Promoting Your Book: How to Publicize Your Book

Most authors prefer writing to marketing, but learning how to sell your book is a necessary skill in today’s publishing world.

“Publishers want to know what tools you’re bringing to the table,” said Molly Woolbright, Publicity Manager of the University of Washington Press, who spoke to my spring Seattle Narrative Writing class, The Nature of Narrative. “It’s never too early to start doing this. You want to build these networks out.”

Overview of Book Publicity

An in-house publicist at a traditional publisher works on a variety of books at a time, striving to secure a mix of trade reviews and regional and national media for each. From the general public’s perspective, a book campaign is typically about 3 months long; from an author and publisher’s perspective, the work begins at least 6 months before a book is published.

Long-Lead Media

About 6-8 months out from publication

Advance reader copies (otherwise known as ARCs or galleys) sent to media outlets that work far in advance, including: Print magazines, Trade journals (Publishers WeeklyLibrary JournalBooklist, etc.), Podcasts.

Short-Lead Media

About 1-2 months out from publication

Finished copies sent to media outlets that work on a shorter timeframe, including: Newspapers, radio, TV, blogs.

Local/Regional Media

Often overlooked in favor of bigger or more prestigious national media outlets, your local newspaper, magazines, blogs, radio, and TV stations are a great starting point to build buzz (while still striving for national hits). The Amazon algorithm is fed by any and all publicity, and local media is more likely to take notice.

Optimizing Your Author Platform for Media

Book promotion, regardless of genre, is often more about the author than the book—it’s about you and the expertise you can provide or discussions you can spark. Whether you’re working with an in-house publicist or you’ve hired a freelancer, one of the most helpful steps you can take to assist her efforts in securing media is to boost your online presence.

Website

From a publicity perspective, a website is the most useful asset you can have as an author. Whereas social media is ephemeral, a website offers a consistent representation of you and your work. Think of it like a toolbox where journalists/reviewers/editors can go to find more info.

For more on book promotion and writing technique, please consider signing up for my next Seattle writing class, online writing class or travel writing class through www.thewritersworkshop.net.

The Romance of Travel Writing

Van Gogh painted Starry Night in the part of Provence.

Travel writing is one of the most satisfying and diverting kinds of writing. It calls on all of the skills of a creation nonfiction writer—dramatic scenes, character sketches, concrete detail, point of view, scene by scene construction. It’s very difficult to do well, but here are 10 tips for succeeding at it.

  • MAKE DESTINATION ATTRACTIVE: Make the place sound appealing – Though you can occasionally trash a destination in some publications, most publications insist on painting a positive picture of the place. Why else would a reader bother finishing story?
  • FOCUS ON ITS UNIQUENESS– Try to describe what makes the place distinctive and particular. Avoid talk about sunsets and vistas unless they’re very specific to the place.
  • AVOID CLICHES– Much travel writing is simply riddled with clichés: charming, rustic, romantic, etc. Try to find fresh descriptions of the place.
  • CREATE ONE DOMINANT IMPRESSION – What one idea do you want to leave with the reader about your trip to Katmandu? You can include a myriad of details about the cows, the scooters, the chock-a-block brick buildings, but make sure that they add up to one central idea of the place. Chaos? Rich cultural heritage? At the brink of civil war? Pick one and go with it.
  • SEEK OUT DRAMA, EPIPHANIES – If you’re writing a story about Puerto Vallarta, don’t simply wander around like a tourist and write about your sore feet and aching back. Instead, actively seek out situations which will demonstrate the color and uniqueness of the place. Book a trip with Pedro, the local guide, rather than the big, glitzy resort package. Pedro will more likely yield a rich and colorful story. Example: I booked a fishing trip on board a local boat out of Ixtapa, rather than on board and a big American Cabin Cruiser.
  • If you’d like to learn more about travel writing, sign up for my winter class, Follow the Story, or my Travel Writing in Provence Class.

Pulitzer Prize Winner Speaks to The Writer’s Workshop Writing Class

Rich Read
Pulitzer Prize Winner Rich Read Speaks to The Writer’s Workshop writing class.

Rich Read wanted to tell a story. He’d visited southeast Asia and saw an immense economic crisis unfolding. But how to make that interesting to a general reader of the Oregonian where he worked as a reporter?

“I didn’t want to write an economic treatise because no one would read it,” he said when he spoke to my fall writing class for The Writer’s Workshop. “I wanted to find a product from the Northwest, sold to the middle class, and follow it. I started casting around and came up with idea of French fry which is a multi-billion dollar industry. The russet Burbank potato is perfect for fast food French fries. It was a crazy idea for a regional newspaper.”

The proposal was denied, so he retooled it and sent it again. Denied. Then managing editor Therese Bottomly got wind of it. “I love this story,” she said. “We’ve got to do it.”

Rich was assigned to work with editor Jack Hart, a specialist in narrative writing, and author of Storycraft which I use in my writing courses for The Writer’s Workshop.

“What are you trying to do?” Jack said.

“I want to follow the river of French fries,” Rich explained.

“You want one container to give it drama and specificity,” Jack said. “You need to find one container and follow it around the world.”

Rich took Jack’s advice, found such a container, and wrote a terrific story about French Fries and the global supply chain.

“Writing is always harder than the reporting,” he said. “This was my first try at narrative writing. Jack Hart walked me through how to do it. We chose John McPhee as a model because he’s such a great explanatory writer. Each scene would have a point.”

It ended up being a multipart series and got a great reaction. When Rich returned to the office, there was a bouquet of flowers on the desk and a note, “You’re a finalist for the Pulitzer.”

On day of the awards, the editorial staff gathered in the newsroom to hear he’d won it. “They wheeled in crates of MacDonald’s French fries and champagne,” he says. “It was really great for the paper.”

