A marketing strategy for a self-published novelist

A marketing strategy for a self-published novelist

(Cover image belongs to artist Knows Flower)

In marketing AMIDST TRAFFIC (my first self-published book, which has won several awards) I didn’t follow much of a marketing plan. I basically finished the book, had it edited, and rushed to publish just so I could get it out there, then I marketed wherever I could and sent it for review around different places.

However, in doing so, I limited my marketing outreach because several major book reviewers don’t accept review copies post-publication.

So this time, with JUMP (a Christian literary novel that explores the struggle of faith in a post-modern era), I decided to structure my marketing plan with a 6-9 month timeline. This opens up more opportunities, many of which are low-to-no cost. I ended up pushing back my original publication date by more than a month than what I originally thought, so that I could market to more places.

NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list, but I think this will help you as an author focus on a strategy and stick to some deadlines. I highly recommend save your own timeline points in your calendar and motivate yourself to meet them. I will update this list more in the future as more ideas and options come to mind that should be incorporated.

Below, I will also list a whole plethora of websites and services I’m considering, with direct links for your benefit. I won’t necessarily market to all these places (especially the expensive ones), but this serves a great list of places and services where you can market your book as an indie / self-published author.

But first … a timeline (This is not all-encompassing, and there are many, many more things you can do).


A self-publishing timeline to market your book

Start Line: The final book revision is complete

Once you complete your FINAL revision (that means, you’ve gone through a thorough writing and rewriting process, printing the manuscript on paper and marked it up in pen at least once), then and only then does it make sense to start your timeline.

Once you reach this point, set your publication date to at least 7-9 months out. For example, I completed my final manuscript revision of JUMP in mid-October 2015. My anticipated publication date is May 16, 2016 (7 months away).


7-9 months from publication date

Final proofreading

Send the book to a proofreader. I recommend hiring a professional, even though it can be quite expensive. If you want readers and reviewers to look at your work with respect, then give your book what it deserves: a professional, polished proofreading.

Most editors online will charge between $1,000-$2,000 (or more). I ended up hiring an editor for less than $500 and quickly regretted it. I later calculated that this editor missed more than 250 grammatical or typographical mistakes (yes my fault for making them, and also my fault for not hiring someone better). Fortunately, I was blessed with meeting a fellow author who helped me in the final edits before the book’s release. It really may be worth making solid writing friends and exchange editorial support to one another.

Register ISBN

I recommend purchasing a bundle of 10 ISBN so you can use the remaining ones for future books or various formats. You can purchase and register your book’s ISBN through Bowker, here.



Begin researching websites and places you plan to incorporate into your marketing plan. Create a document where you can keep and edit/grow this list.


Design the book cover

JUMP - Mock Cover 4

If you don’t have artistic or design abilities, it’s worth the money to hire a professional cover designer. I personally purchased rights to a photo through ShutterStock and designed my own cover.


Draft a sell sheet

Sample Book Sell Sheet, Novel, JUMP

Book Sell Sheet Sample

Most major book reviewers will require a sell sheet for your book. Here is a sample PDF of JUMP as a sell sheet example  for you to take a look. What needs to go on a book sell sheet? The sell sheet should include the following:

  • Author bio
  • Book description
  • Picture of the book’s cover
  • Any book reviews (if you have any in advance)
  • Publication date
  • ISBN
  • Page count
  • Print format
  • Retail price
  • Marketing information (Information that may validate you as an author or the book itself. In my case, I used the awards I won previously)
  • Contact information


5-6 months from publication date


Hopefully, you can start this sooner if you’ve given yourself more time. By now, your book should have been proofed and completely edited. This is the time to create your Kindle (or ePUB) version of the book, along with formatting the book for print. I intend on publishing the print version through CreateSpace, which offers great production quality at a really low cost. It also distributes and sells the book directly on Amazon for you.


Order your stash

Once your book is produced digitally (paged and formatted), now is the time to order your first stash of books (25-50 copies, depending on how ambitious your are, how aggressive you want to be, and how many you can afford). Consider these your marketing stash, mainly reserved to send out to various reviewers, book awards, galleys and promotional giveaways. If you plan on selling some paperbacks, then order a few more, but make sure you have enough books to send to reviewers and award submissions. Some of these places will require at least two copies. Others, fortunately, will accept digital submissions.


Draft your press & media material

In addition to your sell sheet, it’s important to craft your press release. I have some tips here on writing a professional press release for news organizations, which helped me land in several news publications in Pittsburgh, which was where I lived at the time. It’s good to have your release drafted in advance, but then you can add book blurbs from reviews.


Start building your mailing distribution list

This can be time-consuming research, and there are companies such as Meltwater that allow you access to news contact lists for a fee. The cost can be steep though, so if you have the time, start building your own list. Start local, compiling a list of news outlets in your area, then expand from there. IMPORTANT: Be targeted. Include only email addresses that might actually be interested in the arts or authors. Include libraries, as well, in your distro.


Reveal the cover

This part can be done at any time, but it might be fun to generate a social media buzz by revealing your book cover to your audience. If you haven’t created social media author pages or accounts by now, do so now.

