Whenever I meet an author and I tell them what I do, they always ask me the same question: “When is it okay to reach out to my publicist?” And I always think, Oh my! These poor neglected authors! But when I’m at my desk in the office, reading email, and I get a question about a book that’s more than six months away, I often think Oh, no, I’m not ready for you yet.
It’s not that I’m not excited about those books that are further away, often times I’m dying for them to come out already so I can talk about them, but there’s a reason why we publicists have a reputation for being tough to nail down: we’re working on A LOT of books and we need to focus on them at specific times.
Please bear in mind as you read this, though, that every situation is different. Some books are lead titles, others are school & library focused, and others we have basic plans for. But no matter what plans your publisher has, it’s good to start thinking early about what YOU can do to supplement them. The onus is not just on your publisher to promote your book. You need to do your part.
Here’s a general timeline for how I start a campaign:
18 months to 2 years before on-sale: I hear about the book for the first time, either at acquisitions or pre-launch.
9 months to 18 months before on-sale: I hear about the book a half dozen more times at launch, marketing preview, sales conference, target meetings, etc. (Mind you, these meetings are often called different names at different houses.) This is when the mysterious “plans” for books start getting discussed.
9 months before on-sale: By now, a marketing and publicity plan for your book should exist. Ask your agent to ask your editor to share the marketing plan when it’s ready. (I know that sounds crazy and indirect, but it’s best if things are funneled through your editor at this point. And we’ll take it more seriously in-house if the request comes from your agent.) Once your agent explains what it all means, you can start thinking of how you can assist with or supplement what the publisher is doing.
This is also when I start seriously considering when I have to put these plans in place. Did I say I’d send an author to a trade show, conference, or festival? Now is when I have to start doing those pitches. If you’re accepted for one of these, you might hear from me asking if you’re available to do it.
6 months before on-sale: This is around the time that I recommend setting up a call with publicity and marketing if you’ve got questions or want to tell them what you’re going to be doing. At Bloomsbury, we work very closely with marketing, so sometimes it’s confusing to figure which of us does what (and, of course, it’s a little bit different at every house). So I find it helpful to have both departments on the call.
5 to 6 months before on-sale: Things are picking up steam. I’m sending ARCs or F&Gs out to reviewers, I’ve been meeting with media and pitching your book, I’m starting to plan tours and events. Lots of things are at the beginning stages.
3 months before on-sale: I’m confirming long lead media (magazines, generally), trying to nail down interviews, features and reviews. I might also still be confirming events. If I’m doing a blog tour, this is when I’m planning who I’ll be asking to be a part of it.
1 to 2 months before on-sale: By now, most events that are happening near the on-sale date should be confirmed. (Though you probably won’t see a complete tour schedule for a while. Just the basics.) Travel is getting booked. The blog tour is getting confirmed. The details are coming together. This is also when we get finished books and begin sending them to media.
At on-sale: This is, of course, the key moment. By now, I’ve been following up with media to confirm reviews and interviews and should know what’s coming. Sometimes reviews will run a few weeks before on-sale, sometimes a few weeks after. (Or occasionally months later, that happens too, but not if we can help it.) But we try to plan for as much to happen right at on-sale, from reviews, to social media posts, to bookstore events. Now is the time to make sure people are talking about the book.
Next month, Lizzy will share her thoughts on swag, bloggers, event planning, and freelance publicists. Got a question about publicists? Leave it in the comments.
LIZZY MASON is the Director of Publicity at Bloomsbury Children’s Books. She previously worked in publicity at Disney, Macmillan Children’s, and Simon & Schuster, and graduated from Manhattan College (which is in the Bronx) with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. Lizzy dedicates whatever spare time she can to reading and writing YA fiction. She lives with her husband (and his comic collection) and their cat Moxie (who was named after a cat in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials) in Queens, NY. Follow her @LizzyMason21.