Promoting your academic book with a blog post

Has your publisher asked you to write a blog post for your book? If so (or even if they haven’t) I would encourage you to do so. Having spent so long writing the book itself, it is worth spending two or three hours on something which will persuade people to read it. If you want help to get started, or even to convince yourself that it’s actually worth doing, read on…

Writing a blog post is a great way of making your research more discoverable to others. As the author you are the expert on your book, so it is more effective if the post is written by you rather than by your publisher. A blog post provides an opportunity for you to highlight the key findings and features of your book in more detail than the standard book jacket or website blurb allows. There are no absolute rules about how long a post should be, but 500 to 1000 words is usually about right.

Blog posts should be readable and informative, and the aim is to encourage people to seek out the book by highlighting key points of interest.

In a blog post, you can reach beyond your peer group, and the text should be made as accessible and readable as possible with this in mind. Librarians and others outside your specific sub-discipline need to be able to judge whether your book is of relevance to them.

The information here is intended to provide guidance and advice to help you prepare a post.

Where do I start?

You have probably already produced an overview of your book in its introduction, so one option is to review and re-purpose this.

Or, you could use a Q&A format for the blog post, which is a good way to highlight specific aspects of the book, and which also produces text in short chunks which are easy to scan on screen.

A third option is to produce something completely new, which might be good if you want to write about something related to the book or to your wider research. For example, you might want to focus on a related conference presentation or discussion.

Re-purposing the book’s introduction

The introduction to your book is likely to contain a lot of text which can be re-used in a blog post, but is likely to benefit from a reduction of the word count and some re-ordering. People have short attention spans when assessing content online. They will scan quickly to see whether it’s of interest, so you should start with the most interesting information, presented succinctly. After that, once you have their attention, you can expand on your main points and ideas. You may find it easier to write the expanded text first, then write the succinct overview, which you can then place as your first paragraph.

Once you have some basic text, you can expand on it by adding extra content, for example illustrations or photographs, and by providing links to additional information or resources.

Some pointers:

  • Start with a short paragraph explaining why the book is interesting and what the key conclusions are. Make an immediate impact. Hit them with the good stuff first.
  • Follow this up with a few paragraphs expanding on the main ideas and arguments. Draw the reader in and provide a bit of context. Keep it interesting.
  • Perhaps include some personal comments about your reactions to your findings. Did something in your research surprise or delight you? Have you had any notable feedback from others that is worth sharing?
  • Aim for clarity and conciseness and keep complex vocabulary to a minimum. The reader may not be a specialist in your field (for example they may be a librarian or bookseller) or they may not have English as their first language.
  • Do not include information about your methodology or a review of how your findings fit into the wider literature. Concentrate on telling your story.
  • Come up with a narrative headline for your blog post, one which conveys your essential message. It is often easier to write the headline last, once your post is complete.

Further reading: Patrick Dunleavy has a very useful article on Medium about how to convert a journal article into a blog post, which contains some excellent and wide-ranging advice.

Using a Q&A format for your blog post

Many blog posts use a Q&A format, and it’s easy to see why. It provides an onscreen layout that is easy to scan, and the discussion element brings the text to life. It’s also easier to write, because the questions act as a prompt and help to kick start the process of formulating answers.

For a blog post relating to a scholarly book, try these questions for starters (but feel free to add your own):

  1. What is the main argument presented in your book?
  2. Can you summarise what your book is about? What are its findings?
  3. What inspired you to write this book?
  4. What was the most surprising or exciting thing that you discovered during your research?
  5. What impact do you hope that this book will have?
  6. What are you currently working on?

Sample blog posts with a Q&A format:

Author insights – Gavin O’Toole

Five minutes with Paul Dolan

Writing a blog post from scratch

Writing a completely new piece of text for your blog post is in some ways the hardest thing to do. But it can also be the best option. It gives you the opportunity to talk about one particular aspect of your book, or perhaps something related but which didn’t quite fit into argument or narrative of the book itself. You might want to write about how your book has been a catalyst for a new direction in your research.

Tips:

  • Make it interesting! Why will a reader be drawn to your text? Highlight the best bits.
  • Have a focus, a key idea, and structure the post around that. Make sure the blog post title reflects the main idea.
  • Have an idea of what you want the reader to do once they have read the post. Do you want them to click through to more information about the book, or to buy it? Do you want to direct them to further reading or supplementary material? Do you want them to find out more about you and your research? Add links that enable this.

An example: Global Capitalism, Fan Culture, and (Even) Stranger Things

General blog post tips:

  • Short paragraphs are good, as are short sentences and bullet pointed lists. Remember that people want to quickly scan the text before deciding whether it’s worth spending time reading in more detail.
  • Include keywords that are relevant to your argument, but not to the extent of damaging the readability of your text. Concentrate on conveying your message and making your meaning clear.
  • Add links to related information or online resources. Google judges the quality of blog posts partly on which other online information they link to (and which link back to them). Links to university pages are particularly valuable.
  • Add images or photographs. Visual elements make the post more attractive to the eye and help to break the text down into smaller, scannable chunks.
  • Tell people about your post by sharing a link on Twitter, Facebook or other networks. If you tweet, include a hashtag such as #twitterstorians to broaden your reach.

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