This post appeared in the August 1, 2018 edition of the WriterHouse Newsletter.
Jane is teaching Getting Your Book Published: A Year-Long Master Class  during the fall 2018 term.

As may have heard, not all books are adequately marketed by publishers, who may rely largely on hope that a book will find its audience. What’s an author to do?

After getting a book deal, one of your first marketing tasks will be completing an author questionnaire from the publisher. This document asks about every facet of your platform: information about your important relationships and professional connections, a list of local and regional media, and more. Be thorough. The more the publisher knows about your resources and potential networking opportunities, the more they can support your book. They want to build on your existing assets, not start from scratch.

About four to six months before your book release, most publishers produce advance reading copies (ARCs), sent to trade review outlets such as Publishers Weekly, as well as media outlets. You’ll be asked for suggestions; focus on outlets you know are a good fit but the publisher might be unaware of.

About the same time, the publisher’s sales process will begin and your book will get pitched to accounts. Once orders come in, and the book releases, the publishers’ marketing and promotion efforts are mostly finished—aside from publicity and PR follow up. So if you want to capitalize on the value a traditional publisher offers, you have to be proactive and take advantage of how they increase your visibility and credibility—and the chances of media/review coverage.

So let’s back up. At least a year before your book releases, you should come up with a marketing plan you can execute on your own. Tell the publisher what you’ll do, and identify areas where the publisher could be of assistance. They are more likely to help if you have a plan and ask for what you want.

If you have an early start—two years before release—then you’re in an even better position. You can begin to establish your online presence and develop relationships with your target readership as well as influencers who recommend books. Make a list of publications where your book should be reviewed or mentioned, then cultivate relationships with the people related to them. Identify and compile lists of organizations that would be most interested in your book.

Your publishers’ publicity team probably won’t have time to do an in-depth publicity push. This is why so many authors hire their own publicity help—and invest a portion of their advance to do so. Decide if you’ll make this investment at least nine months to one year prior to publication.

It’s common for authors to ignore marketing until after the book releases, when sales disappoint—which leads to panic. Try to avoid that through good planning as well as patience. Your audience will grow over the course of your career. No matter what type of author you are, the hard truth is that marketing and publicity never really ends—it’s ongoing for as long as you seek a writing life that pays.


Author Publicity Timeline

9-12 months out
Research or hire a freelance publicist

6 months out 
Establish your author website if you don’t have one
Craft a marketing plan

5 months out 
Develop a press kit and media pitches
Put together your ARC list
Start to solicit testimonials and blurbs

4 months out 
Send out ARCs to long-lead media
Select and schedule book signings/appearances
Research media you plan to approach
Put together your list of connections to secure pre-orders

3 months out 
Follow up on ARCs
Continue to reach out to stores/speaking opportunities

2 months out 
Contact non-book reviewer media
Approach online reviewers

1 month out 
Start scheduling radio and local/regional TV interviews
Finish ARC follow up
Contact more online reviewers
Add bloggers and websites for outreach
Hit daily newspapers and weekly pubs

Take Getting Your Book Published: A Year-Long Master Class and learn the skills needed to successfully publish and launch your book.