A Sneak Peak into the Black Box of Preparing to Launch a Book: A To-Do List for Book Marketing

Sometimes this book launch project seems a little like re-learning how to hoop.

I can jump in enthusiastically, keep the hoop going for a little while, but mostly I have to laugh, pick up the hoop, and start over again.

The analogy between preparing to launch and relearning hula works like this:

  1. I’ve got a huge list of items I and my publisher created enthusiastically. They all need to be done before September 19, 2013, when Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World launches.
  2. I can keep several of them moving at once.
  3. But I can’t see a way to keep them all moving smoothly and effortlessly.

There are times I just want to yell “help!”

But if I remember to laugh and keep going most of them will get done, and the motions will become more fluid and effective. Or so I must believe.

If you are curious about what authors need to do in addition to write and revise, polish, and publish their books, here’s an incomplete list of the marketing activities now expected of authors and their publicity/pr/marketing teams.

  1. Continuing social media (Facebook and Twitter for me but Pinterest and Tumblr for others also) and blogging.
  2. Planning special launch events. In my case, eight events over three weeks in five cities/towns.
  3. Updating my website to include media, free stuff for book clubs (“How to Use this Book to Leave a Legacy” “Simplify Your Life,” etc.)
  4. Creating a short but engaging book trailer and video recording of at least one chapter
  5. Writing special scripts for some events that are more like shows: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Our Memoirs” with Ted Swartz
  6. Preparing to send early copies of the book to reviewers and bloggers who will interview or do book giveaways on their sites.
  7. Updating Goodreads author page.
  8. Updating Amazon author page.
  9. Doing special guest blog posts to help build awareness
  10. Thinking hard about my audience and how to reach them.
  11. Helping to edit and distribute press materials and be prepared for radio, newspaper, and other media contacts.
  12. Monitor the 100 Day Challenge and announce a winner on Sept. 19
  13. [Prepare to teach an honors class every Tuesday night starting August 26-December 10]

Fortunately, I don’t have to do all these things alone. My publisher is there every step of the way. And I work with free lancers on special projects.

As you can see above, I’ll never run out of New Beginning material. But what I could use help on is prioritizing.

What do YOU think is the most import thing or things in the list above? As a reader or as a published author yourself, what matters most?

Number 43 days left until launch

43 Days Until Blush Launches. Photo by Shirley B. Yoder

And, at the 43-day mark toward the 100 Day Challenge, don’t forget to log your own new beginning. We are now close to 450 entries!


Shirley Showalter


  1. Angela on August 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I love the analogy, it applies perfectly to where I’m at building my business. I also love your video =).

    Not being a published author I’m not an expert in that regard, but from a pure marketing perspective, I think the more you can have other people excited and talking about your new book, the better. With that, I’d recommend #6 and #9 as priorities so you can leverage other people as an extension of your own efforts.

    Excited for you! =)

    • shirleyhs on August 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks, Angela! Glad to know that my awkward attempts at hula hooping applies to more than one kind of enterprise.

      Thanks so much for guiding me to the activities that leverage the excitement (and networks and platforms) of others. I hope to spend most of my time on these activities but need the others to build a better infrastructure to them.

      I am excited about what you are doing also and wish you lots of rings around the hula hoop.

  2. Kathleen Pooler on August 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Shirley, I think the most important thing is that you have surrounded yourself with others–your publishers, your family, your many adoring fans–who are all invested in your success. As far as the hula hoop, I think you did pretty well, close enough to perfect. 🙂 This is an exciting time and we’re all there with you. Thanks for inviting us on your journey, and as I keep saying, you are showing us the way. I have copied your list for future reference. xo

  3. shirleyhs on August 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks, Kathy. You always take the most generous interpretation. I love that about you.

    Glad if the list helped. I actually did this list before seeing Session III in the course we are taking with Dan Blank.

    Made me feel good that I had many of the right things in my list. But the list itself feels humongous.

    Time to go find some of those family and friends and practice doing the hula!

  4. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on August 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I apologize for adding another item to your list. Number 14 is: follow “the thread,” honoring and prioritizing the thing that shimmers and makes you most alive today, such as what you did with the hoop.

    • shirleyhs on August 7, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      Dolores, you have just named the thing that saves me, over and over again, from being overwhelmed by a too-long list.

