The ART of Book Promotion

In the Digital Age, promotion is a daily part of most authors’ lives, whether they like it or not. Considered by many as two separate processes, writing is seen as creative and purposeful; promotion, a drudgery. Well, what if authors started thinking about promotion as part of their creative lives? What would a writer’s life look like if creativity and promotion were blended? As someone who studies book promotion all day long, I can tell you that authors who incorporate promotion into their creative lives are having a lot more fun, becoming better writers, building longer-term relationships with their readers, and selling more books than those who keep these two responsibilities separate.

What exactly am I proposing here? I’m suggesting that when we put the “art” back in book promotion, both authors and readers benefit. Let’s start by taking a look at a few examples of this “blending” done well.

I became aware of Colin Falconer (@colin_falconer) through a tweet that said his blog was “seriously addictive.” The link took me to “Looking for Mr. Goodstory…an author’s search for James Clavell’s ghost, a good bourbon, and the perfect role for Russell Crowe.” Before even exploring his posts, I knew I liked this guy. Why? Because he was clever and having fun. The first post I read was about famous last words. It was oozing with creativity, historical knowledge and whimsy.

I explored the site more fully, and found posts about Falconer’s fear of flying, “a phobia about the kind of people who end up sitting next to me on planes. These were humorous, short character sketches with which anyone who’d ever flown could identify: The Ear Popper, The Talker, The Sweaty Virgin, and so on.

Though I am sure Falconer mentions his books sometimes, none of the posts I read did. He simply let his writing speak for itself. He drew readers in with his craft, and he appeared to be having a great time doing this. Subtly stationed nearby was a bio, which explained that he was the author of more than twenty historical novels. Also found on the sidelines were book covers, which linked readers to more information about his books. Though historical fiction is not a genre I typically read, I wanted to learn more so I bought a digital version of Falconer’s book Seraglio.

Roz Morris is another author who came on my radar as a result of social media. I had already purchased her latest book, when I saw her January 10 guest post for Creative Flux called  The Black Dress.” Here, Morris shared a scene she’d cut reluctantly during final revisions of My Memories of a Future Life, a novel about an injured musician who must contemplate life without her passion.

Morris explains about the scene,

I like its simplicity, the tiny slice it showed of a musician’s life and the totemic responsibility Carol put into one garment….Even though it didn’t make it to the page, I like to think that she still did it, off screen in the moments we didn’t see.

Carol's DressThen, Morris commits another act of creativity and shares an elegant photograph she herself took of the dress, a family heirloom that inspired the scene. The response from readers revealed a high level of emotional engagement. Not only did they empathize with her struggle as a writer to cut a scene that she loved, but the story of the black dress took on a literary life of its own.

I especially identified with one reader’s comment.

This is a touching scene. After having read this book, I do agree that it reiterates what Carol [the musician] is feeling….It brings back all of those pangs that I felt for her….Thanks for sharing this melancholy reminder of a great read!

Do you think the next time Morris publishes a book, this reader will be there ready to devour it? Do you suppose Morris enjoyed creating the photo that breathed new life into a cherished but abandoned scene? I’m confident the answer to both questions is yes.

As a final example, I introduce the work of Harrison Solow, author of Felicity & Barbara Pym, a book I have now read twice. Like the other authors mentioned here, I discovered Solow’s work through social media. I dare you to tell me that you could resist clicking through tweets like these:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/HarrisonSolow/status/183323563556749312″]
[blackbirdpie url=”!/HarrisonSolow/status/171311093531164672″]
[blackbirdpie id=”175266655063121920″]
[blackbirdpie url=”!/HarrisonSolow/status/174495826415063040″]

Solow’s brilliant literary teasers make your neurons twitch until you click through and fall into a rich trove of stories, poems and reflections. Each tweet is an intimate invitation to explore the life and work of an artist. The more of her work you encounter, the more you want to read. And with each new post, her body of work as an artist grows. In this approach, writing and promotion are symbiotic…simply a writer sharing his or her unfolding body of work with the world. Herein, we discover the true “art” of promotion. Instead of drudgery, book promotion becomes an encounter with creativity that is a joy for both reader and writer.




