How to Market Your Book: Timing for Book Sales Success

In-Store Promotions, Holidays and More

Strand Bookstore
Time your book marketing with in-store promotions. Waring Abbott / Getty Images

How do you market your book in a way that it's timed for sales success?

Timing is everything — and no less in book marketing and book publicity than in any other endeavor. There are many factors that affect book promotion timing — from launch date to bookseller seasonal promotions and special events (like Small Business Saturday for Booksellers – see November Book Promotions, below).

Here's what you need to know about timing your book promotion.

How to Market Your Book — Timing Your Book Promotion

  • Promote Your Book Pre-Publication – Ideally, authors should begin a year or more before their books get published to start building their social media followings, their affinity group networks, and on- and off-line "social" awareness of their upcoming publication. (Learn more about the pre-publication book marketing steps to take, here.)
  • Promote Your Book at Launch – The launch window is likely your book's best shot at marketing and publicity exposure for a number of reasons. If it's keyed to a specific season or event (see "Super Bowl," below), then your publisher will likely launch your book into the marketplace timed in advance of that event.
  • Promote Your Book Often — Of course, you don't want to stop there. When you're marketing or publicizing a book — whether your own or someone else's — you'll be looking for marketing opportunities throughout the life of your book. 

    Here are some additional book marketing timing tips.

    Market Your Book to Your "Super Bowl"

    That is, create your book's "buzz" around the most natural, best timeframe — the event or season when your potential readers' attention is riveted on your subject matter.

    For example:

    • If you've written a cookie decorating book like I have, the best time to promote it would be from late-September to through December — prime holiday cookie-baking season.
    • If you've written a book about how to find a job in book publishing, the season to promote would likely be around graduation when tens of thousands of English majors are looking for jobs.
    • If you've written a novel about pirates, the Talk Like A Pirate Day (see below) might be the date that you gear your promotions toward — read more about hooking your book to an existing event. 
    • If you're lucky enough to "backlist," there may be an opportunity to re-promote your book on an annual basis, hooking it to an annual event or the season when booksellers are focusing on it.

    Market Your Book When the Media and Booksellers Are Focusing on the Topic

    Following are some areas of and timeframes for typical, annual book promotions. Keep in mind that different booksellers have slightly different calendars, and the lead time for media varies greatly.

    And note that "in-store" promotions aren't limited to bricks-and-mortar booksellers. Online retailers also promote titles seasonally.

    JANUARY BOOK PROMOTIONS
    New Year, New You
    Including diet books, exercise manuals, self-improvement of all types to key with any New Year's Resolutions, and clutter-clearing.

    FEBRUARY BOOK PROMOTIONS
    Valentine’s Day
    Books promoted around Valentine's Day include sex how-to books (like the Kama Sutra), erotica, dating advice...

    and books about chocolate

    MARCH BOOK PROMOTIONS
    St. Patrick’s Day
    Since the Irish monks "saved civilization" by protecting the volumes of the day, the St. Pat's people have been a book-loving crowd. Books on Irish history, Irish cookbook, etc., are generally in promotion.

    SPRING / APRIL BOOK PROMOTIONS
    Gardening
    Speaking of all things "green," gardening how-to and picture books bloom on bookseller tables at this time of year.

    Weddings
    Bridal-related books - While weddings obviously happen all year long, bridal is generally promoted in the early spring, coinciding with the bridal industry's own promotional efforts at that time.

    These include wedding planners, wedding etiquette books, books with wedding inspirations. And while a young woman's fancy turns to matrimony and a young man's fancy turns to...

    Baseball
    Baseball books!

    MAY BOOK PROMOTIONS
    Mother’s Day
    Women’s fiction – note Fifty Shades of Grey, which experienced a somewhat surprising Mother’s Day bump its first year on the market. Surprising because it seems to indicate that people were buying erotic books for their Moms.

    JUNE BOOK PROMOTIONS
    Father’s Day
    Grilling books – Timed for the beginning of the summer grilling months, bookstores merchandise grilling books at Father's Day.

    Golf and other sports books – Golf books of all types generally sell well versus other sports books.

    Graduation
    Traditionally dictionaries were a graduation gift, but that market has diminished with the internet. Books that tip to the rite of passage of graduation, such as Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! or Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life, adapted from a college commencement address she gave.  Books about jobs and careers are understandably popular. 

    Audiobooks
    June is officially Audiobook Month, when the Audie Awards take place. Audiobook versions can take a ride on the promotional tails of the nominees and winners.

    JULY BOOK PROMOTIONS
    Summer Reading
    The beach reading season highlights “lighter” adult fiction, generally fast, fun reads. Also popular is Young Adult and children’s books, which are driven by school summer reading lists.

    Travel guides and maps - again, a changing market with the preponderance of online travel information and GPS systems, but people still do look for guides to carry.

    AUGUST BOOK PROMOTIONS
    Back-to-School

    SEPTEMBER BOOK PROMOTIONS
    September marks the start of the fall bookselling season, by far the best time of year for book sales, leading up to the month of December when holiday gift-buying boosts book sales to their annual peak. Traditionally, “big” books are launched at this time of year, in time to ramp up the book publicity and get those books on everyone's holiday gift list.

    Also popular are "how-to" and cookbooks for the season — craft books, baking, holiday cooking. 
    Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19) — you know you wanted to ask.

    September through early November is also the time of many annual book fairs. These tend to showcase local authors, and if you're crafting a seasonal marketing plan, you might take a look at the Book Publishing Calendar to see when there might be a show in your area, and then read how to pitch a book fair programmer to score a spot at a show.

    OCTOBER BOOK PROMOTIONS
    Halloween
    Halloween’s popularity as a “retail” holiday has gained much in recent years and the growth in the number of Halloween titles—especially cookbooks and kids' craft books—has reflected that.

    NOVEMBER BOOK PROMOTIONS
    Jewish Book Month
    Timed a few weeks before Hannukah, local book fairs focus on books of Jewish interest.

    Thanksgiving
    Turkey roasting seems to generate hostess insecurity and people are gearing up for their year-end holiday cooking. Books on holiday cooking and baking, especially cookie books, are popular at this time.

    Indies First / Small Business Saturday
    Authors of all kinds have opportunities to volunteer at their local booksellers while helping to promote their books themselves on Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving) when many independent bookstores host a #IndiesFirst events.

    According to its founder, Sherman Alexie, "What could be better than spending a day hanging out in your favorite hometown indie, hand-selling books you love to people who will love them too and signing a stack of your own? Why not give it a try?"

    Contact your local indie bookseller/s to see how you might participate.

    DECEMBER BOOK PROMOTIONS
    Gift Books
    Due to the “give-ability” of print books, December hardcover and paperback sales generally outpace the sale of ebooks. Also due to the gift-giving factor, there's an uptick in sales “big,” hefty, more expensive books, like major biographies, and color-filled coffee table books, art books, and cookbooks.

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