How Authors Can Create a Yearlong Marketing Plan…and Stick to It

BY HANNAH GUY • October 7, 2022

How Authors Can Create a Yearlong Marketing Plan…and Stick to It

Fall is one of the most important times of the year in terms of marketing, promoting, and selling your book. Why? Because this is when everyone is buying books, whether for sales, for gifts, or for a great way to cozy up during the coming winter months. Book sales go through the roof in November and December.

Chances are you’ve been busy writing away, dealing with edits, book covers, and maybe even reviews. But if you want to get a jump start on your book sales, one of the most important tools is planning ahead. It sounds deceptively simple, but planning out your promotional periods can help you avoid scrambling to complete last-minute tasks like designing a great-looking ad, writing the copy, and getting your readers and followers into the hype.

The most effective tool for planning everything out in advance is to create a marketing calendar. It can be as simple as using a wall or desk calendar, or planning it out on your phone or computer. (Personally, I love a paper desk calendar with plenty of room for writing notes and deadlines. For some reason, I need to see the month as a whole in order to see what’s coming up and what weeks look busy. But everyone has their own preferred method.)

First, start by marking off the most important dates for your book: release dates, deadlines, anything that you know is going to mean you’re busy during that week. Planning a vacation? Mark that off, too.

Next, take a look at any major holidays and ask yourself, “Is this an opportunity to sell my book? Are there marketing and promotional opportunities here?”

Here’s a list of some of the holidays that can be (and are!) leveraged into promotional or marketing opportunities:

New Year’s: Nonfiction titles are strong performers, especially how-to guides, self-improvement, and even books about relationships. A lot of readers use January 1 to think about important changes they want to make with their health, their homes, their communities, and even with self-development such as education, spiritual journeys, travel, and more.

Valentine’s Day: Books about relationships and romance always do well at this time of year. However, some authors have books that can take a bit of a twist in a grisly or humorous way, such as a suspense, a thriller (“This Valentine’s Day, make your heart pound”), or even horror (“They’re coming for you . . . heart and soul”).

Spring break and Reading Week: Usually held in March or April, this is a great time for kids and YA books, but it’s also the beginning of vacation and beach-read season. Readers will be looking for narrative nonfiction, humor, women’s fiction, short story and essay collections, and more.

Memorial Day: This long weekend kicks off summer reading. Books sales often do well at this time of year, when readers are thinking about which books they want to read over the summer and which books to take on holiday. This is when you’ll want to make sure they consider your book.

Halloween: Horror reads aplenty!

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and December holidays: Early November signals the beginning of the holiday season, and you’ll want to spend the next two months planning for promotions that align (and usually are offered one to two weeks before the day) with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the December holidays, when people are looking for both gifts and sales. Remember that while print books make great gifts, a fantastic ebook makes an even better last-minute gift.

You’ll also want to go through a holiday calendar and look for—again, depending on the subject matter in your book—any other relevant holidays (whether religious or otherwise) or observances that might be a fun way to market your book. May 4 is a great time if you’ve written a space opera, or 4/20 if you’ve written a guide for making cannabis edibles. There are holidays for famous people, special events (perfect for historical fiction or history), and even silly observances like Towel Day. And don’t just look for opportunities to play along like everyone else. Maybe your marketing plan could go against the grain, like promoting your book as an anti–Valentine’s Day read or a scary summer beach read.

Once you have decided what holidays and seasonal promotions you want to do, think about your campaign. Generally, you should aim to promote your book in the week or two (or month, depending) before that day, so mark off the start days for each of those promotions. Then create a list for every promotion and decide what needs to be done. An effective marketing or advertising plan requires art, copy, a budget, and maybe even the assistance of other authors, publishers, or media. Create deadlines for those items as well, especially if you’re outsourcing your ads to a designer or copywriter, or if placing an ad requires a minimum of a week or longer before it goes live.

Now that you’re sorted for holiday promotions, look for any months that are empty. Obviously you’ll want to keep your book in front of readers and followers, so this is when you should start planning additional promotional or marketing campaigns. That could mean having a sale or creating a trailer for your book. If you’re looking for ideas, check out the Kirkus Writers’ Center’s 14 Surprising Ways to Market Your Book for some fresh new ideas.

The next thing you’ll want to do—especially if you’re releasing a new book in the next twelve months—is to plan out when and where you’re submitting your book for review, whether that’s to book blogs, magazines, newspapers, or somewhere else. High-profile publications sometimes require authors and publishers to submit their books for review four to six months before your book’s birthday, so you will absolutely need to not only plan ahead but also to ensure you have all the required materials and meet the qualifications. Check out our list of Do These 3 Things before Submitting Your Book for Review to make sure you’ve got your bases covered.

Planning on entering any contests or applying for grants? Participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? All these things should be included so that you don’t run into any last-minute or unanticipated surprises.

Once you’ve added these items, you should (we hope!) have a yearlong calendar filled with all your marketing plans for the coming months. With the holiday season peeking around the corner, this is absolutely the time to get a head start on marketing and selling your book—and planning ahead is one of the best ways to guarantee your success.

Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.

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