9 ways to promote your book BEFORE you publish it

This is a post by Laura Pepper Wu

The early bird catches the worm!

In other words, the earlier you start your book promotions the better. Starting 3 months before the book’s release date is recommended in order to sufficiently build buzz, but a solid publicity plan can take up to 12 months.

Focus on quality, not quantity.

If you have 10,000 Twitter followers but none of them pay attention to you or care about you or your message, you are not going to see results. It’s preferable to have fewer fans, but fans who listen and respond to your every word and message. According to marketing whiz Seth Godin, anyone who wants to build a brand, business, or product needs a “tribe” of about 1,000 people to spread the word effectively. Aim for a tight-knit group of solid fans, and you’ll see results.

Get your groundwork done.

Before you start any form of publicity, be sure to be media-ready. This means that you have a defined target audience (TA), marketing message, news hooks, professional author pic, professional book cover, and so on. There is no point reaching out to a book reviewer or reporter asking for coverage when you don’t have the solid foundations in place.

Get a good website with some content (a blog)!

Pencil out a blogging schedule (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or Tuesdays and Saturdays, etc) and get several blog posts written up and scheduled in advance. You are only going to get busier the closer you get to the book release date, so get a head start!

Learn how to use social media… properly.

If you are going to spend 30+ minutes on social media sites each day, be sure you know how to use them effectively. Browsing photos, ‘liking’ statuses, and stalking [insert favorite celebrity here] doesn’t count! Make real connections. Comment on others’ posts with valuable insights. Be informative, provide value, answer questions, and give food for thought. Keep your marketing message in mind. Aim to write tweets that others will want to re-tweet and that will make people think. If you can be funny too, that’s a bonus!

Don’t be afraid to give stuff away for free.

People love freebies. Write a how-to or short story that might interest your target reader and give it away on your site. Collect readers email addresses in return, and you’ll have a list of people to contact when your book is released, when you have an event planned or when your price has dropped. This will be one of your most valuable assets in the future.

Include advance review copies (ARCs/ Galleys) in your budget.

If you don’t have a budget, send out e-copies of your book to sites and reviewers that will accept digital copies. Reviewers love to receive books that are not yet available to the public.

Try to get blurbs (aka endorsements) for your book.

Go big. Ask other authors you respect or admire to read and endorse your book, and don’t be shy! I have found other authors to be some of the most supportive and helpful people in existence. They are real people too!

Organize your launch week well in advance.

There are many things you can do on launch week to start things off with a bang, but many of them need advance organization to be pulled off right. This includes putting together/purchasing a blog tour (bloggers usually like requests 1-2 months in advance), contacting book groups (they usually choose books 3-4 months in advance), inviting friends & family to a signing (even if it’s only at your house!), arranging talks with local groups of interest, sending out a press release, etc.

Submit articles for magazines (local or niche).

Print media usually operate a 3 month lead time, so keep this in mind. You can submit stories or articles to your alumni magazine, local newspaper, or a niche magazine in connection with your story. If your article never gets accepted – print media can be very picky and is much more competitive than online – nothing is lost as you can always use the content for a guest post or on your own blog.

How long do you think is needed for a good promotional plan? Did I miss anything that has worked/ is working for you? I’d love to hear about it!

About this post’s author: Laura Pepper Wu is the founder of LadiesWhoCritique.com, a place for writers to find their perfect critique partner. Writers of all levels are welcome – published, unpublished, aspiring, hobbyists, even closet writers or complete newbies. Men are more than welcome too!

Melissa Luznicky Garrett

Great advice! Thanks, Laura. 😀

Mary

Effective social media is all about making connections. So many writers/authors seem to treat it like a numbers game, not realizing that they’re likely just added to a random twitter list or unchecked blog feed. Without commenting on other people’s blogs, networking to a targeted audience and providing quality content, those numbers are essentially meaningless.

Currently, I’m promoting my mom’s upcoming novel. I think one of the smartest decisions she made was starting her blog in 2008–almost 4 years ago, now. In that time, she focused on her brand and her audience. Now, 3 months to launch, she has made an online name for herself and found her niche. The takeaway lesson? The earlier you can pre-market the better!

TL Jeffcoat

Awesome advice. I will be saving this post for sure. I hadn’t thought of advanced arcs to reviewers or asking fellow writers for blurbs. I never thought of putting up free content either, at least not before I published. Looks like I need to make time for that fanfic piece I’ve been planning. Thanks!

Vanessa

Some great advice – thanks for sharing!

Brian

wrt blogs another asset to them is SEO. Your site will get found in searches for things related to your book if you’re smart about it.

Just write about things other than writing your book. Especially if you’re an unknown, the harsh truth is nobody cares and you’re making it clear that all you want to do is sell them a book. jmho

Vincent J Leardi

Check out Metaphysical theory and fiction by Vincent J Leardi at amazon.com via the books “The Universal Collective Unconscious and the Metaphysical Utopia” and Tales of Chaotic Telepathy’

Laura Pepper Wu

I’m glad the advice was useful! There are plenty of creative ideas to try before and after publication. Happy to be here, Laura

Jane Rutherford

Oh, this post goes to my Bookmarks! I have a feeling it will be priceless for when I start preparing the book launch!

Donna Brown

Hi Laura

What a great post! Especially budgeting for ARCs – it’s so easy to forget that sending out 50 books soon becomes pretty pricey!

Thanks for some really useful advice!
Donna

Bridget Bowers

Those are some really good tips to making sure you are ready for when your book is released. I know that I was completely overwhelmed and had no idea what to expect. I am hoping for my next book that I will be in much better shape.

I find managing the social media aspect the most difficult. You do tend to get caught up in hanging out and having fun. It is easy to lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish.

Camille Gooderham Campbell

Great article. I will be sharing it.

One mistake that many authors make is considering other authors as part of their sales target. It’s natural to want to hang out on author forums and connect with other writers via social media, but that’s not rich ground for selling! Most authors have a limited budget for book buying and a great many author friends with books for sale, plus they’re likely focused on selling their own books. It’s great for connecting and getting support and advice, but don’t count on building sales that way. It’s wise to invest some time in reading communities that aren’t exclusively for writers, and blog/tweet about topics that will interest non-writing readers.

Patricia Marques

Hi Laura, this is a really helpful post, I’ve been finding it difficult myself on how to approach the social media side of things. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

Emmanuel

Short, concise and to the point. Like the tips.

Brad Younie

Some of these tips sound like they are geared toward self publishing. But what if you are going to try to get it published via traditional publishers? Are there any of these tips that should be amended to fit that model?

For instance, you say the web site should have the cover art on it before release. But isn’t the publisher going to be the one to get the cover art? So, in this case, I wouldn’t have any cover art before the book gets published — or at least not until it’s soon to be published, maybe.

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