The Sharpened Quill

Caitlin Kelly

Caitlin Kelly
Tarrytown, NY, USA
December 31
non-fiction author/speaker/consultant
Bio Author "Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail" (Portfolio, April 2011), deemed "an excellent memoir" by Entertainment Weekly. Out in paperback July 31, 2012. I also edit other writers' work -- everything from thrillers to business books. Email me for hourly rates; references available.

Caitlin Kelly's Links

APRIL 21, 2011 11:08AM

Promoting Your Book, Finding Readers: Tips

Rate: 9 Flag

My second non-fiction book, "Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail" (Portfolio) was published April 14. Yay!

But as every author knows -- and every would-be author must learn -- I've been working on promoting it long before the manuscript was finished and accepted for publication, in September 2010.

Today, (for which I'm grateful), it's two radio interviews -- Phoenix and D.C. -- and a New York Times interview. Yesterday it was the Brian Lehrer Show and Tuesday was an hour of live radio with the legendary Diane Rehm, who has two million listeners.

(All of these are archived on their websites.)

Maybe some of these ideas will help you sell your book(s)!

Registered the domain name and hired my longtime web designer to create a website for the book. He updates its press and media page almost daily with new audio, reviews and clips.

Created a Facebook page. Please visit and like it!

Signed up at HARO, a three-times-daily website heavily used by 5,000 reporters worldwide seeking sources/experts to interview and quote. (This works only for non-fiction writers, but well worth it. I snagged a Wall Street Journal blogger this way.)

Began blogging in July 2009 for True/Slant, a website (later bought by Forbes,) with a final monthly audience of 10,000 visitors and 239 subscribers

Began blogging at in September 2010

Began blogging here at wordpress in August 2010

Reached out to every single person I interviewed for the book to let them know the book's publication date, asking them to tweet, blog and mention it on all their social networks and tell their family, friends and colleagues

I visit LinkedIn once a week to answer as many questions as possible, using my book title as my professional signature

I tweet about retail, the subject of my book

I started targeting colleges, universities and community colleges, locally and elsewhere, that teach retailing to see if I might give a guest lecture and sell books; three have said yes, so far

I reached out to the Canadian consulate in New York, (I'm Canadian), and asked them to mention the book in their newsletter and on their website and to create an event for me

I did the same with the University of Toronto, my alma mater; I'm speaking there May 28 at 10:00 a.m. Come visit!

I contacted local businesses and asked some of of them to keep a stack of my book's postcard on their desks and counters

A local coffee shop -- which has more than 2,000 Facebook friends -- is letting me do a reading there

A local reading non-profit group where I volunteered is holding an event for me in their space and inviting their friends and fellow volunteers

I contacted a local indie film center to see if we could schedule a film night linked to my book's themes of shopping, low-wage labor or working retail

I attended the two-day 15,000 person National Retail Federation annual conference in Manhattan and took two people to help me walk the entire floor for two days to hand out postcards and gather potential contacts for speaking, consulting, writing and book sales

I did a brief video for NRF while there extolling retail as a possible career

I collected contact information at the conference from several professors of retailing who might use the book as a text or have me guest lecture or speak

I contacted a Canadian retail blogger attending NRF who did a long video interview with me which will go up on YouTube and who blogged about me twice

I met another high-profile retail blogger for coffee, (while in her Canadian city on family business)

I asked my publisher to give me 5,000 postcards with the book's cover on one side, a great blurb on the other, and a description of the book and my contact information on the back; I use them instead of a business card now, have used them for book party invitations and hand them to anyone who might find it useful

I've written -- without pay -- several guest blog posts at sites with far more readers than I have, like the Guide to Literary Agents (they approached me) and the Harvard Business Review blog (ditto)

I read dozens of blogs every single day to find sites and posts where I can leave a useful comment

I called a local language school teaching foreign students -- who all shop like crazy in Manhattan! -- and asked if I could come and talk; they said yes

I called a local independent bookstore and asked if I could do an event there; yes

I reached out to an editor I know at a regional magazine and they did a Q & A with me

I wrote, for pay, an essay for my alumni magazine about working retail

I contacted a local freelancer who profiled me for a local monthly newspaper

I contacted a local radio talk show host who is giving me an hour of air-time

And that's not even the half of it...

So far, I've lined up more than 14 speaking events, several well-paid, like the closing keynote for the retailcustomerexperience conference this summer. I'm always looking for more!

What sorts of things have you done to successfully promote your book(s)?

Any great blogs or websites we should know about?

I'll give a copy of my book to the person who offers the best suggestion!

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Caitlin: I listened to your Diane Rehm interview and I thought it did a very good job at interesting the listeners about the subject. I started reading the book last night and hope to see you at the Pleasantville signing.

