Tips from an Industry Pro: How One Indie Press Builds Book Buzz

When it comes to book marketing, who promotes what, where, when, and how? Chris Fischbach, Publisher of Coffee House Press, can answer that. He knows pretty much everything about how indie presses and authors can work together to bring their books to the biggest audience.

We offered a workshop with Chris as part of our FACE OUT: Maximizing the Visibility of Emerging Writers program, through which publishers along with their authors receive a series of technical assistance workshops and other group activities plus two years of financial support (made possible with support from the Jerome Foundation and New York Community Trust). This session provided expert insight into small press marketing strategies and what they expect authors to do when it comes to promoting their own work.

CHP’s Marketing

Coffee House works hard to promote their writers, as they should. Success for their authors reflects well on the publisher and can boost national attention for both. So what’s Coffee House’s favorite and most effective marketing tool? Here’s a hint: it’s free, it’s easy, and you’ve got 280 characters to make your case.

Tweet, Tweet

Twitter is the channel of choice for Coffee House’s promo efforts, and they have a strategy that’s easy for anyone to adopt. The press’s marketing director targets bookstores and sellers who have a highly active Twitter presence. She then reaches out through Direct Messages (DMs) to build relationships. Once the connection is established, Coffee House sends galleys and backlist titles to simpatico sellers to be featured in their stores. For Coffee House Press, Twitter is an easy (and completely free!) way to spread the word about books, and those seller relationships are an invaluable source of advocates and word-of-mouth promotion.

Author Expectations

While a publisher’s staff can certainly work marketing magic, authors need to collaborate too. This is increasingly true for publishing houses both small and large, and Coffee House Press is no exception. Authors who collaborate to spread the word about their work often see their books reaching more readers.

Case Study: Hieu Minh Nguyen

Which authors get promo right? Chris offered Hieu Minh Nguyen as a great example of a working poet with a great audience platform. Coffee House will publish Nguyen’s poetry collection, Not Here, in April 2018, and the poet is already mobilizing support. With a well-established and active social media presence, Nguyen does an excellent job mixing community engagement and self-promo. Nguyen uses online platforms to feature other poets, showing genuine commitment to literary citizenship, in addition to sharing news about his own events and writing, often by retweeting others who have mentioned him to show that he’s not always tooting his own horn.

Chris also shared that Nguyen actively reaches out to organizations who will sponsor him to speak at universities and build connections there. Nguyen is great at book marketing because he is willing to travel and spread the word about his work, actively looks for opportunities to speak at events, and is an active literary citizen engaged in the community. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to have friends like poet all-stars sam sax and National Book Award finalist, Danez Smith, as part of an informal poetry collective who all travel and perform together.

A full transcript of Chris’s workshop is available to CLMP members as part of our online Resource Library, a digital archive of multimedia from past panels, workshops, readings, and other literary events. If you are a publisher who would like access to CLMP’s complete Resource Library, become a CLMP member publisher!