The Author’s To-Do List: Avoiding WTF-WDIDN

Just Relax 97/365When I got married, someone forwarded me a huge master to-do list of everything that Hubby and I needed to complete before our wedding. Some of it applied to us, and some of it didn’t, but the list was mostly applicable to everyone. There were things on there like scheduling pre-cana appointments (we didn’t do that) to going to pick out the ketubah in time to have it personalized (we did do that!) (Also: I love our ketubah. It’s beautiful). There are many such lists online now, but back then, this was the most forwarded email ever, with couples adding on their own items and forwarding it to newly engaged friends. That list saved my behind many, many times over.

I got to thinking yesterday that there should be a similar to-do schedule for authors prior to and just after a book release. While a wedding has a Date, and then after there’s honeymooning and maybe changing your name, a book release to-do list continues after the book release date. But there’s a LOT to get in line beforehand.

Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels (aka EIKAL) is coming out 4 October, and for a long time now, it’s been ‘in October,’ a month that was comfortably far away. I updated the book page on my site, and the book has a Facebook page, and this site here is undergoing a redesign right now so there will be more info about the book then, too.

But then I realized October is NEXT FREAKING MONTH and I wasn’t sure what I should be doing.

According to many people on Twitter, I am not the only person who has that feeling.

So here’s my thought: let’s make sure that in the future, authors don’t have to feel that WTF-WDIDN (What the fuck, what do I do now?) feeling. We can create a master to-do list for authors based on when they ought to be thinking about/accomplishing different getting-ready-for-book-release tasks, and this is for both digital and print.

Got ideas of what should be on there, but not sure when to schedule it? Got a draft of a list that you follow? Please share! I’m going to compile the list and make it publicly available in as many formats as possible, so we can share and add and alleviate the WTF-WDIDN feeling.

Please use the following format: date/time suggestion – task. For example: “4-6 months: design and order bookmarks and/or postcards.” I’m open to anything and everything, so that when this list is complete, people can have a master template of what has to be done, even if not every single item applies to them.


Random Musings

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  1. 1

    “1 month: write news releases, make list of local media, national media.  Send out two weeks before release date—check local deadlines in newspaper, entertainment sections often go to press early.”

    Not having a custom-made ketubah was my only regret from my wedding, but it wasn’t in my budget.  However, the pretty printed one has held up well after 35+ years, and I remind my husband those 200 silver pieces he owes me have likely increased in value.[g]

  2. 2
    Eve Langlais says:

    Isn’t item number one getting a really big bottle of alcohol so the poor author can get drunk before the first review comes in?
    Launches are always nerve wracking.

    Starting the ball rolling for the list…

    Launch Day/Suggestion: update the author website. People need to know the book is available and include all the links to purchase it.

  3. 3

    16-12 weeks in advance: start coming up with great promotion items exclusive to your street team. These people are going to push your book to everyone they know. They deserve a treat.

    12-8 weeks in advance: If you don’t have one start building a street team and showering them with goodies. One of my members went to every single woman in her PTO group and told them they needed to buy my book. Then used it as her book club pick. It took her two minutes but I could see where there was a spike in webtraffic in her particular region almost immediately after. A tshirt is a cheap price to pay for that kind of loyalty from someone you’ve never met.

  4. 4

    Actually, Catherine Ryan Howard JUST wrote a to do list for authors the other day that I found very helpful. It’s catered to indie authors, so traditional authors might want to pay attention to #74 and above. Check it out:

  5. 5

    I bow at your feet! I have my first book coming out Feb. 28, 2012 and I’m trying to figure out exactly not only WHAT to do and WHEN to do it but HOW to do it!


  6. 6
    Cate says:

    OMMFG a bunch of us in my writing challenge group were just lamenting this very this. My debut apocalyptic novella (with romantical elements)  is being released in November. AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING. I love my publisher, rally I dooo . . . but as an author I know I should be doing Stuff. Launchy-type Stuff.

    Thank you thank you thank you! I will share with my group poste-haste.

  7. 7
    Donna says:

    I’m going with the practical.
    2 weeks prior to first public appearance: cut & color.
    2-3 days prior: mani &/or pedi.
    Saw an author at a book signing looking like she’d just come out of her cave. And maybe she had. And just to be fair, not a romance author. But still, it never hurts to look your best. I hear that’s the secret to feeling your best….

