OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
OK, the dust has settled and it's time to report back on how the launch of Pentecost went. Many of you have been asking so here it is. I also did a podcast about book launches with the marvelous Zoe Winters if you'd like to listen as well.
I'm baring my soul here, so please do leave a comment with your thoughts on how you think it went! The more we help each other, the more we can rise together.
Amazon change their rankings every hour and I did sleep during launch week but Pentecost by Joanna Penn made the Amazon bestseller lists – these were the best rankings.
# Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #370 Paid in Kindle Store
* #4 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Fiction
* #5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Religious Fiction
#62 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction
#1 in Movers & Shakers on 12 Feb
#93 on Amazon.co.uk in Kindle > Kindle ebooks > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Thrillers.
Total sales were 683 books between 7 -28 February. 133 print and the rest ebooks. It's not blockbuster sales but it's my first novel in the religious thriller/action-adventure genre and as my back-list grows, so will the numbers. Most authors start off by selling low numbers and then they grow over time, so I am content with this as the starting position.
The following are the aspects that went into the launch. I hope it helps you with planning your own.
Base Author Platform: The Creative Penn Blog.
Without this baseline, I wouldn't have been able to do most of the following so I consider my blog to be the most important asset I have to market myself and my books. I've been blogging here for over two years now, posting an article, video or podcast every two days consistently.
In terms of basic stats, The Creative Penn has just over 5000 subscribers from RSS and email lists and 21,000 uniques per month according to Google Analytics. The Alexa ranking for the US is currently 31,266. The Creative Penn podcast is getting around 2000 downloads per month mostly from the US, China and UK, around 40% of that on iTunes.
I've blogged the whole journey of Pentecost – click here for all the posts. You guys have helped me choose the book cover as well as refine the back blurb and have witnessed my growth as a fiction writer. I've shared it all and I think that helped sales because some of you like the religious thriller genre and were ready to buy the book when it launched, even just to support me. Thanks so much for your support!
I also sent out review copies to people who were willing to write reviews (no, I didn't influence what they wrote!). Check them out on Amazon.com. These really help sales so I appreciate every one. Authors really value reviews so that is always a great thing to do if you love a book.
Cost: Blogging takes a whole lot of time but very little setup cost. I also love it and blog as a hobby anyway 🙂 Totally worth every moment I spend on growing this site! (Click here to read about my Blogging for Authors and Writers short course)
Social Networking: Twitter and Facebook
Twitter is my main social network and I love it! I'm very active on it @thecreativepenn and have set out my principles here before. The aim is always to be useful and so I have spent the last two years tweeting links about writing, publishing and book marketing as well as networking. This meant that I had a good audience of around 17,000 followers for launch week. I used that network to tweet links to my guest posts as well as rankings and buy now links. The response was excellent during the week with followers telling me rankings overnight in America and being very encouraging. It's hard to measure tangible results from Twitter but there was definitely a buzz during launch week!
The Creative Penn Facebook page is a growing place where I can interact more freely with people and there are around 1200 fans so far. We have some more in depth conversations and I post almost every day there. (Come and join us!) Again I shared the journey and links to videos, posts and other things but I think this audience overlaps with Twitter and the blog, so it is more of a gathering place than somewhere specific for the launch.
I did setup a Pentecost novel Facebook page which I used more heavily for the launch and also post specifically to re guest posts, interviews and things. It has free chapters and buy now links and currently has 165 fans. I'll keep this going because I intend to continue marketing the book and search on Facebook is increasing.
Cost: $0 but a lot of time! Again, I find so many benefits from twitter especially, I think it is absolutely worth the time investment.
I personally think book trailers are awesome. They give an overview of the book in one minute and you know whether you're interested. I have bought books based on trailers and I think they will only get more popular in 2011 and onwards as video search grows. Also, if you get into video now, you're still ahead of the pack. Google “thriller novel” and check the videos. Pentecost and other videos by me on thrillers rank on the first page. Awesome. You can't do that with text posts anymore!
Cost: This was one of the most expensive items at around AU$200 which was for the high quality video and images. Click here to find out how I made it. Worth it? Some may not think so but I am a believer in the power of video and this is an evergreen business card for the book so yes, I think the cost was worth it.
Blog Tour/ Guest Posting/ Interviews
In launch week, I appeared on 32 other blogs doing text articles, video and audio interviews as well as people posting reviews or Q&A with me. It was a significant amount of work to prepare all this in advance and to write that many good articles as well as continue my own blog, the day job, life etc – you know the score! I wrote for large blogs like Problogger and WriteToDone as well as niche blogs for authors. Click here and scroll down for the full list.
Guest posting is worth it for the incoming links to your blog which boosts Google page rank PLUS/ the personal branding boost that goes with having your name on the bigger blogs.
