I get this question a lot, about the timing of a campaign and when to actually start marketing your book. It’s a valid question, because most, if not all book marketing advice blogs and books will tell you to start early. Which is good advice, but early can be relative in certain circumstances.
But in order to understand where this information came from, and how it’s changed, let’s take a look at how publishing timelines have evolved.
Most of the “start marketing your book early” warnings are ones you’ll get from folks who are involved in traditional publishing, because they have other markers that they need to consider. For example, if you’re with, let’s say, Simon & Schuster and you have a Fall release for your book, they’ll probably need to pitch you to bookstores in March. Meaning that you’ll have ARC’s (advanced review copies) early in the year. Bookstores and other retailers like WalMart and Costco need to determine what books they’ll stock, or won’t, pretty early on in the game, especially for a season as busy as Fall tends to be.
The next piece of this is magazines. In the past, magazines closed issues 6-8 months out, a magazine can only close an issue once all the advertising is sold for that issue. However, with advertising getting harder to sell, sometimes these issues don’t close until 3 months prior to their actual “on sale” dates and in some situations, they close 2 months out. But to be safe, I’d use 3-4 as a solid marker for pitching magazines for a review.
Exceptions to these lead times are big calendar events. Like Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and magazines that cover this topic will need their content sometimes 6 months out. A magazine’s Christmas issue is another one I’d pitch early, mostly because competition for space there is pretty heavy. If targeting magazines for the holiday shopping season is something you aspire to, you’ll need to start marketing your book to them early. I’d put this in the 6-month lead time window, too. Keep in mind any big anniversaries coming up such as the 20-year anniversary of XYX or whatever, will see a huge surge of attention and these magazines will need the information very early on, too. (Are you ready for big media coverage? Find out how you fare!)
Magazine Editorial Calendars
If part of marketing your book is targeting magazines, then editorial calendars may be your best friend. These editorial calendars, which are readily available, can be a great resource for you, too. They show the magazine focus for the entire year, as well as when issues are closing. Which should offer you some great insight if you’re pitching them. I’ll list a few below, but a quick search of the name of the magazine and “editorial calendar” on Google will pull up pretty much anything you’ll need.
Along with the editorial calendar, it also pulls up magazine demographics which is a good thing to check if you’re not sure. Demographics can change, so be sure you’re going after the right publications.
Redbook is by far one of my favorites, because it shows not only the “theme” of the issue, but what the various departments are covering. Check out: http://www.redbookmediakit.com/r5/showkiosk.asp?listing_id=4925437&category_id=18968
O Magazine shows their demographics, which I think is important for a magazine like this, since many folks say “I want to be in O Magazine!” Make sure it’s the right target, before you pitch them: http://www.omediakit.com/r5/home.asp#rates
First for Women, another personal pitching favorite has a separate segment for demographics and ads, which again will show you when a magazine is closing.
To go into a completely different market, Popular Mechanics also puts a lot of work into issue planning and magazine themes throughout the year. Have a look: http://www.popularmechanicsmediakit.com/hotdata/publishers/popularme2610043/popularmecha7335/pdfs/media-kit-2018.pdf
Newspapers, Dailies, and Freelancers
So what about newspapers and freelancers who write for a variety of newspapers across the country? Well, you should plan on pitching these folks 1-2 months out, 2 months being ideal. They don’t have as much flexibility as a magazine might, but they do like to get stuff ahead of the publication date so they can slot it in accordingly. However, keep in mind that the bigger the newspaper or daily, the farther out you’ll want to target.
Here is a list of the top ten national newspapers, keeping mind that some of these, like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, are considered national and will have long lead times, much like magazines do:
- Wall Street Journal
- New York Times
- Chicago Tribune
- New York Post
- Los Angeles Times
- Washington Post
- Newsday (New York)
- The Mercury News (Bay Area, California)
- East Bay Times (Bay Area, California)
- Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
National vs. Local Media
There’s also a difference when you’re pitching local media, vs. national. Meaning that you’re pitching media in your hometown vs. let’s say The Chicago Tribune (which as I mentioned, needs a longer lead time).
Local media, in general, is fine with a 30-day lead time. And I’d recommend including them in pre-publication pitching, and post publication pitching, too because local media loves their local authors.
The other element of local media that I love is local, but not necessarily in your area. So, for example, if I have a great retirement topic, I might pitch local publications in high retirement areas.
National Broadcast Media and Radio
Ahead of publication date, I’d pitch these folks 2-3 months out, though 2 months is generally more than enough. The caveat to this is again: big calendar dates or big anniversaries of something historic.
Bloggers and Online Media
I’d put them on the 1-month notification list, but start marketing your book to them 2 months if you’re going for a very big blogger.
ARCs vs. Final Books: What’s Better for Marketing Your Book?
ARC’s (also referred to as book galleys) are early copies of a book, often they aren’t fully edited and the covers may or may not be done yet. Most of the time, if I’m pitching a book for pre-publication and I don’t have a cover, it’s fine. But I’ll be sure and go back and fill in the pitch with the final cover – not in an attachment – but a link to it from the author’s media room on their website.
If you’re pitching really early for, let’s say a December/holiday issue and your book isn’t done consider making your cover a priority in this case. Why? Because while a cover needs to always be good, often holiday issues are especially “pretty” and your book cover should tie into the holiday it’s geared to.
You can and should also use electronic copies, which can be a great way to deliver a book quickly and easily. We use BookFunnel for this, but BookSprout is also a great place to consider, too.
Should you Pitch Magazines for Review if You’re an Indie Author?
The answer is yes and the caveat is: your book had better be fabulous. We’ve had indie authors in most major magazines, TV shows, and newspapers. But their books were fabulous and perfectly suited to that market.
Libraries, Bookstores, and Distribution
This is another area that will require an early pitch. But let me stay up front that even in the best of circumstances, bookstore stocking in national stores is tricky, at best. Consider pitching indie stores in your area and check their websites to see how early you can pitch them. Most will go 2 months out. The same holds true for libraries and distributors.
At the 2-month mark (but ideally 3), your website should be up and running and ready for business. Even if you aren’t marketing your book in advance including doing any advance pitching, you shouldn’t wait on this till the last minute.
Your Email List
If you have an email list going already, start to warm them up 2 months out. Just letting them know your book is coming out soon. If you have any special offers, start to whet their appetite for those as well. If you don’t have an email list, now might be a good time to figure out how you’ll start one!
The Long Runway of Book Promotion
It’s true that the long runway of book promotion has shrunk a bit. Where some places may tell you you should plan a year out, the reality is quite different. But regardless, planning is important. If you can’t hit all of these targets, then go after the ones you can and vow to start earlier the next time.
I often compare a book launch to the runway of an airport. The bigger the plane, the more room it needs to take off. The same is true for your book. The bigger you want your campaign to be, the earlier you’ll need to start marketing your book and get your jet on the runway.
What are some successes you’ve had with marketing your book early? Let me know in the comments.
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