How not to promote your book

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Daniel Nester, whose book “How to be Inappropriate” came out last year, has tips for authors about to promote their books. Or, rather, anti-tips, in a blog post titled 13 Don’ts I Learned While Writing, Editing and Promoting My Book.

What not to do? Don’t trust your proofreading skills (hire someone). Don’t ask famous strangers for blurbs (ask enthusiastic friends and acquaintances). Don’t give away your books -- because people will buy them, really.

He also has several tips for how to give a successful reading. As someone who goes to a lot of them, I agree with almost all his recommendations. Yes, authors should practice and time themselves and set the book aside for printed pages that are more readable. They should never read from something other than the book they’re promoting, no matter how sick of it they might be. Most importantly, they should not go on too long. As Nester puts it best:

Don’t read more than 15 minutes. Any longer than that is a hostage situation.


Actually, I think 20 minutes is fine. Authors may have traveled quite some distance to get to that bookstore/library/bar, after all, and likely spent years working on the book. I can spare them 20 minutes. But push over the 30-minute mark and no matter how much the author deserves the attention, they risk losing the audience. Those chairs they set up at readings? Rarely comfortable.

He advises bringing giveaways to keep the audience happy. Little things, like posters or balloons. Authors who want to get extravagant like Chuck Palahniuk -- he threw blow-up dolls into the audience on his 2008 “Snuff” tour -- risk being inappropriate.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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