Kathy Meis

Kathy Meis

Kathy Meis is a writer, ghostwriter, former award-winning journalist and passionate reader as well as founder and CEO of Serendipite Studios, a publishing technology startup located in Charleston, South Carolina. Stop by, and check out Pappus, the revolutionary eTool that lets authors blog directly from their books.




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Creativity’s The Easy Bit

"It’s one thing to dream, but it’s completely another to engineer the final solution."

"It’s one thing to dream, but it’s completely another to engineer the final solution."

Some say that creativity, coming up with great new ideas is hard. I disagree. I have no problems coming up with really novel and interesting ways of addressing problems. It’s about the most fun you can have. You chew on the problem, explore data and whet your tingling nerve endings. Then maybe a bit of incubation and perhaps some deliberate creativity techniques, from using the dictionary to find stimulating random words to bouncing ideas around with other people.  And before long, there’s all kinds of great thoughts spouting out and spreading around.

But that’s not the half of it. When you have the idea, you next have to figure out how to make it work in practice. It’s one thing to dream, but it’s completely another to engineer the final solution. You may have to design shapes, connections and so on. You may need to figure out how to make it really cheaply and in a way that is easy to manufacture. And of course take into account all the regulations about recyclability, toxicity and so on. You may even fret about packaging and how to ship it from A to B in one piece. And before all this there’s all the stuff about usability, learnability, aesthetics et cetera. Maybe also you’ll be lucky and be dealing with something more conceptual, maybe just something that people should do.

Then comes the hard part. Or maybe the hard parts. This is about the people stuff. Because before you even get to spend any money on development, you’ll have to persuade other people that the idea is great. You’ll need to persuade them that the problem that your idea solves is worth solving. And worth spending money on. Even if it is blindingly obvious to you, you’ll find that there will be people who think it is stupid and a waste of time and certainly a waste of money.  And if you’re developing a commercial product, then you’ll also have to persuade people to use your idea, customers to buy, retailers to stock, marketers to sell and so on.

But don’t worry. All this stuff about persuading people is also about creativity. Because now you are in the territory of social innovation, where you can be creative about how you influence, sell and change minds. The problem that many innovators face is that, while they are great in their home territory, they are lost when it comes to persuasion.  The solution is not easy, but it can be fun. You just have to roll your sleeves up and study psychology and social influence. It’s a big field and there’s lots to discover. But if you want to really make a difference in life, you’ll find it the best investment you can make.



How To Invent Almost Anything

How To Invent Almost Anything

David Straker is a creative professional who has spent many years in R&D (hardware and software), won a few patents for his employers, and since the 90s, has been a business consultant—training people in blue-chip companies around the world. He has written a number of books, including two on problem-solving and one on inventing.


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Stupidity Rules for Creative Professionals

To be innovative, enter the Zone of Productive Stupidity.

Japanese Maple

Steve Aldous (Gigapic)

I’m having trouble being stupid. Productively stupid, that is. I have infinite reserves of unproductive stupidity—ignoring my car’s oil light, losing my wallet, hiring the wrong person. That’s the variety of a presidential candidate forgetting during a national debate which federal agencies he wants to eliminate (“Oops”).

Productive stupidity is something else. Productive stupidity pushes us beyond merely executing ideas and can lure us to extraordinary productivity. But I’m getting ahead of myself with that know-it-all assertion. See my problem?

1. Throwing Out the Creative Baby with the Theoretical Bathwater

A lot of popular advice being doled out about creative productivity has its catchy truisms: Get things done. Make ideas happen. Cultivate grit and sweat more than imagination. I admire and respect Scott Belsky’s Make Ideas Happen team & work (@scottbelsky) and David Allen’s Get Things Done team & work (@gtdguy).   These imperatives can shake aspiring creatives and professionals out of their daydreaming stupor. And they’re consistent with the interventions I suggest for clients and organizations as well as my own adages of “Show up and shape time” and “Stoke the creative fire.” They’re also consistent with some social psychologists’ research in creativity. I consider myself among these creative activists, to a point.

