Book promotion tips for authors during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing measures enacted to combat its spread have upended our lives in countless ways. For authors publishing scholarly books this spring (and quite possibly beyond), a pressing question has emerged: how on earth am I supposed to promote my book in the middle of all of this? Bookstores are shuttered, conferences are canceled, and many colleges and universities have shifted entirely into the virtual space—all of which make it hard to get your name out there and your book seen. Fortunately, Penn Press’s marketing team has put their heads together and come up with some tips and ideas for authors trying to promote their new titles under current and challenging circumstances.

  • Ask local bookstores if they are setting up any online author events. A number of our authors have found that while bookstores obviously aren’t able to accommodate in-person events right now, they may be willing to set up virtual events using videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom.
  • Ask any campus departments if they are hosting any online panel discussions or book talks. Another way to reach an audience interested in your book is to work within your home institution—or the institutions of colleagues with similar or overlapping research topics—to set up an online panel discussion or talk through which you can promote your book to students and faculty alike.
  • Try to place an op-ed, especially if your book in any way relates to current events. Now is the perfect time to try to place an an op-ed with a news outlet—especially if you can find a way to connect your book and research to current events—whether COVID-19 itself or some of the many aspects of our society and our politics that it touches. Here is an older (but still helpful!) New York Times article with excellent information on how to write and pitch an op-ed.
  • Try to place a guest blog post on a site whose content is relevant to your book. Of course, newspapers and high-profile websites aren’t the only place to make your voice heard right now—and you also don’t have to focus on finding ways to tie your subject matter to current events if there’s not a natural connection. Chances are you know the names of a few high-profile academic blogs in your field, and you may even know colleagues who have contributed to those blogs or even the editors themselves. Do some research and see if you can write a guest post for an outlet specifically tied to your field or your subject matter, allowing you to promote your book to a more targeted and specialized audience more likely to teach it in courses, buy it for their institutional libraries, or read it for their own interest. And if your publisher has a blog, reach out to them directly to see if you can contribute!
  • Give Twitter a shot. Getting into the groove of Twitter—building up your followers, figuring out how to navigate the fast pace of conversations, and establishing a name for yourself as a knowledgeable source of information and commentary on your areas of expertise—takes some time. But during this extended period of isolation, carving out that time might be easier. And with Twitter serving as one of the engines of the modern information economy, social media traffic is up quite a bit right now as people search for news and insight during this period of turmoil. The audience is there for you to start building an online brand for your book and for yourself as an author and scholar! Talk to whoever handles digital marketing at your publisher for tips on how to get started.
  • If you are on Twitter, brainstorm ways to take advantage of the moment. So you’re a seasoned Twitter user—what can you do to ensure that your book gets some attention right now? Pay close attention to conversations that are happening among the people you follow and who follow you. Keep looking for ways to tie your book and your expertise to current events, and get a feel for what others are saying about ongoing changes in academia in general and in your fields in particular. Again, with more people than ever turning to social media right now, you have the opportunity to get your research in front of new sets of eyes, so get creative.
  • Guest on a podcast. Podcast recording is well-suited to the transition to remote collaboration, and people have ample time to listen, so if there are podcasts in your field or related to your book’s subject matter, pitch them and see if they’d be able to have you on!
  • Relax and take care of yourself. This is a stressful time, no matter how many of our personal and professional activities we’re able to maintain, or how many of them we’ve had to adjust to accommodate recent changes. And while you’ll always want to promote your book (and trust us, your publisher will too!) please remember that your own well-being—especially right now—is extremely important. Do what you can when you can. It is our hope that all authors, families, and friends stay safe, well, and healthy!

Are you an author, and have ideas and tips on book promotion during social distancing? Email to have your ideas added to this post!

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