With so many book marketing strategies available to promote your book, it's easy to get overwhelmed and have difficulty determining what to do and when to do it to give your book the best chance. Marketing a book is a complex part of the overall publishing process and takes proper planning. This book marketing timeline for indie authors is designed for the author who is just about to begin writing, however since all these strategies are important, you can begin to address each one no matter where you are in your publishing process.
With so much information to digest and so many strategies available, it’s best to give yourself plenty of time to set these strategies in motion. To stay organized it’s a good idea to have a marketing calendar specifically for your book marketing.
Before You Start Writing
Creating a detailed book marketing plan or author business plan will help you think about all the strategies and effort that will be necessary to market your book correctly. Knowing that success is measured differently; it is essential to understand what it means for you.
Before you create a marketing plan, it’s a good idea to get your arms around these questions as they will affect your overall book marketing strategy.
- Who is your target audience and who did you have in mind when you wrote the book?
- What are your goals?
- If you wrote the book to make money, how many books do you want to sell? (You can break this down into pre-release, first month, first quarter, first year.)
- If you wrote the book to inspire others, how will you achieve this and position yourself as a subject matter expert on the topic you are writing about?
- If you wrote the book to add professional credibility, how will you measure this?
- It’s also important to know how much money you can spend on marketing and how to evaluate book marketing services.
Begin to list out what tools you will need to market and promote your book? This article will list most of them, but feel free to do additional research. Then create your timeline based on the one below. Start with the date your book will be released and work backward. Feel free to enhance this timeline for your needs and most importantly, enjoy the ride.
As You Begin Writing
Use your judgment during this time to make sure you are focusing on your writing. You can perform any of the below tasks before you start writing or when you need a mental break.
Build Your Author Brand
Create a unique author brand and display it across all social platforms, websites, and collateral material. A brand might be a logo, your name or series name and include specific colors, font styles, or wording. It might represent the message of your book. Be creative.
Craft Your Book Metadata
Begin working on your book metadata including your book description and author bio. Understand the importance of BISAC subject codes and which ones are the most relevant for your book. Make sure you understand how compensation works and the costs associated with printing and distributing your book. IngramSpark has a Publisher Compensation Calculator which will help you determine how much you will earn from your titles sold through the distribution channels.
Create Your Author Website
Create a 5-page author website. Include an About the Author page, About the Book page, Blog, Contact the Author page and a Homepage. You can add pages as time goes on, but this is all you need to get started.
Build Your Email List
Start building your email list by offering something in return for an email address (think giveaway, contest, or free content). Place email signup forms on your website, social media accounts, and in your email signature. Start communicating with your list by sending a newsletter with an article related to your book’s message, some interesting facts or news about the same, and a promotion or giveaway related to your upcoming book. This strategy should continue to evolve as you gain more followers and become more marketing savvy.
Devise Your Social Media Strategy
Begin formulating your social media strategy by using one or two platforms you feel would be best for reaching your target audience. It’s better to direct your time mastering one social platform than do an average job on several. Create a mix of memes, posts, tweets, articles and other content relevant to your book’s message. 20% of the time should be for promoting your book or bringing your followers on your publishing journey. 80% of the time should be content interesting to your followers that does not directly promote your book.
While You're Writing (3-6 months)
When you take a break from writing to focus on book marketing, you will most likely gain a deeper appreciation of your writing, as most authors would rather write than market. When you come back to your writing, you should have renewed energy to continue with your book.
Research Book Reviewers
Make a list of book review companies and their requirements. Send advanced review copies of your book to the organizations who require unpublished work and have long lead times. There is a growing list of reviewers, bloggers, and companies like NetGalley who accept advanced digital copies. Think about any influencers you might know who would read and review your book. This strategy should continue even after the release.
Start a Blog
Start blogging about the subject matter and message from your book. Look to create a blog article monthly going forward.
Create a Media Kit
Create a media kit including information about the book, your background, your professional author photo, any book publicity surrounding the project along with answers to what could be common customer/media questions. Add this to your website on the ‘About You’ page.
