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Navigating the Emotions of Promoting Your First Book

Marianne Chan is the author of All Heathens from Sarabande Books (2020). Her poems have appeared in publications like; New England Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, and West Branch. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati.

For Chan, sharing her history was the primary goal of publishing All Heathens. She hoped that some of the poems would resonate with readers – particularly the Filipino American readers – who may have felt underrepresented in American literature.

When All Heathens was accepted in 2018, Chan was not prepared for the emotional experience of publishing her first book. In many ways, it felt like all her life’s work was coming to an end. It left her feeling anxious, sad, and empty. On top of that, sharing her work with the world and opening it up to the possibility of criticism filled her with a sense of dread and nervousness.

If you’re a first-time author going through a similar experience, rest assured these emotions are common among writers and poets who published their first book. But it can be detrimental to putting your best foot out there. Chan recommends therapy and talking to your loved ones to get over these thoughts before thinking about the approach you would want to take in promoting your book.

For All Heathens, Chan took the following approach;

  • Getting as many poems published in literary magazines prior to the release date. She managed to have 20 out of the 24 poems in her collection published.
  • Drafting a publicity plan that included reaching out to contacts for reviews, AWP 2020 book signing, organizing and attending events, and leveraging social media.
  • As the pandemic struck, she resorted to scheduling new events online and doing more on social media. She ended up participating in 15 readings, 2 of which were live (before the pandemic), and 3 of which she organized herself.

Chan’s philosophy of book promotion boils down to relationships. For authors just starting out, focusing on relationships is the best way to see the process as inherently valuable, as an act of community building and friendship rather than sales or self-promotion.

If you want to find out more insights about small press book promotion, check out our posts on authors Julia Bouwsma and Erin Hoover.


If you need help building your author platform, Kelsye Nelson is leading a course called Small Town Writer, Big World Audience on Gutsy Creatives. If you enter the discount code BLOGGISH you’ll get $25 off the cost of the full course. Click here to register.

Or, preview a sample lesson.

Best of luck on your publishing journey!


Shafeeka Hafeez

Shafeeka Hafeez grew up escaping into a world of books where she discovered a love for writing and a fascination with trees. When she’s not taking up a new marketing skill, or typing out a blog post, you can find her Googling the best therapy for abandoned cats.

November 21, 2021
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