As a traditionally-published author, it’s important to supplement your publisher’s marketing campaigns with your own promotions so your lovingly crafted words reach as many readers as possible. Nowadays, readers want to personally connect with authors they like, especially online. So even if your publisher is running fabulous promotions, it’s important to engage with fans yourself.
I release six books a year through a traditional publisher — three new hardcover/ebook launches and three paperbacks launches — and that frequency means I need an easily replicable marketing plan. After years of testing various marketing strategies, I’ve developed a book launch checklist with tried-and-true tactics that best build buzz and sales.
My publisher takes care of some of the cornerstone promotional tactics — BookBub Featured Deals, paid advertisements (BookBub Ads, Facebook ads), arranging publicity tours, and so on — so this checklist only includes the tactics that my team takes care of. I do have a dedicated team of marketers to help me run my own campaigns. Not every author has such support and resources at their disposal, and their audiences may respond better to different tactics. But by providing this checklist, I hope to help other authors develop a book launch checklist of their own!
6 months before the book launch
Six months prior to a book launch, your publisher will likely have your cover design ready to go. Do what you can to help drive preorders by making your existing readers aware of the upcoming release. It’s possible that the more preorders you get, the bigger your print run, and the more marketing resources your publisher will dedicate to your book — and you might even hit a bestseller list during launch week.
1. Post a cover reveal
A fun way to begin marketing your book six months before launch is to share the cover with your readers. Each cover is different and usually provides a glimpse into the story.
2. Add a synopsis on your website
Adding the synopsis of your book to your author website and promoting it on social channels can help create preorder buzz. Bonus tip: Add affiliate buy links to generate some additional revenue.
3. Email your mailing list
Do you send out a newsletter? If so, one of the best ways to promote your book in advance is to begin talking about it in your newsletter. Share a great photo of your book with a link to preorder.
4. Update your author profiles
This is also a good time to update any online profiles listing your books. This way if anyone Googles you and finds these bios, they’ll be able to learn about your newest book. For example, prior to each book’s launch, I make sure to update my BookBub Author Profile with information about the upcoming release.
3 months before the book launch
Three months prior to a book launch, your publisher might start doing things like scheduling book tours, running paid ad campaigns, and mailing you ARCs and swag. For example, my publisher sends me bookmarks with info about my current book and upcoming books later in the year, and everyone who writes me a letter receives one of these special bookmarks. My publisher puts together book club kits, reading guides, and lists of praise. They also handle paid advertising campaigns, including scheduling a BookBub Preorder Alert.
During this time, you can help create buzz by engaging with your existing readers on social media. These are the evangelists who will spread the word to new readers, so it’s important to cater to this group and build excitement. Begin sharing creative ties to the book on various social media platforms.
1. Create an inventory of stylized photography
Create a polished look for your platform by creating an arsenal of images you can use throughout your marketing campaigns. These images can help generate buzz, and do particularly well on Instagram!
2. Design quote cards
Another creative piece of collateral to have at-the-ready are fancy graphics with quotes from the book, quotes from you, or blurbs about the book from other authors or publications. When posting these on social media, remember to include preorder links in the description!
3. Run giveaways of advanced reader copies (ARCs)
Giving away early copies of your book is a great way to generate early reviews, which will make it more enticing to new readers upon its release. We typically do ARC giveaways with a prompt to comment on the photo. You can ask a fun question, like “Why would you like to read this book?” You cannot ask for shares on Facebook as a contest entry method, but more comments and likes will generate more reach.
4. Create engaging bonus content
Readers love getting free content, and when that content ties closely to an upcoming release, it can help them get excited for that book. The goal with sharing this type of bonus content is to simply give the readers more. I like to consider myself a value-added author.
For example, my fans love when I post recipes on social media that I mention in my books.
5. Share early reviews in your marketing material
Early reviews can make great fodder for promotional graphics! These reviews might come from major publications, retailers, BookBub, Goodreads, or Netgalley — a platform publishing houses use to send advanced copies to early readers in exchange for honest reviews. My publisher uses these reviews to build out the retailer pages on Amazon and create early buzz.
Additionally, my team of marketers share quotes from reviews in the promotional images they design. As you can tell, creating these images is an ongoing effort!
6. Send ARCs to major publications
In addition to sending ARCs to readers or using them as giveaway prizes, consider sending some to any major publications in which you’d like to see your book mentioned, along with a personalized note. I used to do this more earlier in my career, but now my publisher handles this for me. This doesn’t guarantee a mention, but is a good reminder to the authors of those publications, and can result in a nice bit of publicity!
