write my book. Did I mention I need a subject???

  2. This is a great post! Really appreciate your frank nature, and the rich information. Best of luck as things continue to unfold with your book!

  3. Well, the sad truth is that I might have missed some of these opportunities (OK, I did) on my first book.

    It is such bloody hard work to get a book sold and published that, unless you’re cranking out one a year (and some people do), you’ve got to maximize every second of visibility when you do have one. Readers are overwhelmed with choice and have short attention spans!

  4. Caitlin, even though you have written this for writers, your information can pertain to any of us who have a product to promote. Great tips!

    I bought and read Getting Malled several weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Many, many ago years I worked retail and had forgotten much of what it was like to be on the other side of the counter. Since reading it have found myself a little more tolerant less impatient and more forgiving. Thank you.

    1. Thanks…Glad you read Malled and liked it: I’d REALLY appreciate a 4 or 5 star review from you at amazon, as the negative reviews are extremely harsh.

      I’ve had many people tell me the book has changed how they treat associates, and I am honored that it has an effect.

  5. It can be tough sometimes just writing, even if it is not for paid publication, but most of us do it anyway because it usually allows us to “connect” with others. It is difficult and can even be impossible to become a published author, and even then it can be very hard to keep any momentum.
    Your information here is very informative and honest.
    It is not the same now as it used to be for writers, because writers can no longer be just a writer. It may mean being your own publisher in some cases, and even if you get an agent and the agent gets you signed with a traditional publisher you still have to know about marketing and PR and how to market yourself.

    I wish you MUCH SUCCESS Caitlin.

  6. I’m never becoming a published author… it’s bloody hard work!!

    Good thing that’s unlikely to happen. Heh.

    I went through the first page of your reviews on Amazon (since you posted the link), and I found it interesting that the positive reviews focused on the book and its contents, and the negative ones focused on the reviewer’s perception of you as a person. I suppose public feedback works like that in general, but boy, was that a glaring example!

    1. This is the part I am finding tedious. Fair, smart criticism (the book is repetitive in spots, why yes it is) versus “you’re pretentious” is the issue. It’s a pain in the ass to have so many strangers pulling my hair in lieu of making some intelligent analysis or response to the WORK.

  7. Great post! I think the biggest tip you gave is to not read reviews. This goes with a lot of businesses as well. With review sites like Yelp and Angie’s list, it can ebe easy to get down if you get an upset customer. Thanks for sharing!

      1. To be honest, I use Yelp on my iPhone, and I get stuck in the same trap. If a company has enough bad reviews, even if I see good ones, I choose a different business. Same goes with purhcasing books as well. It’s a mentality that is hard to break. I’m in Marketing and I KNOW that things like this are self-electing, meaning it will be mostly very happy or very upset customers, yet I still buy into it.

  8. Nicole, what would you suggest I do…if anything?

    I’ve asked many friends who are authors and everyone warns me NOT to respond to any of the negative reviews as it makes me look defensive and whiny — and it can go viral and hurt me even more. I also find some of these comments so personal and rude there is not much to say back but “Piss off.”

    Right now, there are still more 4 and 5 star reviews than 1-star, and the tone of the positive reviews is notably very different — not emotional and weird.

    1. From a marketing perspective, what we would normally do is run a campaign that encourages people to go and review the book. If you have a large following on facebook or twitter, the only people that will really follow you are those that enjoy your writing, so it should boost your good (or at least, educated and thought out) reviews. I would also encourage friends and family to review as well.

      On the other side of the coin, I wonder about businesses that only have 5 star reviews, so I think its important to have a small balance there. I noticed some iphone apps will have 2 pages of great reviews, but if you dig deeper, it turns out they had a bunch of their employees go and give it great reviews, because the trend isn’t consistent after page 2.

      The last thing I would keep in mind is that while I admit I get sucked into the “bad” reviews, I usually try to pay attention to the ones that say something like “the service was terrible” and not “this restaurant is stuipd”…there is a level of thoughtfulness that has to go into a bad review before it catches my attention.

      Don’t let the reivews get you down! 🙂

      1. Thanks. I have done this — whenever someone tells me how much they enjoyed Malled, I ask them to write a review for me, and they have. I don’t think it’s right to go out campaigning. And, frankly, if I was some random person on amazon, I doubt I would read all 45 reviews!

