How to Launch a Book
Releasing a new book is exciting and nerve wracking.
As an author, you’ve worked hard to craft an amazing story that readers will love. You hope. But really, you are never truly certain until you actually get the novel out to readers. And as much as everyone tries to plan the process out, something always seems to need to be fixed, uploaded, or shared at the last minute.
As much as every author feels their book is ready to be born, they are waiting for those first reviews to see what fans really feel. And sometimes those reviews can take … weeks? Or if you are a relatively new author, months.
Which is why I was absolutely bubbling when Spark of Defiance racked up 32 reviews on Amazon US alone in its first week of release.
It took a lot of planning and work, but it isn’t rocket science to create a launch that netted me more reviews than I have on books 2 and 3 from the previous epic fantasy trilogy. Heck across all platforms, Spark of Defiance garnered more books than Rule of Fire and Spirit of Life have combined. When I say thrilled, I mean I’m on the moon!
So how do you launch a book?
First you write it. Okay, you probably knew that part. lol. But don’t just write it in secret, especially if it is your first book. And when your on draft 5 of edits and it is going out to beta readers and editors, definitely don’t keep your evolving masterpiece to yourself! Tell people about it.
If you’ve taken my writing course, you know I like to talk about having a novel premise from the early stages. Share that! Share progress. And, oh my gosh, share quotes and excerpts. Give readers a taste. Let them know you are excited so they can get excited.
This is all part of the advertising and the sooner you begin this step the better your launch will go. Share your struggles and victories as much as the story you are writing.
Set up your pre-order
Many ebook platforms allow pre-orders. I’m an advocate of using this option, and because you might rack up some early sales is the least of the reasons why. Having a pre-order live opens many opportunities. I’ll get to those in a bit, but the important part is what do you need to set up a pre-order. And that isn’t much. You don’t even need a cover.
You need a place holder – some sort of graphic that announces the title, the author, and that the cover is coming soon. For a file, you need a draft version in most cases, but not all. With some platforms you don’t even need a file until a set time (usually at least two weeks prior to the release date). That is about it.
So why use a pre-order option if not for sales? The first it gives you a live book link and with that you can not only share with potential readers. It is also a link you can use to set up advertising for release week.
And remember that blank cover? You get to upload and unveil the real cover on big platforms from Goodreads to Amazon. Make a splash and incorporate the cover reveal into the buzz you are creating.
And while we are discussing pre-orders let’s talk about the next book you are going to release – yes, the one after the one you are working on. Whether you are writing a series or simply have a style and brand to your work that readers love, capture their enthusiasm with links at the back of the book you are on the verge of releasing. Ideally, set up a pre-order to send enthusiastic readers to. But if that is beyond what you are ready for, send them to an email signup page so they can receive updates on the next book. Feed your readers!
Create a Launch Team
What is a launch team? It is a group of fans who receive an advanced reader copy (ARC) and agree to leave a review of the book, usually during launch week. This is teamwork between an author and fans. How awesome is that?
The easiest way to create a launch team is if you have a mailing list. Just ask them who wants to take part. I sent mine to a Google Form so I could explain why reviews are important and what the launch team was about as well as ask some questions.
But you can create a launch team even if you don’t have a mailing list. Readers find you in many ways. Tweet it, blog it, facebook it. Reach out and ask a few individuals who have said they love your books. Get a list together at least a month before the book release.
Why? Because they need time to read it! Get your books in their hands with time to spare, at least two weeks before release. They are doing you a favor, one that they are hopefully excited to do for you because you are giving them a book that no one else has and they want to read, and because they’ve connected with you (by being a part of your writing journey from all those previous posts, etc). But don’t rush them. They shouldn’t feel pressured. Give them the book, help with any problems accessing files, respond to any questions or feedback, but otherwise leave them alone.
Sale or no Sale?
Every author wants their book to make waves when it released. Even though being an author is really a long haul type of commitment of building readers and releasing books, a new release is a spike of adrenaline in the marathon – a finish line that you want to celebrate before running the next leg.
