A Promotion Timeline

One of the biggest questions I had as a new author—and one of the biggest questions I see from other new authors—is when to begin promoting your forthcoming book. Often I see freshly sold authors desperately promoting their books that won’t be out for another year and a half to two years. It makes me want to pull them aside and give them a hold-your-horses talk…but that would be rude.

Nevertheless, it’s important to have an idea of when is an appropriate time to begin promoting your book.

First, some reasons to wait:

1. There are books coming out right now, and in the next few months. You don’t want to draw attention away from them! Support those authors. This is their time. It will be your time soon enough, and when it is, you don’t want others to distract from that, right? Be as courteous and supportive to others as you want others to be to you.

2. The internet has a short memory. If you start promoting too far ahead, eventually you will become white noise. As mentioned before, there are always new books coming out—books that people can read now. If they can’t get to your book for several more months, that’s just frustrating. And by the time your book does come out, people will be tired of hearing about it.

Time your promotion for best effect. When will it mean the most to readers? When will you not get lost under the noise of other books coming out? When will you not take away from authors whose time it is to shine?

It’s tempting to start promoting immediately, especially since we’re never guaranteed much promotion from our publishers and we feel pressured to do our own marketing. But be aware that until people can buy your book, promotion is just getting them exciting for something they can’t have.

So, when should you start? And what should you do? My only experience is with traditional YA publishing, and it’s very limited experience at that, but here are my suggestions:

1. Wait until you have a cover. Your cover is your best piece of advertisement for your book: it’s (ideally) visual and memorable. Besides, if you don’t have a cover yet, the book is probably several months out.

Once you get your cover and are given permission to share it with the world, you’ll get a huge spike in attention for your book. That’s a powerful feeling! But don’t expect much more than that at this stage—there’s still nothing for people to read.

2. Work on your swag. (If you want any.) At this point, you might a) have some free time, and b) feel an insane need to control something, so go ahead and start thinking about what kind of swag you might like. Stickers? Bookmarks? Nailpolish? Tote bags? Buttons? Temporary tattoos? Something more specific to your book? (Some really good book-specific swag I’ve seen: guitar pick necklaces (Brodi Ashton), tiny dolls (Ellen Oh), cowboy hats (Cynthia Hand).)

Try not to get too crazy with swag. It does cost money, and writers aren’t made of dollar bills. Whatever you do, try to find something you can have a lot of for a little money. (I knit fingerless mitts for Incarnate‘s release, and while these were very memorable, the yarn was expensive and they took a long time to make. I made them because I wanted to, but as far as making my marketing money go the farthest…they didn’t really accomplish that.)

3. ARCs will often come six or seven months before the book comes out. You’ll get a few people reading it right away, but a lot of people will hold off until closer to release; there are a lot of books coming out sooner that they need to get to before yours. Try not to worry. You’re not being ignored.

Speaking of your ARCs: you probably won’t get many of your very own. Loan yours to friends and acquaintances. Reuse them. If you’re going to give one away, make sure it’s the very best use of your limited ARCs as possible. Let your publisher send out the bulk of the ARCs.

4. Interview and guest blog requests. These will probably start appearing in your inbox about this time. Do these. (If you want.) Ask the hosts to hold off posting them until closer to your release, to time promotion for when it will be most effective.

5. Preparing other promotional items. You’ll be able to see from your ARCs what kind of publicity your publisher is planning, and hopefully you’ll have had a chance to talk with your publicist by now. So don’t step on their feet! Coordinate! Find out what they’re doing—and what you can do to help—before you strike out on your own for book trailers, teasers, and other exciting things.

I know you’re excited, and I know you’re counting down until release, but try to hold off sharing all your goodies until that countdown widget has double digits in the “days left” column. Until then, watch what other people are doing. Keep up with what works and what doesn’t work. And mostly…enjoy yourself. You have a book coming out!

     

16 Responses to A Promotion Timeline

  1. Stela Brinzeanu Jun 10 2013 at 7:32 am #

    Jodi,

    I love your articles – so they are so inspiring and to the point! Thanks for taking the time to write and share them with the world!

