Planning a successful book launch involves multiple moving pieces and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s where this final book launch tool becomes so important. (If you haven’t already, check out part one and part two on this topic.)
Tool #7: Pull all the scattered pieces of your book launch plan together into a comprehensive timeline with items to check off as you get them done. While the following framework provides a good start, you will need to personalize it to fit your genre, specific book, and publisher. A traditionally published book with a year-long lead time (or more) for printing will be a little different than an indie book which can be published as soon as the files are complete and therefore may create a shorter launch window. Not to mention, your non-fiction book’s topic or fiction’s theme may be ideal for a certain time of year and you would need to adjust the schedule accordingly.
Essentially, a book launch plan is divided into three parts. The pre-launch things you do to get ready, build a buzz, and drum up pre-orders. The launch day or week full of parties, giveaways, and the bulk of your guest blog posts. After a few weeks, the launch shifts into post-launch mode with a periodic focus on more guest blogs, great reviews, and eventually spreading the word about temporary price discounts. As dates get circled and scheduled on your calendar, it helps to work backward to set yourself due dates so you can prepare as much in advance as possible. Guest blogs, memes, and tweets can all be created and scheduled even months ahead, therefore freeing up your mental energy and stamina for the chaotic launch celebration. (You can find a sample timeline based on the following description on the first tab of this FREE book launch spreadsheet.)
When planning a book launch, the first thing you start with is the release date so you can count backward. I do know of a few indie authors who have counted backward on their calendars, and then moved their scheduled release date in order to give themselves time to get everything done. For my debut novel with a new imprint, we were so far ahead on our preparations that my release date got moved up a month. So, a release date might end up being changed, but since it’s the essential pivot point in your plans, start there. Like discussed in an earlier section, it’s important to have a central place for all of your planning especially for anything with a date attached to it.
Next, develop a budget and establish a ceiling amount. The biggest expense will likely be review copies so find out how many free author copies or ARCs you will have to work with, then work to get early readers who are willing to read ebook formats instead to multiply your reach with less cost. When budgeting for review copies, factor in the price of mailing envelopes and postage too because even the media mail rate can add up quickly. (Bonus hint: Media mail includes tracking and still gets there within a week so you really don’t need to pay double or triple the price to get a book delivered a few days sooner.) Another large portion of your budget will be spent on the prizes for giveaways or contests so establish a dollar amount that also includes the cost of postage and mailers in order to avoid unpleasant surprises later. With those two important items out of the way, you’ll be able to allocate funds toward other potential expenses like Facebook ads, a physical party location, blog tour scheduling, or hiring a publicist.
With your timeline and budget set, begin immediately to recruit your launch team and reviewers list. The biggest reviewers generally want an ARC four to six months in advance. Depending on your publisher’s own preferences, endorsements are usually sought at least four to six months prior to release in order to get them included in the interior copy and on the cover. A large lead time is also needed when scheduling a blog tour, especially if you are hiring someone to do it for you. Even if you are scheduling it yourself, you may need to settle for your second or third choice of date but don’t worry if it falls weeks outside your launch window, any exposure about your book is good exposure, especially if it’s free.
If you have the budget and a non-fiction topic that lends itself to media interviews, the last big piece of the puzzle to nail down now is to hire a publicist. They will have their own timeline to either add to or coordinate with yours, meaning even more dates to circle on or add to your calendar as you write and send out press releases, develop media kits, and prepare for interviews.
At about four months out, start collecting a list of a couple dozen teaser quotes from your book and create memes for several of them. These can be preloaded into Twitter and Facebook using a scheduling app and begun to be trickled out very slowly at the rate of one or two per week for now. Once you have blog tour stops scheduled and receive the host’s guidelines, it’s never too early to get a jump start on writing those posts and answering the interview questions. Aim for having all of your guest posts finished and submitted to the hosts by at least a month before launch because it will be one less thing to think about when the pressure starts to build. This next thing is completely optional, but if it is something you would like to do, now is also a good time to either create or hire someone to create a book trailer.
Depending on your publisher’s timeline, plan to create some buzz when you reveal your book’s cover image. I have seen some authors post teasers on social media with tiny zoomed in glimpses over a few days leading up to a blog post with the whole thing. I have also seen a mini-blog tour featuring those cover snippets ending with the author’s personal blog featuring the entire cover. Other authors have sent their email subscribers the exclusive first glimpse before starting to share it on social media. However you choose to handle it, know that the energy and excitement surrounding a beautiful cover can easily be turned into sales if you have a pre-order link available to promote at the same time. If you’ve got a creative launch team, have them help you brainstorm ideas for a cover reveal. Then, once you’ve revealed your cover, add it to your social media and website banners. During the launch window, many authors actually change their profile picture to reflect the book cover. We are visual creatures, so the more times someone sees your cover, the more likely it is to stick into their memories and something they should look into.
Two months ahead: Add a little frequency to the trickle of quotes from the book and mix it up by sharing a few early review or endorsement quotes as they are available. If you simply add the pre-order link to those quotes, it’s easy for folks to jump over and buy a copy. However, keep up more of a trickle pace so there’s room to build plus you’ll still want to keep up a non-buy-my-book ratio of posts going. Your book will dominate the feed right around the launch, so don’t burn out your audience now. Just offer a sprinkling of little hints and teasers. Adding a countdown widget to the sidebar of your blog or website is also an easy way to start building anticipation in future readers.
Now is also a good time to order your swag items like custom thank you notes, bookmarks, or postcards. Make sure you’ve got your review copies ready to send out and then get them on their way to reviewers with a request for early reviews to be put onto Goodreads. It’s also a good time to plan your party prize list and then make sure you have also ordered or requested enough copies of your book to fulfill all your blog tour prizes and other giveaways with more on hand for other opportunities as they crop up. Speaking of giveaways, once you have a cover and Amazon pre-order link, you can make sure your book is added to Goodreads and then schedule a pre-launch giveaway to end on either launch day or within that first week.