Creative activists’ advice stems in part from a deep-rooted backlash to previous creativity theorists. These previous trends, from Edward DeBono’s lateral thinking and parallel thinking (@Edward_deBono) to J.P. Guilford’s divergent thinking, emphasized how to rewire an individual’s “creative thinking.” These theories are useful but limited. I’m admittedly oversimplifying them for the sake of space here, but in the 1960s and 1950s respectively they generally could not take advantage of more current evidence that shows how social creativity is.

Creativity is Social

Creativity is Social

Creativity is social. In part. Our coming up with great ideas might depend less on being a lone genius holed up in a cave-like study or lab lost in reverie—the current stream of creative activist and social psychologist thought goes—than on our shaping an optimal environment, building social networks, leveraging luck (Thank you, Jim Collins and Dr. Richard Wiseman), and organizing routines. I evangelize about these matters to my clients in meetings and my tribes at events.

“If you want to help people cultivate their creativity, don’t give them more wonder.” That’s what one social psychologist whose work I respect recently told me. “Give them more opportunities to be connected with other people.”

So here’s where I question and take exception. Are wonder and being social mutually exclusive, as he assumes? Is wonder solely the province of the mythical lone genius, as he assumes? As someone accustomed to stake out his intellectual turf in the sciences, was he and are other experts ready to diminish previous theories of creativity outside this field and trend? Is there, as I think he assumed, less value in solitude, deeply felt imagination, and the workings of the individual’s creative mind than in a creative person’s social life and environment?

Must we choose between creative thinking and creative doing?

Are we throwing out the creative baby with the theoretical bathwater? I don’t know.

 2. Back to Stupidity

Do you see how much trouble I have being productively stupid? I question a lot. But behind those questions I assume I have some deeper answers. And this is where those of us who have been working as creatives, who have been refining our métier, who have been thinking about and researching creativity for decades get into trouble. Our expertise and desire to know or appear to know traps us.

From what? From the deeply felt imagination and the nuanced mind of not-knowing that in fact does stem from hours of silence so you can hear thinking in colors as you compose and as you witness stray goldfish that flutter on your imagination’s margins as you write or theorize. So you can let the present moment of language and lines (for writers) or light and lines (for artists) or logos and lines (for designers) or movement and lines (for dancers) guide you more than your assumptions. You can let the troubling questions that fascinate you guide you more than preconceived answers.

Microbiologist Martin A. Schwartz knows something about this nuanced state of not-knowing. He writes,

Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time.

Andre Dubus III has written one of the most compelling and exceptionally well written stories I’ve read in years—the memoir Townie. It explores how he as a young boy became hell bent on becoming tough enough to plow down the neighborhood bullies, how the passion of bloody violence overcomes him through much of his young adulthood, how he takes an unlikely journey to becoming a writer, and what all of this has to do with his father Andre Dubus II—one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated short story writers.

So how did he pull it off?

“I was cultivating stupidity.” That might seem like an odd claim for this skilled author whose novel  A House of Sand and Fog has been an Oprah’s Book Club pick and made into a film starring Ben Kingsley. Taking a cue from poet William Stafford, Dubus says he tried to be a receiving vessel, to accept anything that came, and was willing to fail.

Schwartz told me of his scientific experiments, “Much of the time I don’t know what I’m doing.” Of writing his first memoir, Dubus said essentially the same thing.

A creative director of an innovative advertising agency recently contacted me about speaking to his agency’s members. He mentioned that in an employee review he tried to encourage the person to be more stupid. I knew what he meant, and at that moment, I knew I wanted to work with this guy.

It’s that kind of stupidity I admire.


Solitude and silence can help you excise the "stuff" that your mind has accumulated.

And doesn’t that level of confident productive stupidity often require the opposite of what some social psychologists and productivity experts champion? Doesn’t it require solitude and silence? Solitude and silence can help you excise the “stuff” that your mind has accumulated. Solitude and silence helps you empty the branded messages and signature designs and trademark styles you’ve constructed to present your recognizable public creative self.

Solitude and silence, even long walks and long showers, can help dismantle enough of our conscious reality to let breakthroughs emerge.

