(Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s short story based on their graphic novel In Real Life over on tor.com)
There’s a lot you can do to promote your book right when it’s coming out, or in the month or two ahead of that. What are the things that can’t wait, that you should do ahead of time?
There are a few things you should try to plan ahead for, that you can’t wait for the ‘my book’s coming out very soon right now!’ trigger. And the best time to do that is generally about a year before the book gets published — because that’s early enough that you probably won’t be accidentally missing any opportunities.
What things? Here are some!
Say you have written a book about horses, and you want to partner with some of the national horseback riding organizations and events. That’s great! And what a neat idea. Who does not want the Kentucky Derby to made better by being full of graphic novels? When you’re working with organizations that have annual events, they often start planning their next year’s event right after this year’s event is over. And on top of that, it usually takes some time for you to find the right person to contact within the organization — the one who’s heard of graphic novels before — and get them on board with you and your book.
Large scale events or media
When Scott McCloud’s graphic novel Making Comics came out, he went on a tour of all fifty states. His publisher didn’t pay for it — he did all the logistics himself, and he brought along his whole family with him. Doing that kind of traveling to support your book takes some time to plan and figure out the financing. We recommend that you take at least a year so you don’t kill yourself arranging it the month or two before the book comes out.
Similarly, if it’s your dream to have an author profile in the New York Times Magazine (or a similar publication), tell your publisher early and figure out what they’d need from you to make this happen. If they don’t think they can do it, start talking to some freelance publicists and get a second opinion. And meanwhile, make sure that you’re keeping your life interesting enough that these magazines would want to be profiling you.
First serial or book-associated short stories
Your book is coming out in a year! That’s awesome. But maybe before it comes out, you want to have a prequel short story come out, or a short story set in the same universe? If that short story is available in a magazine or for free online, it’s a great way to get readers excited about your new book, which up until that point they had never heard of before. But for this to happen, you have to write and draw the short story, plus get it scheduled to be published somewhere — and you want it to come out before your book. It’s good to have lots of time in advance to arrange for this all to happen! Check with your publisher early; if they can’t make it happen, there are a lot of online outlets that you could contact directly yourself.
It’s really great to get other authors to say that your book is really good. Sometimes you can even put that on your book cover and thereby convince readers that they should pick up copies of your book because other people whose judgment and taste they trust think it’s so good. You basically want to be recruiting these people as soon as the book is done so you’ve got their quotes in time to put them on the book cover (if you so desire) and share with everyone over social media for your publishing process!
Really, anything that you think will take up a great deal of time and energy is something that you should think about starting — or check in with your publisher about — about a year ahead of your book’s scheduled publication date. Your publisher might say, ‘check back in six months,’ but then you have a date for your calendar and you’re not left hanging on your plan for an awesome thing.
If you start thinking about these opportunities — and arranging your schedule and your work accordingly — twelve months before your book is due to hit stores, you should be in good shape for things to start falling into place right around publication.
Bonus: if you do start to arrange things in advance, it gives you plenty of time for the buzz on your book to start getting out, and for more people to hear about it and start contacting you with new opportunities with less turn-around time.