The publication date of your book isn’t just the day when your book becomes available for readers to buy, it is also a target date for all of your pre-publication marketing and publicity activities. Plan well ahead and try to get as much of your activity as possible to happen around your publication date.
Having worked for big publishers as well as independent authors, one of the major advantages that experienced publishers have is a disciplined project schedule. They know what to do and when to do it. They plan far ahead and stick to their strategy. But most self-published authors are learning the publishing process as they go along. After all, the first time you self-publish you don’t even know what you don’t know. The temptation is to publish quickly and hope for the best – a recipe for disaster.
So the first bit of advice, unless your book is particularly newsworthy, is do not rush the publication. Build in time to learn, to think through the actions that you need to take and to enact an advance publicity and marketing plan. Here is a general schedule to get you started:
Up to Six Months Ahead of Publication If you are working with a sales team to get your book into brick and mortar bookshops, those reps meet with shop and chain buyers well in advance of publication. In order to sell your book they need an Advance Information sheet (usually just called an AI) which is a single page summary of your book and why readers should buy it. Ideally the AI should also have the front cover image on it, so you need to have that done first.
About Five Months Ahead of Publication Monthly magazines have editorial meetings to decide which books to review then they send out the books to their reviewers. Ideally you should send bound proof copies of your book about 5 months ahead of publication in order to be considered. These advance copies do not need to be the final edited version of the book and the production values do not need to reflect what your book will look like in the end, but they need to be conveniently readable. And remember, they are planning the Christmas issue in June!
Note that it can be costly or impractical to send out advance copies this far in advance, so this step is one that many authors skip.
Three to Four Months Ahead of Publication Newspaper supplements and magazines are on the lookout for books to serialise and book-related issues to cover. Supplements tend to be planned far in advance of the rest of the newspaper.
Three to four months in advance is also the ideal time to list your book on NetGalley.com to receive advance reviews on blogs and Goodreads and to get reviews ready to be posted on Amazon when the publication date finally arrives.
Two Months Ahead of Publication National radio and television forward planners begin to highlight the books and authors that they would like to cover a couple of months before broadcast. Depending on how much the show depends upon current news, they may plan everything months in advance (such as BBC Radio 4’s Front Row), they may plan some but not all features in advance (BBC Breakfast TV), or everything that they do depends upon the news of the week (BBC Newsnight). So you need to think about the schedule for every show that you want to pitch to.
One Month Ahead of Publication Newspaper Literary Editors expect to have a copy of the book up to a month ahead of publication so that they have time to consider whether they want to devote limited space to the book and find a journalist to review it.
Two Weeks Ahead of Publication Local newspapers, radio and online media work quite quickly and only need to receive your publicity pitch a couple of weeks before publication. They may even want to book interviews at the very last minute – so try to have an open schedule in the week or two around your publication date.
On the Publication Date Try to get writers of independent reviews to post their reviews on Amazon as soon as the book becomes available. Note: This does not include your friends and family; Amazon have been removing reviews by people who know the author personally.
Also be sure to encourage anyone on your contact list and/or friends and family to buy the book on publication date. Books purchased in advance of publication and on the publication date can have a much greater impact upon your sales than individual sales spread out over a long period of time. The Amazon recommendation algorithm favours books that are ‘trending’ (sales that happen around the same time).
And finally, throw the party of a lifetime! Or at least sit back with a glass of wine. You’ve earned it. That book did not write itself after all.