Be true to yourself and decide if you are comfortable speaking to people face-to-face, in front of a camera or over the phone on a live radio interview. This will help shape your book marketing strategy and allow you to focus on your strengths. If you are okay with public speaking, make a list of any book fairs or events, radio shows or podcasts you should approach. As you talk to other authors and gain more experience, you will know which events to attend. Mark these on your marketing calendar.
Apply to Book Awards
Research and list out any book awards you might want to submit to, but be sure the award warrants the submission by using this checklist. Make sure you adhere to any deadlines and mark these on your marketing calendar.
While Your Book is Being Edited (1-2 months)
The importance of having your book professionally edited cannot be understated, but while that's going on, you can be working on getting the following book marketing strategies in motion.
Pick Your Dates
Consider How You'll Sell Your Book
Create a book page on your author website and decide how you'll sell your book. Will you sell, place, and ship orders yourself, sell and have someone else handle the packing and shipping for you, or simply link to online retailers where your book is available. You can always adjust this strategy. Many independent authors start off by sending visitors to retail sites because it's easiest.
If you're interested in selling from your author website as your own retailer and having Ingram handle your order fulfillment, you can explore Aerio. Like IngramSpark, Aerio is run by Ingram, so while IngramSpark is the publishing, print, and distribution piece for indie authors, Aerio is the sales piece. Readers can place orders on your author website using a widget you embed from Aerio, and your sales will be processed, packed, and shipped by Ingram without you having to place individual consumer orders or pack and ship them manually.
Research Options for Help
Gather information on book promotion companies and understand what is involved in pre-releasing a book. Many free and paid promotional companies can help you launch your book. Look into book tours, signings, and other digital and physical author events.
Start Creating Promotional Material
Create video content to promote on social media, your website, and YouTube channel. Design and print any collateral material such as bookmarks or sell sheets. Create memes, blog posts, tweets, and articles and proactively build your following using social media best practices. Remember quality over quantity, and research post scheduling software that can automate the posting process.
Make a list of book reviewers to approach about your book. There are many places you can solicit reviews starting with friends, colleagues, alumni, and review sources listed on the internet. Until organic reviews are appearing consistently, you will need to ask everyone to read and review your book. Your promotional efforts should bring in a percentage of reviews, but, it’s up to you to get the others. Be creative and consistent.
Two Weeks Before Release
Having a good book launch is essential. Your ranking, sales numbers, reviews, and overall activity play a role in building momentum, awareness, and validation.
Check Your Book Metadata
Once your book appears online, make sure all the book metadata is correct.
Enhance Your Presence in Online Book Communities
Create an Author Central account on Amazon and populate it with your author bio, images, and book trailer if you have one. Connect your blog feed allowing it to show on your author account. Set up your Goodreads account and begin to understand how you can benefit from using Goodreads.
Look for advertising opportunities that can complement any promotional strategies underway. These ad opportunities can be in print and digital format. Make sure you evaluate all press kits to determine if their ad lines up with your demographics and if the spend justifies the potential reach.
This period is about keeping the momentum moving. Visualize having many spinning plates in front of you. You will need to give each plate attention to keep it from crashing to the ground.
Watch your ranking and book numbers on Amazon. If you hit bestseller status make sure you take a screenshot of your book page with the icon Amazon adds and promote it on social media. Being a best-seller is validating for your pre-release focus, but keep in mind your overall goal should be about consistent monthly sales. If you have done a good job implementing a robust book marketing strategy, your numbers should stay fairly consistent.
Update social media and your website about the book release. Follow up on any promotions and giveaways to make sure they are launching.
Keep stoking the marketing fire!
Approach local bookstores about carrying your book. If they agree, make sure you send local customers into that store to buy your book.
Follow up with each strategy on this timeline to make sure that you have completed all the tasks. It’s okay to approach and follow up with people who never responded or were initially not interested. It’s all about book sales, so if your book is selling people will be more inclined to be involved.
Updated. Originally published in two parts in July 2018.