Marketing Information for Authors
You’ve written a book . . . now what?
We’re on it. We’ll be working to make sure that the book trade, from booksellers to media outlets, know about the book—and, through them, that readers will.
This guide will give you a quick overview of our marketing efforts, along the way clarifying some terms, pointing out key dates, and offering suggestions for how you can help us promote your work. If after reading it you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Your promotions manager will be your principal contact in the marketing department throughout the publication process for your book. It’s a reasonable shorthand to think of a promotions manager as essentially a publicist, but they will also do a lot more: your promotions manager will be responsible not only for trying to land publicity for your book, but also for writing catalog and jacket or cover copy, collaborating on blurbs, writing press releases, and coordinating with other members of the department on their parts of our marketing plan.
In most cases, you’ll first hear from your promotions manager around six to nine months before your book’s anticipated publication date when your book is ready for production. They will send you our standard author questionnaire, or AQ, which gives you a chance to tell us about yourself, your book, any ideas you may have for promoting it, and any plans (conferences, lectures, travel) you have already made for the coming year. The AQ is the starting point for all our marketing efforts, and it’s used by staff throughout our department, so the more attention you can give it the better.
Publishing is divided into seasons, spring and fall. Like other publishers, every season we announce our new books to the book trade and review media through our seasonal catalog and a variety of electronic feeds to outside partners and vendors.
For the catalog, your promotions manager will draw on a variety of source materials—including the manuscript, in-house documents about the book, and your own brief description from the AQ—to write a clear, concise, and engaging description of your book as part of its listing in the catalog. The goal is to quickly lay out the argument and points of interest in a way that will be accessible for the educated—but non-specialist—audience of the catalog (booksellers and book review editors, primarily). You’ll get a chance to offer your opinions on the copy, which we’re always glad to have.
Around that same time, we’ll work with you to solicit blurbs. The AQ offers a space for you to make suggestions, and you and your promotions manager will collaborate to select the right people to approach. Some of your blurbers will likely be other scholars in your field, but for books aimed at general readers, we’ll likely also try some longshot possibilities, attempting to interest some well-known authors whose praise for your book would carry weight with booksellers and ultimately with readers. We aim to have at least two to three blurbs per book, keeping in mind the space available on the back cover.
Sales and Publicity Calls
After the seasonal catalog is prepared, our sales and publicity team will be actively and personally pitching your book to their contacts. We are proud to be the only US university press that has its own in-house domestic sales force rather than relying on outside sales reps who work on commission. Our reps will begin calling on their bookstore accounts across the country, including Barnes & Noble, major book wholesalers and library vendors, and independent stores. Our team of international sales reps, meanwhile, will do the same around the globe.
Around the same time, our publicity team will make calls on major book review media in New York; Washington, DC; Chicago; and London, trying to draw the attention of review editors to books that will be of interest to their audience. We also meet regularly with many specialty publications in disciplines like science and the visual arts that are often interested in slightly more scholarly titles that fit their readers’ backgrounds. The book review landscape can seem like a harsh one at times, with the amount of space devoted to books coverage shrinking every year, but we have a strong track record of success, regularly landing major publicity for books across a wide range of disciplines.
Galley and Review Copy Mailings
For general interest books, at least four to six months before the book is scheduled to deliver, we’ll prepare galleys of the uncorrected page proofs, which are shared both digitally and in hard copy with a wide range of media outlets, including prepublication outlets like Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, the New York Times, Atlantic, and the Times Literary Supplement.
For both specialist and general interest books, your promotions manager will put together a review list for finished copies that will be sent shortly after stock arrives at our warehouse. This review list will include both print and digital outreach to journalists focused on your topics of interest and scholarly journals in your field and, where appropriate, general interest media and radio and television producers.
After the mailing, you’ll receive a marketing wrap letter from your promotions manager that will detail where review copies have been sent.
Delivery and Publication Dates
When we’re putting together our review list mailings, we’ll also set a publication date for your book. The publication date is a publishing convention that tells review outlets when they should plan to schedule reviews. Our standard is five weeks after the book is expected to arrive in our warehouse; the time lag allows for books to be shipped, received, and shelved in stores and Amazon warehouses, while also giving review outlets a chance to check any planned reviews against a finished copy of the book for accuracy.
