A 12-Month Strategic Plan for Marketing Your Book before Release

Today’s guest post is by James Rose:

Marketing does not come naturally to me. It has been a struggle to get my mind wrapped around the many facets of marketing a self-published book. I made many mistakes and wasted a fair amount of money.

But I learned the actual marketing process is not too complicated. The difficult part has been the scope of tasks and the organizational requirements.

I did a lot of research and found the information to be spread out in bite-sized chunks as is often the case on the Internet. I have always learned more efficiently from a complete guide all in one place. Just give me the knowledge I need, and let me break it down in a way that makes sense to me.

My other educational hindrance has been my tendency to add fluff. Fluff is great for literature but not for learning, in my opinion. In fact it is not unusual for me to condense a three-hundred-page book to thirty pages of notes. After all that work I’d find myself asking why that book wasn’t thirty pages to begin with.

So the goal of this post is to help writers gain a bird’s-eye view on the chronological steps intrinsic to an effective book marketing plan while hopefully alleviating information overload.

You don’t have to utilize all of these marketing strategies. Some may be more suited to your skills or budget than others. They key is to be proactive. When starting out, just focus on one or two methods. Try not to get overwhelmed. Gradually move into new tactics.

You will need to segment your plan into time frames based on your release date. These segments will be 6-12 months before release, 4-6 months before release, 1-3 months before release, at release, and after release. Simple, right? So here are the basics:

6-12 Months before Release

  1. Set Up a Marketing Calendar

Use this calendar to keep track of all your marketing activities and appointments. This will include things like interviews, live events, scheduled blog posting dates, and ad campaign run times.

  1. Build a Website

This is vital and priority number one. You need a showcase for your work. If you don’t already have one, find other author websites you like and pattern yours after theirs. Here’s a great post that gives you all the info you need to know about an author website.

  1. Establish Your Target Market

Your marketing efforts will be wasted on the wrong demographic. Where do your readers hang out online? What media outlets do they shop at? Writers need to know their niche and how their books compare to others in their genre. Reading similar books and noting their descriptions, cover design, and promotional efforts will help you plan your market strategy.

  1. Create E-mail List Functionality

This will be an important step to maintain long-term contact with your fans and offer future incentives such as discounts or contests. Your e-mail list can also be a great source for book reviews.

  1. Plan Upcoming Events

Now is the time to start scheduling yourself for appearances, speaking engagements, and book tours.

  1. Develop a Media Kit

A media kit is important to have in place should you need to send promotional material to the media, potential publishing houses, or reviewers.

Your media kit should include some of the following:

  • A cover image of your book (get one made if you haven’t yet)
  • Links to your site and other places where your book can be purchased (if up for preorder)
  • An excerpt from your book
  • A summary of your book
  • A sample chapter from your book
  • An author photo and bio
  • Your book ISBN
  • A list of past works
  • Book reviews
  • Sample interview questions and a list of past interviews you have done
  • Accolades you have received from the media or organizations
  • Links to important articles you have written on popular websites
  • A sample press release
  • A preformatted Facebook post
  • An image ad graphic
  1. Establish Social Media Accounts

Try to become an influencer in you niche by writing authoritative posts, sharing valuable information, and helping fellow authors. Social media is also a venue for cheap paid advertising. You’re in luck because of the nature of what you will be promoting. People go to social media sites to be entertained. This is why traditionally some businesses like Bob’s Auto Glass Repair have struggled to see any tangible results from paid social media advertising, but your new book is the perfect subject for a social media campaign, as it falls directly in line with people’s desire to be entertained.

  1. Compile a List of Useful Websites

This means anyplace where you might be able to secure a review or blogs where you may be able to submit useful content with the secondary purpose of gaining recognition.

  1. Get a Professional Author Photo

Start thinking of yourself as a pro, and a pro needs a professional photo.

  1. Start Networking

Start getting to know the staff at bookstores in your area. And consider joining groups on places like Facebook or K-Boards on Amazon to connect with both readers and writers of your genre.

  1. Create an E-mail Signature

Add a signature to your personal e-mail with a cover image and author bio for your book along with a link to your site.

4-6 Months before Release

  1. Obtain Reviews

Refer to your list of review sources and utilize beta readers.

  1. Curate a List of Media Channels

This will include television, radio, and print sources to whom you may be able to send your media kit to gain additional exposure.

  1. Set Up Google Alerts

Do this for your name and the title of your book. This will enable you to receive a notification every time your name or book (or book topic) is mentioned on the web. You can then contact the source and offer to write for them or do an interview.

  1. Start Writing Blog Posts

Write a variety of guest posts that tie in with the topics or themes in your book. You won’t be submitting them yet, but you’ll be busy after the release of your book, so having these ready to go will save you time later.

1-3 Months before Release

  1. Send Media Kits

If you are just starting out, then think small. Look for independent media channels and publications. The Internet has given some of these smaller companies a substantial audience.

  1. Step Up Your Efforts to Get Reviews

Give away some free ebook copies and ask for a review on Amazon in exchange, if they’re so inclined. Be sure to tell them when they post a review to state “I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.”

