A while ago, our friends at editing concern Invisible Ink Editing posed a question about how an indie author might select a launch date for her book. That got us thinking. Especially since we have been planning to publish another book later this year.
When it comes to book launches, we’ve been thinking about a couple of things that seem especially important to us as independent publishers. First, it’s important I think to do the research and understand what traditional publishers do for book launches. And there are numerous resources on the web now that you can consult. Second, though, as indies, there’re good reasons to try to make the book launch process your own.
Here’s what I mean. There’s a lot of resources both online and otherwise on setting a timeline for a book launch that looks at what large publishers do. One of the first considerations might be whether you want to have your book launch tied in to a particular window or season within the retail calendar.
For example, a lot of books in North America are sold in November and December during the year-end holidays. So a book might have to be released by Halloween so that there is buzz leading into this busy buying season. Or some books might tie into summer reading (beach reading but also summer reading for kids) or back-to-school, or a self-help book might tie into January sales as readers attend to their New Year resolutions.
Consulting editor Alan Rinzler has a terrific post on his blog about seasonal tie-ins for book launches.
Another important consideration traditional publishers seem to look at is really just time – how much time do you need to have your book ready for launch? And this timeline encompasses more than just having a book printed.
If you wanted to accomplish all the often unsung pieces of a book launch like a traditional publisher, you might have a timeline that might run 8 to 12 months from the time you substantially finish your manuscript. Why such a long lead time? There’s a long list of tasks to consider, but to name a few:
- book cover design
- illustrations (if you will have any)
- book design and layout
- connecting with your super-fans who may be able to spread the word about your new book
- prepare marketing materials (including your back cover blurb)
- develop and execute on a social media plan for the release
- identify early reviewers and persons who might endorse your book with a quote
- contact local media sources to publicize your book release
The list goes on, and book designer and publishing expert/blogger Joel Friedlander has a helpful checklist to look through as you think about how much time you will actually need.
It is, of course, easy to be overwhelmed as you look at the checklist, but don’t be. That’s where my second thought on the topic comes in. As an indie author or publisher, this is your book. You are the publisher making the book launch decisions, and so, while you consider all the things you might do or need to do, you decide on how much time you need and which tasks you can do without. You can add in creative alternatives to what others have done that works better with your temperament, the subject of your book or your other interests or activities (is your book about birds and you are part of a bird watching group? perhaps you can do something fun with them?). You decide what tie-ins you would like based on what you know about your book and your own schedule. The good thing about being indie is that you can be you as you go about this process.
Time management for publishers is not unlike time management for writers. Have you read Kenneth Atchity’s book on time management for writers? It’s titled, A Writer’s Time. One section of that book has always stuck with me, even now: it’s the section where Atchity includes as a necessary part of the timeline for writing projects “vacation time.” In fact, he made a point of beginning one of his sample writing plans with a vacation.
Remember also that indie publishing is not something you need to do alone. Part of the reason for this site, as our readers may know, is the belief that indies need to make connections with other authors, illustrators, editors and publishing creatives so that we could collaborate to make great books.
So you need to tailor the timeline to what is comfortable for you. Make it your own. Make it fun. Create special days in it for silliness and time off. And find others you might enjoy working or being with to collaborate.
Yes, think like a traditional publisher but also don’t be afraid to think like yourself.