Building a bestselling self-published book is all in the timing. That is, it’s best to start marketing early and roll out promotions in deliberate, timed waves to maximize interest ahead of the book’s publication date. A useful way for an author to approach this is as a calendar counting down to the book’s launch -- starting at least a year before the book’s ready to read.

A Year Before Publication

Creating buzz starts earlier than you think.

“Typically I tell my clients that they need to think about publicity at least 12 months in advance,” says Crystal Patriarche, founder of BookSparks PR, which helps self-published authors manage their marketing and PR.

Among the things writers should be taking care of in this early stage of the book are:

Establish a web presence. Set up an author Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog if you don’t already have one.

Build an email list. Gather email addresses of fans and potential book buyers. Whether using a basic service like Gmail’s Contact Manager or something more sophisticated like Constant Contact, your online and social media efforts during this early stage should be geared toward gathering these addresses.

“An email list lets you directly communicate with readers,” says Bob Baker, author of 55 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Book on the Internet. “It’s one of the most potent marketing actions you can take.” For more details on email lists and early marketing, see PW’s piece on How to Market Your Self-Published Book.

Six Months Before Publication

Build awareness. Get the word out about your book and your plans for it, connecting with other authors and readers in your genre .

Keep readers in the loop. “Rather than talking about the book every day, think about the big moments of the book that you want to share,” says Patriarche.

That means promoting milestones like the cover reveal, new blurbs it receives, and any other announcements to remind readers of the project and its imminent publication.

Also update readers on the progress of the book itself, through your email list as well as social media outlets. This can include anything from tweets about research you are doing, to blog posts that connect your book’s subject matter with a topic of the day.

Release excerpts and other content. Besides social media updates, authors might also want to help build buzz by releasing excerpts of their book or other related material.

For example, as Baker ramps up for the release of his new book, The DIY Career Manifesto, he launched an interview series on YouTube with one-on-one chats with many of his sources for the book, and releases them as podcasts. All of these encourage viewers and listeners to sign up for his “VIP List” to get emailed excerpts of the new book.

There are several strategies an author can use in posting book excerpts, depending on where you expect the strongest following:

  • Post excerpts on your social media outlets (blog, Facebook, etc.).
  • Post just a few paragraphs on social media, and make a full sample chapter available only through your mailing list.
  • Release the sample chapter on Wattpad, FictionPress, or other free book sites.

Three Months Before Publication

Contact book bloggers. By this time, the book should be all but complete, and now advanced reading copies should be sent out to book bloggers and reviewers. Make sure they have plenty of time to read and review the work, and to schedule it for posting.

“A lot of people don’t realize that even smaller blogs have a lead time,” says Patriarche. “A lot of them work 60 to 90 days in advance.”

Promote the positive reviews and coverage the book gets through social media and post the strongest review excerpts on the book’s Amazon page to drive up interest.

Set up a blog tour. At the same time you are reaching out to reviewers, seek other ways to get your book in these outlets. Depending on your book’s subject matter, this can mean writing a guest post, doing an interview, or offering some other content that can post a week or two prior to the book’s release.

Three Weeks Before Publication

Run a book giveaway. This is a good time to promote the book with a Goodreads giveaway. Give 5 to 25 copies (whatever you can afford) out to readers on the site. This has the dual benefit of alerting Goodreads’ many members that the book is coming out and increasing the likelihood they will review it on Amazon and elsewhere.

Rally the troops. Directly email friends and family to ask for their help in promoting the book. This includes letting their friends know about it and any special promotions you are running for it.

Day of Publication

Celebrate. Toast your book’s launch on social media and through thank-you emails to those who have helped it along the way. There’s plenty of work to do post-publication, but enjoy the moment and the hard work you have put in building buzz for your book.

Alex Palmer is a freelance journalist and the author of Weird-o-Pedia.