Ep. 09: Indie Book Promotion Timeline with Fauzia Burke

No matter how much you promote your book, do you feel like you’re still one step behind? Maybe your promotion is a bit out of order. Join us as we discuss the ideal book promotion timeline with online marketing expert, Fauzia Burke.

All your promotional strategies should be leading up to the ultimate momentyour book launch. Book promotion is a two-step approach, and it should be looked at from both a long-term and a short-term perspective. Long-term marketing involves building your author platform and brand, and it starts well in advance of short-term marketing, which is the actual promotion of your book.  

Fauzia Burke joins Robin Cutler to break down the specifics of the book promotion timeline, and help you understand where (and when) to start marketing your book. Do you know if you’re in the long-term or short-term marketing stage? Listen to find out, and for more book marketing advice, check out IngramSpark's free online publishing course,  How to Build an Author Platform.


Robin Cutler [00:00:08] Hi everyone, welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. I'm Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark, and unfortunately, Justine Bylo is on vacation in Hawaii, so even though I'm here talking to you today, I actually am really happy that she's gotten some time off, and she'll be back soon. I am joined today by one of my favorite people in all of publishing, and actually, in the world, I should say, which is Fauzia Burke, who's the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm, specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She's the author of the book Online Marketing for Busy Authors, and has promoted the books of such authors as Alan Alda, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, and many more. A nationally recognized speaker and online marketing expert, Fauzia writes for the Huffington Post, mariashriver.com, and mindbodygreen, and has been featured in Fast Company Inc. and Book Business Magazine. Welcome, Fauzia!

Fauzia Burke [00:01:18] Thank you so much, what a lovely introduction! You're one of my favorite people, too! Perfect!

Robin Cutler [00:01:24] Well, we met for the first time at a conference, maybe about three years ago, Fauzia, do you think?

Fauzia Burke [00:01:31] Yeah, I think so.

Robin Cutler [00:01:32] We instantly bonded, and we could not shut up talking about, really about indie publishing, and where we felt the whole industry was going, and I just always love to bounce ideas and just have great conversation with you, Fauzia.

Fauzia Burke [00:01:53] Thank you, I feel the same way, Robin. It was just funny when we met and, like, literally went from a 10-minute meeting to a half an hour breakfast, to a two-hour lunch to...

Robin Cutler [00:02:05] We were constantly eating, I remember that.

Fauzia Burke [00:02:07] Yes, and talking, eating and talking.

Robin Cutler [00:02:11] Okay, you're a marketing guru, I would call you. Let's just get started talking about what authors need to know about just basic things about the marketing of their books.

Fauzia Burke [00:02:24] Yeah, I'd love to talk about it, because that's my favorite topic in the whole world. Let's talk about that, for sure. One of the things that I notice, and I think you and I talked about a little bit about this, too, is that a lot of times, authors think that they have to write their book, then they get it edited, then they produce it, then they market it, in that order, and that, I think, is kind of a mistake, and I think what I'd love to talk to you about is just helping authors figure out the timing for their promotion and marketing today.

Robin Cutler [00:02:58] The long-term and the short-term part of a marketing campaign. That's what you're talking about, right, Fauzia?

Fauzia Burke [00:03:07] [Fauzia} Exactly, what happens is that authors think that the campaign itself, the marketing, the publicity of the book, is all there is to marketing, but really, there is two aspects to it. One is a long-term, kind of considering, building a platform or...building a brand. That part is long-term marketing, and then there's the short-term marketing, which is actually promoting the book, the new book. That's the short-term part. What I always tell authors is to really focus on the long term, just as much as the short term. The short term feels a lot more exciting, publicity, advertising, reviews; but the long term is where you build relationships with your other authors in your genre, but also your readers. You build a rapport with people, so they're expecting your next book, they're excited about the next book. Then the short-term part is really about launching the book, with reviews, and advertising, promotions, those kinds of things. Authors really do need to think about both aspects. The building the brand aspect, which helps build trust and relationship with the readers, and also the short term, which is reviews and advertising and publicity when the book comes out. Both of them really do have a particular kind of timing for that to happen.

