Book launches used to be crowded, public events, often with lavish budgets to match the lengthy guest list. But the way we look at launch day activities has really changed, thanks to new technology and the real need to lock down during the pandemic. And there’s every indication that these new “slipper-friendly” online book events are sticking around.
But how do those of us who don’t have big publishers and teams of PR flacks behind us make online events work? I’m going to be getting deep into just these topics (and so much more) in June’s Book Launch in a Box, a newly-revised-for-2021, one month course that gives you everything you need to have a great launch for your book, no matter how or when you plan to do it. (Click here to learn more about this great course!) Until then, though, here’s a sneak peek with some thoughts on how to reach your goals through a virtual book launch.
We’re all Zoom-ed out after last year, right? I get it. But online events are far from dead and there are ways to energize them to engage as many people as possible. Here’s some tips.
Energize your cheerleaders.
Add advance readers of your book to a Facebook Group that’s all about supporting the launch. These are your FANS – what a great place to spend time online in the weeks leading up to your launch! While Facebook isn’t for everyone, these private groups are great ways to share information like giveaways happening on GoodReads and elsewhere, offer suggested copy to accompany posting about your book, and share your success! Authors who make themselves present in this group and engage with advance readers reap the benefits when those readers turn into cheerleaders for your book at launch time! The more they feel invested in your success, the more they’ll share your work with their trusted network.
Show up all day during your virtual book launch.
I tell our clients that when you have a real, concrete plan, a virtual book launch shouldn’t take over your life. But on launch day, it’s a good idea to take the day off work, or at least carve out multiple times during the day to connect with your readers on social media. Consider creating a schedule with multiple live mini-events to connect with readers all over the globe, and share that info with your launch group and on social media. Going live on Facebook or Instagram on launch day also creates long-lasting, quality content you can repurpose as you continue to market your book! You can also have a live event on Zoom, if social media isn’t your thing, or you want to host an event with guests.
Be yourself when during your virtual book launch.
Even if you’re camera shy, spending time prepping and then going live is just smart marketing. You don’t need to spend an hour talking about why you want people to buy your book. You can make your live sessions fun! We’ve worked with authors who have…
…gone live at her job as a nurse to talk about her medical thriller, complete with scrubs! What a great setting that grabbed potential readers straight away!
…invited the inspiration behind her book – her young son! – to read the book aloud on Facebook. A totally sweet and engaging session that kept people watching through the end!
…hosted a Zoom call with a nonprofit and other invited experts to talk about the real world issues the book brought up. Tons of great questions from the audience, thanks to the interesting speakers who enhanced the story and brought new perspectives!
…shared craft tutorials and other art inspired by the book’s illustrations on Instagram. This engaged so many people and got replays well beyond launch day!
…had a music-filled Zoom chat with editors and others, answering questions about character inspirations and living a writer’s life. A great spin on the more traditional launch event, but using art from the book and music to bring the viewers in, instead of just the usual Zoom squares.
…taught readers how to mix an “official cocktail” for the book in a sweetly funny, very personal Instagram live. This is probably one of our most memorable launch events because even as things went a bit wrong with the cocktail, the author was so present and charming that she won over dozens of new fans in the moment – all of whom are lining up to read her next book!
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel – a heartfelt toast, a reading, a Q&A session can all succeed if you’re showing up as YOU.
Give your book away to get more sales.
There’s nothing like the thrill of a giveaway. For all of our clients, we do some form of giveaway on launch days. You have a lot of options to do one on Instagram or in partnership with influencers or your launch team. But doing a LIVE giveaway is also an exciting way to put some pep in your live event. You can share your screen during a live event and use Wheel of Names or a similar online tool to pick a winner. It’s a great way to cap any online event, by thanking those who attend with a chance to win!
The through-line to these events is all about being YOU and SHOWING UP for your readers. By choosing a launch activity that is authentic to your book and your story as an author, you’ll be turning your readers into fans.
If you’re ready to supercharge your launch, whether you plan something online or in-person, be sure to join us for our latest session of Book Launch in a Box, a 4 week program that gives you everything you need to launch your book right the first time.
And no, you don’t need to be done with your book to get started.
And yes, you can do this program and re-energize your book sales, even if you have already launched!
Click here to learn more about our next session right here.
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I’m here to tell you that a book about Rome wasn’t either! It takes more than just raw talent and passion to launch your book. You need a plan.
Do you have a plan for your book launch?
One of the hardest things for some creative spirits out there is the launch planning process. When I talk about this challenge, I always think of my friend Deandra. The raw material for a great launch was all there for her – a great book, a gorgeous cover and she was passionate about getting this book to the people who needed it. But she didn’t have a launch strategy. It was overwhelming, and she found herself throwing her hands up and thinking, “Well, if the book is good, people will find it.”
Over coffee one afternoon, we had some real talk: it’s not about doing everything. It’s about doing the RIGHT things. And it’s also about knowing how MANY right things you need to do to meet your goals.
