An engineer can look at the foundation of a building under construction and tell you its eventual height. The deeper the base, the higher the structure will be. Similarly, an independent publisher must create a strong foundation to support a title's future growth. This preparation is performed in five phases.
1) The Planning Phase
Focus on creating a strategic book marketing plan for your title at least six months prior to its publication date. Begin by precisely defining your target readers. Then outline your strategies, describe the tactics you will perform, and establish completion dates for each, in four functional areas:
Will you distribute your books through the traditional distributor retail channels? What special markets might you like to consider: mass merchandisers, book clubs, associations, schools, corporations, foundations, catalogs or home shopping channels? What about sales through your author website?
- Publicity (book reviews, awards, press releases, media appearances)
- Advertising (including your author website, trade shows, social media, direct marketing)
- Sales promotion (bookmarks, coffee mugs)
- Personal selling (sales calls, networking)
Determine the list price and potential volume and velocity of unit sales and revenue. Calculate expected costs and create your preliminary cash flow statements and other financial reports.
2) The Production Phase
The next month or two (four to five months before pub date) are devoted to the production process. Complete the editing, cover design, and interior book design, which presupposes all registration information (ISBN, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number or CIP data, copyright, barcode) has been compiled. Finish all charts, illustrations and photography.
Once you have all the production information finalized, it's time to upload your book!
3) The Distribution Phase
During the two to three months prior to publication, your objective is to create dual distribution (through bookstores and non-bookstore retailers, as well as to non-retail buyers). Separate distribution partners may be required for marketing to libraries, bookstores, online and in-person worldwide (but not with IngramSpark). Non-bookstore retailers (airport stores, supermarkets, discount stores, etc) will require additional distribution help.
4) The Promotion Phase
“Perpetual promotion” begins here and never ends as you continuously work on building your author platform. Three to four months before publication date, begin contacting book clubs. Prepare ARCs to send to reviewers as well as for peer review and endorsements. When you receive testimonials, add them to the your back cover copy and all your promotional material.
Produce sales-promotional items. Decide upon the trade shows at which you will attend or exhibit. What direct mail letters and promotional copy must be written and printed? Plan book publicity that will stimulate as much attention as possible. Consider lining up some author speaking. Finalize your website and produce podcasts and blog articles.
Prepare press releases for relevant newspaper and magazine editors. Do not overlook the broadcast media as a source of low-cost, high-yield publicity. Develop a list of television and radio shows suited to the topic of your book.
5) The Introduction Phase
The final month before publication is devoted to following up and catching up. Follow up with your printer, editors, producers, buyers and reviewers to consummate your programs. And make final arrangements for any author events you've lined up for launch.
At the same time, implement last-minute promotional programs. This may entail mailing literature to buyers at independent bookstores or finalizing details on your author website.
When your book is finally released, the real work of sustaining its momentum begins. However, the publishing process is more rewarding and productive if it begins well enough in advance, building steadily upon a strong foundation of strategic planning and effort.
The Association of Publishers for Special Sales have created a timeline to help you plan your pre-publication marketing activities.