Timing: In Book Marketing & Publicity, Knowing What to do When is Critical

black clock face with white numbers

Someone once said, “Timing is everything,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Whether you are doing your own publicity and marketing, or working with your publicist on doing so, timing is critical, and that means you must be organized.

I heard that groan. Not everyone loves what it takes to be organized, I understand. But I’ll bet you love the feeling when you are.

There are two different areas where timing is essential:

  1. Show up on time for interviews and other promotional events
  2. Follow up on time and do what you say you’re going to do

Because I come from a broadcasting background, I learned the importance of arriving on time for an interview or an event very early on. In fact, when I was interning, I was 8 seconds late into the studio for a newscast, which is a huge no no! Because of that 8 second snafu, I was suspended from work for three days. I was horrified, but it did instill in me an absolute “don’t do this” lesson never forgotten or repeated! Hence, my familiar mantra: “The 5 o’clock news does not start at 5:02.”

Now I realize in the real world that seems extreme and possibly even bizarre, but not in the world of media. Time matters. Not only in broadcasting, but in other forms of media as well.

Let’s start with number 2…

Follow up in a timely manner and do what you say you’re going to do:

Something that happened just today underscores the importance of following up in a timely way.  Last summer I began working on the publicity for a business book that started with a campaign to the industry trades and other long-lead reviewers. I contacted one particularly well-known reviewer who loved the book and posted a fabulous review on his website and also did an Amazon Vine review. Plus, it got a ton of pickups in other publications. Then, yes, it gets better. The reviewer reached out asking me if my clients would be interested in a Q & A piece for his website and his widely-read newsletter. Of course they said yes, so I put my clients directly in touch with the reviewer and they were working together on completing this task.

Now, normally I track these things and make sure dates and deadlines are set and kept, or at least make sure the client knows when his or her material is due. (This speaks to the importance of always cc’ing your publicist or whoever is on your team making sure deadlines are met, by the way) but one of the co-authors assured me she had this, and so I continued on with all the other media we were setting up for this book. This may have been a mistake, but that’s another post for another time…Fast forward six months and I come to discover that not only was the deadline late, it was missed all together.And, she wanted to know if it was too late to ask him if he’s still interested. (At least she asked me first.)

A missed opportunity:

I am all for reaching out anyway and seeing if they are still interested, except when it comes to  long-lead media, particularly reviewers. The reason is that they specifically focus on a book’s publication date. They want their reviews and coverage to run when the book first hits publication so that they look timely and aware of what is going on. Six months later is an eternity, so you don’t go to them with books that have already been published, or ideas that have already run their course. I gently explained this to her. Lack of timely follow up created a missed opportunity.

She can certainly reach out anyway if she wants to, but most likely she will get a “no,” if any response at all. He is knee-deep in spring books at this point in time, and not looking back at  books published last September. Hey, I’d be thrilled to be wrong about this, but there is a 99.9% chance it’s going to be a no.

One Caveat:

By the way, this same reasoning does not necessarily apply to all bloggers and other media who are not tied into these kinds of deadlines. This is why knowing the type of media you’re working with is so helpful, or having someone who understands these nuances can be a life saver. However, following up in a timely way and doing what you say you will do applies to everyone across the board.

It’s a hard lesson:

But sometimes that is what’s needed to understand that others have their own deadlines too. (That three-day suspension was hard, but a great teacher.)

Regarding the example given, it seriously makes me wonder: If this author only realized six months after the deadline that she never delivered on this, what else is getting missed? You have to wonder…

Bottom line:

Organization is everything if you want to capitalize on the opportunities that come your way, then you need systems in place that keep you organized and on track. Please don’t tell me you’re going to try and remember. That doesn’t work, and the more outreach you do, the more you’re going to have to track.

Here are a few tools I use that you may find helpful:

Google spreadsheets. This tool is free, digital, and easy to use. You can list who you’ve contacted, the date, where you are in the process, when to follow up, and the results. Check it every day. Use reminders when you have specific tasks that must be done on specific dates. It’s also a fabulous way to collaborate with others on the same sheet without risking losing a version by emailing back and forth.

A bullet journal. This is a great way to capture ideas and carry it with you. Then chunk them down into manageable bite-sized pieces. It can cover daily, weekly, monthly tasks, as well as all your ideas and plans that you want to get to, but don’t have them scheduled yet. This way nothing gets lost until you cross them off as either done, or not worth implementing. Some people use a digital version of this, which is fine. Just use what you will pay attention to. It isn’t helpful to start using a tool and then never follow up with it again. (Follow up is everything, right?)

A tickler file. Try not to laugh too hard at this video. I know I did!! This is a very low-tech version of a tickler system with a folder for each day of the month and one for each month of the year. Two things:

  1. Sometimes low tech is better, so if this system will work for you, use it and ignore what others may say. (You don’t have to tell them.)
  2. Watching this may give you ideas on how to create a digital version of a tickler system. Ideas can come from anything or from anywhere.

Todoist.com. Todoist is a way to make “to do” lists for yourself and mark them as finished. Some people love this tool, but I have to admit after using it for 6 months, I really didn’t love it. The most important thing here is that you find or create a system that you love and that makes being organized fun. Mostly that consists of a system you trust and you know you’ll follow. Todoist may be just the thing for you.

Monday.com. Monday.com is much more than a tickler, but it can be used in that way. It’s really a way to communicate with your team so that everyone is up to date on where every project is in the process. Google Drive can be used in much the same way. It’s just that Monday.com is more colorful and fun and has additional features. You’ll want to play with it to see if it’s something that will work for you. There is a free version and if that works well, you can upgrade to a paid version.

I’m sure there are many others possibilities for a tickler file. If you use a system you love, please tell me about it and I’ll include it in a follow up post, which I’ll put in my own tickler file (Monday.com, by the way.)

The most important piece to handling your publicity and marketing is setting up some system for follow up that is going to work for you. In fact, I’ll say it again:  it should be a system that you find fun to follow. Because, listen, there are a lot of details to this work. When you reach out to someone about coverage, they’re going to say all kinds of things, e.g., “I haven’t read the book yet. Contact me in three weeks.” “Send me another copy. I can’t find it,” and on and on it goes. You have to note what they want and then do it.

Let’s wrap up regarding #1…

Show up on time for interviews and other promotional events:

When it comes to doing interviews, be on time. Whether in studio, a Skype audio interview, web or phone interview. Be on time. When I set up interviews I ask the following. “You said to contact you at 5:10 p.m. Is that exactly at 5:10 or would you like me to call a couple of minutes early?” Often, it’s OK to call a little early, but ask. Ask. Ask. And then be sure and do what they say.

The Main Takeaway:

When you have a system in place that makes this easy for you, then you come across as the Savvy Pro that you are.

To your success!



P.S. I’ve had some fun getting coverage around publicity and being in the media. You can see some of it here.






Scroll to Top