"What should I focus on more right now? Finishing my book or marketing it?" [Book Marketing Done Right Series]
Marketing. It's the thorn in the side of every author I know. Begging for our attention, it pokes at us, often insistently, at unwelcome moments. It is sharp and tenacious enough to shift our headspace away from our delicious imaginations (because we'd rather be letting our characters play), and into the not-nearly-as-fun headspace of sensible practicality.
The thorn isn't lying. If we want other people to have fun watching our characters play, we'd better make sure they know about our book. In fact, if you're an author who is worried about marketing, it shows that you have come to terms with a reality that many novice writers haven't: your book isn't going to sell itself.
There's good news and bad news: the good news is that there is a right answer to the question of whether to prioritize finishing your book over doubling down on marketing. The bad news is that even if you do the right thing, it may not feel comfortable (i.e., even if you commit to finishing your book first, that thorn will stay firmly lodged in your side).
Here's Why to Finish Your Book First
It's actually pretty simple. A ton of your best potential marketing channels will want to read your full manuscript before they will consider promoting you. Many of those outlets are focused on covering new releases and will not promote you after you've launched. This is true for most influential book reviewers, other kids of media outlets, and some specialty bookstores. Without a finished, edited manuscript, you won't yet be able to approach these important influencers. If your launch date is fast-approaching, finish your manuscript now so you can present yourself to influencers with as much runway as possible.
It is also in your best interests to care about these launch-focused influencers because a strong launch will boost your Amazon rankings. The bigger and faster your book ascends to the top of your category on Amazon, the more sales you will get from people who buy based on what is trending. This creates a virtuous cycle in which high rankings create more sales; as more sales continue to keep your rankings high, it will be easy to stay near the top.
But Get a Few Balls Rolling on the Marketing Side...
But deciding to finish your manuscript doesn't mean that you should back-burner marketing completely. You should create some basic assets, such as a web site, social media accounts, and a mailing list, and you should make it easy for people who are either connected to you, or who come across you, to learn about your forthcoming book.
I call this the "open door" approach. At this point, you're not standing on the street calling to the crowds asking them to come buy something at your store. But you do need to have a store, and the door does need to be open, and anyone who passes by and is curious enough to walk in needs to be able to at least find out what your great new product is and when it will launch.
...And Save Some of Your Biggest Marketing Strategies for Later
Just as certain marketing tactics have to be pursued as early as possible, certain other tactics make no sense to pursue until closer to your launch. You don't want to dangle a product that readers can't yet buy over their head for too many weeks or months. You do want to create well-timed teasers that help people get excited about your book within striking distance of their ability to buy. This means there will be a lot more to do closer to launch.
This is by no means a meant to be a comprehensive guide to what your "do now" vs. "do later" strategy should be. It is worth your while to be circumspect in thinking through a marketing plan, and to stick to that plan (and I'll blog about that planning process later). But what's not smart is to get so caught up in marketing that your time tradeoff takes away from the actual book.
If your manuscript isn't finished, be realistic about how much time you will need to finish the story, go through your own editing round, hand it off to a professional editor, integrate comments, etc. This could be a very long road. So stop for a minute to take care of a little business, then finish writing the best book you can.
Do you have a separate book marketing question? Contemporary romance writing is my labor of love. Digital marketing and PR is what I do in real life. I get paid a lot of money to do it and I'm great at what I do. I'm here to answer your questions! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.