  8. 8

    I just want to echo Cynthia, since I’m a debut author with releases coming up in January and May.  THANK YOU!

  9. 9

    Making a to do list for authors would be limiting them just a bit or not?.

    Just my opinion.


  10. 10
    EC Spurlock says:

    Thank you for this brilliant idea! This will be so useful, especially for those of us just putting our toes in the water and with no idea what to expect when the tidal wave actually hits.

  11. 11
    Nancy Martin says:

    When your publisher’s catalog is sent to booksellers (about 6 months in advance of release) try to send emails or postcards to as many indie bookstores as you have befriended.  (Don’t just send a mass mailing to a bazillion stores you’ve never visited. Make this a personal outreach, otherwise it’s human nature to react with disgust.) Suggesting the store stock your book will help your pre-sales and the pre-pub buzz, no kidding.  Making pals with booksellers should be an on-going project, though.  The more you know, the better. And take gifts, not just bookmarks. Buying something at each store is smart, too, y’know.

  12. 12
    Jaci Burton says:

    If you’re going to advertise in Romance Sells, make sure you do this about 6 months in advance of your book’s release.

    Creating promotional materials – Start on these about 6 months before your book releases (providing you have the book’s cover, of course)

    Sending out promotional items to booksellers/book clubs/reader groups – 3-6 months in advance.

    Local booksignings – I’d check with the bookstore about 3 months in advance of your book release. Arranging these can take time to schedule.

    The week of release – Don’t forget to send out your newsletter announcing the release of your book – with buy links included. Always make it easy for your readers to buy your book.

    The day of release – Make sure your website is updated with all the buy links.

    I’ve found one of the most important things is to make sure your website is updated with the cover/blurb/excerpt/buy links. There’s nothing worse than having a new release and having zero information about the book on the author’s website. If your website isn’t updated until the week after your book releases, that’s a week too late. Start building momentum and excitement for your book as early as possible.


  13. 13
    Kim in Hawaii says:

    I interview and spotlight authors daily at my blog.  My biggest pet peeve is many author website are out-of-date!  I also get frustrated with “boring” bios that make it difficult to ask interview questions. 

    So my advice is just before ARCs are distributed (what ever time fram that is) update all social media and make your bio interesting!

    BTW, I received an ARC for EIKAL – I immediately torn open the package and read the book.  You could have a blank website as this book will sell itself!

  14. 14
    Jill Shultz says:

    Here is the promotion plan I developed back when I was pursuing the traditional publication route. It’s based on everything I gleaned from all of my research.  I hope some parts are helpful to the Bitchery.

    12 months before publication:
    1. Consult with agent; coordinate with publisher
    • Visit publisher to meet editor, publicist, EA, Marketing Director, and Sales Director. Seek advice about most effective techniques and target audiences. Identify key media influencers who might like title and plan approach. Coordinate efforts and budgets.
    Ask for:
    • Details about their plan
    • Initial print run
    • ARCs: can author’s promotional efforts be mentioned on back cover, too?
    • Supply of galleys, extra cover flats (at least one without holes), posters (with space to fill in details about events), printer-ready disk with artwork so you can continue reproducing flats after they run out of stock’ “autographed” stickers
    • List of reviewers, booksellers, media, libraries, co-op opportunities
    • Info. about their sales staff and distributors
      • Details about buying books at a discount; selling books
      • Permission to reproduce book cover
      • Publication date (actual shelf date)
    • Production department contact, to explore use of leftover space on sheets for other promotional pieces
    Offer to:
      • Send personal note with each review copy
      • Create a promotional DVD
      • Send galleys to good prospects not budgeted to receive it

    2. If not available from publisher, create database of book reviewers; local and national media for reviews and interviews; booksellers; libraries; readers’ groups; associations; listserves; websites; blogs; newspapers; magazines; radio; TV; separate database of fans; email list of friends and family.

