• Ellen Cassedy
  • [TIPS OF THE TRADE]: Hate book promotion? Three ways to make it work for you
[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: Hate book promotion? Three ways to make it work for you
Written by
Ellen Cassedy
October 2012
Written by
Ellen Cassedy
October 2012

How many times have you heard a writer say something like this? “I love writing, but I hate book promotion.  It’s just not who I am.”


All she wants, she says, is to sit blissfully in her garret where she belongs. 


I sympathize -- to a point.  But I don’t agree -- not at all. Here’s why.


Promoting a book means expressing in words who you are, what you think, how you feel, what you imagine -- and sharing all that with other people?  


Isn’t that exactly what writing a book is all about, too?


Think about it. Writing a book and promoting a book are both about speaking up.  Proudly having your say.  Joining in the conversation.  Being heard.   


So if writing a book is what you like to do, promoting a book is surely something you can not only tolerate but actively enjoy.  Here are three ways I’ve found to take joy in book promotion:  


Start before you publish.  Long before I found a publisher, I sought out opportunities to be heard about my journey into Jewish Lithuania, past, present, and future.  I gave talks at synagogues, libraries, and Jewish cultural centers.  I wrote articles for newspapers and magazines.  These opportunities were energizing and inspiring.  They gave me a chance to test out the best ways to communicate what I had to say – which helped me write a better book.


Target your “super fans.”  In the run-up to publication, I made a list of the people I most wanted to read the book.  My list included not only people I knew (family, friends, mentors, people who’d read drafts) but also people I didn’t know -- writers and thinkers I admired; scholars in the fields of Holocaust studies, European and Jewish history; tolerance leaders and public officials.  The first book promotion task I gave myself was to inform these people about the book.  Reaching out in this way felt as important as writing the book in the first place.


Embrace the challenge.  My book promotion plan requires me to communicate my “message” in lots of different ways.  I have to -- or as I see it, I get to -- write articles, op-ed pieces, guest blogs, website copy, press releases, e-mail blasts, Facebook messages, and tweets.  I have to -- that is, I get to -- craft book talks and conference presentations, give interviews, and succinctly describe the book to people I run into. All of which involves solving problems, finding the right words, expressing myself to the best of my ability. 


Just like…writing a book.



Join the conversation.  What makes book promotion enjoyable -- or anything but -- for you?



Ellen Cassedy’s book is We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust (University of Nebraska Press, 2012). Her first post for SheWrites was “Who Cares about Your Family Story? Ten Tips to Ensure Readers Will ...” Her [TIPS OF THE TRADE]series appears monthly. See all of Ellen's Tips for Writers.

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  • Virginia Nelson

    You stated some very valid points. I'm happy to say I am one who doesn't mind the promotion--must have been my previous duties of a rock n' roll bands manager. I have no problem introducing myself to strangers, asking if they are a "reader of books", then go into my little spill. Luckily, I'm a committee member for a reader event so I usually start off advertising it then casually hand the lady or gent my bookmark with a little, "Here is something to help you save that place in your book." It's usually followed by, "Oh are you an author?" And the conversation goes from there. Yesterday, prior to a CP meeting I was sitting with one of my cp's who is a bit on the shy side at an outdoor cafe and went into my spill. Her mouth fell open as I continued jabbering about the event, then introduced her to the waitress. It was fun. The point I am trying to make it is actually rather easy to introduce yourself and your work. Facebook, twitter, and other such venues do over a wide range of publicity but I still prefer the one on one approach. Enjoyed the article very much. Thank you Ellen.

