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4 Steps to promoting your textbook

Robert Christopherson
Robert Christopherson

Recently a member posted a question in the Textbook Writing & Publishing Circle in TAA’s online member community requesting input on how other authors promote their work. In response to this question, veteran textbook author Robert Christopherson, author of Geosystems, the leading physical geography texts in the US and Canada, offered a four-step approach that encourages authors to define their market niche and take a proactive role with the publisher’s marketing team.
Following is an excerpt from that online discussion:

Q: How do you promote your work?

Robert Christopherson: “The publisher normally has marketing people who handle the promotion and provide information to sales representatives in the field. Authors usually do not sell their books directly, unless self-published. However, the sales people and editors need to be informed and have the talking points for your book, and no one knows these better than the author.

I recommend employing the following four-step approach:

Step 1: In the writing process, you need to define your niche in your specific market. I suggest a process using a spreadsheet where you select essential aspects, topics, features, coverage, approaches, etc., plotted against the major texts in your field. In the development of your text, and now shaping marketing talking points, such a spreadsheet helps illuminate where you serve specific needs that the majors have missed or treat lightly. This process helps you prepare specific marketing talking points for your text.

Step 2: If you do not already have them, ask your editor to obtain the major texts in your field that you feel are the competition, and do a review of these texts for your editor and marketing people. Be sure and summarize each section with why each point you make is important and highlight a set of talking points for sales reps. After several editions of your text, your editors will begin to count on your reviewing input. These critiques further help establish your niche.

Step 3: Stay up-to-date as new research or events or approaches come to light, especially as they serve your features and where the competition is lacking in coverage. Post analysis, with summary talking points, to editors and marketing, and ask them to provide the sales reps with these new talking points.

Step 4: Attend your related professional meetings, and if your publisher has a booth spend some time in the booth meeting people, discussing your book with adopters and potential adopters, saying things like, ‘When I go home, are there any articles or books you think I should read?’ ‘What do you think the new directions in our field are?’ ‘What do you think about…?’ Take an inquiry based approach with the teachers and students you see. Have personal text-specific business cards that you set on the shelf in the booth with your text. Ask your publisher to take out an ad in the conference program or schedule. In addition, place an email address in your text’s preface and respond promptly to feedback.

These are a few basics to forging your niche, inserting your text in the market, and evolving your presence in your field. I recommend attending the annual TAA conference where many additional insights fill the air!

How do you promote your textbook? Share your strategies in the comments section below.