What this means is that there are a few dates to keep in mind:
- The delivery and release dates, which is when your book should arrive in our warehouse and begin being shipped to stores and individuals.
- The publication date, which will usually be five weeks after the delivery date in the US. That’s the date when, for general interest books, we’ll be hoping for reviews to start appearing. Scholarly reviews should follow in due course in the months after that.
- Our UK and international publication date usually follow the US date by another four to five weeks depending on shipping/printing times.
We run a wide-ranging exhibit program at scholarly conferences throughout the United States, as well as in the United Kingdom.
We attend nearly sixty exhibits ourselves, sending staff and books, and we’re able to send individual titles to many smaller scholarly meetings through combined exhibit services that display our books along with those of other publishers. We take care to make sure that books are sent to appropriate exhibits that we attend in person, but it’s always helpful if you can alert us if you’re going to be playing a role at a particular scholarly meeting—delivering a paper, for example, or being on a panel, or even simply attending. Because tax laws prevent us from selling books on-site in many states, we generally restrict our exhibits to display copies and orders, but we do offer discounts and free shipping on conference orders. That does, however, mean that while we do frequently treat exhibits as a book’s debut for its core audience, we are rarely able to have book signings or launch events at scholarly meetings.
Direct-to-Consumer & Targeted Marketing
Our work on Amazon begins 3-6 months prior to publication with keyword optimization. We perform analysis of competitor titles’ Amazon listings to harvest relevant search terms and keywords and ensure that those are in the product metadata. This work drives up the number of searches your book appears and how relevant your book is to a customer’s search term.
Post-publication we create enhanced content for many books with broad marketing appeal. This includes custom photography, excerpts, and comparison charts. This helps showcase visually compelling books and drives customer conversion by providing online shoppers with as much information as possible.
When appropriate, we launch paid ads that run when users search for related titles, keywords, or subjects. We also feature many of our new releases in our Amazon storefront.
We run three major direct marketing campaigns in addition to several smaller campaigns throughout the year. We also run email campaigns aimed at academic audiences in specific disciplines as well as campaigns that feature books we’ll be taking to academic conferences.
We mail over 300,000 catalogs per year. These include our two general interest direct-to-consumer mail catalogs and specialist catalogs in a number of scholarly areas.
Our advertising department, meanwhile, places ads for our specialist books in relevant conference programs, both online and in print, and for trade books in the general interest publications that reach the core audience for publishers of serious books, such as the New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and the London Review of Books.
We are always looking for ways to help you build your platform as a public intellectual, and we are happy to provide guidance and ideas along the way. As part of that, we’re also able to offer some fundamental media coaching, and we highly recommend this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education about how to talk with reporters.
While we are actively promoting your book in the ways described above, there are many ways that you can complement our efforts and reach readers and contacts that we might not be able to reach. All of the approaches and channels below will not suit every author or every book, but you’ll likely see something here that sparks an idea or gives you a way to start thinking about promoting your book.
Your own contacts
This is where you can help us the most: make sure that the people you are acquainted with, professionally and personally, know that you’re publishing a book.
Things you can do:
- Tell your friends and family! This is not a time to be timid!
- Reach out to scholars at other universities or groups that might be willing to host you for a talk tied to the subject of the book. Those can be one of the most effective ways to get people in your field talking about (and maybe even assigning) your book.
- Propose talks or panels at your field’s annual conferences that are related to your book. That is a surefire way to get people to come to our booth and take a look at your book.
- Make sure that your university news office and alumni organizations for your alma maters know about your book. Depending on your subject and your university, that can lead to anything from a note in your alumni magazine to a front-page feature on your university’s website.
- Ask the University’s news office if they maintain lists of faculty experts in various fields for media inquiries. If so, check yours to make sure it’s accurate and up to date.
- Ask colleagues if they know of any expert lists of people in your discipline that may be maintained by outside groups. If so, look into getting yourself listed in your areas of knowledge. (Example: http://www.womenalsoknowstuff.com/)
- Put info about your book into your email signature: Title, subtitle, a thumbnail of the cover if you can, and a link to the book page on our website.
