The book launch is one of the most important and least understood phases of your author journey.
Many authors believe that if they simply write a masterpiece, readers will flock to retailers and demand to buy a copy. But every day thousands of books are released. The day your book releases, it will compete with thousands of other books to capture the reader’s attention, not to mention their money.
If you do not have a strategic book launch plan, your book will get lost in all that noise.
The hard and painful lessons of book launching often become apparent in the aftermath of a failed book launch. To make matters worse, you only get one chance to launch your book unless you are willing to revise and re-release it.
But you can avoid those painful lessons by observing from the sidelines what others have learned the hard way on the field.
If you proactively apply the following lessons, you can avoid the pain of a failed book launch.
Lesson #1 Good Launches Take Time to Prepare
The key to book launch success is preparation.
The biggest killer of indie book launches is launching too quickly. If you have the patience to let the anticipation build, you will sell a lot more copies.
You don’t necessarily have to wait two years like traditional authors. But you’ll have an advantage if you plan months in advance to coordinate interviews, emails, and launch team activities to happen during the same window of time. This also makes it more likely get a bestseller (or #1 New Release) badge on Amazon.
It takes time to build your email newsletter list.
Barring a viral response to a post, video, or webinar that captures email addresses, you will need six months to a year to build an email list. It’s like the miracle of compound interest. Time is your friend. The sooner you start, the longer it has to grow.
It takes time to set up media interviews.
Contacting podcasters, radio hosts, and media outlets requires organization and forethought. Although your email may send instantaneously, there may be weeks of waiting for a response. If you’re granted an interview, you may have to a few more weeks for the interview to be conducted and recorded. Weeks or months later, it will finally go live.
It takes time to assemble a launch team.
The communication and the technical pieces of preparing a place for them to gather—whether it be a Facebook group or another platform—require organization and often, assistance. Readers need adequate time to receive and read your book, and then more time to formulate and post their review.
Lesson #2 Big Platforms Make for Big Launches
For a rocket to launch, there must be a launchpad. Your platform is that launchpad.
The bigger your platform, the bigger your launch can be. But we all have to start somewhere.
You can have a successful launch with a modest platform. In fact, if you launch your book correctly, you will grow your platform in the process and have a larger launching pad for your next book.
So how do you build your platform? By developing your marketing assets.
- For fiction, this means reading books on craft and then writing your own short stories. If your short stories don’t hold your reader’s attention, it will be impossible to convince them that your novel will.
- For nonfiction, this means studying how to craft better blog posts and blogging regularly. If you can’t get people to read and share a free blog post, why would they read and share a whole book?
Learn about developing your marketing assets in episode 142: How to Develop Book Marketing Assets (Marketing 101).
While a massive platform can help you have a bigger launch, it doesn’t guarantee success. There are cases where a big launch might actually be a bad thing.
Speaking of which…
Lesson #3 Big Launches Help Bad Books Fail Faster
The goal of a book launch is to get people talking about your book. If your book is bad, that talking hurts you and your sales.
So, what makes for a “bad” book?
Bad books are missing one of the following three components of “good” books.
Good books target the right readers.
Choosing the right genre for your book is critical. A certain kind of person walks to the romance shelf first. A different kind of reader heads straight to the business section. What is true in physical bookstores is even more true online where there are tens of thousands of “shelves,” otherwise known as subcategories.
The category you pick dictates what readers will see your book and what other books your book will be compared to.
If you target the wrong readers, they won’t be interested in your promise. They may not even take your book off the shelf to learn more.
Good books make the right promise.
After a reader sees the promise your book makes, you want them to say, “Shut up and take my money!” They see your book’s promise as the answer to their question or the remedy for their pain, so you must know what they are looking for and tell them so in the following places:
- Front Cover (See Episode 106: 10 Things Every Book Cover Needs)
- Back Cover (See Episode 111: How to Write Bestselling Back Cover Copy)
- Table of Contents (Nonfiction): Nonfiction readers first turn to the table of contents to see if what you’re promising is what they want. The purpose of your chapter titles is to “sell” the content of the chapter, not describe it.
- First Page (Fiction): Fiction readers usually flip to the first page to see if they like your writing.
Good books over-deliver on their promise.
You set the expectations with the design of the cover and the content of the back cover. Now your book needs to keep that promise.
This means your book must have:
- compelling writing
- excellent editing
- genre conformity
If your cover promises a cozy romance, you better deliver a romance that feels cozy. If you promise a method to get out of debt, readers had better be able to get out of debt after reading your book.
Readers expect your book to do what it promises.
But when you surpass the reader’s expectations they start talking about your book. This over-delivering is the spark that ignites the word-of-mouth marketing that will fuel your book sales for the long term.
