Today, you will discover the amazing life cycle of that marvelous creature known as a book. To help your book thrive throughout its lifecycle, you must know where it is on its journey from birth to death. Identifying your book’s current stage of life will tell you how to help it thrive and when to let it go.
Every book deserves a chance at a successful lifecycle, but authors can burn themselves out trying to beat a dead horse back to life.
How do you know when to keep marketing your last book and when to move on to the next book?
Four Phases of a Book’s Lifecycle
Phase 1: Creation
You’re probably most familiar with the creation stage.
Creating a book typically starts with educating yourself about how to write a book. Perhaps you’ve read books or articles on how to write a book. Educating yourself keeps you from having to learn everything the hard way and helps you avoid common mistakes.
Listening to Novel Marketing or reading blog posts is a fantastic way to educate yourself about how to write a book.
As you learn how to write a book, you learn how to research.
Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, your book will require research. Nonfiction writers may research by reading other books or scientific studies on their topic. Novelists may research a certain period of history or travel to a real-world setting to experience it first-hand.
Nonfiction writers typically outline the book’s structure via chapter titles, while fiction writers create an outline via plotting. Of course, discovery writers create their terrible first draft, which acts as an outline. Most discovery writers write a new draft from that terrible first draft.
If you’re working from an extensive outline, your next step is drafting. Drafting is where you write the book and create your rough draft. If you tend to combine the drafting and editing stages, check out our episode on How to Quiet Your Inner Editor to Draft Faster.
Editing requires multiple phases in a certain order: developmental editing, copy editing, line editing, typesetting, and proofreading. Each stage of editing has its own objective. Check out my episode on How to Hire a Good Editor to learn more about editing.
A book’s cover design is far more than the picture on the front. A printed book’s design will include the front cover design and type, back cover design and copy, spine, ISBN, barcode, and price.
Your role in cover design is probably best spent perfecting your back cover copy. Good back cover copy will help your designer create a better image for the front. It will also serve as the starting point for the text on your Amazon page.
- Effective Book Cover Design
- How to Create a Design Brief for Your Book Cover
- How to Create a Design Brief for Your Book Cover
- 10 Things Every Book Cover Needs
If you’ve never published a book, you may not realize that the metadata connected to your book is vital to its success. Metadata is information that describes your book, including the author’s name, book title, price, keywords, and all the other details about your book. Good metadata will help readers find your book easily and help it to sell better.
Learn more about the importance of metadata in my episode on How to Use Metadata to Sell More Books.
At the end of phase one, you have a completed book. Congratulations!
Phase 2: Prepare for the Book Launch
In phase two, you’ll complete the following:
You’ll want to create a written launch plan several months before your book releases. A written plan will help you visualize what needs to be done and when it should happen.
Launch Team Recruiting
I teach my launch team method in the Book Launch Blueprint, and in this phase, you’ll begin vetting launch team members to ensure you have the best readers touting your book.
Using your Advanced Reader Copies correctly will help you secure endorsements and media mentions. Learn How to Boost Book Sales with Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)
Good endorsements help readers decide whether to risk reading a new author like you. Learn How to Get Good Endorsements and download the worksheet to track endorsement requests.
Pre-Order Email Sequence
On the book’s release day, it will have potentially received 50% of its lifetime sales. You or your publisher can often determine whether a book has ongoing sales potential based on the number of sales it has on or before release day.
Phase 3: Launch
After release day, a publisher or bookstore will give your book a 30-day window to prove itself worthy of marketing money and effort. If it doesn’t, your publisher and bookstores, including Amazon, will stop paying attention and move on.
If bookstores stock your book, they’ll keep it on the shelf for 30 to 60 days, depending on the store, and then they’ll give up on it. Your book is eligible for the #1 New Release badge on Amazon for 30 to 60 days. If you’re traditionally published, your publisher will do all their promotional efforts in those first 30 days. Very few books get any promotion after day 30.
Is your book evergreen?
You and/or your publisher will use those first 30 days to determine whether your book is evergreen. Will your book sell steadily every month, year after year? You want your book to be evergreen!
Only one in 1,000 books is evergreen. Most books launch with a massive wave of pre-orders from the hype during the launch window. They bring in another massive harvest of sales after they’re released, and then sales quickly drop off.
After six months to a year, the book usually doesn’t sell copies regularly.
What can you do to have a strong launch?
In my course Book Launch Blueprint, you can learn how to maximize sales during that critical 30-day launch window, but I’ll give you a few starting points here.
A Goodreads giveaway can help you get reviews, which is more important than ever because Amazon now features those Goodreads reviews on their bookstore product pages.
During your launch window, you’ll give the interviews you scheduled during the launch prep phase. You’ll want to make sure you know How to Look and Sound Professional on Zoom, Webinars, and Podcasts. You’ll also need to know how to pitch your book to the audiences you’re speaking to.
In phase three, your launch team jumps into action. Learn more about how your launch team can effectively promote your book (Hint: It doesn’t have to involve social media).
Launch Email Sequence
The emails you wrote during the preparation phase will drip out at the frequency you set. Ideally, those emails will create a word-of-mouth marketing buzz that will drive your book sales during that 30-day launch window.
Even if your book isn’t evergreen, it can still be a financially successful and personally influential. Few books are truly evergreen, but many authors can make a living without ever writing an evergreen book.
Case Study in…Cereal?
My grandfather worked at Quaker Oats on the team that developed Captain Crunch. Captain Crunch was his baby.
His company used the same launch strategy for cereals that I teach for books.
Big breakfast cereal companies like Quaker Oats would launch new cereals with a lot of marketing, so the new cereal would get a lot of sales right out of the gate. People are curious about new cereals on the shelf, so they grab a box and give it a shot.