    3. Ask personal networks for help locating contacts for the targeted campaigns to readers.

    4. Produce bound ARCs, if necessary.

    5. Take author photo (black-and-white and color, web and print versions).

    6. Create website.

    7. Create press kit.

    8. Create promotional DVD, if warranted.

    9. Choose conferences and festivals to attend.

    10. Solicit quotes (letter first, followed by comb-bound ARC with editor’s contact info).

    11. Create logo, slogans for ancillary products, if relevant.

    12. Create online animated ad for Smart Bitches blog.

    10 months before publication
    1. Send ARCs to reviewers, genre magazines, trade publications, libraries, indie bookstores, chain bookstores, book buyers for other outlets, key reading groups, and association leaders for primary market and secondary markets.

    3. Send news release to all media that print list of upcoming books or congratulatory news announcing sale of book.

    4. Talk to friends about coop promotions.

    5. Complete author questionnaire.

    6. Discuss potential national media reviews/interviews with publicist.

    7. Get listed in Radio and Interview Report (lists authors available for interviews).

    6 months before publication
    1. Confirm pub date and finalize promotional items (poster for events; etc.).

    2. Meet local bookstore reps; schedule signings and events.

    3. Visit bookstores wherever you go (collect business cards, add to DB).

    4. Send in any ads.

    5. Send “It’s coming” PR with more info about book, and publication date.

    6. Pitch local media for book review or author profile.

    7. (About 5 months) Send DVD to distributors, wholesalers. Try to meet sales reps.

    4 months before
    1. Mailing to booksellers so they’ll order book in time.

    2. Follow up with book reviewers, distributors, booksellers (personal visits).

    3. Take a local newspaper columnist to lunch, offer ARC.

    3 months before
    1. Schedule interviews with local newspapers (or distant ones, if you can establish a personal connection).

    2. Call event venues. Verify that they’ve ordered books. Confirm date and time. Remind them of any materials available from publisher. List appearances in

    2 months before
    1. Plan travel, pick wardrobe.

    2. Send thank you notes.

    3. Make promotional items for book signings.

    1 month before
    1. Email announcement to encourage bookstore pre-orders; ask people to post reviews and start creating buzz.

    2. Do online chats; promote pre-orders.

    1 week before
    1. Email announcement of pub date; pre-order info.; ask people to scout and send details about where they see the book.

    2. Unleash the family and friends campaign.

    3. Call bookstores where you’ll be doing signings to check on # books ordered.

    Day before
    1. Email reminder to buy the book during the first week (explanation of why this matters), front books, talk to sales staff.

    Publication day
    1. Visit local bookstores and other outlets.

  15. 15
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    This is the best idea EVAR. Thank you, Sarah, and all the awesome members of the Bitchery who are contributing. You all rock!

    I have nothing to add to the list, since I’m not an author, but when I inevitably write my best-seller (like ya do), I’ll be consulting it.

  16. 16
    Liz Talley says:

    Oh, dear Lord, I think I’m having palpatations. October is NEXT month! Yeah, I gotta October 4th release, too, and I’ve done no promo. Okay, I did update my website. Whew! But, yeah, guess I need to get my butt in gear. Thanks for the tips though some of them made me panic more. That list? Wow.

    Off to think about press releases! I can handle that :)

  17. 17
    Jill Shultz says:


    If it makes you feel better, looking at that list again made me panic, too. : )  I hesitated to share it because I thought, What if the Bitchery expects me to do all this? I hope there was something there that will be useful to you. And you’re way ahead of me: my website is a parked domain and a bunch of Dreamweaver files that need a fairy godmother.

    Good luck with the launch!

  18. 18
    Avery Flynn says:

    I love you for doing this. That is all. :)

  19. 19

    I do less and less with every release.

    Right now, it looks like this:

    6 months before:
    Make bookmarks and crap.

    I may eventually scotch that step.

    1 month before:
    1. Get copies of the book in people’s hands.
    2. Schedule something on release day that forces me to get off the internet for at least four hours.
    3. Update the website with stuff like review quotes (except, not so much right now—I have no internet access at home and that’s dampening my ability to do anything.)

    Night of:
    1. Change all references on website to reflect actual status.

    This has been greatly improving for my sanity.

    Also, I should add that I have grown cynical. I think that 90% of what authors do for book releases are sympathetic magic—stuff you do that you have no proof makes a difference, and you’re just as well off lighting candles and incanting to the Gods of Coop.

    Now that I have significantly more crap to do incident to a release I’ve dropped a lot of the guest blogging, etc, and I can’t see that it’s actually hurt me.

