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What to Do When: A Book Marketing and Production Timeline

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What to Do When: A Book Marketing and Production Timeline

by Brian Jud

Did you ever watch experienced workers build a house? They create and consult their blueprints to direct the sequence and timing of events, beginning with the foundation. Without a plan, the process would take longer than necessary, cost more than anticipated, and require duplication of effort to correct mistakes and oversights. There is a direct analogy to the book-publishing process. Failure to plan and perform certain actions in the proper sequence and at the right time could cost you time, money, and wasted effort.

Do not think of the word plan as a noun—that is, a document. Instead, think of it as a verb, a technique to help you organize and direct your thinking and your actions.

The process of planning begins by asking—and answering—questions that stimulate your strategic thinking. What form will the final product take? When will it be published? At what price will it be sold? How will it be distributed? How can we use publicity, advertising, sales promotion, and personal selling techniques, online and otherwise, to promote it through various outlets and mediums? What will all this cost, and how much money can we expect to make? How will all this position us for future growth?

What follows is an example of a book production and  marketing timeline you can use to make planning a creative process that guides your actions as you launch a title. As you follow the steps in order, you will be establishing a foundation on which you can methodically build momentum so that your title is released on time, on budget, and with legs.

As you’ll see, the steps are organized in seven phases. The first two phases—performed six to twelve months before pub date—are devoted to research and strategic planning. The next three have to do with production, distribution, and promotion. Phase six focuses on publication date, and the final phase entails evaluating your efforts and making any necessary changes in strategy or implementation.

Phase 1: Research—At Least 52 Weeks Before Pub Date

Ask and answer the questions below.

Market Planning

Is the industry the book relates to in a growth stage with demand, sales, and profits increasing?

Does the title appeal to more than one reasonably large niche market? Or, will demand in a niche be significant enough to make the venture profitable?

Is there a specific period or date with which pub date should coincide?

 Target Market Planning

Who are the potential customers for the book?

How many people are in the target market? Where are they located? What are their buying habits?

Are there seasonal variations in the target market?

Are potential customers easy to reach because they’re geographically or demographically concentrated?

Does the book’s content fill a market need?

Author’s Strengths

Is the author a recognized authority on the book’s topic or otherwise possessed of credentials that will matter to the targeted readers?

Will the author be involved in and effective at promotion?

The Competition

Does the book have a unique point of difference when compared to similar titles?

Is it priced competitively?

Does a large competitor dominate the market?

Phase 2: Strategy—26 Weeks Before Pub Date

When you have content with a competitive point of difference written by a qualified, promotion-savvy author for people in a specific target market who have demonstrated a need for that content, what’s next?

Ask and answer questions to define the strategies that will guide your production efforts, distribution channels, pricing policies, and promotional tools.

Product Strategies

How many pages should the book have? What size should it be? What type of binding should it have? Will it have illustrations or halftones?

Can the book be produced at a marketable cost?

Will catalog deadlines or other demands mean that there may not be enough time to produce it well?

Is it suitable for rights sales (foreign, serial, movie, and more)?

What checks are in place to ensure that the book will be produced to high quality standards?

Does the manuscript have a good, tested title?

Distribution Strategies

Will the book be distributed through the traditional distributor ? wholesaler ? retailer channels?

What special markets—associations, corporations, book clubs, schools and so on—are suited to the title?

Do existing distribution channels provide suitable access to the book’s markets?

Which current distribution partners will handle this book?

Which additional distribution partners, if any, are needed?

Promotion Strategies

Is the title saleable to your company’s present customers?

Will it get adequate marketing support throughout its expected life cycle?

What strategy will work for marketing it via the Internet?

Financial Strategies

Is the price of the book appropriate in terms of the value its content brings to targeted readers?

Does it have a low breakeven point?

Is the initial print run based on a reasonable forecast?

Will the launch be adequately financed?

Phase 3: Production—4 to 6 Months Before Pub Date

This is the time to finish all rewrites, editing, and indexing; complete the front and back cover designs and the internal layout; assign an ISBN; and otherwise comply with all technical requirements for doing business in the book industry.

Weeks Before

Action Steps    Pub Date

Register the copyright20

Finalize the book’s title20

Seek endorsements20

Send request for quotation (RFQ) to printers18

Edit the manuscript16

Process any illustrations16

Produce cover art mockup for sales force16

Lay pages out16

Submit Advance Book Information (ABI) to Bowker for Books in Print16

Assign ISBN12

Complete CIP data12

Write back-cover copy12

Create bound galleys12

Phase 4: Promotion—3 to 4 Months Before Pub Date

List the general promotion strategies you intend to implement. Think in terms of the four parts of the promotion mix: publicity, advertising, sales promotion, and personal selling on the Internet and otherwise.

Weeks Before

Action Steps    Pub Date

Construct or update the Web site18

Contact relevant book clubs and catalogs16

Choose trade shows at which to exhibit16

Contact magazines about serial rights16

Develop a list of appropriate media and reviewers14

Write editorial fact sheet, sales-brochure copy, and trade-catalog copy14

Create the hook: write press release and/or create press kit (photo,

author bio, sell sheet, sample questions, reviews, articles)14

Send bound galleys to reviewers12

Prepare and place prepublication announcement ads12

Prepare and send direct mail packages8

Produce sales-promotional items8

Provide media training for author8

Contact TV and radio shows and send press kit to interested shows8

Follow up with media by phone or email8

Plan author tours, events, signings8

Send final changes to printer8

Contact newspapers and Web sites about running excerpts8

Phase 5: Distribution—2 to 4 Months Before Pub Date

Update your wholesalers and distributors.

Weeks Before

Action Steps    Pub Date

Create the marketing plan summary to be sent to each distribution


Update wholesalers and distributors for traditional and special

channels (trade bookstores, airport stores, libraries, supermarkets,

drugstores, and so on)12

Phase 6: Launch—The Month Leading Up to Pub Date

The final month before publication is devoted to following up and catching up. Coordinate with your printer, media, distribution partners, buyers, and reviewers to prepare for the launch. Catch up by doing all the miscellaneous tasks that are required to meet your ultimate deadlines.

When your book is finally released, the real work of building and sustaining its momentum begins.

Phase 7: Evaluation—The Life of the Book

Too often, publishers view a marketing plan as a set of tasks that they need to complete. But change in a book’s environment may necessitate changes in marketing moves and so may changes that result from your marketing activity. Evaluate all your actions to determine (1) if they were successful, and (2) if not, why not. Then make whatever changes are required to increase their effectiveness.

Planning is a process, not a document. To enhance a book’s chances for success, create and use this process, performing your actions sequentially and synergistically, from way before publication until way after.

Brian Jud hosts Book Central Station (see Member Benefits of the Month), where you can find rated lists of suppliers,  post your own reviews and add your favorites. For a free trial, go to www.bookmarketingworks.com/judslist/trial.asp. For more information (including information about a free Excel checklist that will automatically calculate the dates in his marketing and production timeline for any given book), email BrianJud@bookmarketing.com; write to him at P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; call 800/562-4357; or visit www.bookmarketing.com.


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