Finishing your book is a huge accomplishment. Now the hard work begins. J.D. Lasica shares 10 ways you can get the most out of your book launch while remembering that book marketing is made up of different choices for different stages of your author career.
Do you have a marketing game plan for your book launch? After you type the final sentences of your masterpiece, your task is not yet complete, alas.
Before you release your work into the wild, it’s time to turn your attention to getting it read.
I’m mostly talking to you, indie authors (although traditionally published authors who expect their publishers to do all the heavy lifting for their new book are in for a rude awakening). You want to hit the charts and grow your fan base? It starts with a strategic marketing plan.
Veteran authors whose goal is to get wide uptake for their new titles understand that marketing isn’t a dirty word. Simply put, you’re trying to get your book in front of the people who’d love to read it.
Here, then, is a 10-step Book Launch Marketing Blueprint. You don’t need to follow all 10 steps, so dig into the ones you think will give you the greatest return for your time and money.
1. Create a book launch team
Your book release may fizzle unless you spend some time assembling a book launch team, also called an advance team, street team or ARC team (for Advance Reading Copy) in some places. Whether you plan to go wide or go exclusive with Amazon, your brilliant tome won’t hit the top of the best-seller lists on the basis of your sparkling prose or scintillating plot alone.
You need escape velocity to get your book discovered among the 5-million-plus titles on Amazon alone. That requires a few things—a great cover, a compelling title, the right book description, the proper metatags and categories—but it starts with an all-star book launch team. I try to form a team with at least 120 members, but even a handful would be valuable to a new author.
These folks are the tip of the spear—readers or acquaintances who’ll take time to read your work and, at the proper time, leave an honest review on Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, or your platform of choice. Reviews are by far the most effective way of providing social proof and getting visibility for your book. I’ve found several generous beta readers on Goodreads, and a few of them even joined my launch team.
Make sure you set down clear expectations right from the start, make it easy for them to get your book in any form they want (I recommend Bookfunnel), invite feedback, incorporate last-minute tweaks, and then help them publicize your book through social media and word of mouth.
Don’t forget to keep up the communication and heap praise and love on your volunteer team members.
2. Set goals
Any good marketing plan establishes goals at the outset. For instance, with my latest thriller, my goals were to hit No. 1 in at least one category in the Kindle store to snag that coveted Bestseller tag (done), become a Hot New Release by week three (done), and triple the size of my mailing list (only doubled it), with a stretch goal of getting the attention of an editor at Amazon’s thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer (still checking my in-box but perhaps it’s too early for that).
Even if you don’t achieve every goal, it’s better to set goals and fall short than to just have an objective of “whatever.”
3. Target your readers
Do you know who your readers are? If you write romance novels, they probably spend more time reading Marie Force or Danielle Steel than Clive Cussler or Neal Stephenson.
Read other authors in your genre and create a list of “comps”—other authors who write similar works. Write to that market, then market to them through the steps that below.
Once you begin to advertise, you’ll likely see that some of your comps pan out while others don’t.
4. Use your author site to grow your list
Ask any successful author and they’ll tell you that your mailing list will pay far greater dividends than devoting all your free time to, say, social media. (Writing more books helps, too.) So make sure your author site does one thing well: funnel readers to sign up for your mailing list. Then keep in contact with these, your most diehard fans, on a regular basis.
Many authors still use a freebie or reader magnet—usually a novella, short story or book one in a series—to entice readers to subscribe. Newsletter swaps with fellow authors is another good way to grow your following.
Tip: Don’t create a one-off website for your book. Create an author site and devote a section to each new title you publish.
5. Don’t overlook the Big Kahuna
BookBub has become the 800-pound gorilla of book promotions. So save up and splurge for a BookBub featured deal. If your title gets accepted—they’re big on romance and thrillers, less so on sci-fi—it’s worth ponying up to reach a portion of their 10 million subscribers by discounting the price of your book to free or 99 cents. You’ll be rewarded with a huge spike in readers and, if you have a backlist, introduce them to your other works.
Tip: I snared a BookBub featured deal on my second try and got 41,868 people to download my thriller. One trick I used was to let the editors pick the date to run the promotion. They chose a date a month out, but that still worked out well.
6. Go with the audio flow
The fastest-growing segment of the reader audience is among people too busy to read. So consider reaching them through the medium they like best: audiobooks. For Catch and Kill, I found a golden-tongued narrator on ACX who agreed to a 50-50 revenue share (after ACX takes its cut).
If you’re comfortable with narration, try it yourself. Then begin promoting your Audible title just as you would your paperback and ebook. Sometimes your biggest fans turn out to be listeners, not readers.
7. Hit your social channels
If you’re on Twitter or have a Facebook author page, great. Prepare your followers for your new release in the weeks and days leading up to your launch date. Then create a series of updates about your book, using excerpts from reader reviews or testimonials you’ve solicited.
But be judicious. Don’t be that guy whose Twitter feed is a nonstop loop of self-promotion. Other authors have found value in creating YouTube videos, Pinterest boards, Instagram updates, LinkedIn posts, or Snap whatever-they’re-called.
Tip: Create some pre-made social media updates for members of your launch team.
8. Use other paid promotions
BookBub editors receive on average 300 featured deal submissions per day and claim to accept 10 to 20 percent of them, but the true number is probably well under 5 percent. So if your budget allows, consider other book promo sites with healthy mailing lists, including Robin Reads (194,000 members), Bargain Booksy (294,000 users), Free Booksy (407,000 registered readers) and others.
The ultimate goal is not just to sell a few more books but to tickle Amazon’s algorithm and spur sales, leading Amazon to begin promoting your book to readers browsing similar titles.
9. Advertise on Amazon and Facebook
Entire courses and webinars have been taught about how authors can get visibility for their books through Amazon and Facebook in particular, both in the United States and abroad. So let’s just say that the authors at the top of the indie author food chain have learned what works—and advertising that zeroes in on your particular blend of readers can work spectacularly well. Just make sure you dig in and learn what works or your dollars won’t be well spent.
10. Grab some old-fashioned or newfangled publicity
Depending on the kind of book you’re writing, the subject matter may be compelling enough to rate a guest appearance on a podcast, in a magazine, or in an online publication. A Forbes.com tech columnist wrote a glowing article about my last book in a way that tackled the broader subject of technology’s impact on society, so look for those hooks. Both traditional media and new media remain valuable tools in any marketer’s arsenal.
Bottom line: You need to be marketing, not just writing.
Additional ideas and techniques
You may want to consider other approaches, such as reaching out to book reviewers (my team reached out to more than a hundred and scored one review), paid book reviews such as Kirkus Reviews, Booklife, IndieReader or Reedsy Discovery, paid giveaways such as a Goodreads Giveaway, book trailer videos, influencer marketing, or entering book contests. I passed on all of these because of a naturally occurring phenomenon known as time suck.
So there you have it, 10 ingredients for your Book Launch Marketing Blueprint. Your mileage will vary. But it’s important to get behind the wheel if you want to get to the promised land.
What strategies do you use when launching a new book? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
J.D. Lasica is the author of the high-tech thrillers Biohack and Catch and Kill and co-founder of a new platform for indie authors debuting in the fall of 2019.