Link Your Marketing and Editorial Calendars for Optimum Impact
by Cynthia Frank
All too often we separate our editorial and marketing tasks and calendars. It’s easy to give in to the “Let’s get this book to press” urgency soon after the first draft of the manuscript is completed. But it pays to make time for integrating editorial/production timelines with marketing timelines. This can strengthen the content of a book, even if it’s fiction, and generally leads to better long-term results.
This article outlines a sample editorial/marketing schedule for the production and release of a new book to help you create your own integrated calendar for any title.
As you plan the calendar for a particular book, think about your definition of success for that book. Why are you publishing it? Do you have the time and expertise to do all the work it requires, or will you need to outsource certain tasks and services? What’s your budget? I encourage you to honor your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.
Six to Twelve Months Before Publication
• Prepare the manuscript. This entails manuscript evaluation/acquisition, developmental editing (if necessary), copyediting, peer review, permissions assessment (including budget concerns), and permissions gathering (if necessary). Permissions gathering sometimes takes months to complete; start early.
• List your book’s top buyers, selectors, and referrers (booksellers, wholesalers, teachers, parents, chaplains, therapists, etc.). Clearly define its audience and the benefits your book will bring that audience.
• Research the target audience. What do these people read, listen to, watch, and subscribe to? Request full rate kits, including editorial calendars and submission guidelines, for publications and catalogs that reach the target market.
• Research competitive books, including endorsements, sales venues, production values, and price points. If your book is nonfiction, how is it new and different? Is it better organized? More in-depth? Does it contain the latest information? If the book is fiction, what links it to other writers’ work and/or trends in the news? Note specialty publications and blogs where comparable titles have been covered; see who endorsed them; and consider adding these entities to your list of contacts.
• Review your author questionnaire and make sure it’s designed to aid in the long-term marketing and promotion of the book.
• Research your title and subtitle to make sure you haven’t picked a title that’s already in use by a comparable book. Although titles can’t be copyrighted, using someone else’s title can lead to legal action against you, and in any case you don’t want to cause confusion.
• Finalize your title and subtitle.
• Review cover-design possibilities. Your design should fit the book’s genre, yet stand out qualitatively.
Make sure your designer has all the materials and information needed to proceed (text, approximate placement, whether to hold space on the front cover for a tagline from a celebrity endorsement, ISBN number and cover price so the bar code can be generated or outsourced). If you haven’t finalized your cover price yet, be sure to calendar notifying the designer when the price is confirmed.
• Draw on the author’s strengths. What marketing and promotion connections and talents does the author bring to the table? Make sure the author fills out the author questionnaire.
• Begin a draft of the marketing plan. Consider whether material should be altered in or added to the book to enhance its sales potential, and coordinate with the editor.
• Sketch your distribution network and set dates for outreach and submissions. If you plan to work with a master distributor, check distributors’ submission guidelines and requirements, and note that some work with only two seasons, closing their calendars in September, for example, for books to be released the following spring. Also remember that larger bookstores sometimes schedule programs eight or more months in advance.
• If your book is a trade title, test the title, subtitle, and elevator speech (extremely brief description) with front-line booksellers. It’s never too early to develop cordial relationships with front-line booksellers. Do they find the project compelling, memorable, and clearly targeted to your audience?
• Join IBPA and other publishing organizations (e.g., American Booksellers Association, American Literary Translators Association, Bookbuilders, PEN, and the like, as appropriate).
• Fill out and file copyright forms from the Library of Congress if you plan to copyright the book in manuscript. People often register the copyright for a book after it’s been to press, but if your book deals with emerging technology or other such issues, handling the copyright registration while the project is in manuscript can offer you better protection should someone infringe on your intellectual property rights.
• Subscribe to appropriate trade and retail publications as well as blogs and online newsletters.
• Build your database, including key media for this book.
• Start your publicity angle file. Is a specific date, month, or season especially appropriate for the release of this book? If so, does it work with your production calendar?
• Map out lead times. Allow at least six months for major publications, preliminary chain store presentations, and major bookstore events, plus master distributor and book club submissions.
• Set up Google Alerts for the book’s title and the author’s name, as well as for selected subject phrases.
• File a fictitious-name statement for your publishing company if required. Apply for a local business license and resale certificate, if appropriate.
• Apply for an ISBN logbook if you haven’t before, or assign an ISBN to this title if you already have a logbook.
• Apply for a CIP (or PCIP) Datablock. Depending on the agency you use, you’ll need to provide either the book’s table of contents (if there is one), the first three chapters, and a 50-word description; or the table of contents, title page, copyright page, and description.
• Draft your press release, author biography, talking points, and sales hot points.
• Send the copyedited manuscript to peer reviewers for early comments, to the potential endorsers and blurbers who need the longest lead time, and to the person writing the foreword, if the book will have one (that person might need a galley instead or in addition). Plan to use these early blurbs on the cover of your prepublication review copies.
• Submit the manuscript to book clubs. Check on lead times, which may be long.
• Offer first serial rights to selected periodicals, both print and online.
• Review your budget.
• Map out your basic production values: format size, binding, text stock. Get preliminary pricing from printers.
• Assess cover and interior design progress. Having a preliminary cover and sample text ready early can aid in opening distribution channels. Master distributors often need the front cover, scope of market information, and a sales tip sheet nine months prior to publication date.
Six Months Before Publication
• Research books on the physical and virtual shelves where your book will appear. Be sure to check independent stores and chain store front-line booksellers as well as major Internet booksellers.
What do these other books look like? What are their production values? Price points? How will your book both fit in and stand out? Who’s endorsed these other books? Do you see new possibilities here?
