24 Apr 2017
I confess, this draft on your new book launch is a bit of a mess. As a longtime observer of the publishing scene, and a longtime website owner (since about 1997), it was easy to blast through most of the book. I have had a lot of experience in those areas.
Now, we’re getting to the real meat-and-potatoes of what every new author wants to know: How do I create a new book launch that will attract attention and sales? This required some serious thought, a lot of research, and organization, because there are a lot of tools out there. Some of them are worthwhile, some of them worthless, some require some expertise on the author’s part, and some you can knock off in a day.
In fact, there are so many tools out there that you can spend all your working hours running ad campaigns, engaging in social media, writing blog posts, and pitching media outlets, and leave nothing at all for writing and for living your life.
Complicating matters was that my wife’s first book, “Suburban Stockade,” needed editing in time for its debut at Hershey’s “Art on Chocolate” festival on May 13. Over the past month, I’ve read the 163,000-word manuscript twice, removing extraneous passages, suggesting additions and cuts, pulling spelling and grammar errors, and working it down to a more manageable 130,000 words. Then there’s the time spent writing the back cover copy and tweaking the cover design.
So what you’ll see here is a lot of throat-clearing, plus a list of topics I intend to cover in the coming month. The section below will be filled in, and by the time you buy the book, you’ll get a comprehensive overview of the options available to promote your works.
Launching Your Book
It’s probably the biggest anxiety of many indie authors: masterminding your new book launch. They’re worried about doing it wrong, about spending too much money, about spending not enough money, about missing a big opportunity.
Relax. I know; that’s not helpful, but if it’s any help, know that a launch is not a one-time thing, a do-or-die operation. A book can open to indifferent sales and no critical reviews, and years later find its audience, thanks to the right ad campaign, or the author’s growing profile thanks to the books he or she released in the meantime.
Believe me, I know how not to launch a book. When Penguin released “Writers Gone Wild” in 2010, they arranged for me to be interviewed about the book at several NPR stations across the country. The local Borders agreed to host a book-signing. I had bought a mailing list of university writing professors and planed to send postcards announcing the book. The local newspaper published a story from me on book publishing. It was a good beginning.
The book came out in November. The interviews went off without a hitch, the newspaper published my article, and the signing was attended by a couple of people, most of them I knew. That was fine. I knew I wouldn’t draw a big crowd for a first book by an unknown author.
Unfortunately, that was also the same month that Borders imploded. Their copies of “Writers Gone Wild” were either returned or never shipped to them.
That’s the way the game is played in New York. That is not how it goes online.
If a launch doesn’t work, you can try again. Release another book in the series, or write a book in a new genre and see how that goes. You can rebrand the book with a better cover and a new title (but letting buyers know that it’s an older book; you don’t want
1. The Conventional Campaign
Before the age of self-publishing, publishers had a limited number of tools to put their authors’ books before the public. They had to entice gatekeepers to discuss the book and the author. They had to encourage or bribe bookstores and paperback jobbers (distributors who managed the racks in small stores) to place the books in the prime viewing locations. If they thought it was worth it, they had to get the author out on tour to publicize and sell the book. It was expensive, physically and mentally draining on the author’s part, and no one really knew if any of it worked.
Some of those tactics are still viable in the age of indie publishing, but the internet has changed the landscape dramatically. Some techniques carry over, such as the blog tour replacing the bookstore tour. Some are now in the author’s hands, such as buying ads. Then there are the new tools, such as creating podcasts and videos.
In addition, it’s possible to track the effectiveness of our marketing to a degree never seen before, although there are still practices that seem to be the equivalent of dropping a message in a bottle in to the sea.
We’ve gone from having a very limited array of practices to an abundance so great it could absorb all our time and efforts. We could spend every day writing blog posts, creating media, using social media, releasing press releases, contacting media outlets, and hosting giveaways on GoodReads and LibraryThing, while soliciting reviews in the hopes of getting the book into BookGorilla or BookBub.
2. The Online Campaign
Now it’s time to consider your new book launch strategy. I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all list of tasks to do that will guarantee your book shows up on the best-sellers list. A successful launch strategy depends on too many components that a single plan can cover.
Those components are:
Whether this is your first book, or the first book in a series, or the first book in the new series, or the first book in a new genre.
Whether this is the first book from an unknown author, or the 20th book from a mid-list author who just got her rights back from the publisher.
Is this a fiction or nonfiction book? Is it based on a particular subject that the news media would be interested in? Is it based on a regional subject that your local newspapers and magazines would want to know about?
How much money do you have? How much are you willing to spend on advertising?
What kind of author are you? Are you photogenic? Are you a dynamic funny man in front of audiences, were so shy you can’t even publish under your own name?
Do you have any contacts with local booksellers, writers conventions and festivals, and any other people who might be able to provide a blurb, a review, advice, or introduce you to other people who can help you in launching your book?
Do you have the resources, the interest, and the skill to do podcasts and videos?
These are but a few of the factors that need to be considered when setting up a launch campaign.
So what we’ll do here is talk about many of the possibilities you can consider in launching your book. It’ll be up to you to pick and choose among them to craft a strategy that you feel will work for you and your book.
A word of reassurance: you will make mistakes. We all do. But none of the mistakes you make will be fatal to your book or your writing career (maybe it might be better to say that you’d have to work pretty hard to derail your writing career). Remember when you were just starting out writing, how hard it was to write something you could be proud of? How many times you rewrote something and how you felt so good when you learned a better way of writing a story?
Marketing is like that. You’ll learn, you’ll make mistakes, you’ll learn from them (I hope), and you move on. Failure is not final.
Now let’s learn about crafting a marketing campaign.
I. Your website and newsletter
This is the core of your launch strategy, your headquarters. Campaigns and blog tours will come and go, but this is the place where many people will go before deciding whether or not to buy your book. This is also the place who have the most control over.
What do you need to have?
1. A webpage devoted to your book. Your website should have a page about your book similar to what Amazon will have. It’s intended to promote your book, provide an excerpt, any reviews you have generated, and links to all the sites that sell your book.
2. Space on the front page of your website devoted to your notebook. This will catch all visitors who are going to your website for one reason or another by the front page, and you may not know that your book exists. This could consist of a graphic element taken from the book’s cover some brief, exciting copy, and the link to your book page.
3. A landing page for any promotional campaigns you are running. This page will be needed only if you are planning something that requires a landing page, such as a giveaway or a special newsletter sign-up.
4. Promotional material in your newsletter. This is when you announce the publication of your book, plus any discounted price you may consider offering to your true fans.
This may also be a good time to evaluate your newsletter and your sign-up page.