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If you’ve ever wondered how book-launching strategies apply to your specific book, I’ve got two pieces of great news for you.
First, back by popular demand, Book Launch Blueprint course is open for registration. We only offer this course once each year. You’ll receive video instruction, worksheets to help customize your strategy, and personal, specific feedback from James L. Rubart, your fellow classmates, and me. If you’re launching a book in the next year, be sure to register.
Second, I recently coached an indie author through the process of mapping a plan for her upcoming book launch. We recorded our session, and it first aired her show, The Proffitt Podcast, with Krystal Proffitt.
When I met Krystal at the Spark Christian Podcasting Conference, she had questions about the best way to launch her new book about podcasting, so we scheduled a coaching session.
If a book launch is in your future, you can walk through the same steps to position yourself for a successful book launch. Though every author’s situation is different, the steps to launch are the same. As you listen or read along, consider how you can apply each step and principle to your book launch.
START HERE: Determine your SMART Goal
I always begin my coaching session with an assessment of the client’s current situation and where they are headed by helping them articulate their SMART goal.
SMART is an acronym that will help you articulate a Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic, and Time-based goal. You’ll have a clear vision of where you’re headed, and your decision-making along the way will be simplified.
Krystal’s SMART goal: Launch my self-published book about podcasting for podcasters by the end of 2020.
Your Turn: Write a smart goal for your book launch plan. Where are you headed? For more guidance on articulating your SMART goal, listen to SMART Goals: The Key to Marketing Success.
Step 1: Inventory Your Tangible Marketing Assets
Marketing assets are the avenues available to you for spreading the word about your book.
Sometimes you have marketing assets at your disposal that you’re not aware of yet. Take an inventory of your current marketing assets. Consider which of the following you can count as assets.
- Email list: People you can email directly
- YouTube Subscribers
- Podcast Listeners: Number of downloads after 30 days.
- Social Media Followings: Engaged followers.
- Website: The asset that can generate other assets.
- Previously Published Books
- Cash: Only do what only you can do. Hire out the rest.
- Reliable Laptop/Computer
Most authors don’t have all of these, but most have a few. As Krystal and I talked, we compiled her list of tangible assets.
The following were her most valuable marketing assets:
- Email list: 1,000 subscribers
- Podcast Listeners: 300 downloads after 30 days
- Website: She can collect email address by offering a reader magnet
- YouTube: 200 subscribers
- Social Media Followings: 1,200 on Instagram (her largest platform)
Krystal’s email list is her most valuable marketing asset. These people are interested in Krystal’s teaching and want to receive email and information from her. They’ve given her the key to their email inbox and granted her permission to send great content. The people who want to read your emails will be most likely to read and buy your book because they already know, like, and trust you.
Your email list is the engine that will propel your book launch. For Krystal, I recommended that she spend the months prior to her book launch focused on growing her email list and increasing its value.
Perhaps you noticed that her number of social media followers is larger than her email list. I told her not to focus on her social media followers because, in terms of book sales, social media followers are not “equal” to your newsletter subscribers on your email list.
When I was the marketing director for a publishing company, we performed many experiments on various social media platforms, and we could not demonstrate that social media sold books at all. An Instagram following of 1,200 is worth one or two book-buyers because social media doesn’t drive book sales numbers.
It’s such an ephemeral place that it’s hard to take people from short, vapid conversations to ask them to buy your 300-page book.
You can use social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, to spread the word for free, but your reach is limited. A larger reach requires advertising dollars. In 2010 you could get free engagement, but that’s no longer the case.
Your Turn: What is your most valuable marketing asset right now? How can you increase its value in the next six months?
Step 2: Inventory your Non-Tangible Assets
Non-tangible assets are opportunities or relationships that can’t be quantified but can still be helpful in launching a book.
Your non-tangible Assets might include the following:
- Your Health
- Speaking Opportunities
- Relationships with Influencers: Podcasters, Authors, Pastors, Conference Directors, MOPS Coordinators, CEOs
- Time Availability
- Position of Influences: Do you leader a writer’s group? Are you a pastor? Do you teach on your topic?
