Welcome back both those who have pursued self-publishing and those who have an agent and possibly a publisher. This lesson will be divided between pre-marketing and marketing at release, focusing on social media. The next lesson will be on getting reviews/reviewers.

So, for those of you waiting that nearly two years on a publisher to put your book out and those of you in the process of self-publishing, let’s talk about a basic pre-marketing timeline. There is one golden, unbreakable rule:


If you have nothing yet to sell, this is who your audience is

You don’t need to know the date. But you need to be in the finishing stages of editing if self-publishing, or have signed with a publisher for the legacy writers. This is when you know it will come out, albeit there is one caveat for the legacy crew. It has happened (to me personally and thousands of writers) that during the editing process with a publisher an unresolvable disagreement arises and your contract is canceled. To make sure you don’t market a book only to have this happen, WAIT UNTIL YOUR COVER IS FINISHED. For both indies and traditionals, this is the point of no return when you are certain your book is coming out.

Before you begin, there is a checklist of materials/information to have for pre-marketing:

Title of your book
Genre it fits within (as specific as possible!)
Short description
List of similar authors
List of similar books
A Twitter account
A FaceBook account
A free writing website account (i.e. Literotica, etc)

With all that in hand you have the basics. A Google+ account is nice, but nobody’s on there so it is not necessary. LinkedIn and Goodreads accounts will be talked about soon, let’s ignore them for now.

In your first step, make a plan. Market in advance to gain interest, but not too far in advance that you can’t keep potential readers interested. For indie authors, I would suggest 2-3 months before the publishing date, for legacy I’d suggest 4-6 months (however, keep it sparse 3-6 months).

Yeah, this is a lesson where you want to take notes

For this plan, let’s focus on a 3 month campaign. In month 3 in the countdown you want to gain as wide an audience as possible. In month 2 you want to issue teasers. In month 1 you want to do direct hits. We’ll explain this all thoroughly in a breakdown.

In step two, you’re in month three and want to build up followers. Got that free writing account? Start posting frequently. Good, edited content, full stories! Keep your established fans interested and gain new ones. Create on your profile links to your social media and if possible add these links in the stories. Stay out of forums! I myself am having this issue currently: forums are filled with trolls who don’t read the free sites and don’t buy books and just get off on putting you down. STAY OUT OF FORUMS.

This is why

At the same time, you need to have a social media plan. You should already have this, but make sure you post regularly, with good content, pictures, and links. Pay close attention to what gets the most comments, likes, retweets, and shares. Over month 3 narrow your posts to those that attract the most interest.

Also at the same time, blog regularly. Do reviews or discussions of similar writers and similar books to yours. Make sure your blog posts’ metadata includes the names of bestselling authors and bestselling books, particularly giants of the genre and recent bestsellers. This will attract more readers to your blog.

All right, you’ve been working hard, gotten your followers as high as you can now, so we’re in month 2. It’s time to start issuing teasers! Start with releasing the cover on your website, blog, and social media. Change your profile pics on social media to include the cover whenever possible. Do this in week 1 of month 2. Name the publisher in these posts, and give a rough time frame (a year or a season/year).

In week 2 of month 2, start sharing the blurb. Again, on your website, blog, social media. Find ways to connect the blurb to the successful media posts that interest people most.

In Week 3 of month 2, share the short description. On your website and blog, only put up the short description at this time. Share what you can on social media. You can see so far the website/blog/social media are your targets, but for now we can expand. On your free writing site profile, include the short description in your bio.

Now we come to week 4, the last week (continue into week 5 in a longer month such as August). Now is the time to put the full description up on your website. Keep a special page for books where it goes, and change your front page to include the cover and title, linking it to the book page. Share the link to the description on social media, and highlight in your blog.

Now that it's time to sell your book, it's time to embrace your inner whore

You have one last task to do in this final week on month 2: plan out blogs. You need to create an author Q&A for this book and yourself. At this time, simply write the questions. Some good questions are:

Who are your greatest literary influences?
What led you to writing this book?
What do you love most about your protagonist(s)?
What do you love most about your antagonist(s)?
Are you bringing anything new to your genre? If so, what?
Did any books/movies/TV shows inspire any part of the book? If so, what are your influences?
If you could write an episode of a popular TV show or an issue of a popular comic book, what would it be and what would the plot arcs be?

Now we come to step 3, month 1. There will be good and evil marketing here, both white hat and black hat SEO (honest and direct metadata for searches as well as slightly deceptive).

For the white hat: calculate how many questions you have, and divide them equally over days in the countdown to publishing.  Space them out equally, and answer the questions in your blog. Be sure to post the link to all social media.