So how do you maximize the event?
You need to give readers a reason to buy that week. Or better, release DAY. A sale on release day or week is one way. And a sale can unlock advertising options. But a sale will reduce proceeds. Every author must weigh the benefit of offering a book for a reduced price to garner interest while taking a potential loss compared to advertising and other expenses.
If you are writing a series consider placing another book on sale with, or instead of, the new release. This will add a variety of marketing options and help get those “also viewed” or “also purchased” clicks that help tie books together.
To host a Giveaway or Not to host a Giveaway?
Another way to create a short term incentive to buy is to run a launch giveaway. Have a link in the book (and somewhere else like a Facebook page to meet US laws about purchase not being necessary) that is only open for a few days. Prizes can be as varied and expensive as you wish. A paperback of your book or series makes a great first place price, and runner’s up could receive everything from posters, to cups, to gift cards. Don’t forget to advertise the giveaway as well – otherwise people won’t know!
With all the discussion on advertising, I think discussing marketing is in order. You have to announce the release of your book somehow and waiting until the day it is released to 1) tell people you’ve been writing a novel and 2) you can buy it now is a little late in the game. Start with a blog, tweets, Facebook posts, Goodreads, Wattpad, Instagram pictures of you writing as soon as possible. But you still need to spread the word far and wide about the release.
One of the traditional ways beyond paid advertising is a blog tour. There are companies you can pay to arrange this for you, groups you can join that will help you and allow you to help other authors throughout the year, and, of course, there are friends. It is an option worth trying, especially as it doesn’t have to be expensive. See if it works for you.
I’ve mentioned paid advertising. It is worth it, but not all advertisers are equal and a free book with lots of reviews will normally do better than a new book at 99cents. Sure, you can try out some free sites, but I like to save those for average months rather than risk a new release on something that might not offer any return.
Some paid advertisers have special allowances for new releases so you don’t need the reviews, BUT if your launch team is completely awesome and gets you the reviews and your book is on sale, you can hit up a lot of the traditional paid advertisers. You really have to be on top of things and have a little luck that not every spot is already taken, but it can happen. And boy does it make you feel like you can pull off planning when it does.
Mobilize your Launch Team
Advertising set up? Blog tour ready? Pre-Order set? Launch Team has book? Fantastic. Now go release your book early.
REALLY. You’ve been telling everyone the book will be out Wednesday. Great. Hit the button on Monday. Why?
So that you can email your launch team the book is live and give them the links. That way when people go to look for your book on release day, it already has reviews. It also gives you a few bonus days to try to get those reviews and try to grab some extra advertising. Use it.
A few platforms are super cool about releasing pre-orders early. You can press the button whenever you like as long as the final manuscript is loaded. Amazon is a little more strict where you can’t make any changes the last three days before release, so if you want to release early, you have to plan ahead. OR you need to have the paperback version live. Because reviews can be left on the paperback and they will transfer automatically to the ebook.
The Real Release
The big day is still THE BIG DAY! Celebrate! Shout it out. And not just tweet and Facebook. Host events on Facebook and Goodreads. Do something big! And don’t forget to send out links to your email list who has witnessed your creation from the early days. Get out there and love it – though stay calm enough not to be spamming everyone. 😉
You didn’t do it alone. You might have written the book, but someone encouraged you. Someone else gave you an idea. Your launch team came through with reviews and you need to tell them how much that meant to you. Your mailing list celebrated with you. Hopefully a ton of people bought your newest book.
Running a giveaway is nice as another way to reward a few people, but it won’t reach everyone. A sincere thank you to everyone who helped in some way is great too. Let them know they made a difference. Spend a day celebrating them. And then go write your next book. 😉
Okay, that is it for me this week. I think this might be my longest post to date! But stop by next week and I’ll let you know which of these methods I used (hint: it wasn’t all of them) and which ones I thought worthwhile.
Until then, keep writing (and start planning your book launch)!