Launching a book is one of the few strategies that work just as well for indie authors as it does for traditional authors. The months before and after the release of your book are the most important months for determining how well your book will sell.
A good book launch is like pushing a snowball off the side of a mountain with the intent to trigger an avalanche. The bigger the snowball is, the more likely it is to cause an avalanche.
Books with poor launches get stuck in the social circle of the author who first launched it. These books never have the chance to change the world or earn income for the author.
As a literary agent, I participated in many book-launch planning calls between traditional publishers and authors. When I served as marketing director for a traditional publishing company, I planned book launches. I have helped personal clients plan book launches as well, so I’ve seen the sales data, and I know what works and what doesn’t.
Bestselling author and advertising expert, James L. Rubart and I recently reviewed the most important aspects of a book launch in preparation for our upcoming course, the Book Launch Blueprint. (Registration closes on May 30, 2020. Don’t wait.)
Why do I need a book launch?
Thomas: Most books sell by word of mouth. People buy most books most of the time because a friend recommended that book. A book launch will shove your book out of your personal social circle and off the top of the mountain into circles you aren’t even aware of yet.
If you don’t plan a strategic launch, all your friends will talk to each other about your book, and you’ll only sell 20 or 30 copies to the same people who’ll go to your funeral. And that’s not what you want. You don’t want a funeral book launch.
A successful book launch requires preparation, work, and purposeful planning.
Jim: When I had my ad agency, I worked in radio, TV, and other media. We talked a lot about the frequency of three. You want your potential buyer to hear a commercial or see an ad three times a week. That was the measurement. If they heard it more often, great.
First, the potential buyer (or reader in our case) sees the ad, and the ad creates awareness. The second time they see or hear the ad, they feel conviction. The third time, they’re moved action. They’re moved to buy your book.
For word-of-mouth book sales, a reader first hears a friend mention the book, and they become aware it exists.
When a reader hears from a second friend about your great book, they make a mental note to check it out.
But when they hear about it a third time, they think, “Wow, I’ve got to get that book now!”
How do we stir that word of mouth, so your readers are compelled to take action and buy?
Thomas: That is the million-dollar question, and we have a course that teaches authors how to do this. The Book Launch Blueprint will be starting in May of 2020. If you’re reading this in the future, we offer this course once a year, and we will have a waiting list for next year if you want to join us.
But today, Jim and I are highlighting the course basics and offering a few fast tips from the course.
The Book Launch Blueprint is a three-week course. Jim and I will coach you and your fellow classmates through each day’s assignment. We’ll give feedback to help you assemble a book launch plan tailored to you and your book. We’ll give you the blueprint. You’ll customize it to your specific book, and we’ll help you work through it every day.
What does the Book Launch Blueprint cover?
Week 1: Ready
Jim: The first week we’ll talk about marketing. What is it, and how do you sell yourself even if you’re an introvert?
We’ll help you figure out your biggest reason for writing.
- Why are you doing this?
- Why have you written this book?
- What do you want to create within the reader’s mentality?
Once you understand that marketing is not about you, it will become much easier. Marketing is a way to bring something helpful or meaningful to a reader.
Think of it like this. If you had a cure for cancer, you would want to bring that cure to anyone who needed it. You’d tell others to spread the word so that as many people could receive the cure as fast as possible.
If you’ve spent six months or 18 months writing a book, you believe in it. You are providing something for people.
Understanding your “why” is one of the biggest motivators for sharing your book through marketing. Once you understand that, you’ll be eager to share your book with potential readers.
Thomas: Understanding your “why” is critical. Otherwise, you will torpedo your own book launch with apologies.
You must settle the issue in your heart and permit yourself to tell people about your book freely. If you don’t settle this issue in your heart and your head, you are going to feel guilty the whole time, and it will sabotage all your efforts.
We’ll help you work through those things and make sure your motives are the motives you want. You’ve got to figure out your “why” before you can move on to the other technical issue.
The second day we’ll talk about branding. Jim and I walk you through our four-step process of developing your author brand.
Jim: Figure out who you are. We’ll walk you through the big picture of how to do this. I like to say this is the step where you get to ask, “How am I weird?” Building a good brand means picking the weirdness you want to emphasize and being authentically weird or unique.
You’re not copying somebody else. You’re not trying to become a generic version of yourself. You need to know who you are.
Thomas: You must look in the mirror because you are a complicated individual. You have many activities and passions. Part of building a brand is choosing which of those things to emphasize.
