When Do I Start Marketing My Book?
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
This article covers when to start marketing a book for writers. What time frame is best for successful book marketing? Where does a writer start when creating their book marketing plan?
Book marketing plans: baffling writers since the dawn of time.
We're writers; we're rarely business or marketing experts. So how soon as writers should we start marketing our writing? When should a marketing plan be written for each project/book? And, the most important question: How the hell does anyone do everything that needs to be done to market our writing & find time to write?
Enter the 6 Month Book Marketing Guide for Writers
Ideally, a writer should establish their brand & begin marketing (i.e. interacting with people in an official capacity as a professional writer - &, yes, you're professional even if you aren't yet paid or published but are actively working toward publication) at minimum one year before releasing a book. It is frustrating & exhausting trying to build both a brand & market a product at the same time.
My recommendation is once a writer decides they have a project that is viable for publication (whether they plan to self publish or traditionally publish), they start coming up with their brand & business plan. Once they have their business plan researched & written & their brand ready, they can start creating their online presence (website, blog, social media accounts & content). Part of their business plan should include business & project budgets. Of those budgets, brand collateral like business cards, website design & hosting, logo design, etc. needs to be ordered.
Then the fun begins - building brand awareness.
Brand yourself, not your project/product.
Projects & products come & go, but one things will always remain the same about your business: you. Too many writers think short-term branding for the book they're working on, but what happens when you're ready to publish your second book? All of your work has to be re-done, restarted for the new project. Branding you as a writer & making yourself the central focus of the business is the best place to start.
Generic name? Consider a full pen name or even a slight alteration of your real name to not get lost in the shuffle. As a writer, you can always add 'writer' or 'author' to your name. Or, dare I mention, 'books'?
Okay, so you've established your business plan & brand at least one year before you think you want to release a book for publication. Hopefully you've also started interacting with potential readers through your brand accounts & website. What happens when the 6 month until release date rolls around?
To-Do list for the first month of your 6 Month Marketing Plan.
Build an online presence
Create marketing timeline
Research media & event sources
Know what's cool? You already did two of these things when you created your business plan (with budgets, remember those?) & your brand. But let's cover them briefly in case they were hurried or glossed over.
Set a budget. Publishing a book isn’t free. Neither does it have to be expensive. Keeping in mind that there are avenues of free (organic) advertising, a writer should also consider when (& if) they can afford paid advertising.
Pro Tip: Spending a few extra dollars to have marketing materials professionally developed or printed can be more valuable in the long run than going DIY. While you might save a few bucks in the beginning, your long term reputation could be damaged by unprofessional looking materials.
Build an online presence. Nothing beats having an online presence in today’s digital world. Whether or not you believe in the internet (although...how?), the rest of the world lives on it. We use it so often that whole new neurological, sociological, and psychological terms have been created based around its presence & use in daily lives. With that many people addicted to the digital world of information, trying to publish & market a book without an established presence is akin to trying to hit a bull’s eye on a dartboard in a pitch black room without ever having seen the board.
Go through & research what readers who are into your book’s subject matter use (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok, etc.). What age range are your readers? Set up your online presence on those platforms & begin interacting.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that building an online presence is not the same as selling or even pre-selling your book. Building an online presence is the act of building a fan base. In order to build a fan base, you need to have genuine interactions with people about a broad range of topics. Just limit yourself to 4–5 topics (yes, one of them can be loosely related to your book’s subject area) & talk. The most important rule, however, is to be genuine. Don’t pick topics you know nothing about or try to fake your way through stuff that you find uninteresting. People will know, & you will end up losing reputation.
Consider a marketing timeline. Nothing good in this world is fast. Marketing a new book as an unknown author takes time & dedication. The first part of that dedication is having a plan. The second part is sticking to it, no matter how hard it might feel.
Pro Tip: Ideally, marketing timelines for each publication should begin no less than six months before the title’s release date. The more lead time given, for instance 9 months or a year, the more thorough a marketing timeline can be. By also allowing more time, a writer can take a little more time during the research phase & development phase before implementing the plan, lessening stress.
Get to know media & event sources. Every town, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, has some form of local media. Even yours. Chances are that there is a reporter lurking somewhere or an organization’s newsletter or penny-saver that goes out to subscribers (or everybody) in the area.
It’s crucial to capitalize on your local celebrity in those sources. Dig up information on who to contact about your new book’s upcoming release & how they prefer to be contacted. Take note of that information (i.e. create a spreadsheet - & if you don't like spreadsheets...well, buck up, buttercup, you're going to rely on them now). You won’t use it quite yet, but you will use it in the very near future when you start reaching out with press releases & your media kit.
Events are another great way to market your book once you’ve released it. But the planning for those events goes in long before that date. Specifically, now. Find when/how the public library hosts local authors or book sales. Are there festivals in your area that you could participate in? What about local bookstores or art galleries? Who are their contacts?
By making a list of events in your area & nearby areas, contact information & specifications, six months in advance, you will be light years ahead of everyone else in the marketing game.
Pro Tip: Visit local events like book signings & festivals before contacting them for your own marketing. This little extra effort can make a real impact & help soften up even the toughest gatekeepers. Plus, you can scope out the venue for what you need to bring for your own event.
By starting with these four areas at least six months before you publish your book, an unknown author gets a solid toe-hold into building buzz about your book before your release date. Also, developing these tools now will help you reduce the amount of work needed done for each book you release in the future. Unless, of course, you only plan on releasing one book… Although, seriously, why?
And that's it. Those are the four things you need to do exactly 6 months before you plan to release your book. Check back for step-by-step guidelines for what to do during the 5th month before your book releases.
BC Brown is a hybrid published author with 20 years of experience in writing, marketing, & publishing. She prefers to write in the urban fantasy & fantasy genres but has published works in contemporary fiction, women's lit, & playwriting. She publishes writing-related videos on Youtube & streams live writing content on both Youtube & Twitch.
BC has an urban fantasy series, The Metaphysical Chronicles, available & a contemporary fiction novel, Karaoke Jane, available. She is an active member of the Central Phoenix Writer's Association in Arizona where she lives with her wife, 4 cats, & german shepherd mix dog.