Are you an author? Is your book about to be published? Are you wondering how to promote your book?
Please welcome twenty-year veteran of the publishing industry Claire McKinney to Writer Unboxed today!
Claire has worked for major publishers, including Little, Brown and Company, Putnam, and Disney Publishing, and is now the author of a new book for writers called Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does? A Guide for Creating Your Own Campaigns.  It’s chockfull of insights, and is so grabby that Therese consumed it in one sitting. Trust us: This book is jam-packed with good ideas. More about it:
Over the years, Claire McKinney has found that the lack of information on how book promotion works has left most authors in the dark, without a clear idea of how they can contribute to their own campaigns. In her book, she opens a window into the world of media relations and publicity so that authors will learn:
How to promote your book to the media
How to create your own media contact list
How to write press materials and how to use them
How to create a timeline and plan a campaign on your own
How to pitch, who to pitch to, and when
How to talk to your publisher about publicity
Claire has appeared as an expert on self-publishing on CSPAN and the Today Show. She travels regularly to speak to authors and audiences about book promotion, publishing, and social media marketing. We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from her book with you today.
Planning Your Publicity Timeline: When to Publish
When you start a campaign and when you publish used to be very critical. it still is for some books, but not for all. Prior to the time of blockbuster publishing, books that were released were “launched.” Publishers used to have nice parties, and reviews and press were timed to the book’s arrival in stores. Although the amount of books published has increased over time, the actual publishing of them has mellowed. Publishers don’t have the money for big shindigs every month, and for some titles it is possible to get media attention beyond the first few months of publication. The basics of timing for publication can be determined with some parameters.
Here’s a trade secret: no one, not even the big publishers, know exactly when to publish a book. Yes, there are some givens, like making sure you are able to get into holiday and other specialty promotions like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Then there are books by authors that consumers are trained to buy in a certain month based on its availability. I’m talking about Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and others who write at least one book per year. Publishers also consider the competition for shelf space and marketing and publicity opportunities. I should also mention the reason a book is usually published on a certain date is because of marketing and publicity reasons. We try to get books out there when they will be featured most prominently and when the media are interested in what the titles and authors have to say. For self-published authors, I recommend publishing the book as soon as it is ready. I call this a “soft publication.” Your “media date” or “hard publication” can be whenever you think the stars are going to align with media coverage and the success of your marketing—or when you think you can sell the most books! I am going to break down what the norms are in terms of publication months, but first I need to address some lingo that is tossed around and needs to be clarified.
Publication: This means that your book is on the market and available for sale via any and all distribution channels.
Release: In traditional publishing this usually means the date that books are shipped from a distribution center to online and retail stores. however, I’ve seen it used interchangeably with “publication.” I’m not saying you are wrong for using the word this way, but knowing that there are other meanings out there might help clear up some confusion.
Launch: This term is a pet peeve of mine, because using this word implies there is some kind of event attached to the publication of your book. if you are a celebrity or famous person and/or your book has breaking news that is going to dictate an entire news cycle, then perhaps “launch” is a good word to use. But I caution people about calling publication a launch, because I think there are inherent expectations associated with using the word that can potentially be cause for disappointment.
Having said all of this, here are some monthly breakdowns that I have generally experienced as the accepted publication patterns:
January (Or “new Year, new You”)
Self-help; diet; inspirational; business: if you fit into this category, this is what the media are generally interested in around this period, and it’s also what consumers are thinking about.
Self-help associated with relationships; debut authors; business; fiction: if you are a debut author, this month is not as full of new titles and there may be more promotion and media opportunities for you as a result.
Debut authors; mysteries; fiction
Beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies; books on mountain climbing
More beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies or other nonfiction that will appeal to male readers on vacation or for Father’s Day
Debut authors; education-related titles; narrative nonfiction by lesser known writers
Public affairs and politics; serial authors in fiction and nonfiction; cooking; highly publicized titles by debut authors
More politics; cooking; big nonfiction titles by well-known personalities and writers; higher end photography books; art books
Photography; art; gift books; big names; and anything else you can think of that will sell in the current budget year
Good month for lesser known authors. A variety of books are published, including late-comers for Christmas or those titles that people want to get a jump on for January.
You may notice that the categories are not always dictated firmly in one month or another—this is what I mean about the secret. In the end, what everyone wants to do is get the book out there at the best possible moment. But you need to consider what you can control and what you can’t. After you make your best educated decision, you have to go with it and plan as if it will be the biggest “launch” you’ve ever seen!
Have you noticed any best times for aspects of book publicity? We’d love to hear from you in comments.