by Steven Spatz, BookBaby
Book launches are a big deal for every author. All that stress over missed deadlines and self-doubt while laboring over your manuscript is finally coming to fruition. Launches are often unforgettable celebrations with your family, friends, fellow authors, and everyone who has helped you with your writing career. I strongly suggest you throw a big bash to commemorate the big day!
The real reason why book launches are important
Bookselling in the 21st century is one place where human gatekeepers have been replaced by machines — specifically, computer software algorithms. Even as you party with your friends, your attention needs to be focused on the inventory algorithm of the largest online bookseller in the world: Amazon.
Amazon’s proprietary program has been designed to gauge interest in your title from the minute it’s posted through the following 30–90 days. The more people who visit your page, the better your chances of having your product stocked in the Amazon warehouses at launch. It’s all about the traffic and engagement your book receives in that vital pre-sale period that can make or break your early book sales.
Your stretch goal should be for readers to buy your book and post reviews within this timeframe. While Amazon doesn’t compile all pre-sales and apply them to the release date, those early sales are important in your quest of getting a high ranking in your categories.
Having success with your book launch
The real success of a great book launch looks like this: Amazon will push your book higher and higher in the search results when readers search for titles in your subject area and its algorithm cross-promotes your book with similar titles.
They’ll do this through cross-marketing mechanisms, such as:
- “Customers who viewed this item also viewed”
- “What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?”
- “Customers who bought this item also bought”
For Amazon’s machines to work for you, you’ll need to have a strategic book launch that considers both online and offline factors to maximize exposure of your book. People won’t read your book if they don’t know it exists. Whether they are familiar with you and your work or not, you need to get your book’s title and cover in front of the people who will enjoy reading it.
Keep your eyes on the prize, i.e. driving as much traffic to your book launch event and Amazon book listing.
Here are 10 “Must Do’s” for a successful book launch.
1. Plan early
The best book launches are multifaceted and require a lot of preparation. These events involve the cooperation of many busy people and you’ll find that things always take longer than you anticipated. Start by creating a calendar that contains the critical path of tasks that need to take place for your book launch event to succeed. This includes things like booking the venue, working with local media, organizing your book launch team, and dozens of other tasks, great and small.
These activities require preparation, so allocate sufficient time between the initial planning stages and the actual event. Maximize your chances of success by scheduling your book launch event three to six months in advance, if you can. This timeframe gives you an opportunity to recover should something go sideways.
Planning in advance is also the best way to show your appreciation of other people’s time, because most of your allies — from your book launch team members to book bloggers and media bookers — will be working for you at no cost.
2. Make media the center of your book launch plan
Media, in all its various forms, must be the megaphone for your launch date. Many authors make the mistake of putting minimal efforts into local media. I encourage self-published authors to devote a lot of effort on local print and broadcast media since they’ll be the most inclined to promote a local author.
Start local and then expand outward. If your event will be open to the public, it’s vital to promote your event through local media outlets. Reach out to them as soon as your book event is firm since they also plan their content schedule ahead of time.
Your goal is to schedule all of your media appearances three to five days before the event so that the information will be fresh in the minds of their audiences.
Prepare, then prepare some more
You can never be overprepared for these opportunities. For audio-based interviews, producers will want to conduct a pre-interview on the phone to ensure you’re a good match. For video-based interviews, producers will request you send them a video sample of a previous interview or public speaking appearance.
Make sure you have an up-to-date bio, listing your experience and any other prior media or public-speaking appearances. Also, make sure you send them a pre-publication version of your book as soon as it’s available. Finally, do your research on each media outlet to ensure you’re targeting the right audience/show/segment for your new book. Then pitch stories you feel would be of interest to their audiences.
Pitching to book bloggers
The next layer of media contact should be with book bloggers. They are always looking for new titles to write reviews about and can become great allies to spread the word about your upcoming book. Target the online influencers who write about your genre or book subject.
Bloggers are going to help you as long as you have a strong online media kit. Create a Dropbox folder with profile photos, author bios, book covers, fact sheets, and reviews. Make sure you have working links that point to your book description and Amazon page.
What’s the best way to engage with book bloggers? It’s all about the human touch. Reach out to the bloggers you already know. Your primary goal is to write a guest post on their blog. Then, with those samples in hand, you can reach out to the bloggers you do not know well but who have the ear of your target market and target readers. Pitch them with three or four headlines on topics you know their readers will love. Let the blogger choose the topic and then write the article.
