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book marketing timeline

In my free book marketing plan outline, I suggested creating a book marketing calendar or schedule to keep track of your marketing activities in the months leading up to, and extending beyond, your book launch. But when exactly should you pursue each promotional tactic you're considering? This post offers a book marketing timeline that you can use as a guide.

This book marketing timeline includes example marketing activities and when you might want to focus on them. But you know your book and market better than anyone else (or at least you should). Adapt things where necessary. Re-schedule things. Add to this. Ignore things you don't plan to use. Make it your own.

Note: This book marketing timeline assumes you're publishing a fairly traditional book. If you're publishing a short guide-style e-book to release through your own website or you're publishing shorter fiction, you can cut a lot of this and condense the rest into a shorter pre-launch marketing period as you often won't have the same kind of lead time.

Before You Write Your Book

  • Create your book marketing plan.
  • Conduct market research (make sure a market exists for your idea and get to know your target buyers, what they want or need, and what influences their buying decisions).
  • Set up your author website (or even a branded website for this particular book or series).
  • Set up your social media profiles if you don't already have them.
  • If you're writing nonfiction, start building your reputation as an authority in your niche or industry.
  • If you're writing fiction, become active in reader communities related to your book (from joining forums to publishing a book review blog). Help fans of your genre know who you are before your book comes out.

While You Write Your Book

  • Post to your author blog regularly. Create a blog editorial calendar filled with post ideas to take you through at least one month after your book release. Consider writing several posts while your manuscript is off with your editor and schedule them to go live in coming weeks or months.
  • Start actively building your social networks and building relationships with friends or followers. A common mistake is thinking you need to be everywhere. Choose one to three social networks to focus on. These won't necessarily be the ones you like the most, but rather the ones your target readers use the most (and which tend to influence them the most).

6-9 Months Before Launch

  • Set up an account with an email marketing service (like MailChimp or Aweber) and start building your list.
  • Send occasional emails to your list (bi-weekly or monthly is often enough).
  • Build a preliminary list of influencers or target reviewers.
  • Build a list of blogs, websites, and other publications or media outlets you'd like to appear in (interviews, excerpts, guest posts, etc.) during your launch publicity tour.
  • Build a media list for press release distribution (industry publications, your local media outlets, etc.).
  • Create a list of special event / holiday tie-ins. Are there any holidays, conventions, book fairs, etc. that you can tie your book promotion to?
  • Have your author headshot taken. Add it to your website and all social media profiles. You're looking to build a consistent image. Do not keep changing your photo in the months leading up to your launch date.

3-6 Months Before Launch

  • Create a simple marketing calendar to help you track appearances, guest posts, interview dates, etc.
  • Reach out to the outlets you'd like to visit during your publicity tour. When you land a guest post, interview, or appearance, try to confirm the date early. Use your marketing calendar to keep track of these. (For things like guest posts, track both deadlines to submit your material and the date your content will go live.)
  • Contact key reviewers who might be open to reviewing an advanced copy.
  • Send an advanced copy of your book to any key reviewers who express an interest (especially those with long lead times).
  • Start writing guest posts early as soon as you get confirmation from hosts.
  • Have a video trailer created for your book (if you plan to use one).

1-3 Months Before Launch

  • Add a sales page for your book to your website or blog. You can keep it private until launch day unless you're accepting pre-orders.
  • Create your media kit (author Q&As, high resolution author photos and book cover images, your launch press release, etc.).
  • Write your launch day press release.
  • Contact more potential reviewers.
  • Send more advanced copies to reviewers (new ones or those with shorter lead times).
  • Continue writing guest posts or preparing excerpts for publicity tour hosts.
  • Prepare your elevator speech / elevator pitch (be able to describe your book to someone within 30 seconds). You can use this when contacting potential reviewers or members of the media.
  • Pre-write some social media updates promoting your book (anything from tweets to excerpts to unique articles related to your book). Don't load them with hype, exclamation points, or pleas for followers to buy your book. That makes you look like an amateur, and it can make you look desperate. It's okay to announce the release. But make sure most updates have value to your followers -- tips to educate, fun facts to entertain, etc.
  • Have any physical marketing materials printed (bookmarks, business cards, postcards, one-sheets, etc.).
  • Release your book trailer if you're using one.
  • Research book awards your book might be eligible for and add their submission deadlines to your marketing calendar.
  • Plan and run a pre-launch contest (give away something like a gift card right away, with the promise of a signed copy of your book immediately after it's released -- people won't hesitate to buy the book while they wait around on contest results if the contest ends before your launch date).
  • Start working on your next book. Getting excited about your next project now can keep you focused on it when things get hectic closer to your launch date. And being excited about your next project can help you get through even a disappointing launch (not that you're going to have one).

1 Week Before Launch

  • Schedule as many of your pre-written social media updates as possible (when the networks allow it).
  • Confirm any upcoming guest posts, interviews, live appearances, etc.
  • Monitor comments on any guest posts or online interviews that have gone live, and take the time to respond (politely and professionally).
  • Contact additional potential reviewers and send review copies when requested (to keep an early flow of reviews coming in).
  • Post an excerpt, first chapter, or something similar on your website or blog to get your visitors excited about seeing the rest of your book.
  • Prepare material for your author pages on key websites (Amazon, Goodreads, etc.). Set these pages up early for any sites that allow you to do so.

Launch Date

  • Make sure your book information is live and correct on distribution sites (Amazon, Smashwords, your own private delivery service for direct sales, etc.).
  • Set up related author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book distribution sites or author communities if you haven't already.
  • Announce your book release on your blog or author website.
  • Announce your book release via social networks (and take the time to thank or respond to others who share your news).
  • Send out your launch day press release.
  • Add "buy now" links to your website and anywhere else relevant.
  • Add a link to your book's sales page to your email signature and any relevant forum signatures.
  • Send out an email newsletter to your mailing list with a link to buy your book.
  • Hold a launch party or other book release event if you want to.

1-3 Months Post-Launch

  • Send "thank you" notes, emails, cards, or gifts to people who helped you promote your book (such as publicity tour hosts and interviewers or advanced reviewers).
  • Continue to seek reviews for your book.
  • Continue posting to your author blog to keep regular readers coming back. Close each post with a call to action related to your book.
  • Continue updating your social media accounts.
  • Continue making publicity tour stops (online or in-person).
  • If you've received particularly good reviews or testimonials, ask the reviewer if you can share them in whole or in part on your website.
  • Plan a contest to drum up fresh interest in your book.
  • Submit your book for award consideration if appropriate.

3-6 Months Post-Launch

  • Continue to seek reviews for your book.
  • Continue posting to your author blog to keep regular readers coming back. Close each post with a call to action related to your book.
  • Continue updating your social media accounts.
  • Launch your book giveaway / contest.
  • Purchase advertisements on key websites or in publications if book sales drop (if you plan to use paid advertisements at all).

Ongoing Book Marketing Efforts

  • Continue posting to your author blog with at least occasional calls to action.
  • Continue updating your social media accounts with occasional calls to action (but post about things other than your book too -- no one likes to be subjected to constant self-promotion, and engaging in it on social media can cost you more potential buyers than it attracts).
  • Consider releasing new versions of your book, such as an audiobook or print version if you originally released it as an e-book only. If you do this, treat it as a completely new launch with publicity tours, contests, etc.

What would you add or change in your own book marketing schedule? If you've used a book marketing timeline in the past, how did it help you through the book launch process? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, NakedPR.com, and BizAmmo.com.

Jenn has 18 years experience writing for others, around 13 years experience in blogging, and over 10 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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