If you want to tell 100,000 people about your book, it could take a long time to build an email list of that size. But if you know ten people, such as podcasters, pastors, or bloggers who speak to 10,000 people regularly, you’ll be able to spread the word much more efficiently.
But garnering those relationships takes sincerity, generosity, and time.
One of the best ways to foster relationships with podcast hosts is to be a guest on their show long before you launch your book. Listen to podcasts your potential readers listen to, determine what topics you can speak on that will help that audience, then in a spirit of generosity and helpfulness, pitch the podcast host with a topic their audience will love.
To learn the benefits of guesting and how to pitch, listen to our episode, How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest.
Krystal has connected with other podcasters by speaking at a local podcaster’s group. She also attended the Spark Christian Podcasters Conference where she met many others. In her network, she estimated she has ten strong relationships with people who speak to large groups through podcasting on a regular basis.
This is valuable because Krystal won’t need to get past a gatekeeper in order to ask about guesting on their shows. She has a relationship, maybe even a friendship, with various hosts. Of course, this is no guarantee they’ll invite her to be a guest, but it’s a great place for her to start.
Krystal can pitch podcast hosts who have never heard of her, and they might interview her. But she’s more likely to be invited on a show where she already has a relationship or a history as a past guest.
She’s also been building her network of podcasting experts and people with businesses related to podcasting, marketing, or entrepreneurship. Not all of them have a social media platform, but they do have broad networks.
Before Krystal’s book launches, she’ll have 4-5 speaking opportunities locally, online, and in other cities. She will be a returning speaker at several of these events and a first-time speaker at others.
None of these opportunities can be quantified. We’re not certain about attendance numbers or how many books she’ll sell at the events. But each represents a chance to offer her experience and her book to groups of people who could benefit from it.
Your Turn: Answer the following questions:
- Who does your book help?
- Who speaks or leads the people your book helps?
- Where do your potential readers hang out online and in person?
- What podcasts do they listen to?
- What affinity groups do they belong to?
- What other ways could you get the word out about your book?
At this point in my coaching sessions, I have a good idea of Krystal’s assets if she were to launch right now.
Step 3: Build Upon Your Strongest Assets
You want to start your book launch process long before the launch date, so you have time to build on your existing marketing assets.
I recommended that Krystal spend the next few months building her email list and expanding her podcast listener base.
These are the people who know her best. They’ve had her voice in their ear, and they recognize her writing style. Since her email list and podcast listeners will be the primary drivers of her launch, our strategy will be to increase the value of each by growing the size of each audience.
How do you grow your email list?
The best way to grow your email list is to offer various lead magnets—authors sometimes call them “reader magnets.”
Krystal was offering a lead magnet on her website that she promoted at the beginning of every podcast episode. Statistically speaking, some listeners had already downloaded it, and others had heard her pitch it many times, but they never downloaded it, and they’re never going to.
To entice the latter group to sign up for your email list, you need to give them something else to download that’s interesting to them.
When you go fishing, you bring several types of bait because you need different bait to catch different fish.
We’re trying to catch email subscribers with different kinds of lead magnets or reader magnets. If you want to grow your email list, you must offer something for free that will attract the right kind of readers.
Since Krystal’s book is about how to podcast, she wants to reach current or future podcasters.
I asked Krystal a series of questions to help her discover what kind of new lead magnet she could offer.
Some of her ideas included the following:
- Free chapter of her upcoming book
- Free chapter on audio
- Downloadable resource titled “Top Ten Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Podcasting”
- Video teaching of “Top Ten Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Podcasting”
While each idea had merit, each also presented a challenge.
When authors brainstorm what they could offer for free to their readers, the first thing they think of is offering a free chapter. It’s already written, edited, and probably formatted. It would be relatively easy for the author to give away.
However, readers don’t tend to value a free chapter of a book they’re already going to buy. What’s more, if they’re Kindle users, they can already get a free chapter through Kindle. Even on Amazon, a reader can preview a portion of your book through the “Look Inside” feature.
The same is true with the audio chapter but with an additional challenge. Not everyone values audio content.
So, while it’s easy for the author, it’s not perceived by the reader to be super valuable, and therefore it’s not likely to result in a lot of email sign-ups.
