When should you start marketing your book?

In this article, I’m going to change your entire approach to the job of writing, launching and marketing your next book.

I’m going to turn everything you believe about that process on its head, and show you a whole new way to look at it.

This approach will revolutionize how you handle every step of the process, and can help you make every book you publish a much bigger success.

Big promises! Let me attempt to fulfill them.

Let’s start with the fundamental problem:

Most authors take a book-centric approach to their writing career.

When you’re a book-centric author, everything you do is focused almost exclusively on your next book.

Of course, there are reasons for this. The entire industry is built this way:

  • Your agent wants the next book proposal to pitch.
  • Your publisher wants the next book to launch big.
  • Your editor is tasked with editing your next book.
  • YOU are focused on writing your next book.

Book, book, book.

But this myopia causes a number of problems for you as a writer:

  • It is not a holistic approach to your career. It’s the writing equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck. It’s not sustainable, and has no long-term view.
  • It limits the marketing. There seems to be a loud clanging sound that occurs somewhere between first draft and final edit, when authors suddenly wake up and realize they need to think about the marketing of their book. Of course, at that point it’s too late to do something useful to make the book a success.
  • It’s a horrible way to interact with your fans. I’m on a lot of author mailing lists, and it’s painful to see how most authors only contact their list when their next book is about to come out. There’s no relationship building, no long-term care of fans. Just a big marketing push whenever they have something new to sell you.
  • It causes you to miss opportunities. By focusing only on the next book, you often miss other opportunities to grow your career in interesting and profitable ways.

Let me encourage you to adopt a new way of thinking about your writing career. It starts with realizing that:

Your #1 job as a writer is not to simply write your next book, but to build a platform that will support your entire career.

Instead of writing a book and then scrambling to build a platform around it, focus on first building a platform for you as an author. Then write books, from that steady foundation.

Of course, your platform won’t be completely independent of your books; it will be fueled by them in big ways.

But your author platform needs to represent the bigger vision behind your work, and that is much bigger than any one book.

By focusing on building your platform first, you’ll be able to:

  • Build connections with readers and fans before you need to sell them something. There’s nothing worse than trying to connect with people when you desperately need something from them. Taking the long-term platform approach enables you to connect with people in between book launches.
  • Confidently write your next book because you know you have a foundation strong enough to support its release.
  • Integrate marketing into everything you do. It’s no longer all about trying to make something happen in a short period of time. That’s where all of the pushy, impersonal marketing tactics we hate come from. Your platform will give you time and space to create long-term connections with people, which is the true definition of marketing.
  • Build something that will support you long-term. By building your author platform from the beginning, you’ll be creating a growing network of fans and an overall impression of what your work can offer people.

This foundation will continue to grow over time, setting you up for long-term success.

Let’s look at two example scenarios:

Scenario 1

John Writer is working on his new book. For six months he locks himself away and writes his first draft.

During this time, he doesn’t bother to build his website or to start connecting readers to his email list.

“That’s the marketing part,” he thinks. “I’ll worry about that when the book is done.”

After the draft is done and he’s received the first feedback from his editor, he figures now’s the time to start building his platform. In fact, he starts to panic a little, because his book is going to come out in less than six months, and he has no idea how he’s going to get people to read it.

So he pays a bit of money to a friend of a friend to set up a website with a blog for him. Because he’s so worried about the book getting enough exposure, the entire website is named after and focused only on the book.

He also heard something about authors getting on Twitter and Facebook so they can build a large following for their books, so he starts social media accounts as well.

Eight weeks go by, and the website finally goes live. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.

John starts blogging and posting about his book on social media, but after a couple months he realizes he’s not getting much traction. Other than his immediate family and friends, nobody is really paying attention.

A bit of desperation sets in, because he’s now within 60 days of his book’s release. And when he’s honest with himself, he knows he can probably only sell about 100 copies, even with all the marketing methods he’s using.

He starts emailing top authors, trying to get them to promote his book, and gets frustrated when all of them either turn him down or don’t respond.

He starts posting constantly about his new book, which causes the handful of people connected to him to start ignoring him.

Within a month of launch, he decides it’s worth spending some money to broaden his marketing efforts. Facebook ads go live, and he does a giveaway on Goodreads.

He quickly realizes Facebook ads are going to lose him a lot of money, so he turns that off. And while the Goodreads campaign got his book into some people’s hands, it didn’t turn into the dozens of Goodreads and Amazon reviews he thought it would.

Finally, his book comes out. His Amazon ranking spikes a little as his family and friends pick up a copy, but within a week it plunges down below 50,000.

His book is selling 2 to 3 copies a day.

Discouraged and wondering why all of this marketing stuff doesn’t work for him, he decides to keep his day job, and starts working on his next book.