The effort is worth the reward
While these kinds of extra writing assignments can be time-consuming, keep in mind there are a lot of positive benefits to the exercise. The discipline of writing a post often helps you to recall what you originally wrote in your book by writing about the topics again. It’s a terrific practice for interviews and conversations later on during your launch.
Meanwhile, you might receive feedback in comments and social media shares from the readers and contributors to other websites. This helps you to expand on potential topics and focus your marketing efforts.
Best of all, you’ll build relationships with bloggers for the long-term (and your next book launch).
3. Talk about your book
It might be time to get out of your comfort zone. A public speaking event is one of the best ways to launch your book. If you’re a nonfiction writer, you can look for a trade, professional, or other non-profit organization that caters to your audience and reach out to their event managers. If the subject of your upcoming book aligns with the type of content they are looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll be considered for their speaker line-up.
Public libraries are always keen on being the launching pad for new local authors, and they’ll promote a speaking event using all their means available, from profiles on their website to event posters in high-traffic areas. The key is to contact their event planners weeks or months before publication to set up a launch date. They’ll want to see your bio and they’ll also want a professional headshot and other relevant materials.
4. Find a great place for your book launch
I’ve attended book launch parties in all kinds of places, from authors’ homes to coffee shops to huge rented spaces with DJs! My advice for the typical self-published author: Stick to a basic venue that feels comforting.
Coffee shops, especially indies, can be great venues for book launches. Naturally, you’ll have to scout for locations that can hold a large number of people. Some establishments will even have a separate room for special occasions.
The coffee shop will also promote your event in-store and possibly on their website if they do regular events. Like with any other book launch venue, make sure to promote your event ahead of time in the local media.
I’ve talked with authors who sometimes question the need for this kind of old-school event — especially in this age of digital sales. There are many benefits to making the effort of throwing a book launch party. Making connections with your readers online is fantastic, but there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings at live events.
When you schedule a book launch party or event, the goal is to gather people who already know, like, and trust you so that you can create the opportunity for a more intimate encounter with you as the author.
5. Insert as much creativity as possible into your book launch event
Here are some ideas to consider for your next book launch:
- Invite local authors you’ve met to be speakers.
- Get local companies to sponsor the event.
- Approach your local bookstores and ask them to attend.
- Make it a themed party if that fits with your book subject or genre.
- Provide food.
- Set up an event in Eventbrite, Evite, or as a Facebook event.
- Give away free stuff: autographed books, swag, other fun products.
- Take lots of pictures and videos (get someone to help).
- Provide people who are meeting you for the first time the opportunity to sign up for your email list.
There are lots of details involved with setting up your own book launch party. You must consider this as part of the entrepreneurial role of your life as an author.
6. Build a book launch team
Most of the sales success of your book will come down to a single platform: Amazon. It operates the largest dedicated book search engine on the planet and the most direct way to get to the first page of results in this powerful engine is via user reviews.
In fact, the number of positive book reviews you can get in the first 30-90 days from the time your book goes up on the Amazon bookstore is critical for training their algorithm. So, how do you ensure that you have a large number of positive reviews for your book in the first 30 days? By assembling a book launch team.
Every author is sure to have a group of people who have a clear interest in their upcoming book. How can they help? Writing well-timed book reviews on Amazon is a start.
Get creative when choosing your team
But there’s a catch (actually a few). They can’t be family members, roommates, business associates, or folks of that sort. Amazon has been gamed in the past with purchased reviews and fake review efforts and they’ve since set up stringent rules to weed out these faux reviews. For instance, they’ll remove reviews from people whose Amazon accounts use the same credit card (this takes care of family members). Same street addresses are out too.
But you can get positive traction and comply with Amazon’s review rules. The details are here — set up your book launch team in a way that complies with the rules.
Your ideal book launch team
How many people do you need on your team? Working backward: Your goal is to get between 15 and 25 book reviews right after your book launches on Amazon. Human nature being what it is, you can only count on about a third of the people on your team leaving a review on Amazon, so you’ll need 45–75 people on your team.
From your list of author contacts, blogger friends, and more, I’m sure you can come up with that number. Don’t be afraid to ask distant family, friends, business associates, and present and past clients.
The best team members will be people who also happen to be members of your book’s target audience because they’ll have the most to gain from reading your book. What should they get in exchange? A free advance printed copy of your book as a gift, for one.
Be creative. If you offer valuable content in exchange for leaving an honest book review on Amazon, they should reciprocate with their commitment to you.
