Cart before the horse (Not always a bad thing)

As any author will tell you, writing the book is the easy part. After that comes the fun of editing, cover design, book blurbs and the ultimate in evil, MARKETING.

Most authors are already aware of how this all works, but there is a question that many authors don’t think to ask until they are finished or nearly finished with their books. When should you start marketing your work?

Beginning the first stages of marketing before your book is complete can be an important factor in success. I’m not saying you should write your first sentence and then begin pushing the book. Sometimes books become something other than what we intended them to be, plus having a general idea of word count and the ability to put together a book blurb and some excerpts for promotional use is necessary.

There is no exact right time for promo, but there is definitely a wrong time. Don’t wait until after the book has already been published to start advertising. The more hits your book title gets in searches and the more times your author name is searched, the higher your book will climb in rankings. This is particularly true of (They of the impossible algorithms.) Get the word spreading before you have a ranking.

Think about popular products, movies, etc. We know about them before they are available to the public. When people run out to buy the latest techy toy or go see the newest film in theatres it is because they have HEARD ABOUT IT. Through advertising, word of mouth and the determination of those behind the marketing, we are aware of things before they become physical property.

When you have a nearly complete novel, when you are close to having finished cover art and when you can provide a solid intent for a release date, you are in the zone to begin promoting. You may not have a bundle of cash waiting in the wings for you to market with, but that is not a problem. Here are some ideas on how to begin:

Get started on promo at least 30 days in advance of your release date

Maximize your exposure with blogs, author websites or other online platforms. Release small bits of info on the book. Some ideas include, character profiles, beginning and middle stages of cover art, contests for cover art suggestions, asking opinions on book blurbs, excerpts from your novel, interviews about your book(s), joining author groups on Facebook where you can discuss your upcoming release.

Get beta readers involved for your manuscript ahead of time. The feedback they give will be invaluable to you and everyone knows someone else. Popular books became popular because someone, somewhere knew the right people. The more hands you can get your work into, the better.

If you have previous titles, offer a sale on them to hype the release of the new book. They don’t have to be a series for this to work. If you are working with standalone novels, then you can easily hype the author name rather than the connection between books. “If you loved Jane Doe’s last book, then this one will thrill you even more.”

Build your brand during marketing. Using eye-catching materials in your promotion is a good idea. Handing out or offering giveaways of bookmarks or other themed items can help spread the word. This also gives you a chance to include your author website and where your books or future book will be available for sale. Business cards, stickers, or other paper promo items are an inexpensive way to help get the word out. About branding–it is also a good plan to stick with a familiar colour scheme or font type that people will then associate with your work. For a good example of this, visit author Charles E. Yallowitz. His Windemere series have covers and fonts that are unmistakably his. Why do we recognise Coke and Pepsi so easily? Branding. Memorable colours and shapes. You can do it too.

Get some reviewers reading. Reviews may not be able to be posted to the main retail websites until the book has been released, but they can be posted to blogs, goodreads and other platforms before release. You want people talking.

Ask your early readers to post their reviews to your Facebook page, tweet them and blog about them.


Network on Linked in. Finding other authors and groups to join and discuss your work with offers a variety of opportunities.

Make a page for your main character on FB where fans can interact with him/her.

Some ideas for contests and fan/blogger involvement:

Post photos of you with your books

Ask readers to post photos of them reading your books

Run a photo contest for the best pictures people can come up with of the setting or characters from your book.

Offer to do guest blogs

Offer to host guest blogs

Approach the bigger blogs that offer guest spots

Run polls on your blog about characters

Make donations of your previous books and blog about it. There are plenty of library groups, shelters, homes for the elderly and schools that will be grateful for donations. Don’t forget to take photos.

Sign up for Authorgraph

Sign up for Authonomy

Create a book trailer or find someone who wants to help you create one

This is in no way an exhaustive list of ideas, and there are always plenty of new ones out there, just a few tips and tricks to get you started on moving some copies. Best of luck to you, authors!








47 thoughts on “Cart before the horse (Not always a bad thing)

  1. As any author will tell you, writing the book is the easy part. … this author isn’t going to tell you anything of the sort ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Not today, anyway.


  2. Excellent advice. It always amazes me when an author doesn’t do any marketing prior to the release of a book and then wonders why they don’t ‘fly off the shelves’, or whatever the appropriate term would be for ebooks, the moment it is published.


  3. Well I’ll be the first to admit, my marketing has been half assed, but that is because I am working on a strategy that isn’t based online, I am in the process of laying down the groundwork now… I have appointments with a few independent bookstores, and the biggest comic book/fantasy store in Toronto to offer my book (digital format) to their customers for free, win-win, they get to give their customers a gift and I get my book into many hands… if that doesn’t work I might put on a sandwich-board with my book information and begin walking around down town Toronto…lol…joking on the last promo idea…I figure now I’ve relocated to one of the largest cities in North America (I think fifth largest) I can use population to my advantage… I am also trying to arrange a few readings… but in future I am going to keep these suggestions in mind, because after I conquer Toronto I shall conquer the world (insert evil laugh) seriously though good post and a lot for me to think about here


      • convention… good idea… have to look into whether there is a comicon or sci-fi/fantasy convention that hits Toronto… ah yes an interesting interview, once I get my mirror taped back together I will send it off to you… I haven’t forgotten


  4. All great advice Ionia. When I do have my book ready to be published, I will certainly use these tips and it doesn’t hurt that I have been able to watch Charles and others over the past year market their books. I guess you would call this learning from someone else’s pain. Excellent post as always.


  5. Great advice, Ionia. One way I’ve seen that works is for authors to ask bloggers to do cover reveals for their books. That’s a great way to get the word out about the book.


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