Think of yourself as an instrument. Looking in the mirror helps you select which notes you’re going to play consistently.
Thomas: Ask yourself who your readers are. How are they different from other people? Jim, why is it important to look at your readers?
Jim: When I worked in radio, we designed a person. She was our ideal listener. We gave her a name and a type of car. We knew the restaurants where she ate. From our demographic, we designed an imaginary person to represent all the women like her who were our target audience. Everything we said on air, everything we promoted, and the music we played was designed to delight her.
Thomas: At Author Media, we used to make our clients go through an exercise where we put together a persona for their readers. And almost universally, authors hate this exercise. They hate it so much we’ve thought about cutting it from our process. But it makes an author’s websites and marketing so much better because it forces them to focus.
Jim: We often want to define ourselves by what we want to be. For authors wanting to develop a brand, your readers define who you are. We need to know what readers think of us. What are their expectations, and what comes to mind when they think of us?
When we understand how our readers view us, we can take that information and use it to flavor and design everything we do from a marketing standpoint.
If you’ve already published a book, one of the most powerful things you can do to discover how people think about you and your writing is to read your Amazon reviews.
What do people consistently say about your books? That will reveal what readers think about you and your writing.
We can’t define our brand. Our brand already exists. We must discover what it is and fine-tune that brand by listening to what readers tell us.
I did this for my books, and readers repeatedly said, “Jim, your books are mind-bending adventures.” I realized I should start using that wording in my marketing copy. When I first started publishing, I thought my theme or brand was that I wrote stories that bring readers freedom. But when I read reviews and talked to readers, nobody ever mentioned that.
I took my reader’s wording and used it in my marketing copy to define my brand.
Thomas: Meeting your reader’s expectation is what causes the word to spread. You want to be what they’re expecting, so you’re consistent with your brand and reputation.
Only some authors can look into their reader’s mirror. This step asks the question, “What does my book allow my readers to say about themselves?”
The ideas you’re advocating in your nonfiction book allow your readers to say something about themselves. Once they’ve read your book and subscribed to your message, they’re part of a tribe.
For example, I wrote a book on dating and relationships. People bought my book, understood and implemented the ideas, and ended up getting married. Many readers took photos of it on their wedding day.
I had multiple readers send me photos of them and their spouse kissing behind the book on their wedding day because they felt they were included in the tribe.
In that first week of the course, we’ll discuss how to grow a tribe for your message and your launch.
How do I write great marketing copy?
In many ways, your marketing copy is the most important text about your book. If your marketing copy isn’t good, readers will never read your book. This is the text that leads them to read that amazing first sentence of your book.
Marketing copy is on the back cover. It’s on your Amazon page that describes your book. This is also the text of emails that you send about your book.
Jim: I heard Randy Ingermanson speak on copywriting recently, and he said, “This is the one ring that rules them all.” He’s exactly right.
The marketing copy rules everything. If the copy is not right, you’re in trouble. Many authors think copywriting is explaining with logic. But it’s not.
Humans are wired to buy with emotion, and then we back up our decision to buy with logic.
Your books should be an emotional experience for your reader, and your marketing copy has to be an emotional experience as well. People will not buy your book or even look at your book unless they can imagine themselves doing it.
You must write copy that creates a mini emotional experience that causes potential readers to respond.
Writing great marketing copy starts with the understanding that it should not be about you. The copy you write for your website, book description, email, and back cover must be for the reader.
Most people think marketing copy is telling people all about the author and explaining why readers should buy the book. But great copy allows potential readers to imagine themselves being the hero of the story.
We’re going to teach you how to do that for your book using copywriting techniques that have served us well for 20 years. Once you learn how to do this, you’ll be able to earn a good living from your writing.
How do I build a tribe of fans?
Thomas: In the first week of the course, we’ll discuss how to build a rabid tribe of fans and why it’s important.
If you want your book to sell like crazy, you need fans. A reader reads your book and moves on to the next book. A fan tells their friends to read your book, and that word-of-mouth effect pushes that snowball off the mountain.
It takes a good strategy and time to build a tribe of fans that will generate initial buzz for your book.
One of the goals of a good book launch is to hit a bestseller list. Some authors shoot for the USA Today bestseller list or an Amazon category bestseller list. Even being the Number One New Release in your category on Amazon indicates to strangers that your book is worth checking out.
But it all starts with hitting a bestseller list.
How do you hit the bestseller list?