I was able to appear on most of them because of relationships I've built up over the last two years and also because I know how to write a decent blog article (after much studying!) . None of these sites would have accepted a bad post even with an online friendship. If you're considering guest posting for blogs, you need to know how blog articles work. Definitely subscribe to Copyblogger for tips on this. You can find my guest posting guidelines here.
Cost: Again, $0 but a lot of time and my brain is dead from so many guest posts as well as my own launch material.
It was worth it for the exposure and general personal branding benefits but I don't think it impacted the launch sales figures significantly. It was more about growing awareness of The Creative Penn and something I will continue to do more of but not for the launch date specifically, more for building profile and presence before a launch. Perhaps the longer blog tour works better. I shall do this differently next time.
Launch Day competition
The point of a competition is to incentivize people to buy the book on a particular day in order to impact the Amazon rankings. I offered a Kindle or access to my Author 2.0 program and personal coaching as well as Amazon vouchers. Clearly my own courses don't cost me out of pocket but they offer a lot of value.
As it happened, the winners of prize 1 & 2 both took the Author 2.0 program (sells for US$297) over the Kindle and winner 3 took $50 Amazon voucher. To enter the competition, people had to email me the receipt of Pentecost to show they had bought it on 7 Feb and there were 98 entries.
Cost: $50 as the other prizes were intangible. Worth it because of the number of sales in one day which pushed me up the charts although not everyone who bought was in the competition.
Kindle Nation Sponsorship
This is something anyone can do and should absolutely go on your list. Kindle Nation Daily goes out to thousands of mad keen Kindle book buyers and they definitely buy based on recommendations. There are various levels of sponsorship and I went for the Silver package. This mail-out shot me back up the charts to a higher position than the first launch day.
I sold 300 ebooks on that one day so this is definitely the most worthwhile cash investment I could have made. I will be interviewing Steve Windwalker from Kindle Nation in a few months time for the podcast so you will hear more about this. I have also re-booked for Pentecost Sunday when I will do another mini-relaunch. Recommended tactics are to make sure the price is low and you have reviews on Amazon already so people feel confident in purchasing.
Cost: $169.99 DEFINITELY worth it!
What I did well
The launch was successful because I've spent the last two years learning all about writing, publishing and book marketing and growing an author platform. It's not Amanda Hocking style numbers but she started off selling hundreds of books per month which soon went up as she added more books to her backlist and got book bloggers involved. So I feel like this is a good start to my fiction career.
I'm also reminded of Seth Godin's recent brilliant post about the “siren song” of launch day and how it's more important to have longevity in book sales than a high peak at launch.
In terms of things done well, I'm really glad I used a professional cover and book designer (Joel from TheBookDesigner.com) and also pro editors and pro ebook file converters. I'm proud of the book so that is definitely worth paying for.
Compare this to three years ago when I put “How To Enjoy Your Job” up for sale and sold 10 books to my family in 6 months because no one knew who I was. That disappointment led directly to the creation of this blog and onwards to my first novel. I'm still selling that book and the sales of “From Idea to Book” have also gone up this month with the Pentecost launch.
Maybe you think I should have reached #1 in the Kindle store – it would have been nice, but let's face it, I haven't paid my dues to fiction writing yet. Most authors make it somewhere after they have written 3, 4, 5 or more books. So watch this space 🙂
What I could have done better
Clearly I could have written a vampire romance and that would have sold better than a religious thriller! But that just isn't me 🙂
I absolutely should have launched on the same day as the Kindle Nation sponsorship because the two rankings separately shot me up the charts, but together perhaps I would have made #1 on religious thriller. Having the launch over a week spread the sales out more and meant the rankings didn't go so high, but Zoe Winters did point out that Amazon thinks you're gaming them if you peak too high all on one day. Hmm, Amazon algorithms are top secret so we will never know!
As also pointed out above, I would have spread my guest posts over a month or so prior and not saved them all for launch day. This would have meant more readers on the blog in general which may have led to more sales. Hard to tell though!
I have also recently launched MysteryThriller.tv to have a more genre specific place to interact with readers, but it wasn't in time for the launch. Come and join me if you like mystery/thrillers/action-adventure novels and would like to see some reviews.
I am also becoming more active on Goodreads and Shelfari if you want to friend me there. I realize the importance of interacting with readers which I didn't focus on prior to launch. I have learned that lesson!
If you're a book blogger and would like a review copy of Pentecost, please let me know. I didn't reach out enough to that market before the launch but will be correcting that mistake over the next year.
Clearly marketing a book is an ongoing thing! But it goes on the backburner now as I relaunch some of my Author 2.0 products and start the next novel in the Morgan Sierra/ARKANE series, Prophecy. I have started a signup page for Prophecy here which is already getting sign-ups which means the next launch should be easier!
What do you think about the launch process? Let me know what you agree with and what could have been done better or how you have fared with your book launches.