Writers in the Storm

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January 14, 2019

Exactly When Is the Best Time to Begin Your Book Marketing?

Penny Sansevieri

People ask me all the time when they should begin marketing book. So when is really the best time to start? Any book writing and marketing resource will say sooner rather than later. But how soon is too soon? Let’s examine this further.

First, not only is it important to understand where this advice comes from, it’s also important to understand the ways that publishing timelines have evolved throughout the years.

Most people who suggest marketing your book early are in traditional publishing because they have other factors that they need to deal with. For example, if you’re with, let’s say, Simon & Schuster, and you have a fall release for your book, they’ll probably need to pitch you to bookstores in March. You’ll have ARCs (advanced review copies) early in the year. Bookstores and other retailers like Walmart and Costco need to determine which books they will or won’t stock reasonably early since fall is one of the busiest seasons of the year.

What about magazines? It used to be that magazines closed issues six to eight months out and could only close an issue once all the advertising was sold for that issue. As times have changed, advertising sales aren’t what they used to be, and sometimes these issues don’t close until three months before their actual “on sale” dates. Sometimes, they’ll even close two months out. I’d suggest a timetable of three to four months as a reliable marker for pitching magazines for a review.

Of course, there are exceptions, like significant calendar events such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The magazines that cover this topic will need their content six months out in most cases. Care to take a guess which time of the year is most competitive for a magazine to get published in or receive coverage? That’s right, a magazine’s Christmas or holiday issue, and I’d definitely advise pitching these early.

If targeting magazines for the holiday shopping season are something you’re planning for, you’ll need to start marketing your book well in advance, because everyone wants to be involved in them. I’d put this in the six-month lead time window, too. Keep in mind any major anniversaries coming up such as the 20th anniversary of XYX or whatever, will see a massive surge of attention and these magazines will need the information very early on, also. (Are you ready for big media coverage? Find out how you fare!)

Magazine Editorial Calendars

If targeting magazines are in your book marketing plans (and they should be), you can get a jump start on what they’re looking for by getting their editorial calendars. Editorial calendars are a highly accessible and valuable resource for you. They’ll tell you the magazine focus for the entire year, as well as when issues are closing, which you can use to your advantage to punch up your pitching. I’ll list a few below, but a quick search of the name of the magazine and “editorial calendar” on Google will pull up pretty much anything you’ll need.

Another useful aspect of editorial calendars is that they’ll show you the magazine’s demographics, which helps determine if you’re hitting the right audience for your book.

Redbook is by far one of my favorites because it shows not only the “theme” of the issue but what the various departments are covering. Check out: http://www.redbookmediakit.com/r5/showkiosk.asp?listing_id=4925437&category_id=18968

O Magazine shows its demographics, which is crucial since everyone wants to get coverage in Oprah’s magazine. Make sure it’s the right target though before you pitch them: http://www.omediakit.com/r5/home.asp#rates

First for Women, another personal pitching favorite of mine has a separate segment for demographics and ads, which tells you when a magazine is closing. http://www.bauerpromotions.com/bauerpublishing/mediakits/FFW-2018dates.pdf

Let’s look at a different market than women’s interest as another example. Popular Mechanics works hard planning their issues and themes throughout the year. Have a look: http://www.popularmechanicsmediakit.com/hotdata/publishers/popularme2610043/popularmecha7335/pdfs/media-kit-2018.pdf

Newspapers, Dailies, and Freelancers

Let’s not forget about newspapers and freelancers who write for a variety of publications nationwide. You should prepare to pitch these folks one to two months out, with two months being ideal. They don’t have as much flexibility as a magazine might since some have a shorter lead time than others, but they do like to get materials in advance of the publication date so they can fit it in accordingly. Just remember that the bigger the newspaper or daily, the farther out you’ll want to target.

Here is a list of the top ten national newspapers. Keep in mind that some of these, like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, are considered national and will have long lead times, much like magazines do:

  1. The Wall Street Journal
  2. The New York Times
  3. Chicago Tribune
  4. New York Post
  5. Los Angeles Times
  6. Washington Post
  7. Newsday (New York)
  8. The Mercury News (Bay Area, California)
  9. East Bay Times (Bay Area, California)
  10. Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

National vs. Local Media

It’s also important to know the difference between pitching local media vs. national media. Local media is in (or around) your hometown, as opposed to, let’s say, the Chicago Tribune (which as I said before, needs a longer lead time).

