Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won’t be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today brings another pair of related questions. The first is “How long before my book comes out should I hire a publicist?”
It depends to a certain degree what you’re looking for and on how in-demand the publicist is. My business is relatively young, so six months is plenty of lead time for me, and I can absolutely work with much less if required. I’ve even done emergency publicity!
Ideally, for prose novels, pre-work work for publicity should start anywhere from 4-6 months before release (for long lead-time review spots such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal). It is helpful to give your publicist plenty of time before that to plan and, if necessary, work with your publisher. Graphic novels and comics can work with a bit less lead time.
While this represents the ideal, it’s possible to do good work with much less time, too. Just bear in mind that for the biggest and busiest review spots that if you don’t give them at least a few months you aren’t likely to get reviewed. Other than that, 1-3 months is plenty for most reviewers and for setting up a lot of your publicity.
What if you try it yourself and suddenly realize, right before (or right after) release that you want some help after all? You can get help at the last minute, too, but it’s important to understand that many major spots won’t accept books that are either close to or post-release. Many excellent reviewers and sites will; however, so all is not lost. Just realize that you’re not going to get The New York Times from a book that is already released. Not even John Scalzi’s Big Idea, for that matter.
So for you TL;DR types: the best time to contact a publicist (at least for this publicist) is 5-6 months before release, but anything can work (even post-release books) as long as what you expect from your results is realistic.
The next question is “What timeline should I use to plan my book marketing?”
As I mentioned above, if your book is eligible to be reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Book Slut, and other long lead-time publications., then send those review copies/galleys out 4-6 months before release date. Send these with a one-sheet, which is important to include with mailed copies.
For the rest, you’ll query. (Unless they say it is OK to send a book, of course, then you send the book with a one-sheet or via email/NetGalley, depending on the reviewer’s preferences.) A query is just seeing if a blogger or reviewer wants to look at the book and of course an offer to send one. As far as the timing, my assumption is that you’ve read other websites’ and publications’ and bloggers’ review and publicity submission guidelines. If you have, you’ll know how to stagger the rest of the schedule. Some will need to go out 3-5 months, some 1-3 months, some 5-6 weeks. This is one of the more time-consuming things: finding the right targets and making sure that you have them scheduled correctly. Don’t be shy about writing these down in order or using an electronic calendar to keep track.
Make sure that as you query–particularly blogs and media you know accept guest posts and do interviews–ask for what you want from that site. Something along the lines of “If you like the idea or the book enough, I’d love the chance to do a guest blog post for you. I can do it on (sample topic 1) or (sample topic 2), or if you have something you’d like to hear about, I’ll gladly write that instead.”
2-4 months before release: if you want to set up book signings or readings, now is the time. Note that very popular reading series, such as KGB, may require 6-7 months of lead time.
3 weeks to release date: handle your correspondence and write guest blog posts as required. If you have an interview or need to finalize any in-person events, make sure you have what you need. If you do book signings/talks, then you’ll want a poster of some kind to take with you.
What about those queries? Once it’s been 2-3 weeks, it is OK to follow up with people to whom you have sent QUERIES. If you’ve already sent an actual book (often those long lead time publications from above,) then don’t follow up. While we’re at it, if you ever send a press release (and usually you do not send those for books,) don’t follow up on those, either. Anyway, queries you can follow up, but they should be super polite and low pressure.
At release time and after: make sure you’re meeting your deadlines and following through on commitments. If you get a good review or a guest blog or an interview, share it. Share when your book is released, too. Anything like that is fine. A bit more often on Twitter than on Facebook. Don’t forget though: if all you do is push your books, people will stop listening to you.
You may also find it helpful to revisit 5 No-BS Twitter Tips for Authors and 5 Steps to a Quality Blog Tour.
Anyhow: this is a very rough and basic guideline. Each project will have to be planned based on its own requirements and based the resources of you and your publisher. As always, let me know if you have any questions about your situation.
That’s all for this week. Keep an eye out for the first of the semi-regular calls for submission columns.
Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thanks for all the support!