7. Get your author marketing platforms in order
BookBaby’s blog has covered some of these topics in depth over the years.
“Your Author Website Must Have…“
Your author website is a critical hub for all of your book marketing activities.
“Social Media For Authors“
Understanding and unleashing the power of social media can be a powerful force for a great book launch.
One area I haven’t covered is Amazon’s Author Central webpages and its potential for finding your reading audience. Setting up this vital page is simple to do and I can’t understand why every author doesn’t claim their Amazon author page.
First, go to Amazon Author Central and set up an account (use your current account or create a separate account just for this purpose). Then, Author Central will walk you through a few steps to claim your book(s). (If you are a first-time author, you will need to wait until your book is live on Amazon to do this.)
What are the benefits of an Amazon author page?
- Your author page will link all of your books together, so when people click on your name, they’ll see your profile and all the books you’ve published. (If an author doesn’t have Author Central set up, Amazon will display a search for the author’s name including many random books in the results.)
- Your picture will show up on your book’s Amazon product page. (That is, if you upload a photo to your Author Central account. Otherwise, a gray icon will appear next to your name.)
- You can add your blog and Twitter feeds to your author page.
- You can update your bio with each new book or project.
- You can add multiple photos, including some action shots, to your author page.
8. Communicate early and often about your book launch
Spread the word, far and wide!
If you have a blog, it’s a great way to get the word out. If you’ve converted your blog readers into an email list, this is the time to use this most precious asset. There are dozens of ways to collect email names, such as using a pop-up window on your blog offering a free report, a book excerpt, a shot story, an infographic, etc., that offers value to your audience in exchange for their email address.
After you do this for several months, you’ll begin to slowly but surely attract a regular following that you can then turn into book fans. You can begin nurturing these fans with regular, thoughtful emails introducing every new blog post and, over time, by letting them onto a little secret: you’re currently writing a book they’re going to love.
Use your email list
With the beginning of your pre-sale period and leading up to your launch, send a series of pre-launch emails to build awareness of your book. Deliver information and hints about the book directly to their inbox.
So many people consider unsolicited emails to be spam — but you can’t have that attitude as your work your book launch. Don’t be shy, these folks have entrusted you with their email addresses.
If they don’t like what you’re offering and unsubscribe, that’s OK. You want to communicate with people who are interested in your book. You want to help people who want to go where you want to take them.
Many of these folks could turn into your book launch team. A high percentage of subscribers will buy your book when you finally send them your Amazon link. They’ll be inclined to buy from you because they know you, like you, and trust you. Your job now is to leverage this goodwill by asking them to leave you a book review on Amazon.
Create a book trailer
One more thought and a way to stand out from other self-published authors: Consider creating a book trailer. This launch tactic has been increasingly used in various genres. In video book trailers, authors and publishers work to tell the story of their book with a short video. It is easily shared and can be used on book websites, author websites, in publisher marketing, and even Amazon author pages and product pages.
But you can’t just do this on the cheap. Quality is key. Video production can cost a lot of money and take up a lot of time. Plus, it’s hard to measure the exact return on the investment.
The best video book trailers I have seen:
- Tell a story rather than sell a book.
- Have a clear call to action (a link to the book website, the author’s website, a suggestion to search for it on Amazon, a launch date, etc.).
- Look professional.
- Have background music like movie trailers.
9. Sweat the details — large and small
Do your best to stay organized and focused in the weeks and days leading up to the big event.
- Write book launch content. Give yourself plenty of time to write blog and email content.
- Remind friends and family. Reach out to your extended list of contacts to share your book news. If sending an email, bcc the recipients and only send in the spirit of sharing good news to avoid running afoul of email spam laws.
- Run Goodreads and LibraryThing giveaways to develop awareness and buzz.
- Offer signed copies. Arrange with your indie bookstore to stock and sell signed copies, or send signed bookplates to those who buy your books. Some authors send goodies or other giveaways to those who pre-order books.
- Nail down launch party details. Bring Sharpies for signing books. Plan activities and refreshments. Practice what you’ll say. Bring your author copies in case the store sells out.
10. Have a post-launch marketing plan
The day after your book launch is the beginning of your author career, so you need to have a marketing plan in place for the first six months after your launch. We’ll be covering those topics over the next few weeks
And a bonus “Do” for your book launch…
11. Enjoy it!
Congratulations! This is your day. Allow yourself to enjoy this major accomplishment.