By Paula Margulies
To everything, there is a season, and after many years of helping authors publicize their work, I’ve learned that some seasons that are better than others for certain aspects of book promotion. Here are my recommendations on timing for book publicity (note: this is general advice based on my experience as a publicist; your experiences may be different, depending on the kind of book you’ve written, whether you are traditionally or self-published with ebooks or print versions (or both), and the specific media and venues you plan to approach):
1. The best time to promote a new book: the first 6-8 months after its release
The first 6-8 months that a book is out is the best time period to promote it, because that is when authors are most likely to receive yes nods from booksellers and members of the media for signings and interviews (except for those topics that tie in with breaking or hot news topics: then an older book can be considered timely). When I work with new clients, I tell them to plan on spending the majority of their promotional time, travel, and budget during the first 6 months after release; after that, I recommend they get back to work on their next books.
2. The best time for book signings and tours: spring, summer, and early fall
Booksellers are more apt to say yes to signings in the spring, summer, and early fall, especially in those areas of the country where winter weather might be an issue. Most bookstores don’t want to host authors during the holidays; they have enough traffic in their stores at that time. And many of them don’t begin to set event dates on their calendars until after the start of the new year.
3. When to begin calls to book spring, summer and early fall signing tours: January – March
See #2 above – most booksellers start filling out their spring, summer, and fall schedules right after the new year. Big name bookstores will sometimes book signings months in advance, so be prepared to start early for those venues that are highly sought after.
4. The worst time for book tours: late November – early January
Winter is quiet for booksellers, but it can be a good time for presentations to clubs and professional organizations (although many organizations set their schedules early, so plan to start calling at the beginning of the year to obtain speaking spots).
5. The best time to hold giveaways for new books: just prior to or immediately after release, and ongoing
To help drive initial reviews and buzz, giveaways are best held just before a book is released or immediately after its release date. Some reader sites have specific windows for giveaways (Goodreads, for example, allows authors to give away prerelease copies of their books, but will only allow giveaways for published books that are within six months of their release dates), so check the guidelines for timing. Ongoing giveaways are good, as well, especially if you are an author with a number of books and can give away some titles to help drive sales with others.
6. The best time to book conference speaking engagements: 6 months -1 year in advance
Those authors who would like to give presentations or workshops at conferences should plan to do so early – most conferences schedule presenters a year in advance, and some are even booking two years ahead. If you know you want to speak at a certain conference, check the website for dates when calls for presenters begin and note deadlines for submitting applications.
7. The best time to seek jacket blurbs: 3-4 months prior to publication
Most authors who are traditionally published will have help from their editors on soliciting blurbs for their back covers, but self-published authors have to do this work themselves. I recommend contacting those whose endorsement you seek at least 4 months prior to publication. Be considerate to those you’re approaching and submit all or a portion of the book (this can be done in manuscript form) with enough time for the endorser to read what you’ve sent. And remember to acknowledge the generous gift of a positive blurb with a thank you afterward.
8. The best time to seek reviews: ongoing, but good to solicit some 3-4 months prior to publication, so that they are available when the book is released
Again, authors who are traditionally published will usually have help from their publishers with initial reviews, but self-published authors will have to handle reviews themselves. Traditional publishers will usually prepare advance review copies (ARCs) and send them to top-tier reviewers (New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, Library Journal, etc.) four months prior to publication. Self-published authors can approach reviewers (generally, mid-tier and online) once their book is in printed form or, in the case of ebooks, when the formatted files are available.
9. The best days to pitch news producers and editors: Tues/Wed/Thurs
When making publicity calls, I’ve found that the best days to actually reach news editors or producers fall during the middle of the week. Editors and producers tend to be busy or unavailable on Mondays, and Fridays seem to be the most difficult days to reach media people.
10. The best time of day to pitch radio and TV morning show producers: 6 – 8 a.m.
If you plan to pitch morning show producers, be ready to get up early. Most producers are in the studio well before 6 a.m. on days that shows are taped, and many of them will be unavailable once the show begins. If you miss a producer, be sure to leave a voice message and follow up with email info (press release, author photo, and book cover art). Be aware of time differences if you’re calling cross country, too.
11. The best time to pitch media for event coverage: 3 weeks prior to event date
This is my own personal preference, but I like to give print media the most lead time for feature stories (about 3-4 weeks). If you are calling magazines, their lead times can be quite long – from 3-6 months in some cases – so research their submission guidelines and plan accordingly. I usually make calls to radio and television producers about 2-3 weeks prior to events (I like to set up my clients’ events first, usually booking 6 months out, and then make media calls about 3 weeks prior to each event to help drive traffic to it).
12. The best time to send out calendar listings: 2 weeks -1 month prior to event date
Many print and online publications will let you post listings on their websites. But check the guidelines for when listings must be done – most publications want them 2-4 weeks in advance of the event date.
Finally, many authors ask me about the best times to schedule their social media posts. For those who do a lot of posting on different sites, I suggest using a management dashboard like Hootsuite to schedule updates. As to specific timing, in his research on blogging and timing (http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/11207.aspx), Hubspot's Dan Zarella gives the following guidelines:
-The best day/time to post on Twitter: Friday at 5 p.m. EST is considered the most retweetable time of the week.
-The best time for readership on blogs: early morning.
-The best days for Facebook sharing: Saturday and Sunday.
-The best time for Facebook sharing: around 9 a.m.
Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her at www.paulamargulies.com, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.