How to Launch a Self Published Book: Timing Is Key!

by | Jan 28, 2021 | Book Marketing Basics

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Are you wondering how to launch a self published book in 2021? If you’re planning to release a new book in the next few months, that question should be at the top of your book promotion list.

Often, authors use one factor to determine the best time to launch a book: the manuscript is finally complete and they’ve sent it off for publication. They’ll launch “whenever it’s ready.”

But timing is important, so you’ll want to take some ownership of that date instead of leaving it up to others.

Understanding Traditional Publisher Timelines

Publishing a book and the associated timelines for launching it used to be pretty simple: new releases came out in Spring, in Summer, or in Fall/Winter. These days, books are slotted into the areas that fit them best, rather than being put into a season to fill the publisher’s book list for that particular time of year.

If you’ve ever worked with a traditional publisher, you probably know that they plan far in advance. Mostly this is due to all of the pre-work that they need to do for a title, especially in terms of possible bookstore consideration.

Typically, publishers select and confirm titles 12 to 18 months ahead of their actual street date.

But traditional publishers also want to meet consumer demands – which is why books appear relatively quickly when they’re focused on hot topics (politics, for example), unexpected events (such as the death of a celebrity), or trends.

Remember the prevalence of books on hygge, succulents, and the Caveman Diet that flooded the shelves a few months (or years) back?

Publishers call books like these “drop in” titles because they “drop into” their list of releases with little or no advance warning.

This background knowledge about publishing is useful if you’re considering how to launch a self published book. If your topic isn’t tied to the news cycle or lifestyle trends, you can easily research your competition from traditional publishers.

Let’s say that you find out that Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, and Martha Beck are all publishing some sort of relationship/dating book in the same month you were planning to target major national media (national magazines and national broadcast media such as major morning shows or NPR) to launch your book.

What should you do? Well, I’d move my book launch to another month because big media is going to focus on big names. Better to give your book a less crowded playing field.

But if you aren’t targeting big media, I would honestly have no problem launching your book in the same month. Why? Because you aren’t competing for the same targets, and you just might benefit from the rising tide effect.

By this, I mean that the interest in the relationship market may surge with all of these hot titles coming out, so why not add yours as a possible choice for consumers?

How Can I Find Out What Books Are Launching and When?

That’s a great question and the easy answer is: read the trades. Publishers Weekly routinely offers advance publication information, and it’s a periodical you can find at many libraries.

Publishers Marketplace is a paid service that is super useful for those considering how to launch a self published book. For $25 a month you can sign up to get access to all sorts of publishing information and release dates. It’s well worth the money, even if you only use it for a month.

How to Launch a Self Published Book Using Seasonal Events

You can and should consider using any and all seasonal events that you can tie your book to, even if that means launching it at Christmas time.

Planning your book launch around a seasonal event, calendar event, or news item can be crucial to its success – even if you are considering how to launch a self published book that is fiction.

Got a sci-fi book? Why not put it out there around the next Star Wars movie?

What about a romance novel? February is a great time if you want to market to singletons who are wishing for romance when Valentine’s Day comes around; summer is also terrific since vacations and downtime remind readers of the pleasures of escaping in a book.

book marketing ideas

Other big calendar events include historic anniversaries or commemorative months such as Black History Month (February), Women’s History Month (March), LGBTQ+ Pride Month (June), or Native American Heritage Month (November). You can check the Library of Congress’s List of Commemorative Observances to see if one might fit your upcoming title – I dropped a link for you in the Free Resources and Downloads below.

Here’s another example: the copyright for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby expired at the end of 2020, so “anyone will be allowed to publish the book, adapt it to a movie, make it into an opera or stage a Broadway musical.

“No longer will you need to permission to write a sequel, a prequel, a Jay Gatsby detective novel or a Gatsby narrative populated with Zombies.” (For more information, check out Hillel Italie’s article for Associated Press; the link is below.)

Just weeks after the copyright expiration, we’re already seeing an influx of Gatsby-related themes and titles!

How to Launch a Self Published Book Using Current Events

What about current events? If you have a book ready and something big is happening, get it out there.

When Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, there were a whole slew of books and other merchandise that suddenly popped up everywhere. Authors of forthcoming titles with strong female heroines – regardless of their political affiliations – might consider whether their books would satisfy reader demand for these types of stories.

On a more fun note, while Dolly Parton will likely always be a mega fan favorite, she was all over the media in 2020 because of her ties to new streaming entertainment on Netflix and because she made a big bucks donation to coronavirus research in April and financially backed Moderna’s vaccine (stories about the latter appeared in late November).

What does this have to do with our original question of how to launch a self published book? Well, even if your book doesn’t focus on Dolly or contain a reference to her, you might be able to capitalize on her popularity by using lyrics from one of her songs as part of your media blitz.

How Much Time Does It Take to Plan a Book Launch?

My advice for anyone considering how to launch a self published book really boils down to this: focus on your planned date or season as early as you can and make sure you have time to devote to marketing your book once it’s launched.

Whenever I work with a title that has a specific focus, let’s say Mother’s or Father’s Day, I urge the authors to start early because attention to a book rarely peaks early then fades. Rather, books often take a while to build momentum and generate some steam.

So if you haven’t started marketing yet, you might want to reconsider launching your book as part of a big Valentine’s Day campaign this year. On the other hand, right about now is a good time to start working on the launch of that Mother’s or Father’s Day book.

By the same token, books don’t market themselves, so you’ll need to make sure your calendar is pretty clear of other important obligations during launch week. You’ll want to have plenty of time to pitch bloggers, maintain your website with fresh content, and make sure all parts of your Amazon presence are working seamlessly.

That can be hard to do if you’re also planning your daughter’s wedding or chairing the virtual school auction. I recommend that you use a generous estimation when considering your time commitments.

I’ve given you lots of factors that should play a role in your consideration of how to launch a self published book. If you need some more support, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re all about helping authors to maximize their potential!


Free Resources and Downloads

FREE Monthly Book Marketing Planner

Book Marketing Kickstart Package

Categories are Key for Amazon Book Promotion

AME Book Marketing Tips & Author Success Podcast

Publishers Marketplace

Library of Congress’s List of Commemorative Observances

“Everyone Invited: ‘Great Gatsby’ Copyright to End in 2021”

1 Comment

  1. Jen Peters

    All true, but I”d like to note that fiction doesn’t have to go with the ready-made seasons–romance in February for example. A romance, mystery, adventure (or whatever) set at Christmas, July-at-the-beach, Halloween, or having a winter blizzard, all have seasons that fit the marketing. And for Christmas books, Christmas in July is becoming a big thing.



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