I can’t tell you how often I’ve received messages or calls from authors whose books are already out, and they just don’t know what to do to give it the attention it deserves.
No bones about it—your book will fare better if you start your publicity efforts long before it’s published. This holds true whether you’re self-publishing or publishing via a traditional publishing house. A year before publication is not too early. This has always been my mantra: Early Early Early.
What can you do this far ahead of time? This is the time for you to build relationships, get to know who does what, and spread that word of mouth.
First, determine what your goals are. This will feed your efforts, and possibly your budget. Know this about yourself: where do you want your book to take you? Do you want to be the next diva of romance, the next thriller icon, or the expert on your topic? Do you want your book to function as a gateway to speaking engagements, or otherwise help other aspects of your life? Do you want to simply get your story out there? Decide what your goals and expectations are, at least in the beginning. They may change.
Once you have determined that—and it might take some soul-searching—then you know how much effort, time, and money you want to put into this. Your personal situation may also come into play, but no matter how broke or overworked you are, there are things you can do to promote your book.
Include as many people as possible in the journey of publishing your book. If you are not on social media, then setting up a simple Facebook page will go a long way towards helping to promote your book. (You need to set up a personal page before setting up a fan page.) The other platforms, such as Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, can be helpful too, but Facebook seems to be the one most applicable to book publicity. You can be visual here; you can share articles related to your book topic; and you can list events and other news that will let people know what you’re doing.
Think of all the steps involved in producing a book. Did you have a hand in the cover design? Are you trying to come up with a common 19th-century Irish name for one of your characters? Do you need to find information on an historical method of doing something (whether it’s making coffee, building a boat or sewing a shirt)? Believe it or not, social media can be a tool for all of this.
As soon as your book cover is available, use it. Have some bookmarks or postcards made (maybe your publisher offers this), and hand them out everywhere. A year in advance is not too early to get started on this. Get to know your local booksellers and librarians. Go to local literary events and meet people. Always carry a little supply of these bookmarks or postcards with you. As publication gets closer, ask if you can leave a little stack on the counters at these places you have come to know. Remember, you belong in this community; these are your peeps. And the more of them you know, the more support you will receive when the book is published.
Get Help Where You Need It
What else can you do early on? Determine if you want any help with various aspects of your book. Even authors who are traditionally published might hire an outside editor, publicist, or website person. If you are publishing with a traditional house, find out, with as much detail as possible, what it is they will do for you. Will they have a dedicated website for you? How many review copies will they send out? Will they cover the costs of traveling for events, a launch event, or perhaps a book tour? Will they submit your book for awards and for appearances at book festivals? What will their focus be in terms of publicity? Will there be a budget for any advertising, and if so, where will that be spent?
Once you have as much of that information as you can gather, you should be able to see where the holes are. You then need to fill those holes. A complete marketing campaign for a book should include advertising, promotion and publicity, and have components in print, broadcasting, and online. If any of those areas are lacking attention, you should either be prepared to work on that or find someone else who can help you.
Looking at this situation well ahead of your publication date will help you avoid that scramble or “horse is out of the barn” feeling once the book is published. It is true, in most cases, that the majority of the publicity will hit in the first three months of the life of your book. And setting this up needs to start at least six months before that publication date.
So yes, you can do lots with book publicity before the book is published. And it doesn’t stop then. But that’s another story.