You have /5 articles left.
Sign up for a free account or log in.

Dear Mentors,

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I finally finished my book! It took me way longer than I had hoped, but it’s finally coming out in a few months -- right before my next review. The bad news is my publisher wants me to help with marketing my book. I’m just not good at self-promotion. I know I should be excited, but the idea of having to promote my book gives me anxiety.


Bad at Self-Promotion

Dear BASP,

First, congratulations! Finishing a book is like finishing a marathon -- it gets exponentially harder to muster the energy for that last stretch. And if this book was based off your dissertation, then it’s like you just ran two marathons! Part of the reason marketing your book seems hard is that, like most scholars who’ve just published a book, you’re just exhausted.

I hear what you’re saying about self-promotion. Maybe promoting your book does feel a bit icky and egocentric. But I want you to unpack this a little bit. Are you really not good at self-promotion, as you say? Or are you afraid your colleagues will judge you for posting about your accomplishments? Are you afraid putting your book out in the world will make you an easy target for criticism? Are you worried people will think you are being too much of a braggart? Beyond your aversion to self-promotion, probably other things worth exploring are going on.

Getting at those underlying reasons can help you shift your mind-set about marketing your book. If you’re afraid your colleagues will judge you for celebrating your work, ask yourself why it’s so important to please the type of people who would dampen your shine. Why give them that power? If you’re afraid that people will criticize your book, well, I hate to break it to you but this is academe -- and criticism is inevitable.

But you know what? You’ll also find that many other people in your field, friend circle and community will go out of their way to tell you how much of an impact your book has had on them. And if you’re concerned people will judge you for being a braggart, try a mind-set shift. Marketing your book isn’t self-promotion -- it’s a form of social responsibility.

Start Small, Start SMART

In 2016, I published my first book, The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race. It chronicles the experiences of Filipino American children of immigrants in Los Angeles in their families, neighborhoods and schools. Just before the book was published, Joyce, an elementary school classmate working in public relations, reached out and encouraged me to make a Facebook page for the book. My first reaction was, who on earth is going to care about my book? Joyce pushed me not to think too much about it and simply consider it as an online bulletin board where I could post news and events related to my book.

“Just start off small,” she said. “Just try to invite 100 people to follow your page. You have at least 100 Facebook friends, right? Can you do this over the next month or so?”

The goal Joyce set for me was a SMART goal: specific, measurable, attractive, realistic and time-specific. When my book’s page reached 100 people (in just over a week), it felt great. Joyce encouraged me to get to 250 followers. Then 500. Then 1,000.

Then she created another SMART goal: post at least once a week -- and not just about news and events related to the book, as those obviously don’t happen weekly. That forced me to think about the type of posts and content my followers might care about. I started posting not only about the book but also about everything related to immigration: culture, politics, food, television shows, movies, inspiring stories and so on. I found no shortage of things to post. Plus, posting such content didn’t feel like self-promotion.

Three years after the book’s publication, the Facebook page for The Latinos of Asia has roughly 7,000 followers from around the globe. In the month of January, my posts reached 400,000 Facebook users. More than 60,000 users engaged with my page by liking, commenting or sharing something I posted.

Pro tips: Create a page on Facebook, add a profile picture and banner, invite 100 friends to like your page.

Cultivate a Community, Curate a Conversation

What I discovered, totally by accident, was that an entire community of social media users out there is hungry for content unavailable in their hometowns, schools and workplaces. People out in the world beyond academe wanted to hear about Filipino American issues -- which gave me a sense of validation that is hard to come by in higher education.

When I created the Facebook page, Joyce asked me to think about the people who would find my book interesting. That included sociology and ethnic studies scholars and students, of course, but also activists, creators and community members. Thinking about my audience helped me figure out what to post. Besides all things Filipino, I also post about larger issues of immigration, race, education and pop culture. Whenever something happens in the news, whether it’s about representation in Hollywood or political events in Washington, I try to give a “Filipino take” on these public debates and conversations.

I’ve found that my posts have helped shape conversations both for scholars and everyday folks outside academe. I’ve met undergraduate and graduate students at other institutions who have launched new research projects based on something I’ve posted on the page. Filipinos from different parts of the country have reached out to me via email or direct message to tell me they started a Filipino book club after they started following my page. I was once on an airplane, where I sat next to someone who said she uses my posts as a tool to have important conversations with her children and husband about race. Had I never listened to Joyce and started that Facebook page, none of that would have happened.

Another surprising outcome was that other people began inviting me into their conversations. News outlets like National Public Radio, NBC, and The New York Times have reached out to me because of something I posted on my book’s page. I’ve been asked to speak all over the country to colleges and community organizations because of my book’s page. And through doing these interviews and events, I’ve met so many people I never would have otherwise. Promoting the book on social media has helped me find a community, as well.

Pro tips: List at least three key themes of your book. Make a list of all the audiences who might care about those themes.

Be Consistent

Of course, these conversations around your book will only persist if you are consistent. I know you are busy with your day job as a professor. But try to post at least one to three times a week just to keep the momentum going.

As mentioned, the posts don’t have to be about your book only, especially as more time passes. In fact, I now use my book’s Facebook page as a platform to elevate other Filipino American creators, including writers, professors, students, artists and chefs. Again, going back to the idea of social responsibility, remember that your social media posts may be the only opportunity for your audience to read anything related to the issues you write about in your work.

Also try your best to engage with folks who comment on your page. Remember, too, that it’s impossible to answer every single commenter. It’s good to engage, but don’t feel pressured to respond to everyone (especially not the trolls).

If these pro tips seem a bit overwhelming, I encourage you to check out a webinar I recently conducted on marketing your book on social media, which is on the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity website. The site has no shortage of resources to help you move your research into the public sphere. In particular, I recommend some of the webinars of Crystal Fleming, a sociologist, and Josh Schimel, a scientist -- two scholars who have managed to get their research into public conversations beyond academe.

Pro tips: Think of at least three news outlets or websites that regularly post content related to your book. Post something from these sites on your book’s Facebook page once a week.

Marketing your book on social media definitely requires a mind-set shift. So much rejection occurs in academe that it might feel easier to stay quiet about our research. But why do that? You’ve worked so hard and for so many years! Your voice is important, especially if you come from a historically underrepresented community. Some people will definitely care about what you research and write about, even if you’re the only one in your department or university who pursues the line of research you do.

Again, don’t think of this as merely a form of self-promotion. Think of it as a social responsibility. If something was so important that you were willing to spend years working on a book about it, then I promise you, a world of people out there probably want to learn more about it, too.

Peace and productivity,

Anthony Ocampo, associate professor of Cal Poly Pomona and director of campus workshops at the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity

P.S. If you haven’t yet published a book but are seriously considering writing one, you might try this multiweek course with Badia Ahad, who provides a step-by-step guide for penning a book proposal. Through her course, I was able to secure a contract with NYU Press for my second book, Brown and Gay in L.A.: Immigrant Dreams and Queer Realities. (Yes, it already has its own Facebook page.)

Next Story

Written By

More from Career Advice