If you haven’t done so already, work on a batch of promotional graphics and then start feeding information to your launch team. They’ll need access to memes and quotes as well as a schedule of what you’ve got planned so they’ll know what they should help promote and when. They can promote the Goodreads giveaway and pre-orders right away with the party and blog tour later. If your team members have their own platforms, they’ll need to balance your posts with their own so the more information they have available, the better.
One month ahead: At this point, all the review copies and blog tour materials should already be sent. If not, that’s top priority. Set up a ThunderClap or similar social media blast so you can start recruiting people to donate a tweet or post. Finalize your party plans, order any additional prizes, and start working on your script of activities and questions along with online graphics for each or physical decorations if you’re going that route. Once the party event is set up, you can start inviting people to come. If it’s an online party, this can also be part of another email to your list subscribers inviting them to be part of the launch festivities as well as recruiting their help with the crowd-speaking campaign.
Thirty days until launch is a great time to start sharing your countdown with the world via social media posts that your launch team can share. Script a variety of calls-to-action and intersperse them with trivia bits about your characters and setting or startling statistics related to your non-fiction topic. Plan your personal blog posts to create even more interest in the book with character interviews or photos from your research trip.
Twenty-five days to go. T-minus twenty-one days. Nineteen days until kickoff. Seventeen days until the curtain rises on Opening Day. Fifteen days until the ship sails. Be creative with your posts and find ways to tie the countdown to the theme or setting of your book. Also, strategically build momentum as you go with occasional invitations to join your crowd-speaking campaign to help spread the word, go pre-order their copy now before they forget, enter the Goodreads giveaway, or RSVP for the party. Focus on only one purpose for each post and resist the temptation to put everything in one post or else folks will get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing.
If you’re going to emphasize one area over any others, promote pre-orders because they will count as official sales on launch day and therefore boost your ranking and improve visibility on Amazon once you’re a “hot new read.” One nice thing about promoting giveaways and parties while also asking for help in sharing the word is that it naturally reminds people about your book without begging them to actually buy it.
One week ahead: Use those scheduling tools and make sure all of your basic social media posts and blog posts are covered for a few weeks. If you schedule a post from inside Facebook, you have the option to also boost certain posts (per your budget) therefore avoiding the approval lag time. You will be very busy elsewhere and the more you can check off your usual to-do list, the better. This includes cooking ahead and stocking your freezer with easy-to-heat meals.
This week is your last push for pre-orders and inviting people to the party so you might want to boost a few of those posts for more visibility or create true ads. If you haven’t hit your crowd-speaking support goal, ask for more people to join in or share the invitation. (Even if you have already hit the goal, more support never hurts, plus it might remind the procrastinators that they’ve been meaning to get over to Amazon and order your book.) You could also use the countdown to the end of your Goodreads giveaway to generate more buzz and shares while perhaps offering a teaser glimpse at the launch week prizes available at the party or on the blog tour. See how all these pieces of your plan start to fit together?
Behind the scenes, it’s a good time to send an email reminder to your reviewers that it’s almost time to post their reviews on Amazon and perhaps include a fabulous quote from an early review as you express your appreciation for their willingness to help out. Again, if you’ve got any procrastinators in the bunch, this becomes a subtle reminder to bump your book to the top of the list. Also check in with your launch team with a huge thanks for all of their help so far (ahem, nicely reminding the slackers that it’s not too late to get started) and making sure they know the schedule for the next week. Communication is key.
A day or so before your release day, check to see if Amazon is accepting reviews on the print copy yet and prepare to notify your reviewers team in case they can get a jump start. The main thing to promote right now is the party with the implied promotion of the book. The other main thing is to try to sleep or rest because the real chaos is just beginning.
Launch day and the next few weeks: If haven’t already, notify your reviewers to start posting and then over the next few days, share a few great quotes paired with links-to-buy so it’s easy for those who are interested in the book to actually click through and buy it. Because you have already taken care of other social media and blog posts and even meals for your family, you can focus completely on your party event and scheduled blog tour stops. Make sure to stop by leave comments to interact with potential readers, answer questions, and generally just thank them—and the host!—for being a part of your book launch. The same can be said for following up, commenting, liking, and/or sharing any tweets or posts where your launch team has mentioned either you or your book.
With the rise of video, consider doing a Facebook Live video to share the happy emotion of launching a book and perhaps even a little glimpse into the planning and hard work in order to showcase your humanity. There will also be spontaneous opportunities to gush about that latest review, celebrate milestones like being labeled a “hot new release” on Amazon, or to announce that it’s the last day to enter the giveaway.
Over the next month: As the time-sensitive buzz starts to dwindle, scale back your social media focus from intense promotion to just a trickle about the book and more of an emphasis (again) on others, life in general, and helpful resources for your audience. As the parties and contests end, you’ll start to have a list of prize winners to contact and packages to mail. It’s also the right time to send those thank you notes and/or gifts to your reviewers and launch team members. Since you’ve been (or should have been) keeping track of the links to guest blogs and online reviews, now is a good time to update your website with outbound links to those sites.
As the pre-scheduled posts end and the freezer empties of prepared meals, life will settle back into a normal rhythm of consistent platform interactions while writing or editing a new book. Except now you’ll be adding a long-term and ongoing marketing strategy to your regular activities.
If you haven’t downloaded it already, get your FREE book launch planning spreadsheet.
(NOTE: If you found this post helpful, pass it on! The entire blog series is now collected into a single book here.)