PDF or Video teaching of “Top Ten Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Podcasting”
Krystal could create a detailed document or video of all the things she’s learned in her first year of podcasting. She offers value for her readers, but the title doesn’t begin with her reader in mind.
Video content is preferred by many, but the problem remains. Krystal wants to help her listeners, but her title makes it sound like she wants to tell them about herself.
In that format, with that title, there is no reason for a reader or listener to download her video or PDF. But Krystal has valuable information to offer.
I advised Krystal that the key to getting her listeners and readers to download her “Top Ten List” is to make the title more appealing.
How do I create a lead magnet readers want to download?
To make it more appealing to her listeners, we had to focus on the transformation they’ll undergo when they learn those ten tips. Instead of saying “here are ten things I learned,” Krystal should say, “Ten Ways You Can Launch Your Podcast,” or “Ten Ways to Have Better Sounding Audio.”
You must be specific about what the benefit is to your reader. Instead of talking about the features, talk about the benefits.
For example, if you’re selling a lawnmower, instead of talking about how many RPMs the motor is, you’d talk about the beautiful lawn your customer will have. Beyond the beautiful lawn, you’d talk about how envious their neighbors will be.
To uncover the reader benefits of her ten tips, I asked her a series of questions. As you think about what value you can offer your future readers, answer the following questions:
- What is the benefit of your content?
- What is the transformation that this new lead magnet would help listeners experience?
- What kind of results will they get after reading or viewing it?
- Why are those results important?
Krystal wanted to help new podcasters avoid the mistakes she made when she began. She wanted to help them get results faster than she did.
In that first year, Krystal learned that being consistent in producing content helped her avoid podcast-burnout. She created a plan she could stick with, and it helped her remain committed to creating regular episodes.
She wants to help other podcasters so they don’t feel overwhelmed and quit. Over the years, she’s seen many podcasters burn out because they’re stressed and can’t keep up with production.
Krystal’s answers to my questions revealed the true benefits to the reader and also provided the wording for an irresistible title. We came up with a couple of options.
- How to Burnout-Proof Your Podcast
- Ten Ways to Burnout-Proof Your Podcast
- How to Protect Your Podcasts from Burnout
- Ten Ways to Protect your Podcast from Burnout
These titles focus on the benefit to the reader. They’re focused on the transformation. Krystal’s listeners want a burnout-proof podcast. They don’t want to give up on their podcast after ten episodes because they’re in it for the long haul.
To make it more specific, Krystal could add a subtitle that gives even more information about how it will transform them. A good subtitle might be, “Ten Mistakes Podcasters Make that Make Podcasting More Painful, Difficult, and Stressful.” That subtitle touches on the pain points of stress and difficulty that many content producers feel.
Writers are wordsmiths, and once you have a word bank of the benefits and transformational verbiage, use your writing skills and creativity to make it clear, concise, and compelling.
Your Turn: Answer that series of questions to discover the benefit and transformation your reader will experience by downloading your lead magnet. Your answers might even lead you to a fantastic title as it did for Krystal. Then write five enticing titles for your new lead magnet.
Krystal now has at least two types of “bait” to connect with podcasters who have different interests and needs in their podcasting journey.
On her website, in every podcast episode, and in all her conversations with podcasters, she can mention her new resource. When people hear the title, “How to Burnout-Proof Your Podcast,” they’ll think, “Hey, I don’t want to burn out. I need to know how to podcast for the long haul, and I need that resource!”
And off they go to your website to sign up via email.
How do you grow your podcast listener base?
The best way to grow your podcast listener base is to be a guest on other people’s podcasts. In the podcast world, it’s called “guesting.”
Each time you’re interviewed, a new host introduces you to a new group of listeners who can potentially be helped by your lead magnet and, eventually, your book.
Email and podcast growth will be followed by an increase in your social media followers. Social media is a way to engage the fans you already have. It’s not a good way to gain new fans unless you do distasteful things that do not align with Krystal’s brand or yours. Social media is the cart, not the horse.
Step 4: Establish a Budget for Your Time and Money.
After we’ve determined your assets and developed a plan for building on them, the next step is to create a budget for your finances as well as your time. You need to know how much time and money you have to spend on your launch before you begin.
These budgets can be allotted for the month of launch or for the months prior.