Robin Cutler [00:04:32] Fauzia, you mentioned the author building and creating a brand and building a platform. I know authors hear this, and they don't quite understand what building a platform really means. Can you break that down for our...

Fauzia Burke [00:04:48] I definitely can, and I think you're absolutely right, people don't... A lot of times I've had authors say, "Well, I'm not a brand," as if we're comparing them to Coca-Cola or something like that, and they don't want that kind of feeling, but really, building a brand is really developing a relationship with your readers and having a long term trust with them; where they know what kind of books you write, they know what kind of quality you have. Those kinds of things, what they can expect. A lot of times, platform building, a lot of indie authors think this is something that traditional authors do. It has nothing to do with them, they don't have to worry about it, but it is really important for them as well, because as I said, it really is about building this relationship with the readers. Every author needs it, whether it doesn't really matter how you publish. We all need a relationship with our readers. That's an important part of it, and to break it down, what I do sometimes is, I use this formula with my authors called, design + engagement + visibility = success. I'll break that down more. No math majors here. Generally, if I break it down for authors, I think they understand, because there's a lot of moving parts, it feels overwhelming, everybody has a suggestion, so it's hard to kind of break everything down. If we look at that formula: design + engagement + visibility, and you look at what the first one is, which is just design.

Fauzia Burke [00:06:22] The first thing we do when I work with my clients is we focus on what they look like online, what their website looks like, what their social media looks like, whether they have a mailing list or not, whether they have an author bio on Amazon, whether they have a Goodreads page. All of those things where, how do we represent ourselves and what do we look like online? That's element number one. The first thing we do is pick out the choices. Which social media works for you? What mailing list do we want to have? What website do we want? That's design, that's the first one. Then the second part is actually building of engagement. Social media polls, newsletters, blogging, all of those kinds of things that people sort of think of all of this as one big giant thing, but if you break it down, it feels a lot more doable. You do the design part, then you start building the engagement, then comes visibility, which is actually when the book comes out. IF we do it in that order, it makes a lot more sense, it's much more manageable, it's not overwhelming. The only thing is, the whole thing takes between 18 months to two years before you can really start to see the fruits of your labor. For authors to start once their book comes out, you're kind of almost 18 months too late, so it's better to start writing, building your blog, and building your platform and building your brand at the same time as you're writing your book. That will be the idea scenario.

Robin Cutler [00:07:56] Well, Fauzia, I'm the perfect candidate because I'll admit that I'm actually writing a book right now.

Fauzia Burke [00:08:02] Wow!

Robin Cutler [00:08:04] I do have a little bit of presence, because of my position with IngramSpark, but nobody knows me as an author. I'm hearing what you're saying because I need to do exactly what you're saying right now.

Fauzia Burke [00:08:20] Oh, I see.

Robin Cutler [00:08:20] I haven't. I have to say that it sort of terrifies me a little bit just because I'm so focused now on carving out the time to do the actual work of the writing that to do something on top of that just sounds even more exhausting. What advice do you have, of just kind of keeping your energy, and keeping the focus of what you need to do?

Fauzia Burke [00:08:50] That's so common, Robin. A lot of people feel the same way. It's just, it's a lot of work to even write a book, and then the daunting task of promoting it just seems overwhelming. You're not alone. What I would say is that, if you pick and choose the things that help you build your platform that also help you write the book, and I'll give you an example on that. It feels a little bit, just to go back to the point, if you can combine the two, so it doesn't feel like this is...

Robin Cutler [00:09:24] Extra.

Fauzia Burke [00:09:26] There's a section A and there's a section B, and I should do this and then I have to find time for this. For example, if you're doing research and suppose you're writing a mystery novel, and you're doing research. Well, while you're doing the research, if you can pull together a five, six, 700 word blog post giving other people ideas about how to do the research, I went to the library, when we used to do that, or, I did this research online. I did this genealogy thing, I looked this website, you're doing the work anyway. If you can just document it, it's a lot easier than starting over on, now what do I talk about? Same thing with social media. If you pick the platforms that you already enjoy, and then plug into other authors who are in your genre, you'll actually learn from them. They may say something that triggers an idea for you, or it can all sort of blend together, and when it does blend together, it doesn't feel as daunting. It's still extra work, don't get me wrong. Robin, you, me, and everyone else knows that any kind of marketing that we have to do these days, for our companies, for ourselves, is extra work. But I think you can make it less daunting if you combine it with the writing process.