With most local media, a 30-day lead time is pretty standard. You should include them in your pre-publication pitching and post-publication pitching since local press covers regional stories and loves their local authors.

Another aspect of local media that I love is the regional factor, as mentioned earlier, even if the outlet isn’t specifically in your town but still close by; there’s still a good chance you’ll get coverage. So, for example, if I have a great retirement topic, I might pitch local publications in high retirement areas.

National Broadcast Media and Radio

My advice would be to pitch these folks two to three months before your publication date, but you should be fine with just two. Once again, the exception is anniversaries or significant calendar dates or events.

Bloggers and Online Media

I’d put them on the one-month notification list, but start marketing your book to them two months before if you’re going for a very prominent blogger.

ARCs vs. Final Books: What’s Better for Marketing Your Book?

ARCs (also referred to as book galleys) are early copies of a book that usually aren’t fully edited and may or may not contain the finalized book covers. Most of the time, if I’m pitching a book for pre-publication and I don’t have a cover, it’s fine. I’ll go back and fill in the pitch with the finalized cover with a link to it from the author’s media room on their website. I don’t suggest sending the final cover as an attachment.

If you’re pitching very early for, let’s say a December/holiday issue, and your book is not finished, working on your cover is very important. Why? Although a cover should always be interesting and exciting, holiday issues are especially “pretty” and your book cover should connect with the holiday to which it’s geared.

You can—and should—also use electronic copies, which can be a convenient way to deliver a book quickly and easily. We use BookFunnel for this, but BookSprout is also a great place to consider, too.

Should You Pitch Magazines for Review if You’re an Indie Author?

Absolutely! The only catch is that your book must be marvelous and captivating. We’ve had indie authors in most major magazines, TV shows, and newspapers, but their books were a perfect fit for that market. Making your book the best it can be isn’t just for the benefit of your readers, but for the media also.

Libraries, Bookstores, and Distribution

Once again, pitch them early. Just remember that bookstore stocking in national stores is challenging and very competitive. Consider pitching indie stores in your area and check their websites to see how early you can pitch them. Most will go two months out and it’s the same for libraries and distributors.

Your Website

Make sure your website is online and accessible two months before publication (but ideally three). It doesn’t matter if you’re not marketing or pitching your book early—your website should still be active with enough time in advance for when your book is released.

Your Email List

Have an email list all ready to go? Tell people about your book two months out, including when they can purchase it and where. If you have any special offers, start to whet their appetite for those as well. Now is the time to research how to start building an email list if you don’t already have one.

Timing Is Everything

The timeline for book promotion marketing has changed somewhat over time. Some resources will swear you should plan a year out, but the reality is quite different. Planning is a crucial aspect your book marketing. If you can’t hit all of these targets, then go after the ones you can and vow to start earlier the next time.

The phrase, “Timing is everything” especially holds true for your book launch. Planning, preparation, and research are vital aspects to the success of your campaign. By starting early and knowing the right timelines, you’ll achieve much better results. L

Lots of great info here - are you going to try any this year?

About Penny

Author Marketing

Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and her company, visit www.amarketingexpert.com

21 comments on “Exactly When Is the Best Time to Begin Your Book Marketing?”

  1. Penny, this is so useful that I actually copied it into a file that I can refer to later, when I've finished the draft of my current novel. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this info.

        1. It depends on your browser. (And I'm on a laptop, not a phone.) On Google Chrome, there's a 5-point star on the right-hand side of the search bar; clicking that adds the site to your bookmarks. In Microsoft Edge, to the right of the search bar is a 3-point star with 3 lines, and clicking that opens up the settings to add something to favorites. In Opera, there's a heart on the right-hand side of the search bar; clicking it adds the site to bookmarks. And if you're on an Apple, I have no idea what to tell you. 🙂

  2. Thank you, Penny, for this invaluable information. I will share the link with my writing group. We're all at different levels in our writing journey and this info will certainly help us when we are ready to take that big step into the publishing world.

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