How much time does it take to launch a book?
Look at your schedule to see how many hours you have available to allocate to launch activities in the months prior to your launch.
We’re not deciding what those activities are yet because if you only have ten hours total to launch your book, you’re going to do different activities than if you have 40 hours to spend on launching your book.
I think of it in terms of total blocks of time. When I budget my time, I plan to work on a project for one hour each week or five hours per week. Other people think of time in terms of their daily or weekly rhythm.
Determine the number of hours you’re willing to allocate to your launch.
As Krystal reviewed her monthly schedule, she determined she had 5-7 hours to spend on launch activities each week during the month before launch. (Learn more about how to prepare for launch by listening to our episode on How to Create a Written Book Launch Plan.)
The next month, during the primary launch window, she has 12 hours per week.
Krystal’s Time Budget Summary
- Before Launch: 20-28 hours per month
- Launch Month: 48 hours
Your Turn: How many hours can you devote to book launch activities during launch month and the two months prior? Be specific.
Will you devote 8 hours on Tuesdays or two hours each day Monday through Friday?
What will be most feasible for you? Pencil it into your calendar.
How much money should I spend on a book launch?
When people ask me, “How much money should I spend on a book launch?” I answer by asking, “How much money do you have to spend to launch this book?”
Your budget is based on how much money you have.
When people put together their launch plan, they often make the mistake of going shopping before they determine their budget.
If you have a grocery budget to spend at Walmart grocery store, but you end up shopping at Whole Foods, after a few minutes, you’ve bought only half your groceries, but you’ve spent all your budget. You still need to buy the rest of your groceries, but you’re out of money.
Either you’re out of luck, or it dictates like what kind of meal you can prepare. Maybe you bought a steak, but you have no budget left, so your meal is steak and water. It’s not a good meal.
Your budget has to be an amount that you can afford to risk.
If this launch doesn’t work or if the money doesn’t come back, you don’t want to feel like you need to sell a kidney to cover the loss.
Krystal felt comfortable spending $1,000, knowing that if it didn’t work, she could chalk it up to a lesson learned. If her book has good sales momentum after release, Krystal will have the option to spend more money advertising and promotion.
As an indie author, she can continue spending money on advertising because of what she’s earning from book sales.
With indie publishing, you earn higher royalties per copy sold. Traditionally published authors earn about one dollar per copy. Sometimes less. When you’re independently published, you’ll earn closer to $3.00 – $5.00 per copy, depending on how your book is priced.
Sometimes you’ll make as much as $10 per copy if you have a premium-priced book.
When you’re earning that kind of money from selling your book, you have more to spend on customer acquisition, or in our case, reader acquisition. That’s how you’ll connect new readers with your book.
Your Turn: How much money are you willing and able to spend on your book launch?
Step 5: Create a Timeline
The best way to organize your launch activities is to build a three-month timeline of activities to prepare for the launch. You want everything ready for a big launch on the day it releases.
Launches are so important because your goal is to hit a bestseller list. For indie authors, the goal is to hit the Amazon bestseller list.
The USA Today or New York Times bestseller lists are unlikely since you’re independently published. They have some biases and don’t like indie authors.
But you could become a category bestseller on Amazon.
For Krystal, that’s a feasible goal because there aren’t a lot of new podcasting books coming out. She could shoot for their “Number One New Release” banner because that will bring additional readers who previously didn’t know about her or her book. The “Number One New Release” banner makes new readers interested.
1. Schedule podcast pitches.
After you set up your new reader magnet, the first thing you schedule in your timeline is pitching podcasts. You’ll want to mention your reader magnet on those podcast episodes as it comes up in your conversation with the host.
This might mean you need to establish a six-month timeline so you have time to develop your assets before you start pitching podcasts.
In the first three months of a six-month timeline, you’ll grow and develop the assets you already have. As you get closer to launch day, you’ll move away from platform-building and move toward promotion.
After that, start pitching podcasts for three to four months before your book comes out.
You need to pitch early because podcasts often record episodes long before they’re released. It takes time.
- You email a host.
- They send you a Calendly link with a date that’s two weeks from now.
- You record the episode.
- It takes several weeks to edit and schedule.