- Share information about your book on listservs within your scholarly community.
- Encourage people you know to leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. If they’ve read your book and thought well of it, it’s a big help for them to take a few minutes and say so on those platforms.
- If you’re on Twitter, great. Are you following key people in your field, both scholars and writers for general-interest publications? Are you contributing to discussions that deal with the subject of your book? Are you highlighting or commenting on news stories that dovetail with your work? If so, you’re laying the groundwork for being seen as a voice on this issue when your book is published, and for people being engaged and interested enough to click through when the time comes to put up a link to the page with more info. Oh, and this one’s important: Are you following your local bookstore?
- You can also use Twitter as a way to update people on the progress of your book. Did you and your editor and the marketing department come up with a great new title? Share it! Did you land a killer blurb? Share it! Did the Press send you an amazing cover design? Share it! Are you editing page proofs? Share a picture of your scribbled marginal notes and corrections! People love behind-the-scenes material, and the more they feel like they’ve watched your book being created, the more likely they are to feel invested enough to buy it. (These tips also apply very much to other platforms, like Facebook and Instagram.)
- When the book comes out, celebrate . . . but don’t turn into a shill. It is 100% appropriate to be excited and post about it, and it’s right to urge people to go buy it. (We recommend you link to the book page on our site, or to your local bookstore; it’s fine to link to Amazon or B&N, but if you’ve got a local store they will appreciate the link in ways that can help you and the book.) That said, your feed should still remain its usual eclectic, multifocal self—there’s nothing worse than an author who just tweets “buy my book” over and over. The great thing about Twitter is the relationships it enables, and it’s those, not the direct appeal to buy, that will lead people to check out your book.
- Share reviews and thank reviewers and outlets for good ones! (We are confident you won’t get any bad reviews—but if you do, Twitter’s not a good place to respond. We recommend stoicism in the face of dispraise, but if that doesn’t work for you, check in with your promotions manager, and they’ll discuss with you whether there’s any suitable avenue for addressing it.)
For many people, Facebook is more a tool for getting the word out to family and friends than for alerting colleagues and peers. If that describes how you use it, that’s fine: they’ll want to know, and this gives you a chance to tell them! A lot of the tips from Twitter apply here, too: get people involved in the story of the publication of your book, and they’ll be excited when you finally post that picture of your smile as you hold the first copy.
You can also use Facebook to alert people to events. Are you giving a public talk? Are you having an event at your local bookstore? Create a Facebook event and invite people to RSVP—not all of them will end up turning out but having committed will make them more likely to do so.
It’s visual—but so is your book, regardless of its subject. Post pictures of the stack of library books you have to return now that you’ve finished your bibliography. Post photos of your desk and your cat helping you edit page proofs. Post pictures of the cover design. Post pictures of it when you spy it in your local bookstore. Post a short video thanking everyone who helped you along the way. And don’t forget those very important hashtags!
Sure, Reddit can be a toxic swamp. But it contains multitudes—and some of them involve in-depth discussions of fairly serious and obscure topics. Is your subject one of them? It’s worth searching to see if there’s a subreddit that applies (Examples: https://www.reddit.com/r/AncientGreek/; https://www.reddit.com/r/Frenchhistory/) If there is one, and the discussion seems interesting, consider signing up for an account and participating. As with Twitter, the idea isn’t to get in there and start pitching your book—it’s to become a member of a community. Then, when your book arrives, we could set you up to do an AMA (https://www.reddit.com/r/AMA/) that can promote your book, and you’d be more likely to get real engagement.
The book pages on our site get a ton of traffic from reference links on Wikipedia. Improving Wikipedia with genuine expertise is these days a true public service, and it could also be a service to your book. Is your subject discrete enough that you could zero in on a page or two that cover it? If so, how are those pages? Could you, as an expert (and, let’s presume, a capable writer) improve it? Go for it—and, if you can find an appropriate way, cite your book or add it to the list of further reading. If you can’t figure out the coding, check in with your promotions manager and we’ll likely be able to help.