You have a rabid tribe of fans ready to buy your book within a single one week.
Hitting the bestseller list is not about how many copies you sell. Many books have sold a lot of copies, but they don’t hit any bestseller lists because the sales are spread out over time. They sell a few copies every day, and they never sell a lot of copies in any one day.
The key to hitting a bestseller list is to get a lot of sales during those first two weeks.
Amazon refreshes its bestseller lists with a rolling average every hour, and it’s constantly updating.
The New York Times and USA Today lists update every week. If those lists are your goal, you must get as many sales in a single week as possible. For the best chance at hitting those lists, you want all your fans to buy your book the first week it’s out.
We’ll teach you how to build that ready tribe of rabid fans.
One quick tip to start building a tribe by with one fan. Historically, a tribe began with a husband and a wife who started having children. Those children have children. Other families notice the family is doing well, and they want to travel together. Over time, multiple families grow together for generations, and you’ve got a tribe.
If you have150 fans making noise about your book, you’d be shocked by how many sales you can get. But you grow your tribe one person at a time, especially at first. Eventually, your fans will bring in more fans.
Thomas: The last two days of week one, we have two sessions on launch teams because they are so important. If your fans are your tribe, your launch team is the shock troops. They’re the people who are so passionate and excited that they’re willing to do tasks beyond reading the book. They’ll be willing to leave reviews, post to social media, or help you promote your book in other ways.
Jim: We’ll talk about how to build, grow, and motivate your team to take action.
And we’ll show you how to do it without spending a lot of money.
Thomas: One quick tip is to join a launch team of another author and become the most active member of that team. The advantage of taking our course with other authors is that you can join one another’s launch teams.
It’s important to clarify expectations for the launch team and be selective about who you choose to join. These are your Navy SEALS—your special forces—so you’ll want to create a form on your website where people can apply to be on the launch team.
The launch team isn’t for anyone and everyone. This is a special club people get to join.
We’ll teach you exactly how to do it in this course.
Week 2: Set
Thomas: Each day of the course, you’ll have an hour-long training plus about an hour of homework as you apply what you’ve learned.
On Monday of week two, discuss how to leverage email marketing by following these steps:
- Build your list.
- Grow your list.
- Develop an email strategy for a solid launch.
Well-written emails cause people to act. When people hear about a book on a podcast, they become aware of it, but they’re unlikely to pause the podcast and buy the book that instant.
However, when the podcast host emails listeners later to remind them about the book and they include a link in the email, then the listener will act.
People don’t take action when they see a social media post. They take action when they get an email. That’s why building your list and sending that email is important.
How can I write better marketing emails?
Jim: Authors don’t want to inundate people with emails. I see a lot of authors send a single email two days before the book releases and on release day.
They’re trying to respect people’s inboxes, but two emails are not enough. Readers expect multiple emails when you’re building toward a book launch.
Remember, when you feel like you’re shouting from the rooftops, the typical potential buyer hears it as a whisper.
When I was on the air at a radio station years ago, we’d get a new song in, and we would play it so much we’d be going nuts. We were sick of the song and figured the listeners were too. But after we were sick of it, our program director would say, “Our listeners are just starting to hear it.”
It’s the same for people who are getting your emails. If you only send two, it’s unlikely that your whole list saw both emails.
If you want your list to know the book is out, you need to tell them multiple times before and after your release date. Do not be afraid to email again.
You’re probably the type of person that doesn’t want to inundate people because you don’t want them to be ticked off and unsubscribe. But there are readers on your list who will receive five emails and only open one. They’ll think you only told them once, and they’ll thank you for telling them.
Thomas: This kind of email frequency is reserved for your book launch window. People will only forgive you for so many emails when they know you have a good reason. You’re not going to see a higher unsubscribe rate on those emails because many of your readers subscribed so they could be notified when your new book is out.
How will I keep track of all the book launch activities?
Thomas: Developing a media calendar is not the most exciting part of a book launch, but it is important because it’s the connective tissue of a book launch.
The media calendar is where you keep track of all the promotional activities for your book.
- Pitching podcasts
- Pitching radios shows
- Blog posts
- Blog interviews
- Podcast interviews
- Radio interviews
- TV interviews
- Guest blog posts
- Emails you’ll send
The goal is to condense all these activities into a short window of time. If you don’t have a carefully planned strategy in your media calendar, you’ll end up winging it. Your interviews and guest posts will happen over a period of months, and you’ll get lost in the noise.
