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The days of focusing on the initial spiked launch are over – thankfully!
There is no shelf life online, with ebooks or print on demand, so we can space out our marketing activities and look for longer term sales. Today Brian Cormack Carr outlines what he is learning from a long-term launch process for his book.
I published my first book How To Find Your Vital Vocation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Your Career Purpose and Getting a Job You Love – in early June of this year, and two months later I'm not even half way through my planned promotional activities.
In this post, I discuss why a long-term launch is every bit as valuable as an overnight bestselling success, especially for self-published authors.
There's nothing quite as exciting as the launch of your book.
You spend weeks, months – even years conceiving it, writing it, and preparing it for publication. Then you let it loose in the world and wait eagerly to see how quickly it shoots to the top of the bestsellers list.
Of course, for most of us, success doesn't come as immediately as that. It takes a lot of time and effort to ensure that people other than your immediate family know that your book even exists. That's doubly true if (like me) you're a first timer.
Far from being a limitation for indie authors, I see this as being one of the great freedoms of the self-publishing model. When our main platform is online, where books can have perpetual shelf-space, it can be a case of slow and steady wins the race.
Here's some of what I've learned during the long-term launch of my book.
1. You don't need to expect an instant hit
Although I'll confess to fantasizing about achieving an overnight No.1 bestseller, I'm actually very happy to watch sales steadily grow.
I launched the ebook version of How To Find Your Vital Vocation just a few days before my 40th birthday (which was the publication deadline I'd set myself) and was rewarded with a pretty modest initial placing at No.20 on the Kindle careers bestsellers list…but please allow me a moment of glory as I note that for a period of about four hours, my book was a couple of spaces ahead of Donald Trump's in the chart. That's a feeling you can't put a price on.
That actually didn't take a huge number of sales; but it did take significantly more sales than I could account for amongst family and friends, so clearly I had done something right.
A confession: I miscalculated the lead-in time I'd need to coordinate the launch of the digital and physical versions of the book, and was initially disappointed that I didn't get them out simultaneously. That disappointment soon dissolved when I realized that the paperback publication gave me another great opportunity to re-launch the book. Interestingly , as well as seeing a flurry of paperback sales when I did that about a month later, the ebook also shot back into the bestsellers list.
Sales have been steady since, and the book has re-entered the Top 30 of the bestsellers chart several times. Not bad for a first timer!
2. You do need to build your author platform first
That initial flurry of sales would not have happened had I not spent time building an audience through blogging and social media activity long before I released the book.
At the time of publication, I had around 800 Twitter followers, 600 Facebook fans and a mailing list of about 200 subscribers.† That might sound daunting to anyone who's only beginning in these arenas, but bear in mind that I started building this audience long before deciding to write a book, as I had already been blogging to promote my coaching practice.
It's worth noting that my blogging has been inconsistent and ad-hoc. If I were to have this time over again, there's no doubt I would put more effort into being consistent in that arena, because greater consistency would almost certainly have created greater audience participation and probably more sales.
That said, I was able to use my blog to crowd-source opinions on which cover I should choose for my book, which definitely built up some immediate pre-launch interest amongst readers.† Of course, the good news is I can start building that consistency now, which will only improve future audience engagement.
I discovered another delicious unintended consequence: not only has my author platform helped with the book launch; the launch itself has helped grow my author platform.† Since the book came out, my overall audience across all media (including unique blog visitors) has approximately doubled.
3. Getting help is a great idea
I wanted to ensure my book got the best possible start in life, so as well as working hard to ensure it was well-written, I hired an independent editor and a professional cover designer. I'm sure that initial investment in the quality of the book has helped sales (and has helped generate consistently positive reviews so far).
Help can come later in the process too, and so I spent time building links with other bloggers who have since been gracious enough to host me on a blog tour to promote the book. This guest post is one of my stops on that tour.
Here's a key point to note: after every one of these stops, I've seen a spike in book sales.
As a relative newbie, I needed help to flesh out my tour and so I hired a book tour company to help me secure some additional guest posting opportunities. These have been useful for back-links to my blog, and I think they've helped with some sales, although the response hasn't been as pronounced as it has been on my self-generated tour stops.
By the way, don't be afraid to ask for help from other bloggers and experts. The only prerequisite is you should have built a bit of a relationship with them first, by commenting on their blogs and interacting with them at least on social media. That's how I made contact with Joanna, and it's also how I made contact with best-selling author Barbara Winter, author of the famous Making a Living Without a Job, who (to my delight) agreed to provide a wonderful quote for the front cover of my book.
Another form of help I've tried is paid-for advertising through Facebook and on a couple of indie-author sites.† The jury's out on that approach as far as I'm concerned – I haven't seen the results from advertising that I've seen through blogging and social media interaction – but I'm continuing to monitor this.
4. There are always more things to try
I'm happy with progress so far, but I'm also excited by the fact that two months on, I still have a number of options up my sleeve. Such as:
- Amazon optimization. I've already claimed my author page, written a detailed book blurb and linked my eBook and paperback pages but I haven't yet spent time doing the other things that are generally agreed to be a boost to book sales, such as writing product reviews on books in related niches, or creating useful Listmania lists which can help draw readers to my book.
- A podcast tour. At the time of writing I've done a couple of Skype interviews with Tom Evans a.k.a The Bookwright and I had such great fun, and saw such good results, I definitely want to do more. This is what I'm going to focus on next after my blog tour begins to wind down.
- Special-offer prices. So far, my book hasn't been enrolled in KDP Select, partly because I've read some conflicting information about how best to use it. However, I am likely to look seriously at this in the near future so I can promote the eBook through free days. I'm also considering special offer days at lowered pricing for both the electronic and physical versions.
- Promotion in the real world. My promotion so far has been online, which works for me since I have a full-time day job, but I am considering some real world promotion such as press-releases and public speaking engagements.
- Re-investment of revenue. Now that the book is selling, I'm looking at how I might use the income I'm making to further boost its visibility. That's likely to involve a re-look at how I might make advertising working better.
5. You should measure your success beyond your book sales
I want to finish by encouraging indie authors to think beyond book sales as a measure of success. If your book is in the non-fiction genre and is at least partly designed to promote a service you offer, consider the impact it has on the rest of your business. In my case, that has been particularly striking. I haven't been actively seeking more coaching work, but since the book came out, inquiries for my coaching help have more than quadrupled.
It's true what they say – a book really is the best business card.
There you have it. In reading this back, I'm realizing as much as anyone how much I've learned. I may not have had an overnight success with How To Find Your Vital Vocation but I'm more than happy with what I've achieved so far, and by the time my next book is ready to launch, watch out – I'm going to be dangerous!
Read Brian's blog series How To Self-Publish Your First Book:
Do you have any questions about launching? Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Brian Cormack Carr is a writer, certified career coach and chief executive of BVSC The Centre for Voluntary Action, one of the UK's leading local charities. He trained in personnel management with Marks & Spencer plc and gained an MA (Hons) in English Literature and Language from the University of Aberdeen. Brian has nearly 20 years of experience in the fields of personal development and leadership, and has helped hundreds of clients, readers and workshop participants to find fulfilling work and a renewed sense of purpose.
HOW TO FIND YOUR VITAL VOCATION:
Amazon link: http://viewBook.at/VitalVocation
Smashwords link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/324656