If you have a few cover options in mind, you could launch a social media poll and have your followers and fans vote on their favorite. This could also help create a bit of a buzz.


3-4 months from publication date

Submit, submit, submit

This, to me, is the most exhilarating part. I love packaging books to send to reviewers and awards competitions. There’s an element of excitement in the unknown. Start first with FREE reviewers (I have a list of several below), for two reasons: 1) It saves you money up front, especially if you land on a several good reviews and 2) Usually the major reviewers will want your book galley 2-3 months BEFORE your publication date. This is a major reason why I decided to create a 6-9 months timeline, to cushion for this, which can be low cost and high reward. Make sure to target at least 5-10 bloggers in your submissions, and not just “corporate” reviewers.


Connect and network locally

Start visiting local places (book stores, coffee shops, community centers, libraries …) with your book and sell sheet in hand, and see if any of them might be interested in setting up a book reading and signing. I had a bit of success with local libraries. They’re often looking for guest speakers to teach small workshops. You could host a small writer’s group and use your novel as the platform. I’ve usually sold between 10-20 copies of my book at these events.


1-2 months from publication date

Send out those releases

Hopefully by now some of those book reviews have begun to trickle in. Update your press release and start sending it out. Create a news media buzz.


Link and share the love

Hopefully, you will have been implementing your social media marketing throughout these months, but as the official book reviews come back, this is a great time to link and share those reviews across social media.


Book Launch


Once the book is officially launched, play around with some discounts and free downloads, promoting them across various sites. Here are some book marketing services to consider, that I’ve tried personally, plus more below.

The list of marketing options below is not an official endorsement by me. I have not tried some of these and I’ve listed them simply for your consideration. I personally don’t have the budget to try them all, myself.


Some Book Marketing Options:

Book Reviewers

Some of these are free, others are a bit on the expensive side. Create a budget for yourself and don’t go overboard. Stick to the budget.

Booklist (Submit 4 months in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: 15 weeks

San Francisco Book Review (Submit 3 months in advance)

Price: FREE if submitted in advance / $150-$450 for sponsored reviews
Turnaround: 90 days (free) / 3-10 weeks (paid)

Midwest Book Review (Submit 3-4 months in advance)

Price: $50
Turnaround: 14-16 weeks

BookLife / Publisher’s Weekly (Submit 3-4 months in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: 12-15 weeks

Library Journal (Submit 3-4 months in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: 3-4 months

Indie Reader Reviews (Submit 2-3 months in advance)

Price: $225 / $300
Turnaround: 5-9 weeks / 4-6 weeks

Portland Book Review (Submit 1-3 months in advance)

Price: FREE / $100 / $175
Turnaround: Unknown / 6-10 weeks / 3-4 weeks

Book Reporter (Submit 2 months in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: Unknown

Christianity Today / Books and Culture (Submit 2-3 months in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: Unknown

Foreword Review (Submit 2 months in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: 2 months

Clarion Review (Submit 2 months in advance)

Price: $499
Turnaround: 4-6 weeks

Reader Views (Submit 1 month in advance)

Price: $119 (Other packages available)
Turnaround: 3 weeks

Independent Publisher (Submit 2 months in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: 4-6 weeks

Self Publishing Book Review (Submit 1 month in advance)

Price: $125
Turnaround: 30 days

BookReview.com (Submit by 1 month in advance)

Price: $45 (New Author Listing) / $185 (Express Review)
Turnaround: 2-3 weeks

Fiverr Book Reviews (Submit after publication date)

NOTE: This is a highly controversial option. Tread carefully.
Price: $5-10 each
Turnaround: Varies 

Crosswalk – for Christian Books (Submit 1-2 months in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: Unknown

Relevant Magazine – for Christian Books (Submit 1 month in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: Unknown

Brave Daily – for Christian Books (Submit 1 month in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: Unknown

Rated Reads (Submit 1 month in advance)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: Unknown

Sign up with Net Galley (Submit after publication)

NOTE: This websites connects authors with a community of authors, so there is a possibility for a large number of reviews
Price: $399
Turnaround: Unknown

Nothing Binding (Submit anytime)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: Unknown

Readers Favorites (Submit anytime)

Price: FREE
Turnaround: Unknown


Book Promotion & Marketing Options

NOTE: For a list of various marketing options I’ve tried personally, please take a look at this blog post: “Which Book Marketing Efforts Are Most Effective?”

Below is a list (in no particular order) of other options I’m considering.


Author Marketing Club

The skinny: A list of various FREE book promotion options

Library Bub

The skinny: Email distribution list, marketing your book to 10,000 libraries
Price: $299 (but they often run specials at $149)

Many Books

The skinny: Get featured on a newsletter sent to 110,000 subscribers
Price: $25 / $35

Check out more book marketing options here!

Any more?

I’m sure there are lots and lots more places I’ve missed for marketing your book or requesting a review. If you know of a reputable and trusted source for either of these, please leave me a comment below. Thanks!

Also, I provide this information in a consolidated form to help you out. Please drop me a line and say hello if this list was helpful to you. I love connecting with fellow authors. And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter. More things to come!

About Michel Sauret

I'm a independent and literary fiction author and Pittsburgh-based photographer

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