These tips are very useful for the prospective author. My sister-in-law published a true crime book a couple of years ago and I remember the amount of hustling she had to do. It can be daunting.
The hardest part is know what has worked. Thanks to my pals at OS, it's getting better. I tweet on twitter, a sentence from my book....since only 140 characters allowed, perhaps before I die....
I am not an author, perhaps an author in waiting... but I like going forward with these things in mind. My aunt has self published a novel, and working on another, and I know she is frustrated how much work it takes to sell it compared to writing what she wants. Like with any endeavor, we have to realize that no one owes it to us to listen to our story (much less buy and read it), buy our product, care for our plans, support our efforts. The reality of the marketplace is that you must put your "product" in front of others, who will be interested, in a timely fashion, and accept that there is no guarantee anything will work. I have decided it is best for me to work for others, and become a better physician, than spend half my time and money focused on the marketing for patients. Knowing what must be done, and what one must be willing to do. Anyone who thinks their work speaks for itself is talking to a small audience.
Thanks for all this great advice! Hopefully I will put it to good use sometime in the near future...
I will link your post on my site.
CC, it's so cool you'll come out to Pleasantville! Diane Rehm is a smart and challenging really up your game with her. It was an amazing opportunity (and tiring!) to have an hour of airtime with her.

Oryoki, you know well what it takes. The web has been terrific at helping people find and nurture audiences....unpaid! The challenge is trying to woo and keep attention long enough to get them to click the "buy" button on-line or head into a bookstore to pick up the material.

It is definitely, however thoughtful or creative, still very much "a product" within a very crowded marketplace, in a recession, competing for tight funds and distracted and limited attention.

Susie, thanks!
I just gave you a shout out on OS Weekly. Congratulations on your book release. All the best.
First of all big congrats on the book! And second, hat's off for all your enterprising book-promo. You sound like a marketing whiz.
As someone who has been in book-flog mode for the last year myself, I did feel the anxiety rising as I read. My God -- am I doing enough? Should I be doing more? Is more ever enough?
And then, after all you recounted, you said "that's not even the half of it?" Oy. I think I need to go take a nap.... xo
bsb, thanks!!! Much appreciated.

Zoe, it's like being too rich or too thin. One can never do "enough" and can go and pass out from trying! Once I see what sales are like, my motivation will increase or decrease, I suspect.
Thanks for the great tips! They will come in very handy when I actually publish something, which probably won't happen until about 50 years from now because I don't really have time to wipe my own butt at the moment, let alone write a novel. I am determined to be published before I die. People seem to like reading my stuff on here, which means maybe I could write a book people might actually buy, although making the leap from a free website to charging people to read my work seems like a bit of a stretch. I haven't even gotten any tips yet... :/
Great tips, Caitlin! I also gave you a shout out on my OS Week In Review for April 20, 2011...xox
Robin, thanks! Much appreciated.

Rebekah...It's not easy getting published. Many people are going the self-publishing route which might be the way to go.
I'm sorry I missed the NPR interview. I'll go to the NPR site to download it. Good luck with sales.
FTM, each interview can be found at each show's website; the Lehrer interview is about 20 minutes and Rehm was an hour. Thanks!
Thank you so much for letting some of the secrets out ;)
That's all fine and good, but if there are only a few reviews and the book isn't FOS at the chains, good luck. Also, what are your first printing numbers? That's key. A lot of new titles hit the bestseller list based solely on first printing numbers -- the publisher can't afford not to promore it heavily.
True, John.

What is FOS?

My print run is more than 12,000, which is high in this economy but based on terrific pre-orders before publication.

I find your logic skewed. As an author yourself, you know that publishers make decisions about how many copies to print based on a variety of factors, and initial demand is key. I had such high demand for Malled before any reviews were printed that they revised their number; whether what was based on my blogging or social media work or sheer luck, I don't know.

They will not print many more than they realistically hope to sell.

And no book can make the best-seller list unless a LOT of people actually buy it. No publisher can force people to buy their books. Some authors do 24/7 media and get huge reviews....and their books simply do not sell (or sell well.)

You know it is a crapshoot for almost anyone beyond Malcolm Gladwell or Chelsea Handler.

Maybe I should die and go to heaven --- that's put two books on the best-seller list right now. Please.
FOS is Front of Store, the displays you see when you walk into B&N or Borders, if there still are any Borders. Publishers pay for that space and it's usually a pretty good indication of a publisher's excitement for a book, which I think is key because a large first printing usually indicates major promotion and impresses booksellers and critics. Independent booksellers will go out of their way to hand sell books. "Water For Elephants" comes to mind.

You're DOA if you start out in the racks.
But as you know FOS costs the publishers money and many books will not get that favored spot. I did, for two weeks at B & N nationwide in major markets. Two weeks is a very short time but it's all I got.
Brilliant. Helpful. Thanks!
Thanks, Hawley! If you read and enjoy Malled, please leave an amazon review....the more, the merrier.