1 month before the book launch
Now’s the time to buckle down and post more regular updates to create excitement directly ahead of the release! Continue the activities above while also creating countdowns to the on-sale date.
1. Create countdown social posts
Build excitement by creating a countdown, and regularly remind fans of the launch date (while encouraging them to preorder). One month, one week, and one day are good time frames to promote.
2. Promote a Pinterest board around the book
This is a wonderful way to include all the items you created in the last several months in one place for the book!
3. Share a book trailer video
My publisher Random House creates book trailers for me and they are a wonderful peek inside the book. If your publisher creates a book trailer — or any special videos or graphics — to promote your book, be sure to promote those on social media for your fans to see!
4. Show readers glimpses of your author life
Create a personal connection with fans by sharing glimpses of your author life, and how excited you are about your upcoming release. Better yet, offer a chance to win a prize in exchange for sharing their own content relating to your book! Here’s an example where I created a funny tie-in to my book Sweet Tomorrow, and asked fans to comment with their own ideal “sweet tomorrow.”
Consider sharing personal details, what inspired the book, or who you dedicated the book to. Readers are always looking for more information, and any extra personal ties to the book you can share makes the content all that more engaging for them.
Book launch day
It’s time to celebrate all your hard work!
1. Send a launch day newsletter
Sending a launch day newsletter is a wonderful way to inform your readers and remind them that the book they’ve been waiting for is now on sale. Also, expand your reach by asking your publisher send a blast to their reading lists as well. Random House does a great job at not only sending out newsletters and on-sale blasts but celebrating the launch on social platforms.
2. Update your social media header images
Some social media sites like Facebook and Twitter let you update the image at the top of your page or profile. This is a great branding opportunity for your newest title, so be sure to update this on release day!
3. Post celebratory social media updates
Include a fun social post celebrating with your readers. On channels where you can add URLs, include links to purchase on multiple retailers.
Post Launch Day
After your book launches, continue promoting the book to keep the momentum going.
1. Run multi-author promotions
Reach out to other authors to coordinate cross-promoting each other’s books. For example, you can join forces with several authors in your genre to run a multi-book giveaway, and promote that giveaway to each of your fans. That way you all get exposure to each other’s audience, and those readers will likely be interested in your books! Tip: Make sure to tag other authors in these posts and ask them to tag you to help create the most reach.
2. Participate in Q&A sessions
Readers love when their favorite authors answer their pressing questions. There are many ways to run Q&As, from Twitter chats, to Reddit AMAs (“Ask Me Anything”), to Facebook Live chats. I love using Facebook Live to answer reader questions — I make it a point to talk about my books with my readers, and Facebook live makes this easy.
3. Do book tours and signings
My publisher Random House does a wonderful job setting up book tours for me around the release of my novels. I travel a lot less than I used to and usually have only a select few events per book. However, earlier in my career my book tours were quite lengthy. One year I wrote a book titled Twenty Wishes for which my publisher sent me to 20 different cities! My husband Wayne, of course, had the best logic; he exclaimed, “Debbie, if you would have just titled the book ‘three wishes’ you would have been home a long time ago.”
4. Regularly run giveaways
Look for fun themes to tie to the book that can create continual buzz. For example, we did “Merry and Bright Mondays” as a weekly social media topic to promote the book Merry and Bright.
5. Create seasonal buzz
If you can strategically promote a book during a specific season, or run season-specific promotions, take advantage of that opportunity! For example, we ran a summer reading challenge on social media.
Readers could find more details on my website, along with a pinnable image for Pinterest.
You can also capitalize on relevant “National XYZ Day” (like “National Cupcake Day” or “National Puppies Day”). You can look up what these designated “holidays” are on the National Day Calendar.
6. Celebrate your success with your readers
Show appreciation for your readers by thanking them for your success with celebratory social media posts. I make it a point to celebrate hitting the New York Times bestsellers list with my readers, since really it is all thanks to them!
7. Recommend books to your readers
Readers love to hear from their favorite authors between book launches. Recommending other books they might enjoy on sites like BookBub is a great way to stay engaged with them. I love recommending books to my followers on BookBub!
Remember, you can download this checklist as a printable PDF to keep handy any time you’re ready to put together a book launch marketing plan. (This will subscribe you to the BookBub Partners Blog, which you can opt out of at any time.)
Authors, what strategies am I missing here that you recommend I add to my checklist? Let me know in the comments below!
The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of BookBub.
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