Increase Your Exposure as an Expert

Promoting your book is as critical as writing it. Norman Eng shares tips.

Posted Nov 18, 2018

Dr. Norman Eng, used with permission
Source: Dr. Norman Eng, used with permission

You know something of value. You want others to know it, too. But in our age of information overload, it can be difficult to stand out and garner attention for your ideas.

Dr. Norman Eng founded EducationXDesign to help new professors teach more effectively. He lectures at The City College of New York and authored Teaching College: The Ultimate Guide to Lecturing, Presenting, and Engaging Students. I cite Eng in my latest book on this interview’s topic: Sharing Your Education Expertise with the World: Make Research Resonate and Widen Your Impact. Eng has successfully promoted his book to become a bestseller in seven education categories on Amazon.com.

Here Eng shares practical ideas on what it takes to widen your book’s impact:

Jenny Rankin (JR): When it comes to promoting books, scholars often rely on publishers. You don’t agree. Why?

Norman Eng (NE): If you want to share your expertise with the world, don’t rely on book publishers—at least not exclusively. Many publishers will only email their subscription list or add your book to their website. But there is no genuine outreach—at least if you’re relatively unknown. For big-time scholars like Steven Levitt (who co-authored Freakonomics) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysics for People in a Hurry), that’s probably a different story. You have to actively court customer reviews, write articles related to your book, and go on podcasts—and that’s on top of keeping up with social media

JR: Your book became an Amazon bestseller in multiple categories. How did you make this happen?

NE: It starts by writing a book that fills a real need. That in itself is a huge mindset shift since scholars often write just to publish their research. The question is, Will anyone else care about your topic? Your book has to move readers in some way. My book, for instance, helps professors teach more effectively—there’s a demand for that. So during the planning phase, I’ll answer three questions: 1) Who am I writing for? 2) How will my target readers benefit from this book? and 3) What makes my book different and better than others like it?

I developed a template—what I call a “1-sentence book pitch”—to answer those three questions: “My book helps [specific audience] get [benefit] using my [methodology], which [differentiates it from competitors by…].” A mouthful, yes, but it gets you clear really fast. Then I work backwards from that all-important goal.

Second, I put effort into other factors unrelated to writing: the title, the cover design, the price, the book description, the book categories and keywords, and the quality/quantity of customer reviews. Think about it. These six areas probably affect purchase decisions most. Yet most scholars don’t think about them, or they feel they have little control over them. I recommend taking as much ownership of the process as possible when it comes to working with publishers. Do your research and insist on being heard. As an independent author, I have more control. Self-publishing is becoming a more legitimate and popular approach and is something scholars might want to consider.

JR: When we first met in a conference course I taught on this topic, you gave me a free copy of your book. Please explain why you are willing to give work away for free.

NE: Sharing your expertise is all about helping your audience. Since my book is about effective communication (in teaching), I thought that topic might resonate with you. Especially since your workshop was all about communicating research. So, giving my work away for free is first and foremost about providing value. Scholar Adam Grant talks a lot about how “giving” is fundamental to personal and professional success. Second, giving away a book leaves a much bigger impression than handing out business cards. Why? Because your book does the talking for you, long after you’ve shook hands and left. Simple. The worst mindset to have is to think you’re losing sales by giving books away. Unfortunately, I’ve met professors who can’t shake this idea. Exposure is much more important. At your next conference, find people who might benefit from your book and strike up a conversation.