CJ Whitley

When The History Press, a small publishing company located in South Carolina, contacted Carla Jean Whitley and asked her if she’d like to write a book, she gave the answer most of us would — “Uh, YES!”

And with that Whitley set off on an adventure of combining her love for music and the South to write the book Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music. Whitley wrote this book while juggling her job as managing editor of Birmingham magazine and teaching college-level journalism classes.

At a recent See Jane Write members-only event, Whitley shared how she managed her time during this process and how she’s managed to successfully promote her book. Muscle Shoals Studio was released in July and is already in its second printing.

While writing her book, Whitley said she wrote before and after work every day. She set small daily goals for herself to make the task of writing a book less daunting and more manageable. But she said she also gave herself grace on those days when she don’t accomplish those small goals.

She also was careful not to forget about self-care. She made time to decompress by spending time with friends or doing things she enjoys like yoga.

Javacia and Carla Jean
Here I am with Carla Jean at her first book signing this summer!

Though the History Press is a small publishing company, Whitley has had the privilege of working with a publicist. Whitley raved about her publicist and recommended that all authors have one. For non-fiction writers, Whitley said it is especially helpful to have a publicist with connections in a field related to the topic of your book.

Whitley stressed, however, that you are your own best advocate, even if you have a publicist. You must promote yourself with book signings. Look for local businesses with which you can partner to host different types of events that will help promote your book.

Blogging is a great way to promote yourself and your book as well. Not only can you use your own blog to show off your writing and help potential fans get to know you, you can also guest blog for other people’s sites to expand your reach.

Leading up to the release of her book, Whitley wrote a series of guest posts for Church Street Coffee and Books’ blog.  Church Street now carries Whitley’s book and, thanks to those blog posts, many of their customers were eager to buy the book once it hit the shelves.

Whitley recommends having an email newsletter too.

Today Whitley is working on her second book which will be about the history of beer in Birmingham.

We can’t wait to read it!

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