Sorry, but there’s going to be MATH with this! You are finally going to have a chance to use your high school algebra!
It’s time to set some goals for your book launch.
It starts with your goals. Sit down and ask yourself, HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU WANT TO SELL?
I bet a bunch of you reading are hesitating when I ask the question. You want to be “reasonable,” and you want to give the “right” answer. You might be embarrassed that your goal is too big, or maybe too small.
But sit with the question and really think about it.
Once you’ve set your goal, know that the only way to get there is with a real, concrete, actionable, metrics-based strategy for your book launch (and beyond). Without a Big 5 publishing marketing machine behind you, be honest about what you can reasonably dedicate to this effort, in time, money or a combination of the two. This might change your goal.
Next, you have to do the math.
Once you’ve established your goal for sales, you need to figure out how to get there. Start with your email list: look at your total list number and your typical open rate. That’s your real average audience for each email. Only a small percentage of the people who open and read each email are going to make a purchase – likely somewhere between 1 to 10%, depending on how engaged your audience is. What does that number look like right now? And how many people would you need to get on your mailing list to reach your goal?
This is just one piece of your launch prep calculation, though – you also have social media (a much lower conversion rate for purchase) to plan, an ad budget to set, and publicity to organize. Your launch planning is like a tree with many branches, all supported by reasonable, concrete goal setting.
Are you ready to smash your book launch?
When Deandra and I planned each branch of her launch using real metrics that reflected what she knew about her audience, we found so many opportunities to grow. And because we had our chat a few months before her book was released, we were able to figure out practical strategies to grow her audience and reach her goals. She actually ended up blowing right past her initial goal, thanks to strategic thinking, good old fashioned math and follow-through.
So what’s your book launch goals? What does success look like for you?
Like guerrilla warfare, which just means, non-standard military tactics, guerrilla marketing means thinking outside of the box when you market your book.
For indie authors, and even those authors published by small trade publishers and hybrid publishers, knowing how to think outside of the box when marketing your book is really important. I learned this with my book, Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother. It was critical for me to find partner organizations to get the word out about my book.
Using Guerilla Marketing as an Author
We’re using a blend of traditional and guerrilla marketing tactics for my client Valerie’s new children’s book, Padapillo. (If you love kids books and have been looking to ensure more disability representation on your bookshelves at home, you’ll want to grab this one! Look for Padapillo on Amazon!)
When Valerie sat down to write this book, she wanted to teach families about what it’s like when your child receives a diagnosis of hearing loss. Her own daughter had been through this experience, and as a mom, she’d seen how few books there were about it. They didn’t know what to do or where to turn, so Valerie wanted to create a resource that would be helpful to families in the same situation. But we knew this book would really soar if we used OUTSIDE OF THE BOX MARKETING to partner with other organizations and agencies with a similar mission!
When it came to marketing the book, we knew that serving this mission needed to be central. Together we determined that the ideal reader was the family of a child who had recently been identified as having hearing loss. The challenge was that those families don’t live in one region or frequent one social media platform over another or have a particular income level or any of those typical marketing segmentations. Hearing loss can impact any family, all over the world.
However, one thing Valerie knew from her lived experience was that the hearing loss community does spend a lot of time with audiologists. They also tend to receive communication from community and national hearing loss groups and deaf advocacy organizations, particularly schools. So these became prime targets for our marketing outreach. She pursued – and got! – positive reviews from prominent organizational leaders and audiologists, partnered with two different organizations for launch day events and earned social media placements from a number of organizations sharing her book to their wider community.
Not every book has an obvious community or nonprofit partnership. But more do than you’d think. I’ve helped clients connect with HR professional organizations for books on supporting those who have lost children. I’ve also helped find partnerships between the author of historical fiction and veterans’ groups. You don’t need to be writing an advocacy book to try this, and there are lots of creative ways to find connections that are mutually beneficial.
How to Approach Partner Organizations
When you’re looking to partner with community organizations and nonprofits for your book launch, you need to approach them with an eye to their mission. If the group’s mission isn’t truly aligned with your book’s message, it’s not going to be a fruitful partnership. Advocacy and nonprofits take their membership’s privacy seriously, and they’re mindful of their reputation as an honest broker to the community. So it’s vital to explain from the get-go that your book is an amplification of their message. It’s a resource their community will want to have. You can offer to share copies of your books with their members, ask them for reviews and praise blurbs, and even host events with to build a partnership that elevates both your book and their organization. Also, consider offering them bulk sales of your book at a discounted rate, to provide to their audience as a resource.
That’s exactly what Valerie did. Her true connection with the people in the hearing loss community, the authenticity of her book’s message and the care with which she made this approach built this launch beautifully. We can’t wait to help her send this book out into the world tomorrow!
How To Leverage Promo Sites for a Successful Launch
Tuesday, May 11, 2021 | 1PM EST Recording & supplemental materials provided
In this workshop, authors will learn what book promotional sites are, when they make sense for authors, pricing concerns and specific requirements, the timing of using them, and what you can realistically expect with returns.
