The Beginner-Proof Book Promo Plan
Self-publishing is a lot more than simply writing and making your books available. If you don’t have a good promotion plan for your releases, readers won’t get a chance to learn about your books, and your sales will inevitably fall flat.
This puts new writers at a disadvantage. When do you start promoting your book? What levels should you promote it at, and what time frame are you looking at? The details vary depending on your books, your audience, and you as a writer. There aren’t any hard and fast rules about how this is supposed to work, but here’s a general timeline for reference:
Phase 1: Editing
Some people will tell you that there is no such thing as too early to promote. As soon as you draft your books, or even as soon as you come up with the concept behind your next project, you should start to promote it. I agree that there's some merit to this approach, but if you're starting out, it's best to wait until you have reached a solid editing phase of your book before you start to gather an audience around it.
This is because the early editing rounds tend to be drastic and can easily lead to dramatic cuts and alterations to your story. Favorite characters might be cut out, and important scenes might be changed to the point of being unrecognizable in the final draft. When you start pitching your book to readers, you don't want to promise one thing and then have it disappear by the time your novel hits the shelves.
When your editing reaches the later proof-reading segments and you know how your story goes, focus on building up your social media accounts and readership. Building your platform online includes a lot of socializing but should not include any selling or specific pitching. You're just trying to meet people right now and form connections with those who might be interested in your writing further down the road.
If you're new to writing, it's also a good idea to find groups of other writers that you can hang out with. These groups can be online or in person. Meeting other, more successful writers and seeing them in action can give you ideas for how to boost your own platform. These networks can also provide valuable access to cross-promotions when you need them.
Phase 2: Before You Publish
When your book is ready to go and you’ve decided it’s time to plant a release date in your planner, take a moment to send an advanced review copy (ARC) to your early readers. You might send a near-final draft to team of beta readers to get last-minute input before you complete your formatting and uploading to your distributing platforms. Alternatively, you can send your book off to book review bloggers or a street team exchange for reviews on opening day.
Note: Many book review bloggers and reviewers need extra time to work because of their massive slush piles. You might need to delay your release by another month or so to allow them to read. Beta readers and street team readers should have at least a few weeks to read through your book, more or less depending on how long your book is.
While you're waiting for readers to review your book, decide what paid promotion options you want to go with. You might be able to set them up ahead of time so that on release day, you'll be ready to go.
Phase 3: Launch Day
The day your book comes out should be comparatively relaxed, since you’ve (hopefully) done all the necessary prep work well in advance. Send out a final email to your street team to let them know that you've launched and that they can post their reviews. This is also the day when you want to start your paid promos. You should continue to actively promote your book for the first few weeks after your launch. Make sure your promos and advertisements are appropriately set up and ready to go when you need them.
Otherwise, take some time off and celebrate your new book!
Phase 4: First Month
Throughout your first month, maintain and check up on what you started on your launch day. Review every method you’ve used to gain readers, and check to see which promotions are bringing you the best returns. Partway into your first month, shift your promotion strategies so that you are optimizing your more successful tactics will not wasting any more money on those that don't work.
If you can keep your book in a top-selling position for several weeks in a row, you'll get a bestseller badge from Amazon. This is a great thing to have as an indie author and worth fighting for, as it validates you to readers in the future, so keep those promos rolling.
If you want, this is also a good time to start working on your next book--if you haven't already begun. Don’t waste any time in this process!
Phase 5: Second Month Onward
Sooner or later, every new book’s sales start to decline. After your book has been out for several weeks and has hopefully claimed the best seller badge on Amazon, it's time to rotate around your publishing plan and start again from the top. Go public about your new project and focus on wrapping it up and editing it so you can dominate your next release.
If you’re writing a longer series or have been publishing books for a while, you can get more book-specific earlier in the process. Otherwise, focus more on socializing with writers and readers and again building a solid platform for your next book.
As you can see, this isn’t something you’ll achieve overnight. Your publishing plan should operate on a more-or-less rotating schedule that you can effectively balance while writing and editing a work in progress. Familiarize yourself with the steps and schedule your publishing plan ahead of time so that the process won’t overwhelm you when you reach it.
What does your publishing and promotion schedule look like? Please share in the comments below or join my Facebook group for further discussion. I’d love to get in touch!