March 24

Should you market your book before you publish it?


Many of the self-publishing gurus will tell you that you need to market your book at least six months before you publish. In some cases, yes, you should absolutely market a book before launch day, but there are a few reasons why getting caught up in how to market a book could completely kill your writing progress.

Let’s back up and talk about how the publishing world has traditionally worked.

The author would sign with the publisher well before the publication date, as much as two or three years before the publication date. The publisher would assemble the teams that would push the book through—the editorial team, the design team, and the publicity team. There would be a primary project manager to make sure that each team was working to meet their separate goals, as publication date approached.

The author’s only responsibility was to write the book (in an ideal relationship, anyway). The editorial team would help with the writing and revisions, while the other teams hashed out plans to design and launch the book. So, you can bet that the gears of the publicity team in the traditional publishing house were turning at least six months before publication date.

What was the goal of all this coordinated effort?

To sell as many books as possible in the first week.

Why? To hit the bestsellers’ lists. The lists have confusing and dubious algorithms that calculate exactly why some books hit the list one week and others don’t, but one of the main factors is how many copies a book sells in the first week of publication.

Yes, absolutely, if you’re goal is to sell 10,000 to 15,000 copies in the first week that your book is out, you should be planning your launch six months in advance.

But, what is your goal for your book?

If you’re an entrepreneur and a platform-builder, I would suggest that your goal is actually not to sell as many books as possible in the first week. Here are some goals that I would guess you have, riding around in the back of your mind:

  • Getting interviewed on podcasts, radio, TV, and YouTube channels
  • Landing guest expert segments on big blogs and news sources
  • Attracting readers who will be transformed by your message
  • Gaining the attention of peers and colleagues
  • Establishing a halo of credibility and expertise
  • Changing the world, one reader at a time

None of these goals requires that you sell 10,000 copies in the first week. You can sell 1,000 copies every week (heck, every month) and still meet these goals.

What’s the problem with deciding to market a book six months before the release date?

Well, the main problem is that you don’t have teams to help you with every phase of publication. You don’t have an editorial team (unless you bring in our Paper Raven Books team! Which is a great idea, by the way), or a design team, or a publicity team. You’re doing all of it on your own.

If you try to jump into how to market a book, you’ll get so wrapped up in marketing tips and tricks that you won’t reserve the time needed to actually write your book. You’ll jump down the rabbit hole into Amazon rankings, list building, funnels, summits, freebies, contests, and who knows what else.

You’ll plan the perfect marketing plan and find yourself with no book.

Tweet: If you focus all your energy on creating a launch plan before you even write your book, you’ll end up with no book to launch.

Then, there’s an emotional fall-out. I’ve seen it dozens of times. A would-be author creates a huge mental and emotional build up around launching the book, but when she stops and realizes she’s made no progress on the book, she beats herself up, doubts her own writing abilities, and often throws in the towel, completely.

But, her lack of writing progress is not due to her writing ability; it’s because she hasn’t devoted very much time to the writing. Snatching 30 minutes, here and there, between work, webinars, and blog surfing is not enough to crank out a first draft of a book.

What should you do, instead?

I would recommend that you put blinders on for four weeks to churn out a first draft of your book. Ignore the world. Don’t sign up for webinars. Delete emails that promise full-proof marketing tactics. Put aside other books. Concentrate all of your time, energy, and attention to your book.

Once you have a completed first draft (even one that doesn’t make sense and is scattered, illogical, and nearly nonsensical, yet complete), then you can start letting in a small stream of information about how to market a book.

But, wait, won’t my launch be a little lackluster?

For your first business- and platform-building book, your launch probably won’t land you on any national bestsellers’ lists. And that’s okay. For your subsequent books, when you are confident that you can finish your book and know your own book-writing process, then you can plan the book launch six months before publication.

In the meantime, rest assured that a launch is not a one-week process. It’s a year-long process. If you watch the big authors, they launch the book with a bunch of social media and interviews. Three to six months later, they go on a live book tour. Three to six months after that, they have another phase of publicity—maybe giveaways or releasing a related product. The launches ebb and flow over 12 to 18 months.

Your launch doesn’t have to be a perfectly executed, one-week plan. Your launch can be a series of experiments that you implement over the next year. That’s what the pros do. So, why not you, too?

I release you from thinking about book marketing until after you’ve churned out the first draft of your book. Now, go do some writing.

What do you think? Is it intimidating to think about a book launch? Or exciting? Have you ever launched a book before? Leave a comment below!


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