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Book Launch Checklist: A Cheat Sheet for Your New Release

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Prepping for your book launch is often shrouded in mystery. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of information out there about how best to do this. I know it’s tempting to give yourself some time to relax after all of your efforts to get the book ready for publication, but when the book is done, the planning starts. Launching your book without a plan is a plan to fail.

What if your book is already out, and you feel like you’ve really missed your window? There may be some marketing strategies that you’ve overlooked, ones that you can still start—even after publication. Today, I hope to offer you some invaluable knowledge and some important details that you can keep on your radar and then use to prepare for a successful book launch, whether your next release is next week, next month, or next year.

Five to Six Months Before Publication

What’s your launch strategy? Don’t wait till the last minute to create a solid launch plan. Below you’ll find important questions to ask yourself as well as tips on how to answer them.

  • Looking for media and blogger attention? Time to decide which magazines, media, bloggers, and/or trade publications you’ll target. Get your list ready and begin your research. While you’re at it, subscribe to all of the magazines and blogs you want to pitch so that you know what they’re talking about.
  • Want endorsements? While they aren’t mandatory, if you’re inclined to seek blurbs from others in the industry, get started on this early. Of all of the things I’ve ever worked on with authors, this is often the toughest. People get busy and often misplace the books I send them. It’s a long process. Accept that, and you’ll be fine. Remember that not all of these need to happen on top of your book launch (or just prior to). You can always add blurbs and endorsements to your Amazon book page. If you want them on the cover of an already published book, you can update the cover with a blurb and upload the new cover to the IngramSpark system. Voila! The awesome blurb is now on display for browsing readers.book launch checklist
  • Building a speaking career? Speaking events book up early, so pitch yourself as soon as you can and make sure to mention that you have a book coming out.
  • Still working on your cover design? Start the book cover design process as soon as possible because covers are hard, and you’ll want to do some research. Spend time examining other covers and competitive titles in your genre to get an idea of what’s trending and what the “look” is for your market.
  • Don’t have current social media? Now is the time! Build followers and start sharing teasers and special announcements to help your social media followers get to know you.
  • Do you know your author brand? The term “author brand” is often confusing; most authors don’t really understand what it means. Well, in short, your author brand is everything from the font on your book cover (and website) to the content you share on social media. Getting clear about who you are, what you’ll share, and how you’ll show up in the world should start early because each of these elements has an enormous impacts on how you’re perceived.

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Three to Four Months Before Publication

As you move closer to publication, you will start focusing less on plans and more on actions; you should have concrete answers to many of the questions above because now is the time to start tackling your to-do list.

  • Your website: Make sure your author website is ready to go and you’re adding blog content – even if it’s just once a week or once a month. Get into the habit of writing blog posts now as it’ll help with your website SEO!
  • Create your pitch: I know it seems like it’s early to be working on this, but much like cover design, pitches take time to perfect. If you’re doing this on your own, you’ll probably want a few rounds of feedback before you finalize the text. You want a pitch that is going to make bloggers, online media, big media, and/or national magazines, say yes to featuring or reviewing you and your book.
  • ARCs and Galleys: Get your ARCs printed now; you’ll need them if you’re doing any early pitching.things-to-consider-3
  • National magazines: If your goal is to get into big, national magazines, your actual pitching should start now. Do some smart research on which angles to use based on what’s happening in your industry, as well as in our country as a whole. To the degree that you can, and that it makes sense for your topic, align yourself with current events.
  • Marketing materials: If you’re planning on doing any collateral pieces like bookmarks, business cards, character trading cards, etc., start on this process now.
  • Another look at your author brand: You’ve been doing this for a couple of months now, so how does your brand seem to resonate? Now’s the time to tweak it and create header graphics for your social, maybe even update your “about” section. Author brands evolve; the deeper you get into the marketing process, the more branding ideas will start to emerge.
  • Bookstore events? Yes, they’re coming back, and if you want to do in-store events, now would be a good time to start pitching them. If a bookstore is local to you, walk in and introduce yourself and ask them what their event policy is going forward. Even if this is your fifth book and you’ve done numerous local events, the pandemic has changed a lot of protocols, so call or drop by and ask!
  • Libraries, local groups, and book groups: An often-overlooked element of marketing is your local reader groups, book groups, and libraries. If you haven’t considered targeting them, maybe you should. Get started on this early, especially if you want to be a future book club pick. Not sure where to start when it comes to local groups? Your local library and bookstore are often great sources of information. Also check out Meetup.com, as lots of groups have migrated to this online platform to set up meetings and group chats.
  • Going after national reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and other media outlets? Check out their guidelines for pitching and get started now.

book launch checklist

Two Months Before Publication

This pre-launch phase is all about pitching, fine-tuning, and exploring marketing options on reader-friendly platforms. Get that email list ready!

  • Your website has been live for a while; if you need to make changes now is the time!
  • This is your window to pitch national broadcast media, newspapers around the country, and indie bookstores.
  • Library pitching happens now, too, so walk in and introduce yourself. Get involved in library events, as spending time around people who work with books can be key.
  • If you have an email list, now is a good time to warm it up. Send out an email to let readers know you have a book release coming up!
  • If you don’t have an email list, create a basic landing page with a great giveaway offer or freebie to start collecting emails. A sample of the first few chapters or a free worksheet are perfect for this purpose!
    book launch checklist
  • If you haven’t set yourself up on Goodreads, now is a good time. While you’re at it, set up a pre-launch giveaway while you’re on the platform.
  • If you haven’t checked out BookBub yet, head on over. Claim your Bookbub profile and start making recommendations.
  • If your book is up for pre-order on Amazon, make sure you fine-tune your Amazon Author Central options.

One Month Before Publication

You’re so close—and you’ve put in so much work. Give yourself a pat on the back, and then dive right back in!

  • Start pitching local media and bloggers.
  • Planning a contest or special giveaway? If you are, it’s good to get this out there now.
  • If you’re doing a cover reveal, this is a great time to share it with your networks.
  • How about that newsletter? Maybe it’s time for another update to check in with people who have signed up.
  • Consider scheduling a Facebook Live event on launch day.
  • Do your Amazon keyword and category research and get those included with your book.
    Welcome to Launch Week!
  • Social, social, social! Focus on engagement, teasers, giveaways.

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  • Try out a BOGO offer and a few other ways to keep engagement up.
  • Post comments on any positive reviews that start coming in – let readers know you appreciate their feedback.
  • Get active in your Goodreads groups to gain some name recognition within your target markets.
  • Run some Bookbub ads that let you target popular authors in your genre.
  • Check in with any media or bloggers you sent books to by sending a quick pitch follow up.
  • Schedule a discount ebook promotion to happen in a couple weeks to rev up hits on Amazon.

Depending on the goals for your book release, you can modify this list, but it’s a good jumping off point that will hopefully spark even more pre-launch ideas.

Remember hope is not a marketing plan. Creating a thoughtfully outlined and thorough plan for your book launch will greatly help to increase your chances of success!

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Penny C. Sansevieri

Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU and is the author of eighteen books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, 5 Minute Book Marketing, and Red Hot Internet Publicity.

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