This blog post is for all you authors out there who are self-publishing, now or in the future! Let’s start with the big picture. There is a reason why it takes so long for the publishing process to roll out with publishing houses. It’s not unusual for there to be an 18-month window (or longer) between a publisher accepting a manuscript and the publication date. There are a myriad of reasons why this is. So much has to be done: editing, cover design, more editing, seeding the distribution pipeline, sales meetings, more editing, printing galleys (also called ARCs/ advanced review copies), etc.
The publicity department starts working on a title approximately six months prior to the pub date. The reason for this is because they want to send galleys to publications that are book review publications, industry publications (for that topic, such as education magazines) and national media outlets (such as national TV programs). This process takes time. And, for six months leading up to pub date, the publicists are pitching, pitching, pitching (and lunching with producers for national TV shows).
So, self-published authors…what’s the big hurry? We talk to authors who tell me that their pub (publication) date is this month or next month and what can we do?? First of all, you don’t want your pub date to ever be in November or December (unless it’s a holiday book). Don’t get me wrong. Publicists stay busy during November and December, but not on books that are releasing those months. So, why?
The publishing industry has two big time frames for releasing books: the Fall (primarily September and October) and the Spring (primarily March and April). There are a few other months that are popular for releasing books, depending on genres/ topics: January for New Year’s resolution-oriented titles: February for relationship books and books from African-American authors since it’s Black History Month; May and June for beach reads, etc.
But, bottom line—the year of pub date matters most (the year is more important than the month)! I had some authors tell me that they were self-publishing and were planning to put a Nov or Dec 2012 pub date on it, and they’d done no publicity to date. WHY? When January 1st, 2013 gets here, your book is automatically “old” in the book sellers’ and book buyers’ eyes. If you just pushed it 1-2 months, it would have a 2013 copyright date and be current for another whole year. Yes, a few months makes a big difference! You want, and need, a 2013 pub date.
Now, on to the publicity end of things. You want to give your book adequate lead time with your publicist. We need 2-6 months prior to pub date to lay the proper foundation for your book. Depending on how much time we have, we can “seed the media” in various ways and have media starting to hit during your pub date month. But, wait! What else must be done before that happens?
We must thoroughly research and read up on your materials and set you up in our system. Then we write a full set of press materials (multiple press releases, Sample Interview Questions, author bio, etc.). Then we must build our media lists: we use two separate databases. Then, and only then, can we even start pitching you to the media. The outlets must get our pitch, decide they are interested, obtain materials from us, sometimes read the book and/or press materials, decide to use it, write up their review/ feature, submit it to their publication (and if they’re a monthly, that all has to be finished at least one month prior to their issue date).
So, we could talk all day about publicity timelines and lead times, but you get the picture. Don’t rush it! One of the biggest advantages you have in self-publishing is that you get to designate your release date. Use that to your full advantage. Take your time! It’s going to benefit you in the long run to do it the right way and give your book the best chance for life.