Read the story here: https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/richard-read.

Richard Read is a freelance reporter based in Seattle, where he was a national reporter and bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times from 2019 to 2021. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he was a senior writer and foreign correspondent for The Oregonian, working for the Portland, Oregon newspaper from 1981 to 1986 and 1989 until 2016.

Set the Scene: How to Write a Dramatic Scene Narrative Writing Class

SUMMARY SCENE OPENINGS – WRITING PROCEDURE

V.S. Naipaul
The Writer’s Workshop classes discuss how V.S. Naipaul uses dramatic scene to tell his stories.

COPYRIGHT THE WRITER’S WORKSHOP

Scenic writing is the basis for some of the most moving, satisfying, sophisticated works of literature. It is especially effective in bringing readers into the story because it helps them create a world, a world that you the writer have inhabited and can share with the reader through words. Scenes present a visual, sensual world the reader can inhabit, a kind of imaginary garden with real toads, whether that’s the world of the astronaut program of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, the vast landscapes of the Southwest in the work of Terry Tempest Williams, or the hard-bitten, humorous Irish Catholic childhood of memoirist Frank McCourt or the travel stories of V.S. Naipaul.

1) SETTING THE SCENE

  1. a) OPENING SENTENCE: Find a sentence that creates suspense and foreshadows what will happen. This makes clear to the reader that information in summary lead is important and needs to be read. In William Stafford’s memoir Down in my Heart, he uses the opening line, “When are men dangerous?” which accomplishes this perfectly.
  2. b) SETTING DETAILS: Provide details that suggest what will happen in scene. These should be chosen for their inherent interest, color and humor and also for what they illustrate about main point of story. For instance, in Down in My Heart, Stafford includes details like “loafing around in the Sabbath calm.” These details help set the scene, and also create suspense. Readers suspect that something will soon shatter this tranquility. The best scenic details do double duty, both painting a picture and creating suspense.
  3. c) NUT GRAPH: After sketching in the scene and introducing the people, the writer makes a transition to the action. This transition is crucial, often spelling out the main point or alerting the reader that something important will happen in the scene. William Stafford’s repetition of the phrase “When are men dangerous?” clues in the reader that the tranquil atmosphere of rural Arkansas is about to end.

This transition usually leads to a nut graph, a paragraph that suggests or explains the larger point or goal of the scene and furnishes its larger context. It’s called a nut graph because it puts all of these things together in a nutshell. Who? What? When? Where? And most importantly, why? As in, why should the reader care? What will the scene accomplish?

For more on how to set a scene, please sign up for my winter narrative and Seattle writing class, Follow the Story.

Photos for next issue of The Writer’s Workshop Review

Flannery-O’Connor for The Writer’s Workshop.

Downtown Bordeaux for The Writer's Workshop.
Downtown Bordeaux for The Writer’s Workshop.

Downtown Bordeaux for The Writer's Workshop.
Downtown Bordeaux for The Writer’s Workshop.

Baseball umpire for The Writers Workshop.
Baseball umpire for The Writers Workshop.

Redwoods for The Writer’s Workshop.

Photo

Wat Bangkok for The Writer’s Workshop Review.

How to Promote Your Book

Molly Woolbright speaks about book promotion for The Writer’s Workshop writing classes.

How to Promote Your Book

 

Promoting a book is not often an author’s favorite past time, but it can reap huge dividends in exposure and book sales. Molly Woolbright, the publicist at Sasquatch Books, visited my summer Seattle writing class, Writing Your Story, to provide insight into the process.

“I will broadly describe how a publicist at a traditional publisher approaches a book’s campaign and hopefully demystify the process,” she explained.

Woolbright emphasized that digital marketing has taken on new importance in a time of social distancing. In the past, book tours and talks made up a significant part of the marketing plan. With those options limited , other strategies need to be developed, including talks and meetings via Zoom and other web conferences.

She detailed a number of effective ways of getting the word out about your book. I’ll include the highlights of her talk to my Seattle writing class, Writing Your Story, below:

Overview of Book Publicity

An in-house publicist at a traditional publisher works on a variety of books at a time, striving to secure a mix of trade reviews and regional and national media for each. From the general public’s perspective, a book campaign is typically about 3 months long; from an author and publisher’s perspective, the work begins at least 6 months before a book is published.

Long-Lead Media

About 6-8 months out from publication

Advance reader copies (otherwise known as ARCs or galleys) sent to media outlets that work far in advance, including: Print magazines, Trade journals (Publishers WeeklyLibrary JournalBooklist, etc.), Podcasts.

Short-Lead Media

About 1-2 months out from publication

Finished copies sent to media outlets that work on a shorter timeframe, including: Newspapers, radio, TV, blogs.

Local/Regional Media

Often overlooked in favor of bigger or more prestigious national media outlets, your local newspaper, magazines, blogs, radio, and TV stations are a great starting point to build buzz (while still striving for national hits). The Amazon algorithm is fed by any and all publicity, and local media is more likely to take notice.

Optimizing Your Author Platform for Media

Book promotion, regardless of genre, is often more about the author than the book—it’s about you and the expertise you can provide or discussions you can spark. Whether you’re working with an in-house publicist or you’ve hired a freelancer, one of the most helpful steps you can take to assist her efforts in securing media is to boost your online presence.

 

Website

From a publicity perspective, a website is the most useful asset you can have as an author. Whereas social media is ephemeral, a website offers a consistent representation of you and your work. Think of it like a toolbox where journalists/reviewers/editors can go to find more info.

For more on book promotion and writing technique, please consider signing up for my next Seattle writing class, online writing class or travel writing class through www.thewritersworkshop.net.