You’ve been working like mad on your book, and the end is in sight. Whether you’re wrapping up final edits, reviewing concepts with your cover designer, or trying to take the perfect author photo selfie, you’re probably already panicking about the Other Things That Must Be Done.
So much work, you’re thinking. And there’s still more to come.
So before we get to your checklist, let’s take a moment. Breathe. And celebrate your amazing accomplishment, because you’ve written a book. That. Is. Huge. Go on, go pour yourself a celebratory drink, have dessert for breakfast, or indulge by wearing pajamas all day. Or all of the above while listening to Jimmy Soul at top volume. (OK, that might just be me.)
Feeling better? Great. Let’s get back to work.
Early Bird: 4–6 months before launch
□ Choose your release date.
Pull out your calendar and choose a release date. If your subject matter relates to a season, holiday, or annual event, let that guide you. If not, just choose a time when you’re confident you’ll be able to give your book the attention and energy it deserves.
□ Get your website ready.
Your website should have everything a reader needs to learn about you and your work and to buy your book. Include your book description, an image of your cover, your book’s release date, your full author bio, and links to everywhere your book is sold. Think about adding news (and a newsletter sign-up), announcements, and a blog to keep readers returning.
□ Fire up your social media.
If you’ve been reading the Writers’ Center, you already know that joining social media a week or two before your launch date and expecting sell books isn’t going to be your most successful campaign. It takes time to build a following. If you don’t already have your social media pages ready to go, this is the time to do it. Not sure where to start, or need some advice? Check out our tips and tricks at The WC Guide to Creating a Social Media Platform Part I and Part II.
□ Check your budget.
If you haven’t already saved money for advertising, marketing, and other indie publishing support services, then this is a good time to start financially planning for your book launch. While most online book retailers allow you to sell your book for free (simply taking a share in the profits), give yourself the financial space to keep your options open for hiring help and even planning a small book tour.
□ Create an Advance Reader Copy (ARC).
In order to solicit reviews and blurbs (more on that in a moment), you’ll need to create a PDF of your book to send out. If your book’s already been copyedited but not yet proofread, that’s OK—this version of your book doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect. (Though you should at least have it copyedited first.) Just ask your cover designer to create a rough version of your front cover that says something like “Uncorrected Advance Reader Proof” somewhere on it to signal to readers that they can expect a few typos.
□ Plan out review submissions.
Start with a list of magazines, newspapers, and blogs that you think might be interested in your book (and have clearly showed interest in books like yours, because obviously romance sites don’t want your gore-fest horror). Most publications, sites, and reviewers have submission requirements listed on their websites. Take note of their timelines, and if you want to be extra organized (you’ll thank yourself for it later), create a spreadsheet of every place you’re thinking of sending your book for reviews, and list the submission requirements along with the due date. Then set yourself a calendar reminder for each outlet/reviewer, and put together a package that you can easily personalize (including a short pitch that includes why your book is a great fit for them, along with a brief bio, your ARC, and a link to a high-resolution image of your book cover and author photo).
□ Hire your publicist.
While it’s certainly not in everyone’s budget (they can be expensive!), some authors choose to work with a publicist. Make sure you give your publicist as much time as possible to work out your schedule.
□ Reach out to your network for author blurbs.
If you’re part of any writers’ groups or organizations and you’ve made friends with other published authors, consider contacting them and asking if they’ll read and endorse your book with a one- or two-line blurb. Although it’s a much longer shot, you can even try getting a high-profile endorsement for your book by reaching out to the agents of authors in your genre. Praise from respected names can increase your visibility and profile.
The Late-Morning Bird: 2–4 months before launch
□ Register your copyright and ISBN (if you haven't already).
While both registering your copyright and getting an ISBN and barcode are fairly easy, you’ll want to get that done early, so that you have everything you need to start preparing your book for pre-order. Remember that without an ISBN, booksellers cannot sell your book.
□ Double down on reviews.
At this point, you should have some idea how receptive reviewers are to your book. Even if you’ve had success, this a great time to double down and ensure you’ve reached out to as many reviewers as possible. We know an NTY book review is everyone’s dream, but the chances of making the cut are pretty darn slim. Think about reaching out to not only midsize publications but even small book blogs. Every review is important, regardless of the audience size. You never know who might see your book.
□ Finalize your cover and promotional copy.