  20. 20
    Eve Langlais says:

    Courtney is right, most marketing seems to have little impact. Some of my best launch sales occurred without me doing a thing. Interviews and intensive marketing take time. As soon as I see one of works launched, I do the best thing for me; write another. I am also partial to giveaways. So I guess that would be a suggestion for launch month, put your book in the hands of readers and let them be your word of mouth. Then get to work


  21. 21
    Eve Langlais says:

    @Jill, your list scares me lol

  22. 22
    Kim in Hawaii says:

    Courtney and Eve, it is a slippery slope.  No doubt reviews generate buzz on their own … but authors have to have some advance buzz for reviewers to read their books. 

    I believe social media makes it easier to promote books at less cost (and perhaps less time).  Please do not cut out the bloggers by withholding guest posts and interviews because readers still want to connect to their favorite authors. 

    I recently conducted a “marketing” survey on my blog – readers provided their input on what attracts their attention to a book:

  23. 23
    Eve Langlais says:

    @Kim I never turn down a request from bloggers, I just don’t go looking for them anymore. I’ve met the most new readers during giveaways. And I am delighted to say many of those readers joined me on Fb and are great to talk with. I peeked at your blog and read your survey. How awesome of you to take the time to find out what readers are doing. :-)

  24. 24

    Love this post and the comments!  A little overwhelming.  I think this is a post I’ll have to come back to tomorrow morning with my cup of coffee.

    I haven’t read everyone’s post entirely, so I might be wrong but I didn’t see much mention of twitter.  I find it a very useful networking tool.  When I started tweeting I didn’t even know about hashtags and I had no followers so I was essentially tweeting to myself, but once I got the hang of it—it did affect my sales.

    I’ve got two books out on Amazon now and I’m preparing to have a third up before Christmas, so I love all these ideas.  For me, it’s about networking, community building, and promoting others as I go along.  I’ve found that if I took the time to make sure the word got out about their projects, they are much more likely to take the time to mention mine.  Plus, you just make a lot of great new friends that way.

    I’m presently running a contest on my FB site that is really about having fun with my already published books and I’m hopeful that it will keep them fresh in people’s mind while waiting for my next one. I’m having a blast doing it so it doesn’t feel like work.

    So, whatever you do, choose something you enjoy also. 

    Good luck with your new book!

  25. 25
    Flo says:

    At no point should you run around the house topless, pinching your own nipples and singing the National Anthem in a falsetto voice.  This will not help ANYTHING.  And it might upset the neighbors.  Your family, of course, would understand.

  26. 26

    @ Flo

    Dangit, stop looking in my windows on release day!

    Though, as a Python fan, I’m more partial to the Lumberjack Song, or Sit On My Face (and Tell Me That You Love Me …)

    On topic, I’ve pared way back. I now keep my website updated and active, have a great group of facebook friends/fans, send out a newsletter ping a week before the release and then the day of, do maybe four or five blog appearances … and then get back to work on the next book.

    My numbers haven’t changed much as I’ve scaled back. Would they be going up faster if I was still beating the bushes and doing a ton of mailings? Maybe. But I finally decided that I needed the time and mental space to write the next book, and then the next, and to make sure that they’re honestly as good as I can make them.

    Your mileage may vary. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Wash in cold water and hang to dry, or shrinkage may occur!

  27. 27

    @Jill—That is one impressive list.

    Interesting discussion. I agree about keeping your website updated and having plenty of information available there, like excerpts, character info, FAQs, and more. I also think when you have a new book out that you also need to have as much information as possible on your site about the *next* book in a series or the next project you are working on.

    I think guest blogging and social media are two of the easiest ways that authors can promote their books. Plus, they are fun ways to interact with readers, bloggers, reviewers, authors, and other folks who love books too. Promotion/marketing is work, so why not make it as enjoyable as possible?

    I design bookmarks/fliers and do mailings with those, as well as send out ARCs. I also do some online advertising. But like other folks have said, you have to look at what you have the time/energy/money to do versus the time you need to write the next book/time for your family/time for yourself. You can’t do everything, so do what you enjoy and what you think gets you the best results.

  28. 28

    i like this brilliant idea,  i use this

  29. 29

    this post its cool, but i use a twitter , for me itst a very useful networking tool, ilove it

  30. 30
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