In this monthly feature, we seek out helpful answers from publishing experts to questions posed by our members.
Q: What is the ideal timeline for pre-publication marketing? — Jennifer Geist, Publisher, Pen & Publish, Brick Mantel Books, Open Books Press, and Transformation Media Books, St. Louis, Missouri
Corinne Moulder, Director of Business Development, Smith Publicity, Inc.
A: To determine the proper timeline for pre-publication publicity initiatives, you have to first evaluate each medium’s timeline for coverage. Before you begin advanced outreach, you’ll want to be sure you have the following items in place:
- Printed galleys/advance review copies
- Professional press release(s)
- Pre-order options to purchase your book
Glossy magazines, book trade publications, and newspapers (pitch five months in advance): Publisher’s Weekly; Library Journal; O, The Oprah Magazine; the New York Times; and similar titles are all highly regarded book review outlets. To give yourself the best chance at securing a book-centric review or coverage around the launch of your book, you’ll want to initiate outreach to the most appropriate contact at these desired outlets roughly five months in advance of the publication date. Keep in mind that monthlies, trade journals, and glossy magazines are, by far, the outlets that require the most time to see initial interest turn over for coverage, so if there is a particular event, holiday, or season you’d like to tie your book to, work backwards five to six months to time your pitch.
National TV and radio (pitch two- to three- months in advance): Producers at competitive national and syndicated broadcast programs, such as NPR, TODAY Show, Good Morning America, and most cable satellite programs, for instance, prefer to receive advance notice of forthcoming titles that may connect with their audience. Pitching your author and the book roughly two- to three-months in advance of the release date allows producers to consider how they’ll incorporate the interview into their schedule. When pitching to broadcast producers, remember, “You can’t interview a book!” It is critical to highlight what makes the author an interesting interviewee. Draw on concepts from the book that relate to upcoming awareness holidays, seasonal tie-ins, and social trends and provide a number of talking points.
Local media—print and broadcast (pitch two months in advance): Local media coverage is a fantastic starting point for most new authors. It gives authors the opportunity to start building their media résumé and establish their reader network. Local media contacts want to cover topics and people who have a serious connection to the local audience, so when pitching, be sure to sell the author—identify any involvement in the community (provide names of places the author volunteers at, groups they belong to, fundraisers they participate in, and the like), where they work, upcoming local events you’re hosting for the book, and so on.
Online news media, online book review sites, and influential genre bloggers (pitch one- to two-months in advance): Online outlets tend to require the least amount of time to overturn coverage, so you can hold off on distributing advance release copies and pitching online news media and genre bloggers until much closer to the launch of your book. With bloggers and online book reviewers in particular, be sure you’re researching and pitching to the most genre-specific contacts possible—you’re likely to receive negative reviews if you falsely position the book within a genre where it simply doesn’t belong.
Fauzia Burke, Founder and President, FSB Associates
A: Our firm, FSB Associates, promotes books and authors online with our web publicity campaigns starting a couple of months before a publication date. Authors are excited about the publication of their book and usually nervous about the book launch; this is when we have a conversation about their digital assets. More often than not, an author will discover that they should have a personal website or their current website doesn’t represent their work in the best way possible. In such cases, we talk about social media, blogging, and mailing lists to help promote their work. Some authors are prepared and excited to inform me that they have been blogging and engaging on social media for years, but most times I hear, “No one told me to do that,” or, “My publisher told me to build an author platform but I didn’t know how.”
The challenge for authors is not finding out early enough that they should be building an online brand. I encourage authors to start a conversation online as soon as they have an idea for a book. Most often it takes 18 months to two years before authors can see the fruits of their labor.
Understandably so, the challenge for publishers is that they don’t have the time or staff to help each author learn these online tools and help build their brand. It is unfair to expect publishers to help every author regardless of the author’s level and interest in marketing. Publishers can amplify an author’s existing message, but it’s not realistic to expect them to walk every author through each step of building an online marketing platform from scratch.
This information gap—how authors can build an online presence—is exactly why I wrote my book, Online Marketing for Busy Authors. Most authors I work with are not marketers but they are motivated to learn. Often, authors just need some direction and guidance once they sign a contract.
An author’s online brand serves them in everything they do. Authors need to go to their publisher months before publication with online marketing assets in place and audience engagement buzz humming. An established brand with a loyal following can open doors to unexpected opportunities. Publishers should realize that authors who are prepared with a robust online presence are the best sales tool they have.
About the Author:
Publisher Jennifer Geist heads Pen & Publish, Open Books Press, Transformation Media Books, and Brick Mantel Books, where she sees every book from acquisitions to publication and beyond. She has worked with numerous small presses and her stories and photos are published in a variety of literary magazines.