The Long Journey of Book Promotion

Since I am spending a great deal of my time these days working toward promoting my new book, I thought I should tell other writers about my successes and failures. Promotion seems to be a topic that gets a great deal of attention, from writers and publishers alike.

Initial Efforts
As soon as I knew my book’s publication date, I began sending queries for book reviews. I scripted what I considered a pretty darned good letter, including at the bottom my website and the fabulous article Frances Dinklespiel wrote about me for Berkeleyside. I also offered to send the reviewer a copy of my book, either paperback or pdf.

I scattered this letter like buckshot—to local newspapers, online review sites like Goodreads, and to spiritual magazines. I even checked out the most frequent reviewers at Goodreads, and queried at least ten of them individually.

The results of these efforts were: 0. I did hear back from several Buddhist magazines, which offered to publish an excerpt from my book. But once I supplied the excerpt—quickly, I might add—I never heard from the editors again. Since I’ve received so much positive feedback about my book, I don’t think this has much to do with the quality for the writing.

Thinking Small About Promotion
After this initial round of discouragement, I decided to stay closer to the ethos of my book, and think small. I let it be known that I’d love to visit book clubs or attend house parties about small.

People responded positively to this strategy. I’ve attended quite a few house parties, and am just now starting on the book club circuit (it takes longer to get that up and running). Each time I leave a house party I feel renewed. Not only do I encounter the nicest people at these gatherings, they respond very positively to my book and what I have to say about seeing and thinking small. When I leave, I feel that the experience has been a good one all around. I have offered the guests something valuable; and they have certainly given me a boost and deepened my connection to my book and the world.

What About Guest Blog Posts?
I’ve heard for years people talking and writing about how useful guest blog posts are, but had never quite understood just how they work. When a friend suggested I query Jane Friedman, I figured it was worth a try. Jane accepted my query; I wrote the post; and she published it the very next morning—before I was aware that it would appear:

I cannot underestimate the value of that one guest post. For the first time since I’ve been blogging, I received many thoughtful and appreciative comments on my post. This positive response and knowing I was helpful to quite a few writers should be all the necessary reward. But of course, I checked my sales figures on “Author Central.” My oh my, I felt like I was flying.

Equally important, I discovered that I enjoy writing these guest blog posts and want to continue to do so. Writing what is appropriate for another blogger exercises a different muscle than when I write for myself. I see things from a slightly different angle and gain new insights. And of course, I reach a different audience.

Magazine Articles
The last strategy I’ve been employing is to query magazines, in hopes of getting permission to write an article about small. The first outlet I thought of was my college alumni magazine. Next I wrote to the AARP and Oprah Magazine. It isn’t easy to unearth the eddress or editors for some of these publications, so I gave up on the internet and simply phoned—with much better results. So far, these queries feel a bit like my book review queries: I haven’t received any responses yet. But I’ve crafted a query I believe in, and have all the time in the world to wait for a response.

All in all, three months into my promotional efforts, I had one big win: my guest blog post for Jane Friedman. Although nothing else I have tried has provided a fabulous pay off, that one success has fueled me to keep trying.

And then there are the smaller successes, which, to be truthful, stay with me much longer and penetrate much deeper. At the last house party I attended, one of the guests rushed up to me afterward, asking if I wanted to hear her “small story.”

Of course I did. And you can read about it on my latest Small post.

New Orleans Wall

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