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8 Book Marketing Tasks To Tackle BEFORE Your Book Is Published

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
-Alexander Graham Bell

I like to be prepared.

As an INFP personality type (in other words, one of those crazy introverts), jumping into a new situation with only a vague idea of how things will go is  terrifying.

At odds with my penchant for preparation, however, is my spectacular ability to procrastinate. Perhaps honed from years of banging out rockin’ school papers and reports the night before their due date, I pride myself in my ability to work under pressure.

Earlier this week, those habits dovetailed to punch me right in the face.

True to my procrastinator nature, I started working on this post Tuesday morning. It wasn’t due to go live until Wednesday…no worries, right? I had plenty of time.

Our site crashed an hour later.

I hadn’t saved my work and had no way to finish writing the post. In other words, I wasn’t prepared. I waited until the last minute to get to work, and paid the price for procrastinating.

But that’s not you, right?

One of the most common questions we receive is “I don’t have a book out yet — how do I begin promoting my work?”

Whenever I read one of these messages, I want to reach through the screen and hug the daylights out of the author who sent it. Why? They’re doing what I know I would be difficult for me: kicking procrastination in the face and preparing for an awesome book launch.

If this describes you, you’re a smart cookie. You have time on your side.

The problem, however, is that all of this book marketing stuff is overwhelming. It can feel like most book marketing advice applies to folks who have already published their book.

How do you know which promotional tasks to tackle before clicking publish?

8 Book Marketing Tasks To Tackle BEFORE Your Book Is Published

Note: I’ve put these (somewhat) in chronological order (in other words, you might want to perform task 1 before task 5), but feel free to skip around to suit your needs.

1. Know Your Readers

Boy, we must sound like a broken record on this tip, huh?

Seriously, though, hear me out: if you do NOTHING else before releasing your book, work to understand your readers. Knowing exactly who you’re promoting to will help you get your message out more efficiently and effectively. Sounds good, right? Here’s how to do it:

  • Know your target market. This is a broad category of folks who like your work. It doesn’t exclude others, but gives you a starting point when figuring out how best to promote your work and where to focus your efforts.
  • Meet your #1 fan. Use our reader profile exercise to create one, ideal reader who loves everything you do. When you write tweets, status updates, blog posts, email updates — pretend you’re writing them to this one person. Doing this makes your messages personal, specific and friendly.

Note: If you’d like even more details on both of the above, check out Building Your Fanbase. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to meeting your readers!

2. Make a Plan

You know that whole “fail to plan, plan to fail” saying? Don’t let that be you. Take the time you have before your book’s release to create plans you can stick to. Two of the plans you can make/questions you can answer include:

  • How much time will I spend promoting? What days/times will I work? If you’re on our mailing list, be sure to download the Weekly Planner and fill it out. It’s a simple exercise that quickly allows you to see when you have open time in your daily life to spend on promotion. Even if it’s only 15 minutes a day — make promotion a priority!
  • Where do my readers hang out? How will I best reach them — blogs, Twitter, Facebook? Once you’ve identified your target market and #1 fan, use our Reader Hangout Scoresheet to identify where your readers spend their time.

3. Set Up Your Abode

You’ll need somewhere to send all these new fans, right? Take this time to make sure you have an author abode in good working order. Your abode (also known as a “home base” or “platform,” all similar concepts) consists of:

  • Your website. We recommend WordPress with the Authorlicious theme for author websites, but any clean design you’re comfortable with updating yourself will do.
  • Your mailing list. Y’all know we love us some mailing lists. The earlier you create yours, the earlier you can start gathering and communicating directly with your readers!
  • Social media. Choose the networks that work best for your personality, genre and readers and integrate them into your website.

4. Make Author Friends

We’ve written before about how the “Survivor” mentality can hurt your book sales — don’t be an island! Start making those connections before your book is published.

Having an author friend or two in the trenches with you benefits everyone as you all work to build your fanbases and spread the word about your work.

5. Learn from Successful Authors

No matter your genre, the odds are you can find authors who have had real-world success. Indie or not, take this time to do a little bit of friendly stalking.

Use either your own knowledge (or Amazon Top 10 lists) to find those superstar authors in your genre and Google away to find out what makes them tick. Ask yourself:

  • How does she promote her work?
  • Does he use Twitter, Facebook or some other social media?
  • Does she have a blog? What topics does she cover? Which posts get the most comments?
  • Which types of fans is he engaging with the most? 
  • Where else do those fans hang out?

Make notes of your ideas and findings and adapt one or two of their ideas to help promote your own work.

6. Build Your Fanbase

By this point, you have all the infrastructure in place to start rapidly building your fanbase. You know exactly who your readers are and where they hang out — now it’s time to reel them in! Here are some ways to engage those readers:

7. Begin Gathering Reviews

If you’re at least three months out from launch time, you’re in a perfect position to start gathering reviews of your work. We cover this more in our Tips for Requesting Reviews video, but here’s how to get started:

  • Contact reviewers who specifically state that they review your genre. Be sure to include a Review Request document so they can get all the deets about your upcoming book. Check out the video notes for a list of reviewers.
  • Ask your fans for reviews. Offer up a special! pre-release! copy of your book in exchange for a review. The best place to find fans to do this? Your mailing list, of course!
  • Swap reviews with author friends. You know those glowing “blurbs” that appear in the front of books? Gathering this “street cred” puts your work in a positive light — before anyone reads a word.
  • Share your work on your blog and ask for feedback. While not an official review, it’ll give you an idea of compliments (and complaints) that might arise once your book is published.