  1. Begin Sending Out Press Releases
  2. Schedule the Launch Party and/or a Blog Tour
  3. Establish Your Paid Advertising Budget

There are dozens of websites where you can promote your new release, and many writing blogs have posted lists of these sites. Google these and start compiling your lists. Think how much money you want to allocate to your marketing and promotion. Be careful, though. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on publicity, but that’s no guarantee you’ll sell thousands of books. Check with successful authors you know or can query in a forum or Twitter chat to learn how to spend your marketing dollars wisely.

  1. Set Up Consignment Deals

Those bookstore connections you’ve made over the past six to nine months will come in handy now.

  1. Get Guest Blog Posts Scheduled

Now’s the time to contact all those blogs and ask if you can guest post. Usually if you let bloggers know you have a new release, they will be happy to schedule your post around your release date. Be sure to follow their guidelines for guest blogging, and send them your post in a timely manner.

  1. Set Up Interviews around Your Release Date

Think of contacting people who have podcasts, YouTube channels, and blogs that feature writers and book reviews. Usually these book up far ahead, so now’s the time to contact them.

At Release

  1. Update Links

Go to all the sites your book has previously been mentioned and try to add a link where people can purchase the book. Once you have links to buy, put them in your Tweets, Facebook updates, and other posts on social media sites.

  1. Run Contests and Giveaways

Engage social media fans and your website visitors with a fun contest for a free book or other prizes. This can get your book more reviews and lead to more word-of-mouth advertising.

  1. Learn How to Write a Tantalizing Amazon Description

This is key. Amazon is your largest marketplace, and you want to maximize your exposure as well as attract your target audience. Study other descriptions of similar books and pattern yours like theirs, using the keywords they use (this Google Chrome extension is worth buying so you can place your book in the right niche for greatest success).

  1. Publish Your ebook Version on Kindle and Other Online Venues

If you don’t know how to format and publish an ebook, and don’t want to take the time to learn how at the present time, you can hire a designer to help you.

  1. Schedule a Google+ Hangout

Google Hangouts are a great way to build your reputation as an expert in your field. It is basically a roundtable discussion with your peers that can be posted to your YouTube channel, social media accounts, and website.

After Release

  1. Encourage Your Audience to Provide Reviews

In addition to the recipients of free review copies, you should work diligently to garner as many honest reviews as possible from your readers.

  1. Start Paid Advertising

Preferably place image ads on independent sites that focus on various aspects of writing or books. You can also seek placement on corporate sites such as Bookbub.com, Bookgorilla.com, Goodreads.com, and Kboards.com, to name a few. A minimum two-week run should be good if your budget is limited. You may want to wait a couple of weeks to allow advance readers time to post their reviews. Now is also the time to begin paid social media advertisements. Facebook is a popular option.

  1. Submit More Guest Posts

Keep the momentum going with your book release by continuing to guest post on others’ blogs.

  1. Seek Interview Opportunities

These can be in the form of podcasts or blog posts. You’d be surprised at how many people listen to some of these small podcasts of which you’ve likely never heard.,

  1. Schedule In-Person Appearances

You should have already started this process and hopefully you have some scheduled by now, but if not, keep working on it.

Set realistic goals and keep proper scheduling. If your marketing experience and budget are low, then don’t take on more than you can handle. The key is to think of your book the way Ford thinks of a new car. It’s a product, and you’re a business owner. There is no shame in shameless self-promotion, so don’t give up.

James_Rose head shotJames A. Rose is a writer for InstantPublisher.com, a full-service self-publishing company that helps  authors realize their publishing dreams. You can learn more about Instant Publisher by checking out their Facebook page or following them on Twitter.

Feature Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

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  1. Wow! This is fantastic! Thanks so much. I remember a story about how John Grisham sold copies of A Time to Kill out of the back of his pickup truck. Amazing how things have changed. But I wonder if 12 months is too early to promote a book? It seems six months may be sufficient. Especially considering the modern 24 hour internet cycle?

    1. Thanks J. I would say it is never too early. The most important tasks to undertake that far out would probably be those that involve building relationships. That could be on social media, blogs or in your community.

  2. One simple thing: whenever you mention your book or show your book cover image, make sure that links back to Amazon. There have been a lot of books I might have bought if this had been done.

    We’ve been trained to be one-click shoppers, and that extra step of opening a new web window, going to Amazon, searching for the book, clicking back to the blog post to double-check the spelling of the author’s name, clicking back to Amazon, searching again … somewhere in that process, they lost me and potentially lost a sale.

  3. Great information. I’ve done some of this, learning about others. Most important for me, is finishing my book, getting that book cover, and getting it professionally edited. Then, all the other activities you have suggested.

  4. this is most interesting find and will need a while to study this over my summer season here but I am most grateful to find this as I at present writing a novel, and can see some value in what you have here , even at a glance , many thanks for sharing

  5. Great tips. I will probably never agree with the author photo though. I see an authors picture and I’m turned off, usually. I just don’t see how it’s professional. I’m a writer, not a model. In fact, I have what is called a radio face, pretty much. Lastly, the ads. Yeah. Not sure it’s worth it. If you get 20 sales from an ad is it worth it? And how do you know you’re getting the 20 sales from the ad?

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