Writing a Book: Part 4, Promotion

Ah, sweet joy. Your new book is out in the world. Now, you can sit back, relax, and let the reviews, acclaim, and cash roll in. If only life were so wonderful and you could take some well-deserved rest after book publication, but unless you are Mr. King, Ms. Steele, or Mr. Gladwell, you will still have much work to do, particularly if you want others to read and buy your book.

Promoting Stories in Stone began long before it arrived in book stores. My first attempts at drumming up interest in the book began with social media. I started this blog and set up Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Obviously, I have kept working on the blog, figuring that each posting has the potential to attract someone new who might be interested in the book. I also write the blog because I enjoy it and am still a bit nutty about building stone. Facebook and LinkedIn have required less work, but still I had to seek out people and try to create connections to them. I know that using social media has been very successful for some people, who set up elaborate tours through their contacts.

I was fortunate that my publisher sent Uncorrected Proofs out to a long list of potential reviewers, such as newspapers, magazines, and radio shows. (For those not familiar with this edition, also referred to as a review copy or bound galley, it is basically a cheap paperback edition of the book, and about the last time a writer can make changes in the book.) Sending out the proofs does not guarantee a review as newspaper book review editors often receive dozens and dozens of books every week. These review books usually come several months before the book is published.

I also came up with my own list of specialized places for book reviews, such as science, stone, and architecture magazines. I continue to keep my eyes open for new places for reviews, and then ask my publisher to send hard bound copies of the book. Other outlets for potential promotion and reviews include talk radio, newsletters, blogs, and web sites, all of which require me to find and contact them. I have had some success with this though more often I have gotten no response. (And there are the games you can try to play with amazon.com, such as asking all of your friends to write reviews.)

I was lucky that I had the time and interest to do this. I have other writer friends who have hired people, generally college students, to be their publicist. This tactic still required the author to do work, such as approve promotional copy.

In addition to sending out the bound galleys, my publisher asked me to come up with a list of names of people that they could send a promotional postcard to. The idea being that if I knew the person, they might be more likely to look at the postcard and buy the book. The list was supposed to have 2,000 names. I was happy I could scrape together 400 or so.

Then there are the book readings. My publisher did some work on this but basically I set up all the readings that took place. I did not travel much for the book, though I tried to set up an east coast tour but it fell through. I had to come up with a list of stores, find contacts, contact them, pick a date, and try to spread the word about the reading. I didn’t and haven’t limited myself to bookstores, which can be hit or miss. (At one book signing, I was tucked into a small chair with a very small sign alerting people to me. The only interested parties were family members. This was also the same store that when I arrived the owner asked me if I had brought copies of the book to sell, which made me think, “Isn’t this a bookstore and isn’t that what you do?”)

In regard to bookstores, I know one author who regularly goes into stores and introduces himself to the staff. He offers to sign the books and if the store doesn’t carry the book, gently lets the staff know about the book. Of course, there is always the tactic of taking your book from its lowly, hidden spot and putting it in a more prominent location.

I have found better success by targeting my talks to groups that have regular meetings, such as geology department seminars, geology groups, and other interested clubs, which leads to a more guaranteed audience. (Another advantage is that I sell my books at the readings, which provides a little additional income.) I generally tailor my talk to such groups. For instance, on April 22 I will be giving a talk at the Rick Steves Travel Classes about building stone in Italy.

As some readers know, I also set up a virtual book tour, where I contacted other bloggers. I asked them to read the book and review it or set up some way for me to connect with their readers through my book. This was a great way to get the word out to others, including to a few blogs that had nothing to do with geology or stone.

Getting the word out on my book has been an on going process. It can be frustrating and challenging but I knew that if I didn’t do it no one would. I realized this the first time I saw a previous book of mine spine out in a bookstore and wondered how would anyone find my little book amid so many other books. I did do the simple thing of pulling my book out so people could see the cover but that was just the beginning. Good luck.

A Little Diatribe about Local Stone

The New York Times had an interesting article yesterday about the imminent loss of the 19th century church in Geste, France. Two years ago, the town council voted, by one vote, to demolish the church. Money was the main reason, as it would cost more to renovate the original than to raze and build a new one. The article notes that many towns and cities across France face a similar dilemma. To destroy or not to destroy. As one cultural official stated, “In the past these buildings were sacred, but today there is no sense of sacred.”

Nor is there a sense of honoring the past, of those who labored to erect such buildings in times when simply moving stone was a challenge. I recognize that old is not always better. Old buildings may be structurally flawed, hot in summer, chilly in winter, and dripping during a rainstorm. They can be just as ugly as modern ones. Workers were often exploited to build them. I am not advocating going back to or completely glorifying the past, but when we lose these older structures we lose stories of place, of our past, of ourselves.

And in regard to my interests, I have no idea what sort of stone was used in the Geste church but suspect that most churches in small towns in France were built with locally available rock. As I have written before, there is something special about local stone. It reflects the vagaries of place, of how its geologic history shaped the topography, hydrology, and soil. Local stone also tells of the human stories, of economics, architecture, and transportation.

I am in no ways a church, synagogue, or mosque goer but I guess that many who do attend are seeking connections. They may seek out new friends, treasured stories, spirituality, or like-minded others. To me, stone provides another level of connection. I recognize that many will not consciously make the connections I write about but perhaps they will experience them in ways they don’t truly understand. And isn’t that one aspect of religion.

I don’t advocate leaving up every and all stone buildings or not recognizing that buildings can be improved but I do think that people should consider the psychic value of stone buildings when we raze them and rebuild another one just because it is financially prudent.