A good friend of mine, who has published books, won awards, had two essays featured in the Best American Essays series, plus thirteen other “notable essays,” and is a senior editor at a highly regarded literary journal, recently wrote me an email, asking if I would blurb his upcoming book—an absolute honor.
The subject title of his email? “The Dreaded Blurb Request.”
Google “writers and marketing,” and the slightly pungent term, “self-promotion,” and you’ll find statements like “the bane of an author’s existence” (The Writing Cooperative), “10 (Practically) Cringe-less Self-Promotion Ideas for Authors” (Publisher’s Weekly), and “the essential element of becoming a successful author that many writers shun: self-promotion” (Huffpost).
I cringe just writing these words because, of course, I have a book coming out, Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children, and, as this is my year of saying “yes,” I am trying to do what I’ve never done before: try to promote this book.
Thankfully, beyond the constant tango of my personal angst and inner incriminations—“you really are an idiot” —one small and beautiful nugget of book advice recently “pixelized” from Authors Publish: The Magazine for Writers:
Email the literary journals that have published work from your book and ask the editors if they could “share the news.”
Of course. These editors have already supported your work. They want you to succeed because, one, they are really just very nice people who love writing and have devoted their lives to helping and promoting writers, and, two, your successes are their successes. They knew you when.
Emily Harstone, a pen name for apparently a well-published writer, shares in her article, Literary Journals: A Great Way to Promote Your Work, her own convincing success story with contacting the editors who had previously published the poems that would appear in her upcoming book:
… three separate journals published reviews of my book, and all ten featured a promotion about it on their Facebook pages. Two also sent out an email that promoted my book along with other books by previous contributors.
Wow. So, I tried it. And I don’t think I’ll have a more pleasant experience than this one in getting this book out into the world.I have heard back from all of the editors. Every one. They wrote back quickly and with such generosity and goodwill, the perfect salve to angst and idiocy. In a word, all said, “Yes.”
Julie Erikson, at JuxtaProse, posted my book news on Facebook, first emailing me and asking me for a link for pre-orders. Jill Christman, at River Teeth, offered to do a book review and to post info on social media and the RT webpage. The new editors at Fourth Genre will post the news on Facebook and Twitter. Adam Cohen and Jendi Reiter ( a fellow Saddle Road Press Author, I discovered) of Winning Writers shared my news on the WW website and in their January newsletter. Laura Newborn, the editor of Arts & Letters, posted my book news on their Contributor News page. Nawal Nader-French, the editor for Inverted Syntax, who nominated one of the title essays from the book for a Pushcart Prize, invited me to do an author interview about the book and read at their next event.
I am reminded, once more, how great and welcoming our literary community is.
If you have a book coming out, try it. Send a friendly email. I sent nothing fancy: “Hey, my book is coming out and you published one of the pieces in it. Could you share the news?”
As writer and editor Anna Holmes says in her thoughtful remarks for the New York Times article, “The Demands of Book Promotion: Frivolous or Necessary?”: “If you were to put a book out into the world, which would you rather have — conversation or silence?”