The [Shameless] Self-Promotion of the Academic Book

Curator's Note

Many of us are keen to promote our published work within our field of film and media studies and also reach a broader audience beyond academia. How do authors best pursue this goal? The answer, as I outline here, is through shameless self-promotion.

As Ross Melnick and I highlighted in our Fall 2016 “In Focus” introduction, academic presses are under increasing financial constraints that limit their ability to market books that often encompass disparate subjects from the humanities. What’s more, these limitations amplify the pressure for books to “crossover” and generate retail sales. Authors may find themselves contending with these competing priorities. Aside from the expensive option of hiring a press agent or publicity firm, what strategies can we employ as author-scholars to promote our work and ensure that our books reach the widest audience possible?

We can do so by asking questions in advance about the marketing and promotion process at our specific press. For example, I have been fortunate to work with wonderful editors and supportive staff at University of Texas Press, who published my book, Independent Stardom: Freelance Women in the Hollywood Studio System in 2016. My incredulous and incessant questions about my book’s promotion generated an early meeting with the press publicist. Together with the social media specialist, we outlined a publicity campaign and plan. Moreover, the press encouraged me to actively promote my book and keep her informed. This resulted in fluid communication that kept track of all the press generated by my book thus far.

This latter point underscores the importance of shameless self-promotion. We authors are our best advocates, and we must seek unconventional ways beyond traditional book marketing provided by academic presses. Embrace the digital realm, design a Facebook or Twitter page and post regularly, contribute to blogs, online forums, and podcasts related to your book, and coordinate events at your university and/ your community, from book readings and signings to programming and curatorial work. While these efforts may seem daunting after completing the monumental task of publishing a book, they can reap substantial rewards and make your book known to fellow scholars and a broader audience..


Emily, this post really speaks to me right now. The work of "shameless self promotion" has been difficult for me to embrace. On the one hand there is a certain relief in knowing that the book is done, that it is out. My mindset in finishing the book was geared towards finishing and I assumed that, once it was done, its post-publication life was something that I would bear witness to rather than steer. In trying to finish the book, the last thing I wanted to think about was all the promotional work that completion of the book would inaugurate. In order to properly embrace this next phase, I'm trying to imagine the promotional process as a kind of extension of the work of the book. To put another way, that a digital presentation of some of the films or documents discussed in the book might function as a continuation or revamping of the book's argument. Is it possible to look at the promotion stage not necessarily as a separate stage, but as almost a continuation of one's work on the book?

To answer your question, Steve -- yes, I do think that the promotion of the book should be thought of as a continuum from the writing and publishing process of the book, rather than a separate process. Like you already noted -- although the book process is so time consuming that we would rather be a witness than active instigator for our book's promotion -- if we are passive, that risks the book receiving less attention and/or publicity. To take a star analogy that helped motivate my mustering the energy for my own book's promotion -- we must work the publicity "circuit" like actors/talent do to help promote their movies. Perhaps we don't get the same round of morning talk and late night talk show interviews or major magazine press, but we can seek out many opportunities on the web as you also noted. Podcasts are a great opportunity as well to promote a book that is more accessible for our cross-over books.

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