Behind the Bar Bar Talk

Pisco Guru Duggan McDonnell Tells You the Right Way to Promote Your Cocktail Book

Duggan McDonnell knows a thing or two about promoting a book. His 2015 work, Drinking the Devil’s Acre: A Love Letter from San Francisco and Her Cocktails, has been on the lips of writers, bartenders and history buffs alike since its release, racking up heady recognitions and honors along the way.

All that well-deserved recognition, though, didn’t come without a little (OK, a lot) of elbow grease. “A book’s publication is not unlike the opening of a new cocktail bar [or] the release of a new brand. For the novice, it can be daunting,” says McDonnell. “I’ve opened new bars and restaurants, launched brands and wholly approached the publication of Drinking the Devil’s Acre with similar tactics, a determined mindset and plenty of nerves.”

Still, there are some pretty big differences between a book and a bar. “Within a cocktail bar, one can see their customers. Most often, an author won’t have direct contact with readers. Unless the author owns a bookstore, rare is the opportunity to directly sell one’s book outside special events.”

McDonnell shares his tips for successfully marketing a book, from publicists to suitcases full of hardbacks.

1. Leverage your network.

“How many people are you connected with via your various social networks? 1,000? 10,000?! Call/tweet/post/tag them about your book, using your customized hashtag. Invite, no, harass your connections to join you at your book release events at every signing. The biggest boost I received was from my pal Chris McCarthy, a.k.a. @MacCocktail on Twitter, who retweeted several reviews of my book. Within hours, I watched sales on Amazon spike! The book business can be an old-fashioned, slow-moving machine. It takes a village to get to the second printing.”

2. Hire a publicist.

“The right publicist will get your book into the hands of the best wine, spirit and cocktail writers in America. I hired The Baddish Group, and Laura Baddish and her team did just that. Even though I’ve been active in the national media landscape over a decade, Laura’s sophistication and focus made a huge difference in requesting and following through on coverage. For instance, books en route from the warehouse to writers got lost in the mail, and Laura followed up. In particular, Wayne Curtis received his months late and ended up receiving multiple copies yet wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Drinking the Devil’s Acre was ‘the best cocktail book of the year’ (2015). What if Laura hadn’t followed up?”

 Amanda Lynn Photography

3. Say “yes!”

“Last fall, I flew back and forth across the country hosting release events in bars and bookstores, schlepping a suitcase of hardcovers, sometimes only selling a handful. But this led to being a keynote speaker at the Northern California Independent Bookseller’s Association conference, delivering a lecture inside the Officer’s Club in the Presidio (San Francisco’s oldest building) as well as a talk at Google.”

4. Incorporate the book into your brand.

“This week, I was a featured speaker at Full Circle Wine’s Latin American Wine & Spirits Conference. Along with my participation, I cajoled the organizers into purchasing one copy of Drinking the Devil’s Acre placed into each gift bag for every attendee. That’s another 50 books sold! One’s book becomes a business card, a résumé, a marketing platform—and not a bad gift. Weave your book into your professional endeavors, and you’ll reap rewards.”

5. Don’t forget to have fun.

“Last but not least, enjoy the publication of your book—it’s an absolute thrill.”