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6 Tips for marketing your textbook

Q: “I have been writing a textbook but so far have been unable to interest a major publisher. I may publish it with a small publisher without a sales force. That leaves me to market the textbook. Can you share some advice for what I should do in this situation?”

A: Robert Christopherson, professor emeritus of geography at American River College and author of the leading physical geography textbooks in the U.S. and Canada:

  1. Examine similar textbooks in the field you are writing in over the past 10 years. Record publisher names, editors listed on the copyright page, and begin a list of any reviewers listed in the Preface. This process will give you an idea of publishers active in the discipline and some you might want to contact with your proposal. The reviewers master list will add to names you already may know who can act as reviewers for your manuscript. You will have to invest some upfront money in paying reviewers. Sometimes the reviewer list will give you an idea where large course offerings exist in your subject area. You will want to select some of your reviewers from these departments. Make a spreadsheet with these names and schools so its searchable.
  2. Check your professional association or group and find out the cost of ads in newsletters and journals. Find out the cost of ads in the program guide or abstracts book for the annual conventions. Maybe find out what a booth space costs. A great book cover, harvested quotes from reviewers, etc., will all help with this.
  3. All your upfront costs are tax deductible—this is a business. I know investing in a work “on spec” is always a risk but the capital outlay may insure more success down the road.
  4. Establish a website and domain for your book if possible. Update as the book develops. Google the topic and yourself to get the subject and discipline linked to your website.
  5. Check the TAA archives for self-publishing and promotion materials. Also, check the Poynter Institute He presented a workshop at one of our TAA meetings that was terrific.
  6. Contact a literary lawyer to make sure you retain ownership and have ‘offramps’ in the contract with the initial small publisher so that when your book hits and you want to shift to a bigger house, you will be free to do so.