Planning a Book Launch: Six Months Out

Five to six months to go:

Wow! Book available for pre-order!
Amazingly, with still six months to go before actual publication, the book became available for pre-sale. I didn’t even know this was happening, but a fellow author with She Writes Press posted, with much breathless excitement, that she had just seen her book, cover and all, on Amazon. So of course I immediately looked for mine, and there it was! Not only on Amazon, but on the sites of some of my favorite local, indie bookstores such as Porter Square Books (right above "All That Rain Promises and More: a Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms) and Brookline Booksmith. Oh joy! Some friends eagerly started passing out the word via social media, but, on advice from Brooke Warner, I’m holding off on urging pre-orders for another couple of months.

Advance copies arrive:
My publicist and I put in an order for 65 advance reader copies (ARCs) to send out to potential reviewers, bookstores, and the like. They arrived with lightning speed: two boxes plunked unceremoniously by UPS on my front porch one morning, two whole weeks earlier than expected. I tore the boxes open and there they were, stacks of my book, staring up at me like chicks in an incubator box. Of course I took a picture, and of course I texted it right away to some of my near and dear. Coincidentally, I had a writing group meeting that evening, and when I whipped out a copy to show them—these women who have shared every step in this journey with me—the looks on their faces were priceless. Two of them were nearly in tears. 

Capturing email addresses:
Opinions are quite starkly divided on the subject of author newsletters, but there seems to be consensus on the importance of having a way of capturing the email addresses of those folks who are interested in sharing them. Having worked on this in the context of non-profit organizations, I was already familiar with such services as MailChimpiContact and Constant Contact, all of which offer user-friendly ways of collecting and organizing people’s contact information, as well as templates for sending out attractive emails. I was also familiar with the requirement imposed by all these services to provide a physical mailing address at the bottom of every message that goes out, to conform with the FTC’s CAN-SPAM regulations. I don’t yet know that I’ll be sending out many messages, or that anyone will sign up via my web site, but in order to be prepared for any scenario, I opened a PO box. Conveniently, there is a UPS store down the street from me, and they offer more services than regular post offices, such as notifying me via text when there is mail in my box, and holding packages that do not fit in the box itself.

Introverts be warned: it’s time to network:
This is a good time to start reaching out to friends, relatives, colleagues, other writers, and anyone who might be receptive to helping you out by sharing ideas and contacts. Many people are willing to help, but don’t necessarily know how, or can’t think of who, within their realms, could be useful to a writer. I created a list of possible the types of people, to help stir up some ideas. (Anyone who works in the media, someone with a big blog readership, someone who works at a store that might be willing to stock the book, someone who works for a cultural or social organization that might like to host an event, that type of thing.) I sent out personalized emails to dozens of my friends and acquaintances. Some didn’t respond, and that’s ok. Some responded with a few ideas here and there. And some wrote back with tons of helpful suggestions, proposals to introduce me to other people, new ideas. I collected all of these (it’s an ongoing process) and put all the leads in a new worksheet of my master planning document, along with information on how I got the lead, how they might be of help, and the status of my communication with them.

Also under the “networking” category, I’ve been meeting over coffee or on the phone with local, established writers for advice, tips and contacts specific to the launch of a novel. For the most part, these lovely writers have been tremendously generous with their time and ideas, willing to share contacts, happy to make introductions, and delighted at the opportunity to share their own experiences and impart advice. I am so grateful to this community, and determined, whenever the opportunity arises, to return the favor, or pass it along to newer writers.

Pitch, pitching, pitched: 
At this point, I started working in tandem with my publicists. My efforts parallel hers. She drafted a galley letter to accompany the ARCs, and put together a list of outlets to approach for possible reviews, articles, interviews or other features. I contributed any contacts I had, some of which were sourced in the course of my networking process. 

Eep, people will check out your web site:
Knowing that anyone hearing from me or from my publicist would likely, if interested, visit my web site, I spent some time updating it, making it somewhat more “professional,” and more book-focused. I organized the information better, put one of my best blurbs on the home page, included a press kit and an “events” tab.

The all-important Calendar:
With suggestions coming in from many directions, supplemented by my own research, I started a month-by-month calendar of important dates: not only dates of specific events, but deadlines for submission to festivals, reminders to myself to look into certain ideas or contact certain people, etc. 

Party time: 
The reality of the ARCs in hand made me feel it was time to start thinking in concrete terms, not just dreamy ones, about where to plan my book launch event. I started discussing ideas with friends and my writing group. I knew I wanted something inexpensive but classy. There needs to be an easy way for people to purchase the book. My local, indie bookstore, Porter Square Books, told me they could send a representative to sell the books at any of the types of locations I mentioned to them (Indian restaurant, library, and a couple of other ideas). They are the best. More on the book launch venue choice next time.

Go on vacation:
Yes. Writers need vacations, too. Knowing it would be a while before I felt I could disconnect for 10 days again, I went on vacation with my family. A lovely week and a half in another world. Because the rest of the world still exists, even if it doesn't feel that way sometimes.

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  • Anjali Mitter Duva

    Thanks, everyone. Sande, yes, they are flying by! In fact, I only have 4 more months. I'm trying to catch up in my blog posts and next month will post about months P-minus-4-and-3, and then I will have caught up with myself. Janet, thanks, and good luck! Karen, I ended up going with an indie bookstore for the launch. Patricia, thanks for cover compliments. I'm rather pleased with it myself!

  • Janet Singer

    Great post, which I found helpful, as I am pretty much on the same trajectory as you. My book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery is due out in January 2015. I,too, just saw it on Amazon to pre-order. Good luck in the months to come. It's exciting!

  • Thank you for sharing your journey, Anjali!  Looking forward to hearing about your book launch venue choice...and reading your next post!

  • Patricia Robertson

    Good luck on your book launch! You sound like you are well-prepared. P.S. I love your cover. 

  • Those 6 months will fly by...I've got only three left before The Sweetness is published and my launch plans are still in the oven. good luck!