17 crucial tasks for the run-up to your book’s publication date

You’ve completed and turned in your manuscript to the publisher. Congratulations. Time to have a well-earned break, right?

Well, maybe for a day or two. There’s typically at least a 5-month gap between when the manuscript is done and your publication date. (That can be shorter if you’re self-publishing, but there’s still a gap.) What is there to do but wait for the copy edits to come back?

Everything! This interval is when you prepare for launch. What you do now could make all the difference in the book’s success.

Here are 17 tasks you could be working on to maximize your book’s likelihood of success in the run-up to your publication date. All of these tasks serve an overlapping set of goals: help people find your book, help people who like it to share their endorsement with others, and create the impression that it is popular.

1 Finalize the cover design

If you haven’t got a cover done yet, now is the time to complete it. A book cover graphic is essential to all promotional efforts — it’s the center of your branding.

2 Nail down your cover blurbs

Contact your friends who have recognizable names and titles with personalized notes and request blurb quotes. Your unedited manuscript is typically sufficient to secure these quotes, which will go not only on the back cover but on the Amazon page as well.

3 Build a book site

People who hear about your book need to be able to find it. That means creating a site about it with descriptive content and even videos. Your objective is to snag people doing searches and make it easy for them to buy. And make sure you put the web address on your book’s cover or dust jacket, too.

4 Record the audiobook

Audio is a rapidly growing mode of book consumption. You can hire an actor to read your book, or read if you’ve got decent audio skills, narrate it yourself. Contact your publisher for help with recording studios and connections with sites like Audible.

5 Hire a publicist

A publicist has the skills to position your book and get media interested, including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, popular sites, and trade media. Publicists have a contact list you can never match, and the staff to reach those media folks. A successful promotion plan doesn’t depend solely on the publisher’s publicity efforts, which rarely generate enough buzz by themselves.

6 Line up speeches

Speaking gets your ideas in front of people by the dozens, hundreds, or thousands. If you’re a paid speaker, this is the time to augment those paid appearances with free speeches in front of large audiences, or where the event will buy books.

7 Build a mailing list

Yes, you should have been working on this all along. But now’s the time to get people signed up to hear from you regularly.

8 Get sharable content ready, including video

If someone likes your book, they’re probably ready to share content from it. So have some infographics, diagrams, PDFs, or videos ready to share. Share it with your mailing list, one piece at a time. And make sure everything points back to your website.

9 Reach out to people with a following

Connect to bloggers, podcasters, people with video shows, and others who have a regular audience to connect with. They need content and you need promotion. Your publicist will help you find more than the ones you already know.

10 Write some contributed articles

If you’ve written a book, you have wisdom to share. So share it! You can write articles for sites in your area of expertise, such as trade magazines; op-eds for newspapers; or contributed articles for business review sites like HBR. Most of these outlets won’t permit outright and blatant promotion, but you’ll get some visibility and traffic from the byline that says “Joe Smith is the author of Book Name, a new book on Popular Topic.” And you can usually include links to content on your site within the articles you write.

11 Promote with social media

Most people attempting to create influence already have visibility in social channels, such as blogs, podcasts, video series, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Medium. Assess where your influence can be greatest and develop a plan to promote content and ideas in the run-up to your publication date and the weeks and months that follow.

12 Build a promo posse

Great book launches often begin with a few dozen energized fans who can get the word out. Line up your posse on Facebook or by email, and get them prepared to share the content you created in step 8.

13 Get promotional help from your company

If you work for an organization, they certainly should know about your book plan. If the book will boost your and your company’s visibility, you may be able to persuade the company’s PR group to help with your publicity and lining up speeches.

14 Line up Amazon reviewers

Like it or not, your Amazon page is where most people will be making the decision to buy — or not to buy — your book. So get anyone you can — friends, your posse, your followers, and people on your mailing list — to write reviews. There’s nothing sadder than a great book with six Amazon reviews. (Reviews on Goodreads and Barnes & Noble are fine, but Amazon is the place where they matter most.)

15 Airport placement

As I write this, travel is down due to the pandemic, but it will come back eventually. All placements in airport and train station stores like Hudson News are paid placements. For many books, such placements may not be worth it. But if you’re seeking maximum exposure, a pile of books in the front of an airport bookstore may be just what you need. You can secure those placements with the help of your publisher.

16 Newsjack

Newsjacking is the process of writing content that directly relates to both your expertise and news items. It’s a great way to grab timely exposure.

Practice newsjacking in the months that precede your book launch, then ramp it up in the months that follow.

17 Have a party

Will a book a launch party pay off in book sales and publicity?

That depends on who your friends are and how many you have.

But it’s still worth doing, just for fun. Have a blast. Just don’t forget the other 16 things that can really move the needle.

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