    • jodimeadows
      jodimeadows Jun 10 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Thank you, Stela! I’m glad they’re useful to you!

  2. Heather Villa Jun 10 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Thank you, Jodi, for pointing out what to do after a book nears print form. I like your first point the best. Writers do need the support of other writers.
    Best wishes to you!
    Heather Villa

    • jodimeadows
      jodimeadows Jun 10 2013 at 10:05 am #

      Thanks, Heather! This is such a fun community with so many great writers–supporting them isn’t exactly a hardship, but sometimes it can be easy to forget to do when there’s so much excitement going on. 🙂

  3. Alexa Y. Jun 10 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    I enjoyed this post! I know it’s geared primarily towards authors, but I think it’s also something that bloggers can take note of. A lot of us are eager to promote books, especially by authors we love, but I also think it’s important to take note of the timing and trying to see how we can best and most effectively help out the authors in spreading the awareness and love of their books!

    • jodimeadows
      jodimeadows Jun 10 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      Thanks, Alexa! <3

      And yes, that's a great point! Most bloggers I speak to are happy to wait to post something if I ask, but it's hard to remember to ask in the midst of all that excitement!

  4. stephanie garber
    stephanie garber Jun 10 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    I always love your posts, Jodi. I don’t have a book to promote, at the moment, but I think this is all really helpful, really great advice. Thanks for taking the time to share!

    • jodimeadows
      jodimeadows Jun 10 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      It’s good to keep in mind for WHEN you have a book to promote! 🙂

  5. Natalie Aguirre Jun 10 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Thanks so much for the tips, Jodi. I always wonder about that and often ask authors I interview about marketing tips. It sounds like at the beginning it’s best to be supportive of others, build your writer platform, and plan for the cover release and publication date promotions. You make it sound manageable vs. overwhelming.

    • jodimeadows
      jodimeadows Jun 10 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      Yep, that schedule works!

      Publicizing your book does sound scary and overwhelming, but there’s a lot of time between the sale and when the book actually comes out, which helps a lot, I think. There’s time to cool down, to get used to the idea of people reading your book, and prepare for its release. 🙂

  6. Kathryn Jankowski Jun 10 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Good points, though I suspect the timeline would be shortened for anyone considering the indie route.

    • jodimeadows
      jodimeadows Jun 10 2013 at 7:56 pm #

      Oh yes, that seems likely! I don’t know much about self-publishing, which is why I didn’t want to make any claims about it. But from all I’ve seen, the timeline would be a lot shorter. 🙂

  7. Kim Jun 11 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    These are all really great points and I could see how they’d help out a lot! It would be really tempting to start promoting right away. Street teams seem to be helpful for promoting books (at least for debuts) too. Like for Victoria Scott’s The Collector. I’d been hearing about that book for quite some time from various bloggers before it came out — and at least partially because of that, it came out strong. Everyone was swooning over Dante Walker months before the book was released. Thanks for all the tips 🙂

    • jodimeadows
      jodimeadows Jun 11 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      Yes! I heard all about The Collector for quite a while! It made me very curious about the book. 😀

  8. Crystal King Aug 11 2016 at 7:23 am #

    Actually, there are a lot of ways to work on book promotion before the pub date but without being overwhelming and pushy. It’s about timing your messaging, building your mailing list (do giveaways of other people’s books, for example) and working on interacting with influencers, bloggers and reviewers on a casual basis (NOT about the book) so that when the book publicity really does start your name is familiar. I also put out periodic notes on Twitter to have people add the book to their Goodreads “To Read” list and that’s very effective. You can never start to early to build audience, IMHO.

  9. stephanie elliot Aug 12 2016 at 2:00 am #

    I just read this great article AND the comments and I laughed out loud at the comment from Stephanie Garber: “I don’t have a book to promote…” OH YES SHE DOES!!!! You go Stephanie!!!! Great post Jodi! Thanks for sharing your info! 🙂

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