Book Marketing For 21st-Century Authors

Almost three years after the deal got made with Crown Publishing Group, my travel memoir about my time helping to start a radio station in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has hit the shelves. Hooray! But there’s little time to celebrate, and there hasn’t been much downtime for months—even though the actual book was complete well over a year ago.

Lisa is excited to give away a free book to one random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US48 to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Nikki won.)


Guest column by Lisa Napoli, author of the memoir,
Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the
Happiest Kingdom on Earth (Feb. 2011, Crown).
Publishers Weekly said of the book: “Napoli’s
adventures … will delight readers.” Lisa
is a
journalist who has worked in all media. She began her
career at CNN in the early 80s. A native of Brooklyn,
she now lives in Los Angeles. See her website here.
Read an excerpt of the book here.



Now, I’m in hard-core modern author mode. I’m blogging, I’m Tweeting, I’m Facebooking, I’m editing video, constantly tweaking my website. I’m preparing photos and mastering the Mac version of Powerpoint to go along with the presentation I hope to give a zillion times to any bookstore or club who’ll let me. (Such a presentation requires a certain amount of theatricality and dramatic flair and will challenge my ability as a performer.  Which I am not. Which means I have to pay a certain amount of attention, after sitting around for last few years in my pajamas, to what I’m wearing and how I appear and sound. Another skill.) I’m also convening a team of friends who to work together to raise money to build libraries in Bhutan, so I’m something of a philanthropist, too.

These days, it’s not enough to have an idea, find an agent, write a proposal, sell a book, and then actually write it. I’m one of the lucky ones, the very lucky ones, who got to this point, and I thank my stars every day. Briefly. Then, I get back to work.

The year it took to actually write the book once my fabulous agent sold it was a blissful thing, a year for which I’ll always be eternally grateful. (Since you’re reading this, you’re obviously a writer, so I don’t have to explain to you how essential loving hours and days alone to think and mull, those essential and often under-recognized parts of writing, are key components of that.)


Long before the publisher assigned me a publicist, I was compiling lists: 1) Of media friends (I’m fortunate to have them, after years of work as a journalist), whom I might hit up when this day arrived. 2) Of blogs and publications who might be interested in the themes of my book. There are many: media, democracy, midlife crisis, southeast Asia, globalization, Buddhism, women. More people to contact means more work, because you’re preparing something for everyone. 3) Of bookstores and speaker series and festivals, particularly ones located where I had friends or family, and that might have a tiny budget to offset the cost of travel.

Though I didn’t have much of an income this past year (various personnel changes and strategic planning led the publisher to delay publication by a year—in other words, don’t think just cause you make your deadlines that the schedule stays on course and thus your advance), I decided to invest in a trip to Bhutan in October to collect video with a borrowed FlipCam. I hadn’t taken many photographs in all the time I’d lived and spent there, and realized illustrating the subject of my book would be a good idea.


Not wanting to lean on my friends to sift through hours of the footage I gathered, I also realized that paying someone to do so would have been prohibitive. Staring at the screen of my trusty old MacBook, I realized the solution was right in front of me: iMovie. I took a free class and started editing away. I’m not going to put anyone out of business, but now I’m comfortable with this new skill, and I actually find it fun.

A few weeks ago, I ran into a writer acquaintance at a nearby coffee shop; she politely asked whether my book was on schedule, since the last time we’d met, it had been delayed. I told her yes, thankfully, I was in hard-core guerilla marketing mode. She rolled her eyes; she’s far more experienced and knows the demands.

“Don’t you wish you didn’t have to worry about that, that you could just write?” she asked. I thought about it for a second. It hadn’t occurred to me that any of this stuff was a nuisance. It just all seemed part of the package (and privilege) of having sold a book.

“Actually,” I said to her, as politely as possible, “no.”

Lisa is excited to give away a free book to one random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US48 to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Nikki won.)

Writing a memoir or life story? A great
resource is Writing Life Stories.


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18 thoughts on “Book Marketing For 21st-Century Authors

  1. Robert Weston

    I have given up the idea of "marketing" my work in the conventional sense. However, I’ve self published three of six projects and would love to find an "audience" for my work. I’m edging my way to what I’ll call "the middle way" (doing nothing but giving my books to friends and family is one way; going after an agent and publisher is the other). This means "publishing" via the web through my email contacts, Facebook friends, Linkedin, Twitter, etc. You article encouraged me to keep moving in this direction. Thanks, and good luck with your launch!

  2. Dell Smith

    Thanks for posting this wonderful insight into how authors get out there and get marketing. I especially like your marketing lists, and how you target bookstores and festivals near friends and family. I don’t think I would have thought of that money-saving move. Great advice.

  3. John Carpenter

    It is indeed a new world. Thanks for the insight. I’m interested in reading your book, and i’m also in the process of getting two of my own books published: one on selective college admissions and the other on the two years I lived in Paraguay at the end of the Stroessner dictatorship. Reading about your experience is encouraging. Thanks again.

  4. Larry C.

    Lisa, you have a compelling pitch and the right determination–I’m sure your book tour will go well. Thank you for sharing your strategies. I admit I’ve had a bit of an adversarial role with the Twitters and Facebooks of the world, but it’s so quickly become a requisite to marketing a book. How interesting it must be to write a book about a culture where radio is still a novel idea, then market it to another culture where books and music are downloaded in seconds. Might make a stimulating essay, or at least good fodder for conversation. Anyway, best of luck with everything!

  5. Tom Bentley

    Lisa, starting a radio station in Bhutan—why, that’s so much like my growing up in Southern California suburbs that I am going to write a memoir too! That aside, it’s good to know all these "modern author" skills one needs besides a ginormous vocabulary and attractive pajamas. Congratulations on your book!

  6. Roxane B. Salonen

    Lisa, thanks so much for sharing a bit of your journey here. I would love to read more. I’m a local radio host so you’ve already caught my interest right there, but I’m also a memoir writer. I’d love to pick your brain a little more about the process you went through. All best with the release of your work, and all of the joys that surely will follow.

  7. Candace Carter

    Thanks for helping put marketing into perspective! Now I’ve got an agent, the marketing aspect of writing is something I’m beginning to tackle. Your post is making that part of the package easier to embrace. Your book sounds very interesting, too!

  8. Scott Clark

    Very great entry. I appreciated Lisa’s motivation, drive and wit. As most are aspiring writers who read Chuck’s blog, I’m pretty certain we can appreciate Lisa’s feeling of accomplishment and desire to learn as much as possible in order to share the messages in her story. Keep it up.

  9. Cully Perlman

    Sounds like a good read. I’ve yet to attempt a travel memoir, but with a title like Radio Shangri-La, I’m sure you’ll have much success. Best of luck.

  10. Nikki

    I must say the marketing and what I can do to market my own published book is the hardest part for me. I work so much and have young children that it just seems like YET ANOTHER THING to have to work at marketing. I see the benefit of it and it’s well worth my while to do it, it’s just where do you find the energy to do it?

    Thanks for the article!


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