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Book Promotion: Show, Don’t Tell

by Erin Reel, The Lit Coach. 

Erin is a publishing and editorial consultant and writer’s life coach.  She hosts The Lit Coach’s Guide to The Writer’s Life, a popular resource blog featuring stories, tips and fresh perspective from bestselling, award-winning and notable authors, literary agents, editors, publishers and other industry insiders.

This 7th in Erin’s series on Book Proposals That Rock.

The Deciding Factor

While every section of the book proposal is essentially important, the Book Promotion section of your nonfiction book proposal might very well be the deciding factor in an agent or publisher’s decision to bring you aboard.

This is the place in the proposal where you ask not what your publisher can do for you, but ask what you can do for your publisher.

The days where publishers sent their authors on fabulous multi-city book tours with hotel accommodations are few and far between.

And even their in-house PR attempts for your book will most likely be cut like a suit from the 60’s – short and slim. Here’s the reality of book promotion today – plan on tackling most of your book’s PR efforts yourself.

Get Your Creative, Entrepreneurial Spirit On!

The great news is, there is so much opportunity to promote your book beyond book tours and prime real estate in book stores – a creative, entrepreneurial spirit is your best asset.

Crayons The book promotion section is where you will show the agent and publisher just how passionate you are about taking advantage of all that opportunity by leveraging your platform and other avenues. This is your opportunity to show the industry how determined you are to make your book a success.

Numbers speak to agents and publishers, so that’s what the bulk of this section will contain while keeping a narrative voice.

THE KEY:  What’s important here is to show HOW you will promote your book to these numbers. Statistics and figures are just cold numbers on a page without your plan on how to use them.

Just remember, this is your good faith agreement with the publisher. Anything you say you’re going to do to promote your book, they will count on and most likely write in to your publishing contract.

Let’s break it down.

Your Following

If you’re a known expert, advocate, specialist, etc., chances are you have a strong following. How do you regularly communicate your message to those who subscribe to your brand?

  • Newsletter?
  • Blog?
  • Newspaper or magazine column (in print or online)?
  • TV/Radio/Internet show?

Two Key Questions:

  1. What are the numbers behind those outlets?
  2. How many people get your message across those platforms?

Two Key Steps:

  1. In the Book Promotion section…you will give approximate numbers reflecting each audience. All these various audiences equal potential buyers for your book!
  2. Then, you will show HOW you plan to approach these audiences with your book promotion.

Professional Memberships

What about the professional associations and clubs you’re a member of?

  • Is there an opportunity for you to speak in front of those groups or be included in their print and online platforms?
  • Can you confirm that once your book is published they will be on board in helping you promote it?

List them and their numbers – how many members there are, how many members visit their website (and even non-members, if applicable), subscribe to their newsletter or other print and online marketing?

Two Key Questions:

  1. What’s their reach?
  2. HOW will you address these markets?

The Social Media

  • If you have a professional presence on all the various social media outlets and use them frequently to direct your followers to your content, list what they are and how many followers you have.
  • If you blog, how many people visit your blog each month? Subscribers? List them.
  • Now, HOW will you use this platform to promote your book?

Buying In Bulk?

Will you plan on buying large quantities of your book to give away or sell? Communicate these details:

  • How many do you plan on buying during the first print run?
  • What will be their intended use?

Just remember, a publisher can and will hold you to your word – it will most likely be negotiated in the contract, so be prepared to honor that handshake (publishers are within their rights to pull a contract from an author if the author does not fulfill their end of the deal).

The Big Question: Is there a large corporation that intends on buying large quantities of the book? Likewise, include this pertinent information.

Book Signings

Finally, of course, are the author signings. While you don’t need to have your own detailed plan for a book tour or event schedule, at least express in this section that you will be open and flexible to book signings and other author events as indicated by the publisher or by your own means.

If you do have opportunities for signings and events already committed, feel free to list them. How many books will you need for these events?

A Final Word About Costs

What’s key to consider as you’re creating this section of the book proposal is that all this self-promotion costs you time and certainly money.

Understand on the front end just how much time and money you’re budgeting and consider that amount when you eventually negotiate your advance with your agent or publisher – your resources are worth the negotiation, especially when self and e publishing have become such viable choices for nonfiction authors in the past several years.


Erin Reel, The Lit Coach, is a platform, publishing and editorial consultant, columnist and blog host of The Lit Coach’s Guide to The Writer’s Life.

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