Use Book Excerpts To Promote Your Book

book excerpts

Here’s a quick case study of former Saturday Night Live writer Patricia Marx using book excerpts to promote her book. Why not use the same tactic in your book publicity?

In the second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, I suggest that authors write articles and sell them (or give them away) to blogs and publications, print and online. It is an especially good way to get exposure for authors who are shy, don’t want to speak or do appearances, or think they’ll hate marketing but just love to write. So I was pleased to see an op-ed piece in the LA Times written by Patricia Marx, a former Saturday Night Live writer and a staff writer for The New Yorker using book excerpts for promotion.

The little credit at the end of her piece explains that it’s an essay excerpted from her 2015 book, Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties. Her Saturday Night Live voice is evident and leaves readers hungering for more. She adds a quiz on “how to be brainier” that works to engage the reader (and make them remember it longer!). The essay includes a nice byline and was originally illustrated with a brain-map of the worries we tend to have as our brain ages — in color no less. It all added up to being a huge attention getter!

This kind of marketing is pure genius because:

  • The piece is a marketing time-saver. Marx didn’t have to write anything she hadn’t already written. She probably only tweaked the excerpt a bit to suit space requirements. The sidebar may have been adapted from her book or she may have written it exclusively for the Times. In either case, it too could be recycled for more exposure.
  • She carefully slants the article to related topics that are in the news right now. Think: aging population and the fear of Alzheimer’s and dementia. These are topics news outlets from CNN to the Wall Street Journal are covering these days.
  • Her humorous voice immediately captures readers who then want to know more about her expertise and about her personally. Thus, a huge percentage of readers probably do what I did — read all the way through to that little bio/credit line to get that information. (It doesn’t include a link, but that is probably because a URL or link goes against the LA Times’s stylebook.) Never fear. You may not write humor, but I trust you have developed an appealing voice!
  • Marx can repeat this particular marketing approach with every paper in the nation. She has a whole book of chapters and subheads to choose from, so she could accommodate papers that require an exclusive.
  • If her credentials had not been quite so stellar, she might have done the same thing by submitting guest posts to blogs that may not be as hard to impress as the major newspapers. Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame used blogs effectively to propel her young adult zombie series to best-seller status.
  • And, because this was op-ed for a major newspaper, Marx probably got paid (and pretty well, too). That money could be put toward a great marketing budget for her book.

You can do the same thing. Yes, you may have to adjust your technique or approach to fit your title, your writing style, and whatever happens to be news at the moment (or you can wait until a topic that complements your book becomes an in-the-moment subject — and I promise if you keep your marketing hat on, you’ll recognize something related to some aspect of your book when it comes up).

If you write fiction, you can use book excerpts, too. It will take more thought to find current events related in some way to your fiction, but it’s possible. You may be able to work a quotation from your book (even a longer excerpt) into your op-ed piece or article. Maybe a first-person essay about your writing process or path to becoming an author would work just as well.


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  1. The idea of giving (or bartering) excerpts from your book, your essays, or your articles appeared in the first edition of my The Frugal Book Promoter back in the early 2000s. I was excited to see Patricia Marx, formerly of Saturday Night Live, promote her new book of humor using the technique. The second edition expands on the idea and suggests you get paid, too, by submitting to the Op-Ed pages of major newspapers like Patricia did. Thanks to @bookbaby ‘s blog editor, Andre, for letting me expand on the idea.

  2. Great article! And Patricia Marx did it right by all the things she included in her piece. Thanks for sharing this and giving us wonderful ideas for frugal marekting. What you are known best for!

  3. This is exactly what I encourage my clients to do! One author I work with doesn’t even have his book done yet. We post excerpts of his manuscript at his blog. It’s helping us also to see which topics are of the most interest to his readers. Thanks Carolyn!

  4. Great article thanks! I love public speaking for promoting and selling my book. It’s Worked exceptionally well in my case. I’m too slow in posting excerpts and I do have the opportunities but I’ve often missed them!


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