Thursday, February 23, 2012

Texas A&M Press Author Liz Carmack Gives Excellent Advice on Promoting Books

By: Liz Carmack, author of Rodeo Austin (Texas A&M Press, 2012)

As an author, your efforts to promote your nonfiction book are every bit as important as the work you put into writing it. If you realize a few facts about the process and include a few key tasks in your to-do list, it can make your life easier and help your book achieve greater success.

Inconvenient truths

1. The success of your book is largely in your hands. You must take the lead in promoting your work. This includes figuring out (often before you even write the first word) who your target readers are and devising creative ways to reach them. Expect to set up your own book signings and speaking gigs even if you have a traditional publisher.

2. You’d better love, love, love your subject. After spending several months, or years, researching and writing your manuscript you may be sick of your topic. Get over it. Remember why you wrote the book in the first place. Your work will brand you as an authority, and you’ll be expected to speak intelligently and passionately about that subject for years to come.

3. Book signings at book stores are often a waste of time. Unless you’re David Grann or Malcolm Gladwell, folks probably won’t line up for hours at Barnes and Noble to see you. Instead, schedule signings at conferences, festivals or other events attended by your target readers. Signings at independently owned bookstores can be successful if their loyal customers include your market.

4. You can’t wait until your book is published to start promoting. Share details about your evolving manuscript or the trials of your project’s research through blog posts and other social media. Comment on the blog posts of others who write about your subject area. Avoid being overly promotional in your posts. Instead, provide interesting, engaging content. By the time your book is released, you’ll have built a fan base.


1. Have a plan. Early on in your writing, draft a strategic communications plan to promote your book with a scheduled list of to-dos. Clearly define your audience and the best ways to reach them. Include sections on how you’ll use social media, public speaking, face-to-face networking and media outreach. If you have a publisher, coordinate your efforts.

2. Tweak your plan. Stay flexible. When my book Historic Hotels of Texas was released, I booked speaking gigs and book signings with anyone, anywhere, anytime. After I realized that women 40 and older bought more copies than any other group, I targeted organizations with that demographic. I instantly sold more books at those events.

3. If you have the money, hire a publicist. A book publicist experienced in your genre is worth every penny. Interview two or three companies before you select one; I did and then hired PR by the Book. When Historic Hotels of Texas was released, the firm helped me land several radio and TV interviews that I wouldn’t have gotten on my own.

4. Polish your presentations skills. You’ll engage more readers and sell more books if you can combine public presentations with book signings. If you’re not a polished speaker, get help from a speech coach. Offer your presentation to groups whose membership best fits your target market and schedule your own workshops or presentations centered on your book’s topic. Also consider posting videos and podcasts.

I realize that book promotion has many more truths and to-dos than those included here, but I hope this information will at least give aspiring authors a reality check about what’s ahead. What would you add to either of these lists?

Liz Carmack is a freelance writer, editor and researcher. She founded Liz Carmack Communications in 2006. Liz began her career as a newspaper journalist and has also helped craft messaging and manage communications projects for nonprofits and government agencies. Her most recent book, Rodeo Austin: Blue Ribbons, Buckin’ Broncs, and Big Dreams, is published by Texas A&M University Press.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

12 Impacts of the 12th Man, George P. Mitchell

An energy tycoon, real estate developer, and philanthropist, George P. Mitchell is also an idealist, a big thinker who gave his time and fortune to the study of sustainability long before it became a household word.

This month Mitchell is featured in Texas A&M University's first installment of the 12 Impacts of the 12th Man series, for his contributions to the oil and gas industry.

Jurgen Schmandt, professor emeritus of public affairs in the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, worked with Mitchell for many years. He was formerly the director of the Mitchell Center for Sustainabl Development.

His book, George P. Mitchell and the Idea of Sustainability (Texas A&M University Press, 2010), focuses on Mitchell's commitment to the idea of sustainability from the early 1960s, when the focus was on population growth, to today, when climate change and global warming dominate the debate.

Texas A&M University Press: George P. Mitchell is known, in part, for his contributions to the oil and gas industry, as well as for his visionary real estate ventures, and his untiring support of scientific endeavors. Your book, however, focuses on his commitment to the idea of sustainability. How do his contributions to sustainability compare in range and scope to his other achievements? Are his efforts in this area as widely known?

Schmandt: George Mitchell excelled in three careers, which he pursued in parallel — energy, real estate and philanthropy. He created one of the largest independent energy companies. He built a community —The Woodlands — that followed the principles of Design with Nature. And he devoted his fortune to public causes — sustainable development and science. He is well known in all three fields, but by different constituencies.

TAMU Press: What influenced you to cast Mitchell as the focus of this book?

Schmandt: George is one of a handful of successful businessmen who saw early on that population growth and ever-increasing consumption were threatening the resource base of our planet. I felt that it was worthwhile to document his commitment to sustainable development.

TAMU Press: What are some of the lasting impacts of Mitchell's contributions to sustainability?

Schmandt: In the '70s and '80s, Mitchell familiarized American decision makers and scholars with sustainability research that had been pioneered in Europe under the heading Limits to Growth. Mitchell, through conferences, prizes and sponsored research broadened the focus of this debate: not no-growth but sustainable growth — improvements in the quality of life that do not endanger the resource base of future generations: food, energy and work. Then he tried to bring these ideals to Washington. He wanted the government to take the first step: keeping track of changing conditions. This did not work. So he turned to the National Academy of Sciences and helped them develop the scientific and engineering underpinnings of sustainable development. Today he supports sustainability projects through the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

TAMU Press: You worked for Mitchell for many years. Why do you think he was so motivated to advance these ideas?

