The End. Now what?
Every writer rejoices in typing THE END even though they know their work has only started. An ending is nothing more than a new beginning. For many writers, the incredible skill and talent it takes to write is nothing when compared to book marketing. And, admittedly, many of us are too wrapped up in what it takes to even get to those all-important words THE END to think about what comes next. But the truth of the matter is that if you haven’t started the process of book marketing months before finishing your manuscript, then you’ve already started losing out on sales. In this article, we’ll break down exactly what it takes to market your book months in advance of the actual release date. And we’ll do it without losing our minds.
Writing is hard work.
My article So You Think You Can…Writer? describes the very special personality type it takes to be a writer – a masochist. A writer is someone who sits down to write knowing that no matter how hard it is to get the words to flow, the scenes to match up, or those damned plot holes filled, the writing is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The real work comes after the writing.
Editing, revisions, rewrites, more editing; critique groups, critique partners, beta readers; second round editing, revisions, rewrites. But that’s just all writing still, right?
Sure. Except while you’re doing all that (and don’t forget, you’re probably already logging words on the next project burning in your brain), you’re also gearing up for publication.
Vetting cover artists and approving designs, book formatting and layout – those are still necessary parts of writing and editing, getting ready for ultimate publication. But those are still only the visible parts of the berg. If this is your first book, you probably aren’t working with a ready base of fans. Unless you’ve managed to roll another fan base into your publishing career. You need to build anticipation for your book release. Book sales can be made or broken depending on the work you put into this critical step.
The anticipation to launch.
Book marketing should start as early as possible to ensure your title has as much exposure to the public as manageable. If you’re an unknown author (meaning you don’t have some sort of built-in fan base of more than close friends and family) then you need to capitalize on as much pre-planning and prep work as possible. Let’s look at what you need to do no later than six months before publication.
Set a budget.
Publishing a book isn’t necessarily expensive, but it isn’t free either. Website design, hosting, and domain name; book marketing materials, such as business cards, bookmarks, signage, organizational items, and eventually print copies of your books. Then there are always the basic necessities for every one writer (and human being): housing, electricity/internet, and food.
So now you’re writing, editing, reviewing artwork, discussing layout and formatting, designing promotional materials, and designing websites. But, so far, you still haven’t started actually building anticipation for the book. The good news is that the foundations you lay now during the first book will reduce the work you have to do during the promotion of future books.
Consider your timeline.
Building anticipation ideally starts at six months to one year before launch. On average, most authors seem to stick with the six-month mark and do pretty well for themselves. Like writing, there is a tremendous amount of research that goes into pre-promotion. That research will take a little set up on your part, but once you have done it every step of book marketing will be easy (no matter what project you’re working to create buzz for).
Get to know your media.
Newspapers, TV, radio, podcasts, specialty magazines, websites and blogs, social media. All are avenues for marketing your book. Now is the time to compile your list of media opportunities.
- publication names,
- callsigns or letters for radio and TV,
- websites, and
- bloggers, hosts, reporters, and reviewers
- phone numbers and emails,
- notes about their target audiences,
- distribution areas and circulation numbers.
Know your bookstores and area events.
Find out names, location, managers and marketing person for each bookstore plus the best phone numbers and email addresses for each. Don’t forget to pay social visits to the stores you want to be able to call in the future to arrange signings. Make note of other authors they have scheduled, how they promote, what their layout and primary sales are invested into or geared toward. Having these little details ready on hand when you want to schedule an event is worth its weight in the time it will take you to compile it.
Build your online presence.
Reserving a custom domain name (Pro-tip: create a custom domain branded to you and not the title of your book) and building the website doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. There are several inexpensive domain hosts you can purchase for next to nothing that also comes with easy-to-use template website design. Tying a blog in with your website adds visibility, future ability to cross-promote with other authors and creatives, plus a boost in search engine results every time you blog.
Many authors are daunted still about using social media for promotion. I recommend a minimum of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. Each is free and require a minimum time to establish and maintain. Just remember to keep your interactions genuine. And above all else avoid the hard sell approach using social media. Social media should always remain about relationships and not sales. If you’re still unsure how to use social media to promote your books, take a look at three articles on using Twitter here and here and here.
There are specific social media sites geared entirely toward books and readers. Goodreads, Shelfari, Armchair Interviews, AuthorNation are a few. Naturally, if you’re self-publishing through Amazon, you’ll want to make sure you have an author page established there as well. Amazon author pages give you the added advantage of having a blog that automatically sends updates to everyone who bought your book through Amazon.
Whew! Now that wasn’t so hard, right?
All of this is a good way to start building anticipating for your upcoming release without feeling so overwhelmed your head explodes. Remember that while this may read like a lot of work, you have 30 full days to compile this information. Pro-tip: To build my ‘6 months until launch’ plan, I used 20 minute Pomodoro sprints each day until I had everything I needed to head into the next month which you can read here.