        Nickeled and Dimed (to which Malled has been compared) is equally divided into raves and boos…

  9. Thank you for sharing! I’m so glad I found your blog. You have really shown me the level of dedication and hard work that is required in promoting a book. And I thought the writing part was difficult!

    I admire that you acknowledge you have received negative feedback, but try not to take it to heart. You’re a true professional. Ignoring criticism will be the toughest part for me.

    My novel is about a young woman who tries to uncover the reason behind her sister’s suicide. It’s my first novel and therefore my baby. I need to get a bit detached from it before it’s released to the world.

  10. Julia, thanks for visiting….

    Writing is, for me, the easiest part. Having my work and ideas ripped to shreds by strangers…not so much fun! You have to give it your best, find an agent and editor and publisher (not easy) who will also do this….and hope. You cannot control how people will react to the work and often, kind or not, it’s more about their own issues than anything on the page.

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  12. jacquelincangro

    Great tips Caitlin! I like the one about staying on message. I was interviewed on NPR for my book The Subway Chronicles and I remember being so nervous I could have easily gotten off track and started talking about what I ate for lunch that day.

    I’m going to add the link to this post in my Sunday publishing/writing round-up.

  13. jacquelincangro

    Great tips Caitlin! I like the one about staying on message. I was interviewed on NPR for my book The Subway Chronicles and I remember being so nervous I could have easily gotten off track and started talking about what I ate for lunch that day.

    I’m going to add the link to this post in my Sunday publishing/writing round-up on The Writers’ Salon.

    1. Thanks…It is so easy to ramble or stray when we’re nervous. Best to NOT get nervous at all and look forward to each interview. But having my cheat sheet with my major talking points handy was really helpful. It’s easy to get “social” and start responding nicely in an interview but end up far away from why you’re there in the first place!

  14. Smart, practical advice, Caitlin; I just posted a link to my blog. I especially like that you mention the physical side of promoting…it’s demanding work and you need to be firing on all cylinders to make the most of it.

    And FWIW, I have some nasty reviews on my novels on that still tick me off, seven years later. Hard not to take them personally, I know! 🙂

    1. Hey, thanks! I just recommended your freelancing book to a friend.

      I think people forget how tiring the promotion can be, no matter how much fun it is. I finally wound down about two weeks ago and only now starting to feel I have a lot of energy again.

      Rough reviews are…rough. Every single nasty reviewer should pause long enough to consider what is of value in our books. No book is all garbage, and many “reviews” are mere tantrums.

  15. Great advice, Caitlin. When I started writing a column for my local newspaper, and people started recognizing me in our very small town, I realized I better not go to town ever again with my gardening clothes on and my hair like a tornado touched down on my head! Also, my behavior caught me one day when I wanted to get snippy with an incompetent sales clerk. From now on, it’s best behavior for me…just like I expect from my kids!
    I’ve only self-pubbed ebooks so far. But never thought about carrying some kind of card to advertise them. Thanks for mentioning that, too.

    1. I went into my local Banes & Noble on the weekend to buy a newspaper — and looked like hell, all sweaty in a Tshirt and bike shorts — and the sales associate said “I’m reading your book!” Ooops. So much for looking good.

      Although there’s a Big Name Writer in my small town who wears one thing….black sweats…that’s it. He can surely afford much better but clearly doesn’t care.

  16. Your tips are very helpful, and I’m already practicing a few of them. Now I just need to get the book published so I can use them.

    I look forward to reading your book, Malled. Several of the “not the best years of my life” were spent in retail.

    Granted I don’t know you well, but I think if anyone can handle negative comments, it’s you.

    Congratulations on your books. Just getting them written and published is an awesome accomplishment.

    1. Dawne, thanks! I thought I was tougher than I am..:-)

      It hasn’t dinged my confidence; if you really want to get published, you quickly (must) develop ways of coping with all sorts of stress and rejection. It feels good to have gotten two books done…hoping to do several more.

  17. The tips are realistic and daunting. Getting a handle on all the ways in which we must specialize — not just in our writing and the research that requires, but he research to understand social media, marketing, promotion, self-promotion, radio voice, and all else you mentioned — well — better get crackin’!
    Thanks for the professional approach review.

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