Robin Cutler [00:10:44] Well, I love the sound of that. What do you recommend, Fauzia, in terms of platforms or tools that can actually help you get organized and help you build this long-term sort of platform?

Fauzia Burke [00:10:59] I am a complete and utter nerd when it comes to... I think you saw one of my presentations, didn't you? Robin, where I looked in...

Robin Cutler [00:11:09] That is not true, I just want to give a big shout out to Fauzia and also her husband, John, actually, are very technically savvy, and so I trust everything you say in terms of what you would recommend as far as tools.

Fauzia Burke [00:11:26] Thank you so much. I love them. I play around with a lot of platforms and tools and things like that, so I do have some favorites. For author websites, I love PubSite. Of course, I'm biased because I'm, my husband was one of the founders of the platform, but I love it because after designing for over 20 years, custom designing author websites, we really decided to put all of our knowledge and know how into one platform, and so it's really made for books and authors. It's not for event planners, it's not for designers, it's not for photographers. Every element of the platform is made for authors. It's a really great platform for authors to check out, and it's free to set up, and then for Ingram customers it's $14.99 a month, so that's one thing that I love, and I would definitely recommend. For mailing lists, I'm a huge fan, there's a lot of options. There's so many different options for setting up mailing lists. I happen to like MailChimp. I have no financial involvement with them at all, but I just think they make it really easy to set up. It's free until you get to 2000 people, so that's a good headstart for people. It's really easy to set up templates, so that's another one that I really like. Then there are two more platforms that I think authors should think about learning to use, and that's for scheduling social media. It's really difficult to manage a lot of social media channels in real time. You should do it, obviously, you should check in and listen to other people and comment and all of that,

Fauzia Burke [00:13:11] but scheduling posts does make it easier, and the two platforms I use for that is Hootsuite, which is very common and well-known, and then I also really like Promo Republic. I've just started using it a few months ago, and what it does is actually combines the benefits of Hootsuite, which is scheduling, with a design program, so you can actually design the graphics and schedule them all in one platform. That's called Promo Republic. Again, I have no financial interests in either one of them, I just like playing with tools and those are the ones that I like right now.

Robin Cutler [00:13:51] Okay, that is the long term, building your platform, sort of, idea. Let's talk about the actual promotion of the book. What's the timing and what's your recommendations for authors and how they get started with that?

Fauzia Burke [00:14:12] This is another really important aspect of timing, which is that a lot of authors I meet tell me, "Oh I'm writing my book," just like yourself, Robin. I deal with promotion once it's done. Then sometimes they'll call me and go, "Okay, I just uploaded the book on IngramSpark, it's going to be ready, it's going to be available on Amazon in the next few days. I'm ready for market." Oh, man! What I would tell authors is that every author, regardless of the publishing option they choose, indie authors especially, need to have a publication date in mind that is between six months to a year in advance. I know that sounds crazy to most authors and they're busy writing their book or editing, they can't imagine it. But it doesn't matter when the date is, you do need a plan. You have to think about your book launch kind of like a wedding. You wouldn't get up one day, get engaged one day, and then the next day you get married... Well you could, you couldn't throw a big wedding though. For book promotion you want to throw the big wedding. What you need to do is make sure there is plenty of time for you to plan things out, have as much of a push to... a publication date as possible. You want to build that momentum. If you do things in bits and pieces, a little bit of promotion here, and then a few weeks later something else, and then a month later something else, and then two months later something else, and then three months later you think, "Oh man, did I miss this opportunity? Should I go back?" It's important to have a publication date that is six months out.

