Publishing 101: Authors’ Release Phase Marketing

Today, the Publishing 101 series takes a look at release phase marketing in the author’s journey.

As I mentioned last week, this series will look only briefly at author marketing, but we’ll come back to the issue. The next series, which will start in April or May (as soon as this one finishes) will focus on effective author marketing.

In its most expansive definition, “release phase” starts when pre-orders go live, but you won’t start the heavy lifting that early. 

Release Phase Marketing starts, in its earliest sense when your book can be “purchased” (which includes pre-orders) and continues through the first few weeks after release. This is the phase when most sales are made – and smart authors should have a marketing plan.

The early release phase – during pre-orders – is a good time to work on setting up your website and establishing yourself on social media.

If you don’t already have a website, you should get one in place before pre-orders go live. A website give you a platform to talk about your book(s), share blurbs and reviews, and link to sales pages. If you have expanded author notes or extra content (I do) this is a great place to post and share that also.

Remember: an author’s website is more than just an advertisement with a URL. It should offer valuable extra content, too.

During the time between pre-orders going live and the book’s release date, you (and your publisher, if they’re helping) should set up your author appearances. Around release, authors usually make in-person appearances (signings), online appearances (blogs/interviews) or both. Be sure to schedule appearances well in advance, because bloggers, reviewers and bookstores have schedules too.

The types of appearances you make will depend on your book, its distribution, and the best way to reach your target audience. In many cases, signings in bookstores work best for local authors who can “draw a crowd” or established authors readers come out to see. Many debut authors feel disappointed with low signing attendance … but that’s normal. People need to get to know you. If people don’t know you, increasing your online footprint can help familiarize readers with your name. Blogs and online interviews are great for this.

Try to schedule 2-3 appearances per week during the 2-3 weeks before your book releases, one appearance per day on release week (a “blog tour” is a great way to handle this) and 2-3 per week for the two weeks after release. If you work, or can’t manage that many, just do what you can. Quality is more important than quantity.

Also, remember: an “appearance” should not be the online equivalent of running naked through the street yelling “LOOK AT MY GOODS!”

But HOW do I get these appearances?

Several ways:

Your platform and relationship building in the months before release will create friendships and contacts who will help you in release phase. The key is giving value in advance. If you form genuine connections – not just fakery aimed at promoting yourself – you’ll find that you have the contacts you need to help promote your work around release.

Contact your friends–fellow authors and bloggers–and ask if you can borrow a blog for an interview or a guest post. Your publisher may know authors and bloggers willing to help you, too. Finally, you can pay for a “blog tour” from a reputable company specializing in helping authors with release-phase marketing.

Paid advertising is also an option, and one many authors use in one form or another. For time purposes, I’m deferring that discussion to the next series.

Keep three things in mind when drafting a release phase marketing plan:

1. Provide Value With Your Promotion. The new paradigm is less about “BUY MY BOOK” and more about dialogue. People don’t like to be “sold” – but they like to buy, and they buy the things they consider valuable or interesting.

2. Make a Schedule You Can Stick To. Take note of how much time you can spend, and don’t over-commit.

3. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck. Use your resources as efficiently as possible – and remember that bloggers and readers are PEOPLE first.

In author marketing, especially during the excitement of release phase, it’s important to remember that publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not all about the opening dash, and people remember the way you behave. On every possible level … make it count.

Next week, this blog and my twitter feed will look at “what an author does when the party’s over” – post-release (aka, postpartum) marketing.

In the meantime, if you have questions about this or other publishing law or business issues, please feel free to ask in the comments–I love to hear from readers.