Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tweeting my book: At Home with the Aztecs

My popular book, At Home with the Aztecs: An Archaeologist Uncovers their Daily Life, will be released (Routledge) March 3, 2016. This is my first explicitly popular book. That is, it is non-technical, written in a narrative fashion, full of personal stories, and such. I tried to find a commercial trade publisher, but ended up with Routledge when none of the big New York publishers thought it had enough commercial potential. I talk about some of my experiences HERE.

I am floundering a bit on the marketing of the book. I've gotten advice that I need to use social media. So the book has a Facebook page (which I haven't started tinkering with yet...). I need to set up a separate website for the book, though. And now I have jumped into the waters of Twitter. The book has a hashtag (#AtHomeWithAztecs), and I have decided to post at least one tweet a day with something interesting from the book until it is released in March. Check it out. My

Twitter has been somewhat of a disappointment so far. I've dumped on Twitter in this blog before, but I have decided to give it a second chance. I found that my scholarly interests are rather poorly represented in Twitter. Talking to my new colleague, Katie Hinde (a social media star: check out: @Mammals_Suck), it turns out that natural scientists are far more active on Twitter than social scientists. Go figure. In looking for like-minded people on Twitter, I found out that Ancient Cities is a rock band, but not a relevant topic on Twitter. Aztecs on Twitter is mainly about the sports teams from San Diego State. Households and communities are mainly about contemporary community development. Kris Hirst posts a ton of Tweets on current archaeological finds in the news. These are great, but they aren't the kind of targeted scientific topics I was hoping for. The cultural evolution people are pretty active, including Peter Turchin's SESHAT project. This is fine, but it it not really central to my interests (although I am reading Turchin's new book, UltraSociety, right now).


Simon said...

I'm not sure going the social media route is worthwhile here. 18 months ago I wrote a short book on Tolkien and decided to self-publish it as an electronic book sold on Amazon. I was under the illusion that my established academic credentials (I have a CUP book on the history of economics) would stand me in good stead. But scholarly credentials vanish in social media, and to the reading public I'm just the author of yet another book on Tolkien - and there are 100s. I did try and explore the social media possibilities, but they seem long term, at best. So I have a Facebook page for the book, for example, but it is only now getting up steam in terms of visitors. More generally, social media only works if you are networked to lots of people, who share your self-promotion - but to build up that kind of network takes a lot of effort over a long time. Indeed, my efforts to promote my book led me into the strange world of self-publishing fiction writers, where the serious authors appear to spend 2/3 of each day engaged in social media promotion!

All that said, I would have thought your best bet is, not Fb or tweets, but finding some popular blogs and writing some guest posts. That way you leap over the very time consuming work of building up a social media following and make use of the established followings of others.

Still, I'm not sure even that will help that much. We are in a peculiar situation today in which publishing has become astonishingly easy, and marketing what is published has become the great barrier.

Michael E. Smith said...

@Simon - I don't know the best way to proceed. This is experimental, and I'll just have to see how things come out. I get conflicting advice from different people, but none of it seems precisely on-target for my needs. Yes, this is definitely strange time in the book publishing world.