I’ve written several pieces on marketing for authors, but the number one question I get is, “But where do I start?” My answer is usually, “Anywhere, just start somewhere.”
But I understand that marketing is a great big subject, and anywhere is too general. So I’d like to present a self-marketing primer. I’ll tell you exactly what to do, and when to do it.
My advice is YA-centric, because that’s what I write, and generally US-based, because that’s where I live. But I think most of it can apply regardless of your genre or location.
Timeline: Signed Your Contract
Congratulations! You sold your book- now you’re going to wait a while for your revision letter. During this time period:
* Buy your domain name. I suggest starting with your own name, because your book can be featured on your author website. Especially because your title can, and may well, change. Stick with .com if you can; when people randomly guess an URL, they’ll most likely try your name dot com. Try to avoid underscores or hyphens; people don’t guess those and they’re easily forgotten.
* Put together your barebones website, or hire a designer to do it. Your name, a picture of you, the name of your book (once announced,) when it comes out, a nice biography. A contact page with your e-mail address and social media handles is popular too.
* Register your name Facebook, Insta, Tumblr, Twitter. Do this even if you don’t want to maintain all of those. Do it because it prevents someone else from using your name on those platforms.
* Start blogging/Tweeting/Bookstagramming– whichever one you want to do. But please, only do the ones you *want* to do. People recognize compulsory participation, and why make yourself miserable? If you’re particularly politically active, Twitter is a very popular choice for YA authors.
* Start building your mailing lists– the hard copy kind, where you’ll want to send postcards/review copies/etc.. Start with all the independent booksellers in your region. Then build a list of independent booksellers in the region where you set your book. Now do the same for public libraries in your region.
Then, if you’re YA or MG, you can build a list of all the high schools and middle schools in your immediate area. Is your book a well-served genre? Build a list of those genre stores throughout the country. You now have four or five mailing lists, numbering somewhere from 75-300 addresses on each.
*No need to sign up with postage clubs these days. You can Click & Print postage on the USPS website for no additional fees. This works best if you stick to Priority Mail packages, because they all go at flat rates. However, you can use a kitchen scale to weigh packages, so you can ship Media Mail and standard First Class, as well.
* While on the USPS website, you can order Flat Rate mailing envelopes and books. The USPS will send you priority mailing supplies FOR FREE. You can also buy rolls of postage– this comes in handy if you do postcard mailers.
* Buy a box of Avery 5160/8160 labels. You’re going to burn through a lot of them.
Timeline: Got Your ARCs
* Buy your book’s title domain name. Redirect it to point to your author website if you don’t want to make a dedicated website for it.
* ARCs are not for your friends and family. Either take these in person to your local indies to introduce yourself, or mail them to your local indies to introduce yourself. You can also give one to your local newspaper, and your local librarian.
If you have a metric buttload of ARCs, you might give one or two away on your blog. SAVE THE REST, because invariably, someone will be hosting a contest/charity event/something big and ask you for an ARC. You want to have one available for that. (These are not for reviewer-hosted ARC tours, either. Use author copies for that.)
* Start planning your launch party, if you want to have one. Many booksellers need at least six months’ lead time for you to have an event in their store. Make those connections and arrangements now.
* Is your cover art final and public? Are you sure? Once your editor signs off on it, you need to make your cover synonymous with you. It should be your background on Twitter, your avatar everywhere, everything. If you can post somewhere, and there’s an image to identify you, it should be your cover art.
* Design, or hire a designer, to create bookmarks and postcards for you. (Even if you’re not design-inclined, you can use free programs like Canva.com to put together something that looks great.) The front of the postcard should simply be your cover. A bookmark front can be more artistic, as long as your cover shows up somewhere. The back of your bookmark and postcard should include:
- Your title
- Your name
- Your house
- Your ISBN 13
- Your URL
If you want to include a synopsis, or blurbs from other authors, or special details, or your photo, that’s fine. But those are extra- it really must feature everything above. Leave room for a personal message on the postcards, because…
* Now is an excellent time to start writing your postcards. Note I say writing. You need to wait until your book is in the house catalog before you send anything to booksellers. So address your postcards, and start writing, BY HAND, a personal message on each.
- Your region postcards: I’m a local author living in X, and I hope you’ll consider my novel Y for (YOUR STORE NAME).
- Setting region postcards: I’m (NAME) and my novel Y is set in Z, and I hope you’ll consider it for (YOUR STORE NAME).
- Public Libraries: Same as region card, only you hope they’ll consider them for their collection.
- Schools: I’m a (YA/MG) author and my YA/MG novel Y is coming out (DATE). I will be available for school visits (DATE).
- Genre Indies: My novel X is (YOUR GENRE) and I hope you’ll consider it for (YOUR STORE NAME).
* Think about (and perhaps order) your schwag. Stickers, rubber bracelets, dog tags, custom candy- whatever you want to give away when you do signings and bookseller mailers, start thinking about it now. Non-perishable items can be ordered now as well.
(The longer you write books, the less of this stuff you’ll buy– but you may as well go all out on your first!)
Timeline: Your Book is in the Catalog
* Mail your postcards. There is no point in mailing these until booksellers and librarians can order your book.
* Put together bookseller mailings. Your contract should tell you how many author copies you’ll be getting- those aren’t for friends and family, either. Half of those author copies, you’re going to sign. You’re going to put them in an envelope with some bookmarks and some of your schwag, with a personal note, to independent booksellers.
But you don’t actually HAVE your author copies yet. This is working ahead so you don’t feel rushed when they arrive (usually a month before your book comes out.)
Choose stores in your region, or your genre, or that you’ve heard about. Just make sure they’re stores that carry your kind of book, otherwise you’re wasting time and money. Now write a personal note, BY HAND, and introduce yourself and your book to the bookseller. Put the address labels on, and put these aside until your author copies arrive.
* If you want to have an online giveaway surrounding your book, start planning it now. Start buying the prizes now, as well. You don’t want to have to scramble at the last minute to find things that relate to your book.
* Add your book to the Young Adult Books Central database. You can also upload press releases, news, and other details here.
Next Time: Timeline: Author Copies, Timeline: Debut, Timeline: 3 Months Later, Timeline: Holidays
(Most recently updated July 11, 2018)