Goodreads calls itself the “world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations.” Its mission is to help readers discuss and share reviews of books they’ve read. Many authors maintain personal pages and use Goodreads to connect directly with readers. It can be a great way to build a community and to share and view ideas for reading lists.
Other Online Promotional Ideas
Our #AuthorAtHome series features authors with recently published or forthcoming books in their “work from home” environment. It’s a chance to share some insight into your life & introduce your book in your own words. Videos are short (1-2 minutes), simple, and relatable, intended for a wide audience of potential readers. We’ll share these on our YouTube and other social media channels.
Create a Spotify playlist for your book. Even if your book is not a music book per se, music can still be a creative and playful thematic tie-in or mood setter. And we’re always happy to share playlists on our social media accounts and blog. Here are some great examples from Charlie Hailey, author of The Porch, and Stefano Bloch, author of Going All City.
#DescribeinFive Twitter Thread
A fun way to start a conversation about your book on Twitter, especially tied to the publication date (or book birthday), an academic conference, or a launch event. Explain your book in a thread of five tweets and include the hashtags #DescribeInFive at the start of the thread. Tag the Press @UChicagoPress, and we’ll retweet from the Press Twitter account to help spread the word. Here's an example: https://twitter.com/wraggem/status/1298362682597412864?s=20.
Dates to Celebrate
Whether you prefer Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or another platform, there are a few key dates in the life of your book that are fun to share on social media (with images!) to stir up excitement and awareness. These are when you first have a finalized cover image to share (#CoverReveal), when you receive advance copies of your book in the mail, and the official publication date of your book (#BookBirthday).
Share the Book Love
Several social media holidays offer great opportunities to not only promote your book but to celebrate the work of your friends and colleagues and your neighborhood bookstore. Here are some we suggest: #LibraryShelfieDay (fourth Wednesday in January); #LibraryLoversDay (February 14); #WorldBookDay (April 23); #IndieBookstoreDay (last Saturday in April); #GetCaughtReading (throughout May); #BookLoversDay (August 9); #NationalBookMonth (throughout October); and #ReadUP (UP Week: Sponsored by the Association of University Presses and hosted the first week in November).
#ReadUCP Book Club
Every three months, the @UChicagoPress Twitter account features a new book as its #ReadUCP Book Club pick, which includes special promotion for the book on our social media accounts and a one-hour moderated Twitter chat with the author. If you are active on Twitter and are interested in having your book considered for a future seasonal pick, let your promotions manager know.
What’s the 800-word story you would tell about your book if you got the chance? The one that leaves a reader at the end feeling like she learned something, that gave her a takeaway that she can use or share in her daily life? That’s the op-ed approach, and thinking of your book in those terms early on is a very useful exercise. We urge every author to try it: sit down and try writing an op-ed tied to your book. If you can spy a current news hook, tie it to that, for practice. Some subjects may not seem to be suited for op-eds, but that number is surprisingly small: the news cycle is constant, and it turns up a lot of topics that have historical or cultural relevance for fields that may not necessarily seem newsy on their face. And even if that never happens, the exercise of trying to draft one is great practice for thinking about how to describe your book and your work for the educated general public.
When we get closer to the publication date of your book, start keeping your eye on news stories that could lead people to be interested in your expertise. If you spy one, tell your promotions manager immediately. From there, we may:
- Tell you we’d like to pitch it ourselves, in which case we’ll ask you for a few lines telling what you’d say and what your key point would be.
- Or, suggest you pitch it yourself and send you guidelines for doing so. Most op-ed pages don’t want to hear from a publicist, so this is fairly common.
Both those options come with a standing offer to look at drafts and help edit. We work with a lot of op-eds on a lot of subjects, so we have a good eye for how they should be written.
For more information, the Op-Ed Project offers several resources such as tips for writing op-eds; guidance on op-ed structure; and a list of over 100 publications that accept op-eds.