Fauzia Burke [00:15:54] That's the first thing I would tell authors. A lot of times they don't really realize that. The other thing I would say is that you want to make sure that you have all of your platforms, your website, your social media, your newsletter—everything talking about the book six months in advance. If you can get your jacket done early, I think that's a great idea because it gives you an impression of... It gives you a graphical kind of identity. People know it's real, it’s happening. Even if it's a temporary jacket, our publishers do that all the time, they call it a place holder jacket where they create a jacket just so you believe that something real is happening here. It really gives you that chance. The other thing to think about is that marketing and publicity take a long time to execute. Just because you want to do publicity, it's not overnight. For example, if you want to get a review on Publishers Weekly, or any of the trade publications, Library Journal, things like that. They require books five months before publication. You need to make sure that your book is, even if it comes out today, you want to set the pub date five, six months later and plan the campaign. If you're going to do publicity, a lot of PR firms really require that they need to start early enough to book the magazines... magazines have a longer lead time. If you want to do an event at a bookstore, months in advance, they book months in advance. These are the kinds of things that a lot of times authors don't think about and they think of it like an instant coffee, you add water

Fauzia Burke [00:17:41] and suddenly you have a promotion. It really isn't like that, you want to make sure you give yourself plenty of time. I also tell authors you want to give yourself plenty of time to make mistakes. You are going to make mistakes! We all make mistakes. You want enough time that you can recover from your mistakes. You can try something, it didn't work, you can try something else. For all those reasons I would say at least set a publication date six months in advance so you can plan out your publicity, marketing, advertising, all around that one date.

Robin Cutler [00:18:15] If you're like me which, I assume a lot of writers are, it helps to have a date that you're putting your energies towards finishing something. It can and will spur the creative effort, I find. That's really good advice, Fauzia. Anything else that you want to leave our listeners with as we kind of wrap this up?

Fauzia Burke [00:18:43] One of the things to remember is, if I leave you with one piece of advice, is that no matter what you want to do, whether it's trailers, ads, library, a bookstore event, publicity, promotion, everything everything is really important to plan it all out around a publication date and make your launch week as successful as possible by creating momentum and excitement. Instead of doing bits and pieces of things, really kind of build towards something. In your branding side, you're also doing, you're picking up on your blogging, and your social media posts. Then as you get closer to the publication you're getting more reviews and more media and advertising and all of those kinds of things. Really kind of build up to that. The important thing is to have that long-term strategy in mind and also be very consistent because if you don't show up, people don't show up. Your readers need to see more attention from you as well. Keep the... Writing is important obviously, you want to write the best book possible but if you can't build that relationship with the readers, nobody's going to find your book. It's important to do both things.

Robin Cutler [00:20:01] Well, and one last question Fauzia. Is there a better month to publish than other months?

Fauzia Burke [00:20:08] That's a really good question, Robin. In publishing, the big months in publishing are generally in spring and in fall. You'll notice that some of the biggest books of the year from traditional publishers come out during that period. A lot of times they'll publish the spring books so people who may read a lot more in the summer for vacations and such, they have brand new books. Then for fall, because a lot of people buy books for the holidays, so they have the big books for fall ready to go for the holidays. I find, for the indie authors, it's actually better to maybe not publish during those big periods because then you're competing with the biggest books of the year, the biggest authors, biggest celebrities, all of this. They take a lot of the media attention. I would say that an indie author should maybe plan to publish on the off cycles. Publishers don't publish a lot of books during the summer, maybe then, something like that. It does, you want to make sure that you’re catching what is naturally happening in the media. If you're writing a book on relationships, generally books around Valentine's day are about that. The media is generally interested in covering that. That's a good thing. If you're writing a book on New Year's resolutions, then you want to make sure you publish in January. If you're publishing something, if you're doing a cookbook, generally, everybody's thinking about eating during Thanksgiving and Christmas. That's generally a good time. But nevertheless, it's more important for an indie author to stay away from

Fauzia Burke [00:21:49] the big competition, the big launches that happen with traditional publishing.

Robin Cutler [00:21:55] Well, there you have it everyone. Great advice from Fauzia as always.

Fauzia Burke [00:21:59] Thank you.

Robin Cutler [00:22:00] Thanks so much everyone for listening to this edition of Go Publish Yourself. If you like what you hear please give us a thumbs up on iTunes or on Apple Podcasts. The more positive ratings and reviews we receive, the more authors and publishers like you will be able to discover our podcast too. If you're ready to publish today, please visit the IngramSpark website. For more tips on publishing like a pro, check out our weekly blog and our free online self-publishing courses available in the IngramSpark Academy. Talk to you soon!