Writing a good book takes time. You must invest the time necessary to learn the craft of writing, to learn what readers want, and to actually write the book.
We created the Five Year Plan to help authors like you improve your craft so you can write a book people love to talk about.
Lesson #4 Good Book Launches Require an Investment Ahead of Time
It is not uncommon for authors, especially first-time authors, to skimp on the launch. Once they see that sales are dismal, they try to spend more money to revive a failed book.
You will get the maximum bang for your buck during the first month, especially if you are traditionally published. Boosting your investment after a disappointing launch is the least effective strategy, and the one most authors try first.
Readers, friends, family, and even strangers get excited about launches. That excitement makes marketing more effective. People don’t get nearly as excited about books that have been out for a while. Remember, every book in the bargain bin at the bookstore was selling for full price a few months before.
That said, your book launch doesn’t need to cost a fortune. If you are willing to invest your time, book launching can be a relatively inexpensive process.
Tip 1: Set Aside Some Money
Every book launch—every product brought to market—is a risk. Only invest money you don’t need to pay the bills. Depending on your financial situation, you may need to save money for a few months ahead of your launch. If you are indie publishing, you will want to save a few thousand dollars, if you can.
The main thing is to decide beforehand how much you are willing to spend on your book launch. Then, once you know that number, you decide ahead of time how best to spend it.
Tip 2: Create a Plan
When it comes to book launch expenses, most authors ask, “Will this help sell more books?” But in many respects, that is the wrong question.
Instead, ask, “Will this sell more books than the other things I can spend money on?”
Buying a billboard may help you sell more books, but that doesn’t mean it’s a wise use of your funds.
If you have set aside $2500 for your book launch and spend $500 on your website, you have $2000 left for everything else.
Should you spend more on your website or spend more on sending out copies of your book to influencers and reviewers? Which strategy will sell more books? Should you spend more money on another round of book cover designs from a different designer? Will it help you sell more books than spending that same money on something else?
Once you know how much money you have to work with, you can make wise decisions about your spending.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re going to need a budget.
A strategic plan for how you are going to spend your money is called a budget. Most advertising makes you think that “budget” means “stingy.” A “budget” car is a cheap car.
But that is not what “budget” means. In business, a budget is a strategic plan to get the best return on your money. You can budget to spend a lot of money on something. Apple budgets to spend millions of dollars on advertising for each new iPhone launch, for example.
The key is that you decide ahead of time knowing how much you have to spend.
During the book launch is when you want to spend the majority of your promotion budget because it will bring back a better return while your book is fresh and new. Typically, the only promotion money you’ll spend after launch is the profit you earn from sales during your launch.
If your launch was not profitable, it’s unlikely that spending more money on promotion after the launch will make it so. You are better off moving on to write your next book.
If you want help to make your book launch profitable and successful, I highly recommend our Book Launch Blueprint.
Tip 3: Play to Your Strengths
You will get the best return on your investments of time and money when you stay in your strength zone. Determine which of your marketing assets are strongest and build on those.
To learn how, listen to episode 142: How to Develop Book Marketing Assets (Marketing 101)
Identifying and developing your strengths is a key part of the Book Launch Blueprint.
Sponsor: Book Launch Blueprint
The Book Launch Blueprint is a 21-day intensive course where James L. Rubart and I will teach you everything you need to know about launching a book. You’ll learn how to
- Build an email list.
- Write strategic emails.
- Get booked for media appearances.
- Identify your brand.
- Play to your marketing strengths.
- Make the most of your marketing assets.
This comprehensive course will give you the knowledge to launch your book with a bang. Best of all, at the end of the course, you will have your own custom book launch blueprint to use for future book launches.
The course starts on May 31, 2020, and you must register before then if you want to attend. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!
During the Great Depression, a spoiled socialite must find a way to support herself and her child. Can she turn a homemade recipe for skin tonic into a livelihood?
You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here.
If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just share this episode with one person you think would find it helpful.
We took our children to the family ranch yesterday for some social distancing family time with the grandparents. Mercy was so excited to see the cows. The cows were decidedly less excited to see her. The cows kept their distance from my 19-month-old, and as she tried to walk closer, they bolted for the edge of the field. Those cows had nothing to fear. A toddler can’t harm a two-ton cow.
If anyone should have been afraid, it was Mercy. The cows could have hurt her.
It’s easy for us to laugh about cowardly cows, but how often are we afraid of things that can’t hurt us?
How often do we put off sending that email because we are afraid of what people will say? We keep ourselves from telling the world about our book out of fear. Often, that thing we fear can’t even hurt us.
I encourage you to connect with your inner toddler and charge at the thing that scares you most. You may find it bolts for the fence as well.