After five successful books, I’ve embraced a few rules on how best to publicize and sell my work.
Rule #1: Generate Buzz and Fan Support BEFORE You Publish
Generate and take ownership of publicity regardless of whether you are self-publishing, or using a traditional book publisher. And, the moment to begin promotion is when you predict the title, purpose, and likelihood that your book will be a reality. I start the hype and create the buzz immediately when I commit to the idea of my next book.
My current book, John Duffey’s Bluegrass Life: Featuring the Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene, and Washington, DC, co-authored with G.T. Keplinger, is based on an interview I did with the late bluegrass music legend in 1984. I began the actual project in 2017 by first creating a YouTube video (with 1,071 views to date) featuring still pictures and a short excerpt of my interview. I added an invitation to join my new John Duffey’s Bluegrass Life Facebook group where I enthusiastically asked people who loved Duffey to come together, and help me make the book wonderful. Within three months I had nearly 1,000 members with many folks sending me photos and stories about Duffey. In sum, I created a sizeable community of new friends invested in the book’s success way before I had a rough draft of the manuscript.
Rule #2: Insist on a Striking, Evocative, Professional Cover
The book cover must be striking, evocative, and professional. I search the websites of graphic designers and illustrators to find the astonishing artist who is genuinely interested in my book topic. For the Duffey book, I discovered Stilson Greene, a remarkable artist in Leesburg, Virginia, who created a sublime cover, and added it to his widely-viewed portfolio.
Don’t be deterred by accidental critics. I had a few prominent people who thought featuring an unknown picture of Duffey as a child wasn’t “commercial” enough. But, I loved Stillson’s cover so I listened to my heart. It’s my book.
Rule #3: Get Professional, Prominent Reviews
Go full-tilt into promotion once you are near ready for publication. This starts with reviews. Closely follow the submission rules for Booklist (the American Library Association), Publisher’s Review, and Kirkus Reviews, and pray for a positive critique. This is where traditional publishing gives you an edge because self-published Indie books are generally overlooked (unless you pay for a review).
Fortunately, both Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus offer a back-door for scoring a paid review. This is well worth it if your book is exceptional. A review by one of the above gives gravitas to your work for online sales, and helps you crack the lucrative library sales market. One of my books was called a “pure joy” by Booklist and, two months later, it showed up in WorldCat (the global catalog of library collections), as well as on the shelves of libraries in America, Germany, Sweden, and New Zealand. This was an unexpected thrill.
Rule #4: Be Pushy!
My motto is: It pays to be pushy. Spend 15 minutes each morning brainstorming new ways to promote your book. Contact the local interest columnist in your hometown newspaper, or your church newsletter editor, or any publication that can help with promotion, and lobby for a story about your book. Become a member of similar Facebook groups possibly interested in your book, and share your postings with them. I now more than 1,100 members in my original FB group, but my postings are routinely shared by other bluegrass groups with enormous memberships.
Create (and control) a cool, standard website that you own for order info., reviews, and pictures. Here is mine: http://www.johnduffeybook.com.
My thanks to Angela Hoy and her Booklocker team for my favorite publishing experience to date, and this opportunity to share my promo ideas.
ABOUT THE BOOK
John Duffey’s Bluegrass Life: Featuring The Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene and Washington, D.C. with a Foreword by Tom Gray is the definitive biography of one of bluegrass music’s most important artists of the genre. Through his work as a founding member of these two pioneering bands, John Duffey urbanized bluegrass and introduced it to a broad new audience. John’s quotes from a four-hour, never-before-published 1984 interview are italicized throughout and provide the book’s foundation.
The book begins with a profile of his father, John Humbird Duffey Sr, Metropolitan Opera star and chronicles Duffey’s earliest exposure to music, listening to opera on the radio with his dad. Childhood friends Bill Blackburn, Bill Emerson, and Sterling Ellsworth serve up memories of Duffey from the 2nd grade through high school.
Accounts of Duffey’s early musical career provide an overview of John’s first bands, leading up to how The Country Gentlemen were formed following a horrific car accident. The Country Gentlemen’s Bill Emerson, Charlie Waller, Eddie Adcock, and Tom Gray are profiled and interviewed.
For the first time, John’s biological daughter, Ginger “Sam” Allred, speaks candidly about her relationship with both Duffey, and her father, Pete Kuykendall. Duffey discusses why he quit The Country Gentlemen, setting up the complete story of The Seldom Scene, as told by Duffey, John Starling, Ben Eldridge, Dave Auldridge, Mike Auldridge, Phil Rosenthal, and Tom Gray.
More than 50 rare or never-before-seen photographs create a fascinating portrait of the complex, iconoclastic entertainer. Gary Oelze, the owner of the Birchmere music club where the Scene became stars, share his memories of John.
Sam Bush, Jonathan Edwards, Pete Kennedy, Martha Adcock, Akira Otsuka, Dick Cerri, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Gaudreau, Bryan Bowers, Peter “Dr. Banjo” Wernick, Tom Travis, Cliff Waldron, and others are among the many voices that contribute informative and compelling interviews.
The book’s narrative is supplemented with a 43-page Discography that provides track listings, recording dates, producers, composers, and musicians for every time Duffey entered a recording studio. The book includes a Duffey genealogy and index.
“A great overview of the acoustic side of the DC music scene, with a unique focus on the inception of the progressive bluegrass movement and the cast of colorful characters who pushed the music forward, while respecting and preserving the roots. It’s all there in these pages.”
– Pete Kennedy (multiple WAMMY award winner and member of Kennedy Center Artists-in-Residence, The Kennedys)
“The definitive John Duffey biography. Stephen Moore, who interviewed Duffey for this book, with co-author G.T. Keplinger, a bluegrass historian, have captured a faithfully compelling and comprehensive portrait of John as both performer and person.”
– Cerphe Colwell, WHFS pioneer radio broadcaster and founder of today’s online Music Planet Radio.
“An exhaustively researched profile of bluegrass legend John Duffey (1934-1996) that covers not only his life in music but also those of his colleagues and contemporaries… Despite the copious detail, however, the book offers a rich and entertaining musical history of the bluegrass scene as well as more academic materials, including an essay by Robert Kyle on Duffey’s Irish roots and a lengthy discography… A truly definitive look at a bluegrass legend and the scene that produced him.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“It is rare to come across a book that so perfectly matches its subject matter in content but here we have it in a revealing, kaleidoscopic, entertaining biography of the great singer and bandleader John Duffey…I consider him the most complex, talented, entertaining personality ever to take a bluegrass stage. That’s why I can recommend this book so whole-heartedly. It’s every bit as multi-faceted, funny, and entertaining as Duffey was. I rarely use the word ‘essential’ in reviews, but this one has earned it. Moore and Keplinger have written an essential and entertaining book on the larger than life John Duffey.”
– Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, October 2019
Stephen Moore has coauthored four books, Helen Hayes: A Bio-Bibliography, Johnny Holliday: From Rock to Jock, Hoop Tales: Maryland Terrapins and Cerphe’s Up. A research technologist at Georgetown University, he plays in the Maryland rock cover band The Razors.
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