This is something you could start working on now: pitching yourself as a potential reviewer of other people’s books for mainstream outlets. If you’ve not done much of this before but are interested, we’d suggest aiming at the middle tier of publications, places like the Los Angeles Review of Books that address serious books but are aimed at general readers, or, depending on your discipline, your field’s equivalent of Religion Dispatches or Public Books, which feature scholars writing about scholarship in terms general readers can handle. If you want tips on editors or publications to reach out to, let us know and we can probably point you in the right direction. You’ll want to send them a note introducing yourself and (succinctly) your credentials/expertise and suggesting a couple of new books that are the sort you think you could write about well. Because publications tend to work ahead, they will likely tell you you’re too late for those books, but that they know of another along those lines that are coming out in a few months that might suit you.
If you can develop a relationship with a publication as a reviewer, our job of getting their attention when you publish your own book is easier—they’ll know your name and (we trust!) think well of you. In addition, more general readers, and more people in your field, will know you. And with each review, you get to include your book title in your byline.
Events tend to take two basic forms: bookstore events and talks before groups. Bookstores these days, operating on ever-tighter margins, can be a bit gun-shy about events. Generally, before they’ll book an event for an author who isn’t a household name, they want an assurance that the author has local connections that will enable them to turn out enough friends, family, and colleagues to make the event a success.
However, do you have a local bookstore on or near campus? Tell us, and our sales rep can inquire about an event. If you’re a regular there, even better—they may tell us before we even get to ask. (If you’re not a regular, we heartily recommend becoming one. Being a regular is its own reward, but it’s also true that few things can help your book like enthusiastic booksellers who appreciate you as a customer.)
Do you have a strong base elsewhere, like your old hometown or somewhere you lived for a long time? If you do, and you feel comfortable that you could turn out 25 or so friends and family, great: tell us about it and we’ll see whether a local store is interested in having you.
Talks in front of membership or professional groups, we’ve found, are frequently much more satisfying—better attended and more effective at spreading the word and selling books. These range from public or departmental talks at other universities to, depending on a book’s subject, lectures to government departments, civic organizations, alumni or university clubs, museum memberships, and the like. If you’re interested in speaking publicly about your book’s subject, this is an area where your connections and knowledge can be incredibly helpful—we’re always happy to support these events and try to make arrangements for selling books, but in most cases, the initial inquiries need to come from you.
- Conference talks: if ever there’s a year to make your presence felt at your discipline’s annual meeting, it’s this one. Propose talks and panels!
- Speaking engagements at other universities: Would people you know invite you to come to their campus to give a public talk? Talk to some classes? Lead a workshop? Now’s the time to use those contacts and call in favors.
- Membership groups: Does your book have a strong focus on one city or area, of the sort that civic or cultural groups might be interested in? Is your field one that has a public component that groups of non-scholars might be interested in—like the Council on Global Affairs and political science/international studies? If so, tell your promotions manager your ideas, and we can consider how we could approach those groups.
“By the Book” Author Talk
We’re also happy to host an online book launch via our Zoom platform. All events are an hour long and feature authors in conversation with one or more interlocutors of their choosing. You choose the participants, date, and time (in coordination with your promotions manager who will host the event), and we’ll handle the logistics, Eventbrite registration, and social media promotion. All our talks are co-sponsored by the Seminary Co-op bookstore in Chicago and include closed captioning. They are also recorded and archived on our YouTube channel. For examples of current events, please see our landing page.
We recommend that you do not schedule any domestic events until at least six weeks after the anticipated delivery date for your book, and please allow at least ten weeks after delivery for international events. Please provide your promotions manager with ten weeks advance notice of any domestic events and at least twelve weeks advance notice of any international events. Without this notice, we may not be able to provide books. While we certainly always plan to hold to that delivery date, allowing a little extra time helps ensure that if problems do arise we’ll still have books in time for the event. And of course, with events, as with any other work you’re doing to support your book, it helps if we find out about them as early as possible so that we’ll have plenty of time to make arrangements with your hosts to have books available at the event.
Stay In Touch
One final plea that relates to all of this: keep us informed! If you’re asked to write a review, tell us—we may be able to mention that when we’re next talking with that editor. If you line up an op-ed, tell us, and send the link so we can share it. And—especially!—if you arrange any events at all, please tell us the minute the date is confirmed, and introduce us to the person who is hosting you so that we can start working on arranging to have books for sale there.