You need to do a lot of up front work to plan your marketing strategy ahead of time. The more effort you put in to planning, the better your marketing campaign will go. If you think that you just need to set a date for your book launch and the fans will start rolling in, you may have a disappointing book launch (and ensuing sales).

Once you are ready with a killer book that is market-ready (edited, have your price set, have decided on format), it’s time to get prepare your marketing plan.

Step 1: Build a brand foundation

Your personal brand as an author is very important when it comes to marketing your book. Marketing yourself is almost more important than marketing your book. If you can gain a following before your book hits the shelf, then you have a list of loyal supporters who will be interested when it does.

Figure out what makes you different than other authors, draft a great bio (sometimes I find that it’s easier to have someone else write your bio for you), and get quality portrait shots done. You should have a couple of different professional shots to choose from that don’t involve cutting someone else out of the picture.

Once you have all of this together, you need an author website. Chances are, your readers are online. If you want to be found, you have to be online too!

Step 2: Define your target audience

Figure out who will be reading your book and what makes them tick. How old are they and who influences them? Where do they hang out online? Are they in a specific geographical area? Are they young professionals? Artists? Parents? What are their reading habits?

Do your research. If you really have no idea where to start, have a look at other authors who are selling similar books to yours. It can be tempting to say my book is really for everyone. While you may have some outliers who are interested in your book, chances are you have a core group of people who is your target audience.

Step 3: Set your budget (be realistic!)

A great campaign can be done at all levels of budget, however, the amount will determine how much you are able to do. For example, you may want to do a global launch of your new book, but your budget might dictate a more local launch, which means you can focus on generating buzz and build reach organically.

Be honest with yourself and make sure that you can afford the budget you are setting out. You also need to remember that sometimes you have to invest a little to make even more.

Step 4: Set your timeline

It’s going to take more than a week to set and implement your marketing plan. You need to ensure you have books in hand before you even think about starting your outreach. Start from the launch date and work your way backwards to make sure you have enough time to get your books, plan a launch event, get books to the media and reviewers, build buzz on social, etc.

Once you have identified a date for your launch, do some research to make sure that there isn’t anything happening on that date or around there that could overshadow your book. For example, I wouldn’t launch a book in the middle of TIFF.

Step 5: Start building buzz – and your email list

Just because you aren’t launching until a couple of months from now doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it. In fact, you should be talking about it as much as possible!

Write down a list of everyone you know – friends, family, colleagues – and reach out to them to let them know you will be launching your book. Ask them to help you start spreading the word. Keep your outreach to this list personal rather than a blanket sales pitch. Consider sending a couple of chapters from your book to build excitement.

While it’s great to reach out to friends and family, you also want to make sure you are building a strong email list. With the new CASL regulations, you need to make sure you are signing people up through your website and through social media. This will be important when you are ready to launch.

Step 6: Get reviews

Having a review from someone of authority in your field can do wonders for establishing trust for your audience. Draw up a short list of people who might consider reviewing your book and reach out to them to see if they would be interested.

Step 7: Materials

There are many different types of materials to consider when you are preparing for your launch:

  • Press release – to send to media
  • Press kit – to send to media and/or event organizers
  • Book sell sheet – to send to bookstores and/or to media
  • Book trailer – to share on social media and your website
  • Post card – to give to anyone and everyone

You need to decide which will work for you and who will be in charge of preparing them. For some things, it is better to hire an expert!

Step 8: Book launch event planning

You can either choose to do one event or a series of smaller events (such as book signings, book club readings, or conference speaking opportunities). Remember to give your guests enough time to book the date(s) off! This planning has to be done in advance to make sure you get the venue space and give enough time to market the events ahead of time.

Step 9: Prepare for the media

Develop a list of media and influencers that you can reach out to for reviews and your book launch announcement. This isn’t a case of reach out to whoever you can find, you need to have a highly targeted list of contacts that are already interested in similar stories. Consider that the media will often like to get books for review at least a month, if not two, in advance.

Step 10: Kick off the launch!

Now that you have done all of the leg work, it’s time to put your book marketing plan in action!

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Candace Huntly is the founder and Principal of SongBird Marketing Communications, a Toronto-based boutique firm that works with clients to take their strategy and brand to the next level. She is an expert at telling brand stories and getting them shared through the right channels. She is conducting one of the workshops at Author Summit 2015, PR for Authors.