Every day, hundreds of books are launched on Amazon. If you want your book to get the attention, you need all the interviews to air and publish in the same week. Your media calendar will help you organize and schedule those efforts.
One pro tip is to schedule rest days into your calendar.
The months leading up to launch is a long process. If you’re traditionally published, you’re expected to continue the launch for 30 days after the book releases as well. Indie authors sometimes go longer, sometimes they go shorter, but 30 days is a long time to maintain a good pace.
You need to pace yourself, which means making sure you don’t give five interviews in one day. If you do five interviews in one day, you’ll want to schedule a rest day before or after.
How do I use Amazon to help my book launch?
Thomas: If you’re indie publishing, most of your sales will come through Amazon. Your Amazon author page and your book page need to be complete and well-written.
Jim, what are some quick tips on how to have a better Amazon page?
Jim: The first tip is to have an Amazon presence. Many authors have not created an author page. Some don’t even know they can.
Your Amazon author page is something you can create yourself, whether your indie or traditionally published. It’s where you can put your bio and link to your website.
The information you share on your author page helps shape your readers’ perceptions of you and your book.
Amazon’s Author Central is where you can find the statistics and sales information about your books. You’ll be able to see the geographical areas where your book is selling.
You can also control the metadata for your book on Amazon. This is critical for helping Amazon’s algorithms connect you with your future readers, but be intimidated by it.
We will teach you how to use the right phrases and the right words for your metadata. Even if you’re not a techie person, it’s not hard to do, and it can have a huge positive impact if you take the time to set it up well.
Thomas: A second tip is to connect your blog to Amazon so that when people click on your Amazon author profile, they’ll see your recent blog posts.
This boosts search rankings for your blog post because those are follow links from Amazon, which is a high credibility website. Professional search engine optimizers do this for other businesses, but authors can get these follow links from Amazon for free. All you have to do is set it up, and it takes five minutes. We’ll show you how.
You’ll also need to ask readers to leave a book review on Amazon. This is where you launch team shines. In order to be on your launch team, they must commit to leaving a review on Amazon. Amazon reviews provide critical social proof for strangers and future readers.
What should I do with my website before I launch my book?
Thomas: In the next session, we’ll focus on your website.
Just like your media calendar connects your activities, your website connects your web presence. Whether you’re building your email list, interacting with people on social media, or doing media interviews, you’ll be sending people back to your website.
People will find your website when they search for you on Google, so your website needs to be strong. Every podcast, TV, or radio show you pitch will Google your name to find out about you. Your website will be one of your first impressions.
Thomas: Your website needs to be for your readers. It’s not about you. This is a shift in thinking that affects all your marketing.
Authors are tempted to make their websites all about the author. But the reader is seeking benefits for themselves. The radio and podcast hosts are visiting your website to see how they can benefit from you. You need to talk about your readers and make your website a service to your readers. If you do this, people are going to spend more time on your website, and they will buy more books.
How do I write good website content?
Jim: Getting featured on popular blogs and websites can be key to a successful launch. We’ll discuss how to write content to secure guest slots on leading blogs and websites.
Your website content is the king, dictator, and supreme commander of the universe.
I’m sorry to put it in these terms, but you have to write an ad to make people take action on your website. You need web copy that will make a visitor want to interview you on their show. You need to write an interesting hook so web visitors want to learn more about you and your book. We’ll teach you how to write those pieces, so you’ll be chosen for an interview.
Thomas: Your hook must inspire curiosity. But if you want to sell books, it also needs to be connected to your book. We’ll help you figure out how to mention your book in organic ways in a blog post or in an interview.
Jim: You can also observe other authors in the course to see how other authors are doing it for their books. We have fiction, nonfiction, indie, and traditional authors. Each author has something to teach and something to learn from others about writing copy and persuading readers.
Week 3: Go
Thomas: By this time, we’ve done all of the preparation and groundwork for building the platform. Now it’s time to actually light the fire so the rocket can take off into the air.
First, we’ll talk about marketing psychology and how you can leverage urgency, scarcity, and social proof to take your books to new heights and connect your book to the psychological triggers of your readers.
One way to create urgency is to offer a reverse coupon. The first week your book is out, you can price your book at $4.99. After that, it goes up to $5.99.
This strategy creates a sense of urgency for your core fans. They know you’re offering that introductory price, and they don’t want to miss out on the savings. They feel like an insider, and they’re glad to get a discount. They also can’t be upset when the price goes up because you already told them it would happen.