Most new cereals would launch and get a surge of sales that would slowly trickle off over time, and then the cereal would be discontinued. But with Captain Crunch, there was a massive spike in sales, and sales didn’t trickle off.
You might say Captain Crunch is an evergreen breakfast cereal since it’s still selling 60 years after its launch.
You probably don’t like having your book compared to cereal. Your book is art, after all. But you need to remember that your book is still a product sold by a company that must make money if they want to keep selling products. A strong launch is critical to everyone’s success.
Phase 4: Post Launch
After the release date and the 30-day launch window have come and gone, you still want your book to continue to sell even if it won’t likely be an evergreen book. Several special sales tactics will help you make ongoing sales on older books in the post-launch phase.
A price pulse is when you dramatically reduce the price of an older book for a short time and pay to promote that discount on promo sites like BookBub and Ereader News Today. You can typically bring in thousands of sales in a single day.
The best price pulse sites, like BookBub, like to see that a book has 100 reviews or more. But if it doesn’t, it’s not a deal breaker. You’re only competing against the other authors submitting for a promotion on the same day you requested yours, so sometimes you can get accepted with fewer than 100 reviews.
Typically, the more reviews you have, the more opportunities you’ll get. That’s why your launch is so critical.
New readers don’t know how old your book is, so sometimes Facebook or Amazon ads can present an older book to a new audience.
Authors who set aside money to run A/B split-test ads with different book covers tend to do the best with advertising. Most authors can’t make advertising work profitably because they don’t have a book cover that works in ads. However, I think every indie author should experiment with advertising.
Most traditionally published authors won’t get much advertising money from their publishers. A traditional publishing company waits to see which books have a strong launch. After those 30 days, they’ll choose the top book from the top twenty or so and put all their marketing money behind it.
Your book launch is like an audition that will earn you marketing dollars from your publisher.
Publishing is a business. Publishers know they will get a better return, be able to publish more books, and stay in business longer if they put all their marketing money behind the most successful books.
Use your launch period to show your publisher sales data to prove that you and your book are successful.
People who hear you give a good speech don’t care when your book came out. If you inspire, educate, or provide an emotional experience, people will want to purchase your book regardless of how old it is.
Tailwind of Used Books
As your book ages, it will develop a tailwind of used books. When a book first comes out, the only way to get it is to buy a new copy. Over time, the physical copies you sell work their way into the used book ecosystem. People donate used books to Goodwill or sell them back to Half Price Books.
Long, Slow Decline in Sales
As used copies of your book accumulate in the used book ecosystem, your book’s retail price will decrease. Eventually, the used copies of your book will gobble up most of your sales.
Readers won’t pay $1.99 for your ebook on BookBub if they can get a physical copy at a penny bookstore or on Amazon from a used book retailer. Eventually, this tailwind of used copies chokes out sales of new copies.
Older books earn fewer royalties because they compete with all the new books and their own used copies.
Write a New Book
The final tactic for supercharging sales of your older books is to write a new book. Nothing gets people excited about your older books like releasing a new one.
A listener recently wrote me and asked how to get more sales on the book she wrote in 2020. I told her she needed to write another book.
If you’re trying to be a professional author, you need to provide at least one new book per year for your audience. Some authors publish faster than that, but if you publish less than one book per year, you’ll lose readers. If you’re writing in a series, readers expect a steady pace of books.
If you can’t give them a new book every year, you need to choose a consistent pace so that readers know every 18 months, or every two years, on the dot, they’ll see a new book from you.
To keep your backlist selling, you must continue giving people new books. Millions of books are available. Why should somebody read yours?
You must give them a good reason to read. They might read your book because it’s new, or perhaps they’ll pick up your older one because it’s connected with your new one.
Consider the same phenomenon in the movie industry. Every week, you see a new “most popular” movie. Occasionally, the number-one movie will be a two-week-old movie, but it’s never a one-year-old movie. Movies only stay in theaters for a few weeks. If it’s a huge hit, it may stay for a month.
The same economic forces control book sales.
Phase 1: Creation
After those first 60 days after your book releases, you should start working on book two. In fact, you should probably start during the launch prep phase before your first book comes out.
Starting on book two right away will help you be less emotionally attached to the sales of book one. When you’re getting excited about book two, sales for book one become less emotionally charged.
As you read the reviews from book one, you’ll be reminded and motivated to continue working on your craft for book two, and a virtuous cycle will begin.
In my next episode, I’ll lay out my method for how to publish books at a consistent pace for the next 20 years of your career. If you’re wondering how to meet reader expectations of at least one book per year, please subscribe to this podcast via an app on your phone (Pocketcasts or Apple Podcasts) so you don’t miss that episode.
June is Patrons Appreciation Month!
Everyone who becomes a patron in June 2023 gets my course called Publishing A to Z. It walks you through the pros and cons of traditional and indie publishing.
You will learn:
- The pros and cons of traditional publishing
- The pros and cons of independent (self) publishing.
- How to publish your book independently
- How to get traditionally published
- How to get a literary agent
- And so much more!
Publishing A to Z is normally $299, but it’s free for patrons this month. You can become a patron for as little as $4.00 per month. You could cancel at the end of Patron Appreciation Month, and you’d still get to keep the course, but I hope you’ll stick around.
You’ll be more motivated to listen to the episodes and to put the information into practice when you start paying for it. Where your money is, your heart will be also.
Become a Novel Marketing Patron here.
Heather Blanchard came to her sister’s house to recover from a broken engagement. But her sister betrays her, leaving her reeling in pain. Fourteen tequila shots later, Heather flees down a dark road, where she catches a ride with a man she shouldn’t trust. And becomes a target of both the FBI and a Detroit drug gang.