  • Jennifer Boire

    Once I'm out there and have met the people in a small group at a library who've come to hear me talk, I'm ok. At least, I'm finding that part more fun than I thought. I hate lecturing, so I make them interactive. What I don't often make time for is the research needed to approach groups, magazines, etc. You have to have a certain chutzpah and belief in your 'product', your knowledge, your book, and know your audience, before you can pitch to these people. I did call or email all the libraries in my area this spring, and got one presentation out of it (and they even paid me $250!). The two other events I organized, one through a meet up group for Women in Transition, and the other with a woman I met online who lives in my home town two hours from me, just came from me being curious and sticking my neck out. If you wait for someone to contact you through your blog or website, it could be a long wait. My book is of particular interest to women in mid-life, going through perimenopause and the transition that brings up (emotional turmoil, not medical stuff is my focus), so that makes it easier to target in some ways. I have had to do my own publicity (asked 3 different publicists, and got turned down, or was unwilling to pay $5000 for a national campaign). I will check out the website you mention. Today I just signed up for a workshop in Montreal called How To Be Your Own Publicist (Writers union of Canada), and hope to glean some more ideas there (beyond facebook and twitter). thanks for the article and the advice,

  • Ellen Cassedy

    Barbara, you're so right.  Some of us have spent literally a lifetime learning how to write, but book promotion is entirely new to us.  I've found The Savvy Book Marketer to be a helpful resource. 

  • Barbara Kelly

    I think the worst part about promotion for me is my own lack of knowledge and/or experience in doing it.  It is a difficult learning curve, particularly when your teacher is yourself!

  • Ellen Cassedy

    Great point, Mary.  Find what you do like about book promotion and do more of it.    

  • Sunny Frazier

    The first thing authors have to do is change their attitude about promotion. It shouldn't be a "have to" but a "want to." 

    I find promotion fun. To me, it's a challenge to see how many people I can seduce into buying my book. I'm very hands on; I want to know everything about the people who respond to my posts. I keep notes, ask about their cats, their locations, their interests. Does it take time? Not as much as you would think. What it takes is actually caring about fans and turning them into friends.  

  • Mary Hutchings Reed

    I've found that what I like about promotion is the personal interaction with readers and potential readers.  These are typically smaller events, like readings or short talks, but I've come to think of them as fun.  It's interesting to get feedback, or to hear that someone was inspired, or had a change of attitude, or even has a story they want to tell, and have been encouraged to give it a go. 

  • Julie Luek

    Great post.  The publishing world is in flux, but as much as possible, it's good to stay ahead of the curve.

  • Jamie Brenner

    Ellen, yes -- It is good to have a forum to discuss, because sometimes with all of the bloggers and Tweeting it can seem like everyone has the answer but you. The truth is, none of us do. It's an ongoing conversation, and I'm grateful for it.

  • Ellen Cassedy

    Good comment, Jamie.  Maybe what we need is to do the same thing we do when we set goals for writing.  We try not to aim to write a bestseller and then feel terrible when that doesn't happen.  Instead we try to set reachable goals.  Of course, with the publishing scene in such flux, it's often hard to know what those are -- for publishing and for promoting alike.  We're all facing these dilemmas.  It's good to have SW as a forum to talk about them.

  • Jamie Brenner

    You are absolutely right, Lisa. I think the problem today -- what can leave writers so paralyzed -- is the endless demand of promotion. Promotion used to have clear boundaries when it existed only in the "real world" -- book signings, speaking engagements etc. Now, with Twitter and Pinterest and Facebook and blogging -- on and on -- in can feel like an insurmountable beast that gives little return in proportion to the time it takes for consistent output. I don't know what the answer is, but you are right that the answer is never to reject promotion outright.

  • Ellen Cassedy

    Good points, Lisa.  As for people not replying or responding:  a couple of comments:  1) I've heard a fundraising expert say that if you never get turned down, you're not doing enough.  Some people just won't be interested, and that's okay.  2) Try alternating contact with your "super fans" -- the people most likely to respond positively -- with outreach to the longshots.  This will keep you nourished as you do the hard stuff.

  • Lisa Thomson

    Great post! You've inspired me to get more creative with my book promo. What makes it the hardest for me is staying motivated when people don't reply or respond.  What makes it easy is my passion for the topic. Thanks for the tips. Ellen.