8. Plan Your Epic Launch

This is the Big Daddy of Pre-Launch Activities. While planning a successful launch is a post in and of itself, here’s the basic method for making your launch rock:

  • Pick your launch date. Give yourself plenty of time to build up excitement before the big day. It’s not like planning a wedding or anything, but give yourself a solid three months for best results! Note: If you’re releasing your book via KDP, upload it a week before your launch date to test the file and work out any bugs. No one will notice it unless you tell them, I promise!
  • Drop hints and build excitement. Share excerpts of positive reviews or comments. Release exclusive sneak peaks. Offer a special edition. Dish behind-the-scenes gossip. Don’t be afraid of being coy; this time is all about building demand for your book.
  • Be everywhere at once. During launch week, line up all of the interviews, guest posting spots, and other appearances you can muster. Get in front of your readers — wherever they hang out!

Phew!

The list gives you a myriad of jumping-off points to plan your pre-launch book marketing activities, but, to be honest, I could add at least 20 more ideas to the list. Your eyes would glaze over by the 15th suggestion though, right?

Think of it this way: With rare exceptions, you can adapt any promotional methods/tricks to fit your pre-launch needs. You may have to put on your thinking cap and get creative, but remember:

In the immortal words of Scar from The Lion King: “Be preparrrrrrrrrrred.”

Inaction is your enemy. Just do something to promote your work. Anything. Whenever you can. Be consistent and confident — you can do this!

Me? I’m going to go start writing next week’s blog post…right now! 😉

  • amy queau

    Boy, I wish I would have come across this post Tuesday (but I suppose I would have if SOMEONE hadn’t procrastinated). Ha! No, I kid, I kid. Seriously though, I launched my book, Progress, this week and I had already done many of the things in your post. So, now I am trying to get into Kindle’s edit page in order to give my readers, and hopefully, their friends, a chance to read it for FREE this weekend. However, Kindle isn’t allowing me to offer it for less than 99 cents. Do you know of anyone else who has had this issue?

    • CarolStrick

      Don’t quote me, but I think you have to be in KDP Select to offer your Kindle book for free for a while. That’s why I also publish with Smashwords, where I can adjust the price for a few days (causing Amazon also to adjust, since they match prices), or even offer $$ off or FREE coupons to people who use a special code (which I give them) at checkout. Those coupons can last forever, or you can time them to last for a limited time.

    • Thanks for helping out Amy, Carol! We really appreciate you sharing those tips and tricks for using Smashwords, too :-)

    • LOL, awww, I’m sorry Amy. Those darn procrastinator tendencies! While you can’t enter a price less than .99 using the Kindle editor, you can set your promo/free days if you’re participating in KDP Select (see the ‘Promotions Manager’ link on top of the edit page). I hope that helps!

  • This looks like sound advice. I like the blog tour idea. Thanks.

  • Michael Mardel

    Thanks, filed away and hopefully not lost.

    • You’re very welcome, Michael. Definitely a good one to come back to (in my super-humble opinion, haha) :-)

  • Love all of your tips! Dead on!!!! xx, Lauren

  • Sarah

    Thanks so much for your brilliant help and advice. I have a question however.
    What do you do if you’re not sure if the target audience you’re aiming at will even read the book?

    My target audience are boys, 13-16 years old, preferably interested in gaming, but not a requirement. My son seems to think I’ll have a problem, because boys interested in gaming aren’t going to be interested in books.

    What I’d like to achieve, is to get more boys interested in reading, so I came up with the idea of making each chapter 300 words long. I’ve had some good reviews on the first few chapters I put on my blog, but they were from adults. Do you see my dilemma?

    Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

    Sarah. :)

    • Hi Sarah! Reaching kids online is best done (usually) through their parents. If you know any parents personally who have sons, that might be a good route to try first. If not, try getting in touch with some of the folks who run parenting blogs. They or their readers might have teenage boys in your target demographic who would be interested in a free read in exchange for their opinion! Since these things usually spread peer-to-peer, if you can get a few teens interested, they can spread the word to their friends. Just my two cents :-) PS: Getting more teen boys to read is a noble goal, for sure!

    • Sarah

      Thanks for replying and the great advice, I’ll give your idea a try and see how it goes. Thanks again.

  • Awesome advice. Thanks so much for posting this!

  • Great tips. Thanks. I like the pre-release idea. We have a book that’s aimed at an older market that may not have access to social media and I was a bit stuck trying to figure out how to best reach them. Looked at your comments section and realized that i could do itthrough their kids – thanks.

  • Darryl260

    This is a great article. I trust that all my fellow authors would succeed in their work.

  • Thank you for this fantastic post. I love how you apply who you are to the post, making it easier for us to connect.