3. The Productive Stupidity Zone at the Perimeters of a Creative Field

Every creative field—be it architecture, design, dance, science, writing, consulting—and every industry has an understood circle of convention. These conventions might include principles or protocols, elements of craft or choreography.

This circle’s boundaries encompass the industry’s or field’s accepted conventions. Most successful and extraordinary creatives and creative enterprisers understand and even master some of these conventions. They dance confidently within the circle.

And most creative professionals and professional creatives have their own personal field-circle, their own assumptions not just of what to create but of how to create it. Over years of practice, they’ve refined and revised this circle. Perhaps they’ve become maestros of such personal field-circles.

We construct our own perceptual circles within the social circle.

Usually the exceptional creatives and enterprisers find ways to take their minds and actions to a field’s perimeters. They stalk those boundaries between the known and unknown, the rational and irrational, the accepted and the derided. They become creative shaman.

At that perimeter, that boundary, we come to the Productive Stupidity Zone.

Zone of Productive Stupidity

Zone of Productive Stupidity

Productive stupidity births breakthroughs by dismantling our own assumptions within an industry field circle or our personal field circle. Here we question the hows. How to create a business (Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Nonconformity @chrisguillebeau). How to cure a disease (any number of scientists). How to publish a book (Seth Godin’s The Domino Project@ThisIsSethsBlog, @ProjectDomino). How to write and promote a book and reach #2 on Amazon on launch day (Michael Bungay Stanier’s End Malaria). How to develop an economy in another country (Paul Romer’s Charter Cities).

“The more comfortable we become with being stupid,” Schwartz writes, “the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.”

How do you get there?

You do connect and interact with others within your field. Mentoring, networking, idea combining, conference attending, Creative Wild Packs (other creatives who will “run” with you and your ideas) – all of these social facets are essential at the foundation.

You do honor your field. You do study your field. You pursue mastery. You honor the craft of whatever you do whether it’s microbiology or consulting or blogging or publishing.

You do sweat. You do your Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours.

And then you dismantle. You question to the edge of insanity. You break down the assumptions. You turn them upside down and sideways. You go to West Texas or Walden Pond or some other strange territory within to remove yourself from the familiar and safe and comfortable. You overlap one field with another and create a hybrid field.

You take risks.

You stop caring what unimportant people or strangers think. You let yourself feel incompetent or heretical or utterly, defiantly stupid. This isn’t high school. This is your one wild creative life.

Go there. Live it.


Wonder is an emotional experience . . .

4. Wonder is the Holy Sh*t Window.

Wonder is an emotional experience of utter receptivity and openness, of boundary dissolution. But openness to what? To the unknown. To the discomfort of shifting boundaries. To the rational ground on which your intellect has stood for years falling out from underneath you.

To learning to fly.

The world is utterly more beautiful than we admit.

We have the power to craft extraordinary stories of who we are and who we might become.

From our unrest, we dismantle and re-create. Over and over again. Like the earth that keeps repeating itself sun cycle after sun cycle not to get it right but to keep playing the day the best it can.

Holy sh*t!

It is that window that wants to open in this know-it-all house.

What About You?

Do you value productive stupidity? How do you cultivate it? Anything I’ve said that you question? Tell me your stories. I love the company.

See you in the woods,

P.S. Shameless promotion moment: Come to the Bahamas or to Taos with me in the winter of 2012, and we’ll cultivate some productive stupidity together.


Jeffrey Davis

Jeffrey Davis | Tracking Wonder

Jeffrey Davis is a creativity consultant and author of The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing (Penguin 2004; Monkfish 2008). He helps creative professionals, authors, and small organizations around the world flourish amidst the vagaries of creative work. He writes the Tracking Wonder blog for Psychology Today and A Hut of Questions blog for creatives at his website He lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with his wife and daughter.

Connect with Jeffrey Davis | Twitter: @JeffreyDavis108


Books by Jeffrey Davis, M.A.:

The Journey from the Center to the Page

The Journey from the Center to the Page

The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing

by Jeff Davis
Monkfish Book Publishing
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