Maybe this one will hit big.

He disappears from social media, and his blogging comes to a halt. After all, all that marketing stuff is for when he’s done with the writing.

Scenario 2

Jane Writer decides she’s finally going to chase down that dream of being a successful author. She notes the methods of authors who are finding success, and decides to set up an author website, so people can find her online.

It’s not a perfect website, but it works. She also gets her email list set up, so she can stay connected to her readers.

Every day, after putting in her 1,000-words-a-day on her first novel, she works on creating new blog posts. She sticks to the schedule of releasing something twice a week.

She writes about all kinds of things, but always focuses on sharing what she’s learning — ideas or resources she thinks will help her readers in some way.

She also starts reaching out to a few other authors who are also just getting started. She figures the top bestsellers are probably pretty busy, so she reaches out to connect with writers who are finding some success, but who are not big names yet, knowing they’ll be much more apt to return her emails.

By doing this, she begins to connect with like-minded people. She hopes this will help her somehow in future, but since she’s just working on her first novel and there’s still a good six to nine months till release, there’s no rush.

So instead of making requests for their time, she looks for ways to be helpful to these authors. She recommends her editor to one, writes a guest post for another, and offers to read and give feedback on an early draft of another’s next novel.

All the while, she’s inviting people to be a part of her email list. Since she’s regularly emailing people with links to her latest blog posts and other cool stuff she finds online, she knows readers will be happy to get her stuff.

It all grows slowly, but it’s starting to work. People are leaving comments on her blog posts. People are enjoying her guest posts.

She’s corresponding several times a week with other authors. And now her email list has just clicked more than 500 subscribers.

Fast forward seven months, and Jane is nervous. Her book is in the final round of edits and she just approved the cover design. All that’s left is conversion to the ebook formats, and she’s ready to publish.

A few weeks before she publishes, she sends out an email to her email list, letting them know that the book she’s been working on is finally done, and will be on sale in a few weeks.

She’s overwhelmed by the response.

Dozens of people email her, excited to read her novel. Several of her author friends email her, asking how they can help spread the word.

Then her book launches. She sells more than 500 copies the first week. It’s not a huge bestseller, but it does much better than she thought it would.

As the weeks go by, her book’s ranking stays pretty high. She clicks more than 1,000 sales in the first month.

During this time, she continues to connect with readers and invite people to join her email list. She’s already written two-thirds of her next novel. It’ll be out in another four months.

By then, she’ll have more than 1,000 people on her email list, and have made connections with even more authors.

And what will happen then? Even better book sales.

What’s the difference between the scenarios?

Though these particular authors are fictional, these two scenarios are very real. They’re based on the 100-plus authors I’ve worked with personally and the hundreds of others I’ve watched and studied over the years.

Scenario #1 is the book-centric approach. Scenario #2 is the platform-centric approach.

The first approach is always focused on the book, while the second is always focused on the platform.

What does this mean for you?

For too many authors, connecting with readers and fans is an afterthought, instead of the number one priority.

When you shift your thinking from book-centric to platform-centric, it changes what you do on a daily basis. It also changes how you measure progress.

What does this look like? What should you be doing?

Here’s the process:

  1. Start now. Marketing isn’t something you do when it’s time to launch a book. Marketing is something you do day-in and day-out to build something that will support everything you do.
  2. Build an email list. As I laid out in Your First 1000 Copies, building your email list should be your number one goal. This is the best way to create direct connections with your readers.
  3. Focus on creating long-lasting connections with people. This is what turns marketing from drudgery to joy. Instead of hunting for authors to help promote your next book, you’re looking to connect with other writers, looking for ways to be friendly and helpful. Instead of begging readers to buy your book, you’re looking for ways to add value to their lives.
  4. Create an author platform, not a book platform. Books come and go. You want to be a writer, not just someone who wrote a book once. This means you’ll be writing multiple books in your career. You need people to be connected to you, the writer, not your books.

When you shift your focus from book-centric to platform-centric, you take a long-term, holistic approach to your writing career.

That approach dissolves much of the stress behind a book launch.

It also gives you the freedom to try new things as a writer, and a method by which to build a long-term following for your books.

Last thing… as a help for you, I created a PDF to help you get started in this new way of thinking.

Click Here to Download


Tim Grahl
Tim Grahl
Tim Grahl is the author of Your First 1000 Copies and the founder of BookLaunch.com. He has worked with authors for a decade to help them build their platform, connect with readers, and sell more books. He has worked 1-on-1 with over a hundred authors including Daniel Pink, Hugh Howey, Barbara Corcoran, Chip and Dan Heath, Sally Hogshead and many others. He has also launched dozens of New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestsellers.
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