At the same time, a reverse coupon facilitates more sales in a short window of time. USA Today and the Wall Street Journal don’t care how much people spend on your book (Although you can’t give it away for free. It’s a best-sell-er list). They’re counting units sold. To a lesser degree, that is also true for Amazon’s rankings.
There are many ways to create urgency, scarcity, and social proof for your specific book and a reverse coupon is just one way to accomplish those things. In the course, we’ll discuss other strategies and coach you to develop the one that works for you and your book.
How does Goodreads help me sell more books?
One quick tip is to sign up as a user and begin to learn how Goodreads works. Curate a list of books you’ve read and reviewed those books. If you’re already published, claim your Goodreads author page. Fill out the page with your bio and connect your blog as you did on Amazon.
How do I make the most of my book launch day?
Jim: My first tip might be surprising to new authors. Don’t do a bookstore book signing. Bookstore book signings are great for connecting with fans you already have in that geographical area. They are not effective for attracting strangers and persuading them to buy your book.
Instead, host a launch party for your family and friends in real life.
If a friend wants to host a launch party for you, that’s even better. When you get 50 people in a room, you probably won’t know everyone, but the person who invited them does. Once they meet you, see your book, and have a good time, they’ll tell their friends about it.
It’s much better than sitting behind a desk for two hours at a store to sign four or five books.
You can also do a launch party online. Start watching other authors who are doing this right now due to the current pandemic lockdown. Consider how you can implement their ideas in your situation.
Thomas: Online events are even more popular and needed in 2020 because people are at home and unable to host or attend in-person events.
They’re also more effective right now if you’re still under social-distancing rules.
Depending on where you are in the world, everyone may have been alone for a long time, and the opportunity to do an online party where people can interact with each other safely can be fun.
As the author, you can bless people with your book and bless them with an online launch party that will provide some social interaction they have been craving.
It’s a win for everyone.
How do I give a good interview?
Jim: In the final days of the course, we will teach you how to nail media interviews.
Media interviews can make or break you. Giving a great radio interview is a skill.
Over the years, as a host and a guest, I have learned what makes an interview interesting, compelling, and fun.
When you give a delightful interview, the host will want to invite you back. Sometimes they’ll invite you back right on the spot.
We’re going coach you step-by-step to give that kind of interview because a bad interview is worse than no interview at all. If you sound boring, or if your answers are too long and rambling, you will not be invited back. Listeners will think you’re boring and inarticulate and will not want to buy your book.
Thomas: Radio show hosts and podcast hosts check out your previous interviews when they are deciding whether to book you. A bad interview can hurt your chances of getting future interviews.
The more you practice, the better you’ll be. But the better you perform on those initial interviews, the more invites you’ll get in the future.
Jim teaches this session with Mary de Muth, who has done interviews on CNN, Fox News, and many other radio and TV talk shows. You will receive excellent media training.
I’ve also put together a media training course. Patrons of Novel Marketing also get my course “How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest” as a free bonus.
If you’ve already purchased the “How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest” course, the price you paid will be subtracted from the cost of the Book Launch Blueprint course. If you want both courses, become a patron first. All the information is on Patreon, so read the instructions there on how to get your bonus.
The final session of the Book Launch Blueprint is “The Art of Persuasion.”
It’s one of my longest, most enduring talks. It underpins everything else I teach and reinforces every aspect of a book launch.
Whether you’re writing emails, doing interviews, or building your tribe of fans, learning how communication works and how people understand communication is essential to being persuasive.
This course will make the hardest part of your career a whole heck of a lot easier.
For many of us, writing, editing, cover design, and publishing our books isn’t nearly as intimidating as launching our books.
That’s why the Book Launch Blueprint course is back. We only release this course once a year because it’s interactive. You get a comprehensive course on every element of launching your book, and you get to join an exclusive, private Facebook group where you can talk to Jim & Thomas.
- The professor of book marketing, Thomas Umstattd, Jr.
- Christy Hall of Famer and bestselling author, James L. Rubart
Together we’ve launched over 50 books, and we’re going to teach you the exact same methods we use.
This is your opportunity to pick our brains on every aspect of the course.
Registration closes May 30, 2020. If you’re committed to seeing your next book reach its maximum sales potential, you need to visit BookLaunch.Fun to sign up.
If you want to become a patron of the Novel Marketing show and receive the bonuses, visit our Patreon page and follow the instructions there.
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