Planning a Book Launch, Month by Month
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(Third in a series on month-by-month preparations in the year before a book launch. In this case, the book launch is in October 2014, with She Writes Press. These are some of the things to think about, questions to ask oneself, and issues to research in the course of this complex process which these days involves more and more of the author's time and savvy. Previous posts are here and here. I'll be covering 2 months at a time for a bit in order to catch up with the reality of my actual launch.)

Ten months to go:

Final edits:
With the contract signed and the initial euphoria tempered with a good dose of trepidation, the time has come to send the final manuscript to the publisher. Don't rush this stage, as tempting as it may well be to send the darn thing off and dust your hands of it. This is the last chance to make any significant edits. Beyond this, edits will be limited to proof-reading and small fixes as the manuscript begins its transformation into a book. In my case, the manuscript had already been through both a developmental edit and a line edit by a professional freelance editor.

I recommend doing a thorough re-read, out loud if you can stand it. Don't be tempted to make any substantial changes, unless urged to do so by an editor. Changes you embark on due to some inner voice of yours will only cause you to wonder if you then need to go back and re-change other things to line up with the new changes, etc. It's a horrible, churning vortex that you already managed to escape at least once. Why go there again?

Hit "send". Push that baby out of the nest. Breathe. Have a drink. 

Nine months to go:

Now that the manuscript is out of your hands, a torrent of tasks begins. Here's what I tackled at this point. Bear in mind that each of these topics is worthy of a lengthy post of its own. My purpose here is simply to bring to light the things to be thinking about at this point.

  • Publicists: You probably want to give your book the best chance possible amid the ocean of other books out there, but figuring out what type of publicist to hire, how much to spend without any guarantee of sales, what elements to focus on (Blog tour? Radio interviews? Print reviews? Events? Local? National?) can spur some deep soul searching. It took me over two months to come to a decision. If you are thinking of hiring a publicist, this site provides a great list of publicists who will work directly with the author. Bear in mind that a publicist will likely come on board about 4-6 months before your launch. That means that they are planning out their work load at least a couple of months before that. So now is a good time to start the selection process.
  • Social media: There's a lot of advice online on whether and how and where to hone your social media presence. I can't claim any expertise here. But I do know that 9 months prior to the book launch is NOT too early to be thinking about these things. I purchased the URL with my book title, as well as the one with my own name (where I have a web site and blog) three years ago. Whatever stage you are at with your book, I recommend doing these things right away. Whether or not to blog, to Tweet, to have a Facebook author page, these are all things to be thinking about.
  • Endorsements: This is an awkward, humbling, painful process. You are asking for an endorsement, or "blurb," from an established writer you most likely don't know in person. This means coming straight out and asking a perfect stranger who is terribly busy with her own writing, promoting, possible other career, family, and more to take hours of her time to read a book about which she knows nothing, and then either say something nice about it, or feel terrible for letting you know she doesn't feel comfortable endorsing it. Putting yourself through this can mean receiving some wonderful quotes from writers you admire, bringing you to tears of gratitude, but it takes time. I recommend allowing a week for the author to get back to you via email, a week to send a hard copy of your manuscript to him, at least six weeks to allow him time to read it, and two additional weeks as a possible extension, all this before your galleys, or Advance Reader Copies, will be ready for printing, which itself can be five months before the actual launch date. So, starting this process at launch-minus-nine-months is a good idea. This site has some solid advice on asking for blurbs. 

  • Cover design: At this point, the graphic artist and I got into the nitty gritty of the cover design. She started drawing up different ideas. I provided her with images which I sourced from various sites, including iStock and Shutterstock, two of the go-to sites for royalty-free images. I have been fortunate to be able to be significantly involved in this process, and I'm thrilled with the result. My earlier post provides (at the end) some links to working smoothly with a graphic designer. (I also began work with an artist who drew me a wonderful map of the area in Rajasthan, India, where my story takes place.) 

  • Events: Now is also a good time to start a list of events to attend once your book is out. These might be writing conferences, professional industry events in a field related to the topic of your book, cultural festivals, etc. Plan whether you will travel and where, what events are likely to provide you with the biggest reward (for example, can you speak on a panel? Sell your books?), what your budget is, etc. Some events require submissions of proposed sessions a full year in advance. I recommend creating a calendar of events that includes these deadlines. 

Okay. I suspect these activities will fill up any free time during months ten and nine. Please comment with any additional suggestions, and tune in on May 20th for more detail on publicists, as well as TIP sheets, galleys, how to stay organized, and more.

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Comments
  • Anjali Mitter Duva

    Heather, thanks! And yes, you're absolutely right about looking at other author's blogs and online presence. Thanks for pointing that out. And good luck with your travel guide. I'm actually off to Paris in just a couple of days.

  • Anjali Mitter Duva

    Thanks, Suzanne!

  • Great article! I like the suggestion about planning for events like festivals, which I've almost forgotten about in the busy home stretch to get the second edition of my women's travel guide to Paris out the door (we go to print in three weeks). 

    I would also add to the social media section that it's also a good time (9 months in advance) to start looking at other author's blogs, FB pages, websites, etc. who have a similar audience to your book, so that you can start building a real relationship by re-tweeting, commenting, sharing, and otherwise helping them get the word out about THEIR books. It's not only good karma, it also helps warm you up for when you're going to start doing the same for your own book, and might even make you a few solid connections with writers who may be willing to blurb your book (but that's just a bonus and shouldn't be expected). It's basically the extension of what we're all doing here to support each other, and it comes back around. :-)

  • Suzanne Linn Kamata

    Love the cover!