At the same time, by now you should have an excerpt chosen. Your publisher may choose one or you choose your own. Make sure to pick a long one that represents all protagonists, mentions/appearances of the antagonist(s), give the reader a taste of the general arc (mystery, adventure, romance, coming-of-age, etc) and ends with some kind of cliffhanger.

In the first week of month 1 I want you to place the long excerpt on your book page. Promote the hell out of it. But also keep a shorter version, maybe the best 3-4 paragraphs of the longer excerpt.  In week 2 you will feature that in your blog, create it as a note on Facebook.

Also in this first week, I want you to start reaching out to other bloggers. The lesson after next we’ll go over this in detail as doing actual blog tours is best after publishing. But for now, gather your numbers. How many hits do you get? How many are repeats and unique? Have that info and the focus of your blog. Now reach out to other bloggers, fellow authors, reviewers, anyone similar. I want you to contact them via email and write a letter that simply tells them how much you like their blog (read it and give lavish and honest praise). Ask them about some interest they express on their blog or how they got into it. be specific and invite a response!

Once they respond, keep the conversation going. In your reply to their reply, ask them about blog tours, if they have toured, hosted, what their experience has been. If they reply and either directly ask to tour on your blog or host you, or indicate they might be interested, politely inquire if you may exchange blogs for a day and highlight your numbers and the exposure they can get.

While that is going on, in weeks 2-3 highlight subjects in your blog that are obvious interests of your fellow bloggers. Promote the hell out of each entry. In these weeks you’re pulling away from your book and once again attracting new readers who will find your website and your book.

In the final week of white hat, week 4 of month 1, begin a countdown. Create a list of factoids and your favorite lines. Release them on social media with a countdown to publication. No more than three times this week include the link to either the publisher’s site or the book page (for Indie authors) that should have a list of places to buy (no links yet). If you have a preorder option going (Amazon allows for this) use that link at least twice.

Now we turn to black hat for month 1. You’re going to do this as often as possible over the month. Start with making a list of your similar authors, similar books, and metadata terms for your book. Google them all. Any blog, review website, or seller that mentions them is your target, and you need to sign up under a different name on there. Choose a screen name and an email that does not have your legal or author name  connected to it. 

Once you are signed up, comment and review HONESTLY on the work or author (make sure you read anything you’re commenting on), and then mention your name and website, or claim to have read your upcoming book and link to it and discuss how it is similar or superior. Try to do this three times a week over the next four weeks.

One final note in pre-release marketing: for those of you on a six month plan, for months 6-4 I want you to work diligently on increasing traffic to your website, readers to your free writing, followers/friends on social media, and establishing friendships with other bloggers.

Now we move to a basic timeline for marketing via social media once you have released your book. Getting reviews, blog tours, and personal appearances will all be covered separately, so we are going to focus solely on social media now.

The day of release I want you to send only two tweets/FB posts/Google+ posts: if you have reviews, the first post will be a link to your book on Amazon, the biggest seller. The second, send an hour later, will be a link to the review. If you do not have a review, do you have it as an eBook and paperback? If so, those are your two posts (linking to where both versions appear for sale on the top seller). Just one format? Link to your top two sellers (typically Amazon, and either Smashwords or your publisher’s site).

Also on day one, get your book listed on Goodreads! Be sure to link to that in the coming days. It’s very easy once you have an account, just make sure to have the links to it and a ISBN. You can either go through the process yourself to add it, or provide the info in the forum for librarians who add books and ask someone there to do it for you.

Next, every day for two weeks I want you to have something to say: a new blog post, a new quote, a new review, a new factoid, a new sales link, news on Overdrive or library publishing, or news of release in another country. Every day for weeks 1-2 put something out.

For week 3, begin the blog tours. Don’t have a blog tour? Then it’s time to daily advertise a giveaway or contest. This will be covered in a future lesson.

Week 4 is time to announce any awards or nominations. None yet? Wait until they come. None at all, or none yet? Then use this week to highlight other awards for your free writing. None of those? Find small contests to enter on the web, craft solid entries, and publicize your entries and politely ask for votes.

After week 4 you need to slow the mentions of the book. Keep it to once a week in month 2, and after that rarely. You need to return to your blog and focus on those entries that get readers. Focus on free writing (if you still do that) or create free short stories for your website. Promote those!


This is about the time you will start the personal appearances, which we will get to after discussing blog tours and giveaways. Now that you know this all, please make your plan, and never forget: work to attract an audience, without an audience social marketing is meaningless.

Good luck, and I’ll see you back here to cover the art of blog tours and giveaways in depth.