- They may have already announced the next four weeks of episodes in their queue.
Pitching a podcast might be a two-month process from start to finish, so you need that lead time before your launch date to build anticipation for the book. It’s okay if those episodes air before your book launches, especially if you’re asking for preorders.
Should I offer pre-orders on my book?
There is some debate as to whether pre-ordering is a good idea or not. The advantage of pre-orders is that they allow you to build anticipation on podcast interviews and other media where you can’t necessarily control the release date.
The downside is that pre-order sales dilute your launch-day sales numbers because, at least on Amazon, the sale is counted on the day the book is made.
On the other hand, on platforms like iBooks, you get to count preorders twice—once when they’re ordered and again on launch day. Preorders are added together on launch day. If you’re going wide and you’re on iBook, then encouraging people to preorder is a better strategy.
Even if your books are not available to purchase when the podcast airs, you can still promote your reader magnet and send people to your website to get them on your email list.
In some ways, having them on your email list is better than having them buy your book. Once they’re on your list, you can tell them about other books that come out in the future. Remember, your email list is your engine.
2. Schedule book promotion into your marketing assets.
I recommended that Krystal find ways to naturally talk about her book in her email newsletter and in her podcast.
We don’t want every episode to be a promotion for your book because that gets irritating. Podcast listeners want to feel like they’re getting value from you. But you also want to talk about your book ahead of time because people don’t always listen to podcasts on the day it comes out.
When they go on vacation, they’ll binge and catch up.
3. Schedule a promotional window for a bonus bundle.
Many authors have benefited from creating a reward or bonus bundle for people who buy their book in the first two-week window.
A bonus bundle is usually a digital “package” filled with downloadable items your readers will love. Your readers must believe the value of your bonus is great enough to warrant their immediate action of buying your book.
Listeners of Novel Marketing know why the bonus bundle is so magical.
- It creates urgency for people to act now.
- It creates scarcity because the bundle goes away after a certain amount of time.
- It also potentially triggers social proof, especially if you limit the bundle.
But creating urgency is your priority. People can always put off buying your book later, but you want them to buy during the first week or two so you can hit those bestseller lists.
What kind of bonuses can I offer for a book launch?
Be creative as you brainstorm possible bonus bundle ideas. Here are a couple of ideas authors have used.
Collaborative Bonus Bundle
Since Krystal had a relationship with other influencers in her field, I recommended she contact them to ask if they would contribute to her bonus bundle. When you’ve assembled your own digital bonus bundle, ask your 10-15 influencers, as well as the organizations you listed, if they’d be willing to contribute to your bundle.
It can’t be their lead magnets that people already get for free on their websites. It must be something valuable. Then your bonus bundle includes valuable resources from you and from other influencers in your industry.
It’s a win-win for you and your collaborators. You’ll be able to connect with their audiences, and they’ll be able to help yours.
Personal Bonus Webinar
You can put together a special bundle that includes a Q&A webinar with you. The only way people can attend is to send you their receipt for purchasing the book. Their ticket is their receipt. The webinar must be something special to create that urgency.
Both strategies will move people to buy your book within a certain window and potentially put your book on Amazon’s category bestseller list.
Additionally, you can simply ask people to order your book on release day.
Remind them they’ve been getting your podcast or your resources for free all these years, and then you can ask, “Would you help me hit the Amazon bestseller list and become a Number One New Release by buying my book on the date it comes out?”
Your core fans will be happy to help you out.
Step 6: Create an Editorial Calendar
As you get closer to launch, you’ll start hearing back from some of those podcasts you pitched, so you’ll want to create an editorial calendar.
Your editorial calendar will include your podcast bookings and the emails you plan to send to your fans.
I recommended that Krystal plan a sequence of emails leading up to launch day to provide a countdown. These emails increase anticipation and act as a reminder to readers to buy the book.
You want to have an email saying, “The book comes out in two weeks.” The next week you’ll say, “The book is coming out in one week,” and so forth.
Eventually, you’ll email to say, “The book releases tomorrow!” and then, “It’s here today!”
This is a situation where you can break your rule of email frequency. People won’t mind, especially if you have an excellent launch bundle, and you’re asking them to help you hit a bestseller list.
