Why you should start marketing well before your book is out

By Sue Campbell

If you’re like most authors, you’re probably not super excited about marketing. It’s unknown. It’s scary. It might make you feel sleazy.

But you’re likely resigned to the idea that you’ll have to do it at some point. You just hope to delay that point as long as possible.

Maybe, if you wait, your publisher will wave a magic wand and you’ll be on the Today Show and Terry Gross without any grunt work on your part and NYT bestseller list here you come!

Here comes the tough love…

Most writers are not unicorns. If we get a traditional publisher, we’re likely to be lumped in with B and C list authors who get the dregs of the marketing budget. (The bulk of marketing dollars go to those author unicorns who get the big advances; the publisher wants to make sure they get their money back.)

If you want your book to succeed, you are going to have to put your own energies into making it happen. And there are plenty of good reasons to start your marketing well before your book is published, or before you even have an agent.

The most obvious reason is this:

You will have an audience waiting to buy your book when it comes out.

And nothing feels better than being able to sell a ton of books right out of the gate.

But there are lesser known reasons to get a jump on things. Let’s look at a few of them.

  • Market viability. Creating your marketing plan means doing the research to figure out who your ideal readers are. When you do that work, you’ll be able to validate there’s a market for your book before you invest the time to finish writing it. If your market research tells you that there are only 800 people in the entire world who are interested in reading a book on training ferrets to make popcorn, you may want to rethink your time investment in writing said book.

  • Making yourself attractive to agents. If you decide to go the traditional publishing route, having a sound marketing strategy and a growing author platform will demonstrate to potential agents that you’re serious about your career and willing to do what it takes to sell books. Agents like that because they’d rather have 15% of something than 15% of nothing.

  • You need practice. You might be bad at marketing at first. And you want to be good at it by the time it counts most. Starting early gives you a chance to grow comfortable with the idea and get the hang of things like list-building and influencer outreach.

  • There’s a big initial time investment. To get yourself set up well, you’ll need to build (or improve) your website, develop a reader magnet, create a content schedule, create your reader personas, research influencers and so on. Once you have these in place, ongoing marketing activities aren’t as time consuming, but you don’t want to wait to start until your pub date looms. That’s a recipe for a panic attack.

  • Influencers need lead time. One of the most powerful ways to sell books to is get yourself in front of audiences that someone else has already built. If you don’t start contacting influencers until your book is published, you might be disappointed when you can’t get on an important podcast until nine months later.

If you want to give your book the best chance to find its way in the world, you can’t wait until it’s out to come up with a strategy to find readers. Ultimately, it’s up to you on how big to go with your launch, but time spent on early marketing efforts is never wasted.

Authors today must think holistically about their careers. It’s not just about writing the book, it’s about creating an audience that will be ready and waiting for that book and the next one and the next.

Our upcoming From Writer to Author Workshop is designed to help you write the best book possible AND give you a solid marketing foundation—a strategy, not just a random assortment of untested tactics.

It’s a weekend intensive to help take you from someone who’s “working on a book” to someone who’s building a career. So, if you’d like to spend a few days giving your career the attention and study it deserves, I hope you’ll join us in Portland this September.

Sue Campbell