When Should You Start Your Book Marketing Plan?

When you publish your own book with the intention of selling it, you should always have a marketing plan. One of the biggest mistakes I've seen indie authors make is assuming they don't need one. They just wing it or rely on a low price or a single distribution outlet to cover all of their marketing. Let's assume you have more hope than that. For you and other indie publishers like you, another book marketing mistake comes in deciding when to put together that book marketing plan.

The Wrong Time to Assemble Your Book Marketing Plan

It's understandable that some independent authors think the process should look like this:

  1. Write your book.
  2. Edit / polish your book and get it ready for publication.
  3. Release the book.
  4. Put together a marketing plan so you can drive more sales.

This is understandable because it's easy to confuse marketing and sales. Marketing tactics and tools drive sales, but they aren't synonymous. Marketing isn't just what you do after your book is published to tell people about it and convince them to buy it. Marketing starts much earlier -- or at least it should if you want to give your book the best chance of success.

Why Your Book Marketing Plan Should Come First

Your book marketing plan shouldn't only come before the book is published. It should come before you even start to write the book. Here's why:

  1. If your intention is to sell the book, you should know your audience and target market long before creating a product that you hope will appeal to them. Your market research is a part of your book marketing plan.
  2. Ideally you'll want to build visibility and brand recognition (around your book, series, or you as the author) before the book is ever published. You do this to create an existing demand when you finally hit your release date.
  3. Some marketing tactics take time to work, and you'll want to invest time or money into them early in the game (for example, your cover design is a marketing tool). This also includes things like a pre-launch plan to get early reviews.

Waiting until your book is written or even published is too late. Your launch period is a valuable marketing time, and there should be a solid plan in place well before you get there. If you've already written your book, there's no time like the present to work on your book marketing plan. Make sure your book appeals to the audience you intended it to appeal to, and figure out how you can generate awareness and demand before you release it.

If you've already released your book sans marketing plan, you might have a second chance. If you had a slow launch you can simply re-launch the book with a bang. Or maybe you'll plan a launch for a new version (print vs e-book for example).

When did you write your book marketing plan? Did you have a plan in place before you launch? Why or why not? If you could go back and do things differently, what would you have done? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts, tips, or stories.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

Subscribe to the All Freelance Writing newsletter to get freelance writing updates from Jenn in your inbox.

7 thoughts on “When Should You Start Your Book Marketing Plan?”

  1. Great litttle article! My launch is planned in December, and I have already outlined a month-by-month marketing plan. I just wonder how early is TOO early. What if people get excited about your product, but then realize they can’t get their hands on it for another 4-5 months? Does the excitement go away? Is there a good window?

    • There is no such thing as too early. You should just have your marketing tactics change as you move along through the process (what you do before the book comes out will probably look quite different from what you do after the launch, and the launch period itself is another animal entirely). If you think it’s still too early I’d suggest putting the emphasis more on your own author brand than the book at this point, and then emphasize the book itself closer to the launch.

      My nonfiction book was announced very early in the game, but I already had an established presence in that niche. Rather than bothering people I’ve had potential buyers (readers of the corresponding blog) tell me for months that they can’t wait to see it. And that caused further tweaks in the plan — a new short e-book series first to build more brand recognition for the series, to get something in readers’ hands faster, and to bring in extra income which will most likely finance some of the work on the book.

  2. Elly, Jenn’s actually practicing what she preaches. I’ve been eagerly awaiting release of her book, which I know she’s still tweaking. She got the buzz going early and increased the intrigue. I’m one of those readers of the other blog who tell her all the time I can’t wait to see the book. 🙂

    • And Lori’s also the one who convinced me to work on some early release short e-books to build up the brand. 🙂

      One good option is to set up a separate site for your book or series early, because it can take time to rank well in search engines. This way you have visibility there and attract organic traffic before you publish the book, and they’re already regular visitors when you’re ready for launch. I did this with The Query-Free Freelancer for a while and it worked out well. Ultimately though I decided to roll that site into my main freelance writing blog because the content overlapped a lot and the main blog already had a large targeted audience.

      I’m in the early phases of doing this again, but for my Aria Klein pen name and the Murder Script series (for both books and murder mystery games — in that case the games will serve as the in-between products rather than shorter e-books). We talked about ancillary products like those here recently, and I highly encourage authors to have something in the works even before a book release. If you can pull in your target readers with something else early, you’ll have them ready and waiting to kick off your book sales when you’re ready.

  3. Glad to read this post. I have started commenting in it several times and my iPhone seems to lag no matter what but I am going to give it another go anyhow.

    I did plenty of market research, and still am. Went on my own book-buying binge, lurked in plenty of blogs and read lots of reviews. I even spent tons of manhours picking apart covers to get a feel for each thing about the book’s creation. Thus far, my current marketing has involved blogging on my self-hosted blog. I am not tweeting yet, I am looking to get a good groove on my blog, finish a short story I will offer free to subscribers and then take my data to Twitter. My biggest problem has been stopping myself from feeling like I have to rush. I’ll be 21 next month–my indie publishing career has plenty of time to take off 🙂

    I am working in some different related niche site ideas, as well, but I am trying to focus my limited marketing time on the blog for now.

    How goes your fiction author blogging and related marketing?

    • Always glad to hear it when authors are putting the time into that research phase. It’s so important, yet so often neglected. 🙂

      And you’re right. There is absolutely no rush. Just stay driven and keep making progress one day at a time. You don’t want to fall into the opposite mindset either — that there’s always tomorrow. If you do you risk putting things off, and before you know you you’ve missed a lot of those “tomorrows.”

      The fiction work is a bit iffy as of now. I hate the theme for my author site — the design is simple which I love, but the coding is terrible. No sooner did Kerilynn Engle help me figure out the last technical problem and WordPress was updated with a new release (actually 2). And I’m afraid to update it because if it screws with our fixes or causes other problems I may throw my laptop a window. So it’s slow-going until I figure out the next step or new design. And I’m still finishing up sites (slower than planned) for the book series and short story series. There never seem to be enough hours in the day!

  4. I am about to indie publish my first e-book in the parenting niche, and getting the first e-book published is a major part of my overall marketing plan for the multiple e-books I will be publishing in he niche in the future. I plan on building a simple HTM site for the e-book to serve as sales site and free content. A large part of my marketing is aimed at backlink building, then, and I have a strategy for that. I plan on joining related forums and answering Yahoo questions and the like for the title. Then, I will be blogging about upcoming releases and I will be heading to Twitter.

    On my freelance parenting writer site, I will have the e-books available to serve as part of my portfolio and I’ll offer an afiliate program to my clients. My target clients are small store and site owners that cater to attachment parents and green-conscious parents, who are the target of my e-books.

    My strategy is to have an e-book available and then do more hardcore marketing of upcoming titles, although I definitely could have built more pre-launch buzz, I barely have a platform so I want my first title to help with that.


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