At this point, you should have your book cover ready to go and looking amazing. If you’ve gotten a blurb you’re proud of, it can go on the front or back cover. Make sure you spend time refining your book description (the promotinal text on the back cover or book jacket flap); it should be tight, clean, compelling, and have a hook that will catch the reader’s eye.
□ Create your pre-order pages.
Selling online? Make sure you’ve created both an author page and a book detail page on any bookseller sites. Setting up these pages is one of the true tests of effective book cover design: you should be able to read your book’s title and your name even in the smaller the thumbnail image. Include any editorial reviews or blurbs that you may have received on these pages too.
□ Plan your book release dates in other countries.
Have you thought about how other countries can be a potential market for your book? It can take some time to deal with territorial rights, different currencies, and the logistics of getting your book up and for sale. You’ll also need to plan out whether you want to translate your book into any other languages and when those release dates should happen.
□ Prepare (or plan) your audiobook.
Many authors have found unexpected sales by creating an audiobook. Whether you’re hiring someone to read the book or reading it yourself, it can take some time to properly record and format the file. You don’t necessarily need to release the audiobook at the same time as your print or ebook versions, but it’s still a good idea to at least get the ball rolling.
□ Announce your book release date to everyone.
Once you have a pre-order page ready to go, this is the time for pinning a tweet on your Twitter author page, announcing it on Facebook, and letting everyone know—including your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, basically everyone you come in contact with—that your book is coming out soon. If your budget allows, plan a launch party (IRL or virtual) on the day your book is released where you will read from your work, answer questions, and sign copies.
□ Get a mailing list ready to go.
As we mentioned earlier, most websites allow visitors to sign up for a mailing list for news, updates, special offers, and more. This is a great way to stay in touch with your readers. If you haven’t sent them a message about your upcoming book yet, do so now.
The Afternoon Bird: 2–4 weeks before launch
□ Write a press release.
You’ve already done your work and reached out to reviewers. Now you’ll want to compile a mailing list of media outlets, reviewers, bloggers, and more who might just want to discuss your book coming out. Is there something happening in the world that ties into your book? (This is especially effective for nonfiction.) Is there some celebrity gossip that eerily echoes the plot of your romance? Are people talking about a TV show that’s related? Use current events and trends to connect with editors, and if it’s applicable, let them know you’re available for interviews and that your new book is coming out soon. Not sure how to write a press release? Check out our guide.
□ Plan a book tour.
A book tour is a great way to reach readers through bookstores and libraries. Both outlets have always been supporters of local talent, and they might have had some success with managing a book tour on a budget or virtually. Start by talking to booksellers and librarians in your neighborhood, as well as other independent authors in your area, and getting their advice on what seems to work best.
□ Advertise your book.
While some authors have been known to rent out a full-size billboard, other authors choose to instead focus on social media advertising. With a smaller reach but also a smaller financial investment, you can put together a social media advertising campaign. Some authors have paid for daily ads, whereas others pay for weekly. You might also want to think about advertising on book blogs, public transit, in coffee shops, and more. On any ads or flyers, remember to include the release date, where readers can buy the book, your social media handles, your website, and any big endorsements.
□ Ask for help.
It’s funny, but many authors find themselves so worried about the big picture that sometimes they forget about the small one. Chance are, your family and friends are excited for you and want to support you as much as possible. This is a great time to ask them not only to pre-order the book and buy it for friends/family but to help spread the word in their own networks.
The Night Owl: One week before launch
At this point, you’ve likely done everything that you can do, barring any unique and/or surprise strategies for publicity.
Ideally and in a perfect world, you’ve given yourself lots of time to prepare for the launch of your book. The week before is simply just reminding everyone in your network and all social media that your book is out soon, and perhaps increasing any social media advertising campaigns.
But even if you’ve left it to the last minute (and you’ve already fully committed to your launch date), remember that many of these steps can be replicated after your book launch. Many indie bloggers will accept book review submission after launch dates, you may still find a publicity hook that will entice editors, and you absolutely should do a press release.
As we've said before, marketing and promoting your book is a marathon, not a sprint.
While planning ahead and methodically ensuring you’ve ticked off the boxes can help you get the word out, sometimes success can be as simple as releasing your book at the right time and place. Sometimes it’s luck. Sometimes it’s perseverance.
And almost always, it’s a whole lot of hard work. So hang in there, and remember how much you love your book and how much you've already accomplished.
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.