They know that increased frequency is not the new norm. They realize it’s a special event, and they will give you a pass. Often, the primary reason people are on an author’s list is to get emails announcing new books.
The day after your book releases, you can email again to celebrate hitting Amazon’s bestseller list or being the Number One New Release. You’ll want to thank your readers and listeners for putting your book on the list. For those who haven’t had a chance to order yet, you will provide the purchase links again.
In that email, remind them of your bonus bundle for anyone who orders in the first two weeks. Everything culminates in this one email.
Besides the series of emails, your editorial calendar will also include podcast interviews coming up after the launch date. If you have good relationships with podcasters, you can request that those interviews land during the launch week.
Even if you don’t know the host beforehand, it’s worth the ask. They may be willing to help you out by scheduling it on a date that correlates with your launch.
Part of the deal with podcast guesting is that you agree to promote their podcast to your audience. Since they’ll be talking about your book, it’s a great opportunity to email your readers and link to the podcasts where you’ve been interviewed.
That way, your podcast listeners will be happy, the other podcast hosts will be happy, and the people getting your emails will be happy.
Since Krystal writes and podcasts to podcasters, she is going to ask her email list about guesting on their podcasts. Podcasters from her email list may want to invite her on their show.
Even if you don’t write to podcasters, you can still ask your email list if they know of opportunities for you to share your book and message. It may lead to a podcast, speaking engagement, webinar, or blog tour. You might be surprised about who’s on your list.
Your Turn: Make a list of podcasts you want to pitch. Create a spreadsheet or system to track which podcasts you have contacted, which have responded, when you’ll record, and when they will air. (Don’t have a system? Take my course, The Book Launch Blueprint, and you’ll get two different system templates for tracking.)
Step 6: Allow Influencers to Request a Free Copy of the Book
Create a form on your website where influencers can request a free copy of the book. On that form, you’ll ask how they’re influential and how they can promote your book.
If a podcast conference director in Toledo is speaking to 50 podcasters, Krystal wants to provide her with a free book!
Now, if someone wants a free book because they have 250 Facebook friends, she’s not going to send a free book, because it’s not for just anyone. But, as an indie author, it’s entirely up to you to decide who gets a free book.
In the publishing world, these are called “advanced reader copies.” You’ll preprint copies of the physical book so you can mail them to influencers, podcasts hosts, and even launch team members before the release date.
How many advanced reader copies do I need to print in advance?
This is where we’re going to look at that budget because this will be your expense. Typically, you’ll need somewhere between 15 and 100 advanced reader copies.
Step 7: Assemble a Launch Team
You want to have at least 20 or 30 of your most passionate fans on your launch team. But they must understand that they’re not getting a free book as a reward for being in the launch team.
They’re getting access to you and all the fun, but they must buy a book and leave a review. Buying a book is the only way for their review to appear as a “verified purchase” on Amazon.
It’s like a BOGO sale. They buy one book and get a second from you for free, but their job is to leave a review on Amazon. If they can’t commit to leaving a verified review on Amazon, then they can’t be on your launch team. That’s the deal.
Customers and readers are nervous about buying a book with no reviews. If your launch team leaves reviews as soon as the book releases, those reviews will serve as social proof for future readers and customers browsing Amazon.
We talk a lot about how to put together a launch team in my course, The Five Year Plan to Becoming a Bestselling Author, but the main goal of having a launch team is to get lots of verified reviews on the day it releases.
Proceed through these steps, giving thoughtful consideration to each, and you will build a solid launching pad for your book to soar on the day it releases.
If you want more coaching for your upcoming book launch, register for our course, The Book Launch Blueprint, or join a Novel Marketing Mastermind group.
Our sponsor today is The Launch Your Book Blueprint. You can take all my courses at any time except for this one. It is special because we all go through it together day by day. This small group of students will be coached by James L. Rubart and me.
We will help you create your own custom book launch plan for your book. If you want to learn how to put together a book launch plan that will help you hit the top of the charts, this is the course for you.
Patrons who purchase The Launch Your Book Blueprint also get a free copy of my course, How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest. If a patron already owns the course on guesting, they’ll receive a discount on The Book Launch Blueprint equal to the purchase price of the course on guesting.
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