• Review the text. Do you have all the pieces? Does the book need a glossary, resource list, index, back matter information about supplementary products for sale, front matter list of illustrations, acknowledgments, preface, introduction?
• Submit Advance Book Information (ABI) for inclusion in Books in Print via Bowker.com.
• Confirm distribution networks. Plan your course of action according to the requirements of your master distributor or nonexclusive wholesalers’ requirements. Allow plenty of time!
• Make contact with nonexclusive wholesalers.
• If you’re working through nonexclusive wholesalers, make your chain store new-title presentations. Yes, Barnes & Noble wants a sales presentation six months in advance. This can be done electronically. You’ll send a prepub copy or finished copy later. If you’re working with a master distributor, the distributor will handle these presentations for you.
Four to Five Months Before Publication
• Double-check the status of permissions, endorsements, testimonials, and the foreword from a celebrity or expert if the book will have one. Make sure everything’s on schedule.
• If a permission is hanging fire, consider whether to drop the material, paraphrase it, or look for a replacement.
• Check the status of cover art and text layout in conjunction with publicity and booksellers’ needs (especially for prepublication galleys, distribution network catalogs, sales conferences, and trade shows).
• Finalize press materials and presentation information (probably including sell sheet, author bio, sample questions, fact sheet, sample article, back cover copy, talking points, preliminary blurbs, clippings, and any materials needed for a distributor).
• Check deadlines for relevant trade and specialty show displays, book awards, and foreign rights shows.
• Send the book to a digital printer for prepublication galleys. If the book will have a foreword but it’s not in yet, just note its placement, and do the same for any other material missing at this point, which might include the index, final permissions language, table of contents, and other details, even illustrations.
• Send galleys to trade prepublication reviewers (Publishers Weekly, et al.).
• Begin work on your material about prepublication sales offers, such as an email blast to your personal list. You might offer them autographed books, additional materials (a CD or workbook, for instance), or a special discount prior to the publication date.
• Start outreach, planning for seminars, presentations, book launch parties, classes, store appearances, and more. Be careful not to confirm dates that are dangerously close to your projected ship date from the printer. Don’t schedule bookstore events to occur prior to your official publication date. If you’re scheduling an autographing or event at a trade show (such as BEA), you might need to print extra prepublication review copies.
Three Months Before Publication
• Schedule indexing, if the book will have an index, as most nonfiction should.
• Send galleys with cover letter and press release to catalogs, special sales outlets, and suppliers.
• Send galleys with cover letter and press release to periodicals for review, other kinds of coverage, and/or excerpting.
• Do travel bookings if the author will be making out-of-the-area presentations.
• Mail and email individual preorder forms and sales letters to your list of individual buyers and personal contacts.
• Design supplementary sales materials for printing (these may include flyers, order forms, buttons, rack cards) and prepare them for printing.
Two Months Before Publication
• Send prepublication sales offers to individuals and groups.
• Work on corporate sales, if appropriate.
• Confirm deadlines for trade and specialty show displays, book awards, and foreign rights shows. Is it time to send galleys?
• Plan local launch events.
• Review your budget!
• Finalize your production values (spot gloss on the cover? Recycled or FSC text stock? layflat binding?).
• Confirm pricing and approximate schedule with the printer you have chosen.
• Proofread the finished pages.
• Send the finalized pages to the indexer.
• Proof the typeset index.
• Contact selected print and online media and radio and TV stations for interviews. Allow plenty of lead time.
• Double-check cover and text files—especially the copyright page, contact information, URLs, and cover text. Scan the barcode to make sure it works.
• Send cover and text files to press on schedule (this may involve a long lead time if the book will be printed overseas).
• Monitor the printer’s schedule for proofs and shipment of finished books.
One Month (If Not More) Before Publication
• Send bibliographic information in the correct form to online stores, wholesalers, and others, including cover image, blurbs, and endorsements.
• Receive books from the printer, and inspect them carefully.
• Drop ship or transship the appropriate quantity of finished books to your distributor if you have one; fulfill existing wholesaler orders if you’re working with a nonexclusive distribution network.
• Fulfill existing orders from individuals.
• Intensify sales efforts through nonbookstore channels.
• Fill out and file copyright forms with the Library of Congress to copyright the finished book.
• Keep your distribution network apprised of marketing and promotion efforts and results.
• Confirm interviews and appearances.
• Send out individual invitations (to your launch party, Web site launch, blog launch, Twitter handle) and trade announcements.
• Confirm receipt of books by wholesalers or your distributor.
• Check to see that the bibliographic information, cover image, blurbs, and endorsements you provided to online retailers and wholesalers have been posted or otherwise used correctly.
• Monitor awards submission deadlines.
Three Weeks Before Publication
• Contact additional print and online media and radio and TV stations for interviews..
• Send review copies with press release and cover letter.
• Review what you’ve accomplished, and begin to map out your next steps.
• Review your budget.
• Send copies of the finished book to the Library of Congress, permissions providers, and other entities who need early copies.
• Meet with your author about launch events, and review the author’s Web site.
On Publication Date
• Take a moment (or several!) to celebrate your efforts.
• Review the status of your book online (Amazon ranking and page, other online stores, inventory levels with your wholesalers or master distributor, Google Alerts, etc.).
• Calendar your next tasks, including when you’ll review early sales and orders, so you can capitalize on your successes.
Cynthia Frank, president of Cypress House, has more than 20 years of experience in writing, publishing, editing, and teaching. A full-service book production and promotion company as well as a royalty house, Cypress House has won national and international awards and grants. If you’d like a copy of the Cypress House author questionnaire, please email your request to Cynthia@cypresshouse.com.