I get this question a lot, authors asking for book promotion ideas and guidelines for timing their prep work and marketing prior to the book’s release. It’s a valid concern, because most, if not all, book marketing blogs and books will tell you to start early.
In general it’s good advice, being prepared is always a good thing, but how early can be relative depending on a few key factors.
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 when developing all of their book promotion ideas for a particular title. 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 ARCs (advance 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.
Magazine Editorial Calendars
If your book promotion ideas involve pitching your book to 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. 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, I’ve written about this before and encourage you to find that piece in the Resources section at the end!
Newspapers, Dailies, and Freelancers
So what about newspapers and freelancers who write for a variety of newspapers across the country? These individuals can be a fantastic way to beef up your book promotion ideas for media because you’re essentially searching for individuals with very specific interests, that get you in the door with the big media companies they write for. 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
- USA Today
- LA Times
- New York Times
- Houston Chronicle
- Chicago Tribune
- Tampa Bay Times
- Washington Post
- New York Post
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 is one that 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.
And remember, always look for creative book promotion ideas and angles. Because “local media” can also be publications with a very localized distribution, but not necessarily in your area. So, for example, if I have a great book specifically for those looking to retire or who are already retired, I might pitch local publications in popular 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.
I especially love radio because it’s so flexible, you never know when a slot might open and an opportunity might present itself – so always be on top of your game – have all your book promotion ideas, angles and your unique point of view fine-tuned and at the ready.
Bloggers and Online Media
I’d put most on the 1-month notification list, but start 2 months out if you’re going for a very big blogger.
ARCs vs. Final Books
ARC’s (also referred to as book galleys) are early copies of a book, and often 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.
Pitching Magazines as an Indie Author
Yes, indie authors should include big media pitching in their book promotion ideas just like traditionally published authors. But the caveat is: your book had better be fabulous and you better have a solid start to a platform. We’ve had indie authors in most major magazines, TV shows, and newspapers. But their books were fabulous and perfectly suited to that market, they had a unique point of view on their topic, they had a professional website with a media room (examples that they’re cut out for coverage) and at least one active and effective social account.
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.
Refining Your Website
By the 2-month mark (but 3+ is better) 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 because having a website in place and a social account started shows you take yourself seriously, which means others are more likely to take you seriously as well.
Warming Up Your Email List
If you have an email list going already, start to warm them up 2 months out. Let 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. While 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 your goals, the earlier you’ll need to start developing your book promotion ideas and marketing your book.