      Thank you, and may your own thread shine brightly today.

  5. Marian Beaman on August 7, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    What stands out as most important? Well, a phrase in # 3 caught my eye: “Simplify Your Life.” I guess that won’t happen until after September 19. Oh, but then the book tours start–gasp!

    Seriously, though, you have a supportive husband, your publisher and other free lancers. Without a doubt, you’ll do fine. You thrive on challenges, I’d say.

  6. shirleyhs on August 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Ha! I think my only shot at the simple life right now is minute to minute. But isn’t that the truth every day?

    Dolores talks about the thread. She reminds me of the William Stafford poem I’m sure you know also:

    The Way It Is

    There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
    things that change. But it doesn’t change.
    People wonder about what you are pursuing.
    You have to explain about the thread.
    But it is hard for others to see.
    While you hold it you can’t get lost.
    Tragedies happen; people get hurt
    or die; and you suffer and get old.
    Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
    You don’t ever let go of the thread.

    ~ William Stafford ~”

    • Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on August 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks for bringing in this poem that enlarges on the thread. May your thread offer you a silky touch and a bright beam. I’m excited about your book launch.

  7. Richard Gilbert on August 7, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Hi Shirley, from California. I think keeping active on social media and planning events for various Mennonite communities will give you the most bang for your buck. And teaching might be stressful, given the timing, but should keep you grounded.

  8. shirleyhs on August 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Good to hear from you, Richard. Hope your travels are deep, wide, and safe. I appreciate that word “grounded,” as I feel the familiar near-panic of back-to-school along with the new near-panic of how can I possibly do all the right launch activities in the right order??

    You are a calming presence, even from a distance. Thank you.

  9. Joy Resor on August 8, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Congratulations on your birthday, your hooping acumen, and all you’re living into, Shirley!

    It’s beautiful to watch you live into the memoir author you’ve long been.

    As far as priorities….always a great question. I wonder if it’s a good approach to tackle the task that will be most vocal if you don’t accomplish it right away. Which one is it time to appease?

    Best wishes!!

    Blessings and love,

    • shirleyhs on August 8, 2013 at 9:35 am


      What an interesting set of questions to ask my list! You always come at issues with your own set of lenses. I appreciate thinking about the vocal protest of #11 and select just this one for today. Sending you a thankful hug.

  10. melodie davis on August 8, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I was looking for your author page on Amazon and can’t find it. ?? Is there an online place with an itinerary for your book launches?

    • shirleyhs on August 8, 2013 at 1:20 pm


      Looks like you are asking for #3 and #8 above. Will try to do those right after #11. Please check back in a few days, and thanks for the push. You are answering Joy’s question above about what is vocal and will ask to be heard. 🙂 Great help.

    • shirleyhs on August 12, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      Amazon page is up! The only space that isn’t filled in is the video trailer. Coming soon! amazon.com/author/shirleyhersheyshowalter

  11. Mary Gottschalk on August 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    A daunting (and also very helpful) list indeed … I shall follow your progress with interest. But watching you over the last 57 days, I’m pretty sure you’ll get it all done.

    • shirleyhs on August 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you, Mary. I really appreciate your confidence in me. I believe it will all happen too. I’ll hang on to that silken thread Dolores threw out to me. Glad to have you on board.

  12. Sharon Lippincott on August 13, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Shirley, your enthusiastic energy is contagious and you inspire me to give my hoop a fresh whirl. It’s great exercise!

    The mantra that pulls me through narrow passages is “Trust the process.” It seems related to your thread. My concept of The Process is that it’s a state of spirit, an openness to inspiration. It’s trust that I’ll know what to do when it’s time to do it, that I’m not in this alone — help (from whatever source) is always there when I need it. This doesn’t mean I don’t need to plan and prepare, but The Process guides it all.

    Yes, of course. The Process is faith, plain and simple. I didn’t make up the name — it just came to me and works for me, and if it works for anyone else, hallelujah!

  13. shirleyhs on August 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I love your name for the “narrow passages” (love that phrase also). The Process is faith. And I am living in it today, thanks in large part to you and others who both understand and hold me up. I send you a blessing on your own Process today. I admire how much you, too, keep shaking that hoop!

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