Schmandt: He always searched for answers to urgent questions. Early on he read Rachel Carson, who warned against the overuse of DDT. The breakthrough came when he met Buckminster Fuller. His image of Spaceship Earth — the world can take only so many people — impressed him deeply. He would say: protection of the environment is important. But you have to aim a notch higher: protection of the planet, sustainable development.

TAMU Press: You note in your book that while Mitchell made many strides to advance the idea of sustainability through the creation of conferences and prizes, support of scholars and scientists, and funding of research and publications, he did not take measures to advance sustainability in his own energy company. Through your research were you able to discover why this was the case? What did you discover?

Schmandt: Ray Anderson, a Mitchell Prize winner, rebuilt his carpet business around green principles, and found that he could do so profitably. Mitchell did not follow this path, probably because he did not see how to build a green energy company. Or better: he saw only a partial way to this goal. For twenty years he pioneered the extraction of shale gas. The large companies said it could not be done economically. Mitchell persevered. He argued that gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal and oil and should be used more widely, while work on alternative energy sources — wind, solar, bio fuels—is being up scaled. Today, because of his work, the United States has increased its energy independence and has become a gas exporter. And shale gas is being produced worldwide.

TAMU Press: In the future, will Mitchell be remembered for his commitment to sustainability? Why or why not?

Schmandt: Yes, if the world commits to sustainability. No, if we continue to do business as usual.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Camp Hearne in Lone Star Stalag

In 1942, a World War II prisoner-of-war camp spanned 250 buildings on three compounds in the small, central Texas city of Hearne.

Surrounded by 10-foot fences and barbed wire, Camp Hearne was guarded by seven guard towers and 500 American servicemen and women, who guarded and operated the camp.

Texas Highways magazine featured an article on the camp and Texas A&M anthropology professor Michael Waters, who -- with a team of 150 students -- investigated the camp’s history through archeological excavation, archival evidence, and oral history in its December 2011 issue. You can read the history of Camp Hearne in Water’s book Lone Star Stalag (Texas A&M University Press, 2006).

“The documents we found, and the archeological investigations we conducted, provided the facts about what happened at the camp,” says Waters of the site, which today is hidden beneath a growth of weeds.

“But when the oral history research began, we started to hear the stories and understand some of the emotions involved.” Waters said the last former Hearne POW that he is aware of visited the site a few years ago.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Texas, Our Texas!

This semester, a Sam Houston State University class will watch snippets of Urban Cowboy and Hollywood iterations of the Alamo, read iconic Texas writers like Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry, see performances by Cajun musicians and cowboy singers, and take a field trip to the Texas Independence Day celebration.

The "idea of Texas"- in literature, culture, politics and even food - is the focus of courses in college campuses around the state. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle highlighted the influx of new classes, emerging at universities from Huntsville to Houston, Abilene to Austin.

“ . . . students are alternately studying, skewering and celebrating the enduring notion of the Lone Star State as a land of mythic proportions and mighty individualists,” writes Rhor.

Read the full article here.

Texas A&M University Press is a leading publisher of Texas history and Texana ─ a genre focusing on Texas culture and history.
Discover Texas culture and history with the following selections:
If you are interested in Texas history and folklore, check out the following Texas A&M Press books!

Just over thirty years ago, Dan Kilgore ignited a controversy with his presidential address to the Texas State Historical Association and its subsequent publication in book form, How Did Davy Die? Now, in this enlarged, commemorative edition, James E. Crisp, a professional historian and a participant in the debates over the De la Peña diary, reconsiders the heated disputation surrounding How Did Davy Die? and poses the intriguing follow-up question, “. . . And Why Do We Care So Much?”

Veteran historian T. Lindsay Baker brings his considerable sleuthing skills to the dark side, leading readers on a fascinating tour of the most interesting and best preserved crime scenes in the Lone Star State. Gangster Tour of Texas traces a trail of crime that had its beginnings in 1918, when the Texas legislature outlawed alcohol, and persisted until 1957, when Texas Rangers closed down the infamous casinos of Galveston. Baker presents detailed maps, photographs of criminals, victims, and law officers, and pictures of the crime scenes as they appear today.

In Why Texans Fought in the Civil War, Charles David Grear provides insights into what motivated Texans to fight for the Confederacy. Mining important primary sources—including thousands of letters and unpublished journals—he affords readers the opportunity to hear, often in the combatants’ own words, why it was so important to them to engage in tumultuous struggles occurring so far from home.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Until They Are Home

Film Maker Steven C. Barber and Producer Matthew Hausle are setting out on a mission to bring back the fallen soldiers of the WWII Battle of Tarawa. After 68 years, these soldiers will be given the burial they deserve, and their families will receive the closure they have been waiting for. This documentary shows the amazing story of the young men and women of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) who embed themselves in beyond rugged and brutal conditions to bring fallen service members home.

This is not the first time that a mission like this has been attempted. In Thomas T. Smith’s memoir Until They Are Home: Bringing Back the MIAs from Vietnam, a Personal Memoir (Texas A&M Press), he recounts his experiences, leading a joint task force established to recover the remains of Vietnam POW/MIA soldiers.

Describing everything from diplomatic negotiations between the Vietnamese and American governments to his views on commanding a remarkably complex mission in an unforgiving environment, Smith draws on memory, e-mails, letters, and journal entries to recreate the story of his mission in Vietnam. Smith and the forces serving under him found the remains of fourteen lost American servicemen—including two graduates of Texas A&M University.

Monday, February 6, 2012

AAUP 2012 Directory Now Available!

New this year, AAUP has developed a special discount for faculty and graduate students. Because many presses host publishing information seminars on their campuses, and editors and press directors are often invited to speak at such seminars and workshops on campuses without presses, AAUP now offers attendees at these conferences a 30% discount on a key reference guide.

For more information check out the link below or contact Susan Patton at