Authors will receive a cheatsheet of 16 promotional sites they can use to support their launch or to re-invigorate an already-published book. Attendees will receive the slides as well.
Laura Briggs is a teacher turned speaker, entrepreneur, and writer. As a freelancer, she’s worked with over 400 clients and has delivered two TEDx talks. She’s sold four books to a traditional publisher and is self publishing a short book a month in 2021. Her first book, How to Start Your Own Freelance Business, was entirely self-marketed and led to the next two book deals. That book was also the winner of the 2019 Author Elite Awards “Best in Business” prize.
Finding the ideal reader for your book can be the difference between a bad review and a good review. Bad reviews can be hard to accept as an author but they can also give you insight into your marketing and who is reading your book. They give you a chance to ask “am I reaching the right readers for my book?”
Every author gets bad reviews.
Imagine you’re a novelist looking through Goodreads at some of your new book’s latest reviews and this is what you come across:
This is not an epic, beautiful tale of a wonderful family’s trials, or whatever. It is a long, poorly written story of a family’s sex life.
How does this author take such an interesting and impactful topic and write it so bland, emotionless and boring?
Was this book well written? No. Did I still enjoy it anyway? Also no.
This is the book that made me ignore other people’s recommendations. I have no idea what anyone sees in this piece of trash.
Yikes. You can imagine how hard that feedback would hit a person. They might think the author should hang up his or her hat and find a nice job in a tea shop or selling timeshares.
What if I told you that these were reviews that were left on the recent critically acclaimed books, respectively, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a National Book Award Finalist; The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020; The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab, which made nearly every 2020 “best of” list; and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, winner of the 2012 Orange Prize?
Showing up in front of your ideal reader matters.
Sometimes the wrong person stumbles on your book, and there are just going to be those people who don’t like it. But sometimes these bad reviews come from bad marketing, along with targeting the wrong types of readers. By ensuring you know exactly WHO your reader is, and making a concerted effort to market to that particular audience, you can make sure that reviews like this are far and few between. That they only happen when the wrong reader stumbles across the book.
And it makes sense that most of the reviews are good for these books. Not only are they all great books, they also all have major publishers lined up behind them with loads of expertise in audience targeting. That’s how you know that finding and showing up in front of your ideal reader matters – the big publishers are willing to spend big bucks doing it.
Authors have to know how an ideal reader.
But indie authors and new voices in writing don’t have that luxury. We have to know how to target our ideal reader on our own, and we need to start figuring it out as we are writing, and carry it through our marketing efforts. We need to dig in and do the work early, and constantly check our work! Otherwise, we’ll end up with readers like the ones above who just don’t “get” us. Readers who don’t know why we’re telling this story and hate the way we’re telling it.
I’ve seen reviews like the ones above on books that clients brought to me for relaunches. These books were well-written, urgent, interesting, powerful. And unfortunately, without proper reader targeting, they found an audience who just couldn’t connect with them. They left salty reviews. They didn’t check out the back catalog. They didn’t tell a friend, unless it was to tell the friend to “skip this one.”
But when my clients make the small changes needed to their marketing to find and speak to their ideal reader? The great reviews roll in – “I felt like this book was written for me!” – and the sales come, too.
My clients often learn an important (and pretty encouraging) lesson: it wasn’t the quality of the book that was generating the lackluster reviews and sluggish sales. It was merely incorrect targeting in the book marketing.
Getting in Front of Your Target Readers
Click here to join an exclusive workshop with my friend, Belinda Griffin. She’s a book marketing expert who has mastered the art of audience targeting, and she’s coming to share her secrets with us! No matter what your publishing journey looks like, this is the workshop every author needs to connect authentically, leverage publicity and grow their platform! This workshop is now on demand, which means you can watch (rewatch) it anytime!
Website-shwebsite. I know… the idea can be intimidating. Our team spends a lot of time helping authors set up their websites so that they can sell more books! So let me tell you, when I learned about Pub-Site, it’s a dream come true. As an author myself, (hey, it’s Alexa speaking here!) with very little time to work on my own website, I know exactly the thoughts that are running through your mind right now:
Do I really need a website?
Can’t I just send everyone to Amazon?
I’m building my community on social media!
I’m not techy – I don’t want to mess around with a website
Oy… I hardly have enough time to do the other 200,000 things I’m learning I need to do as an author – when will I keep up with a website?
It’s expensive, I need to save my money for other elements
Yeah, I get it.
So let’s focus on two things from this list:
1 – Why you really DO need a website.
2 – How it can be done simply and beautifully at a low cost and low time / energy investment.
You can’t be taken seriously as an author or a business person if you don’t have a modern, well-designed website. A website presents the perfect opportunity for you to connect with your readers. We talk a lot about building the author platform. Think of the author website as the home of that platform. It’s one nice, neat place where you can organize all the things – a place for people to find out more about you, your books, your other products or services, how to follow you on social, how to get a sample of your book or order your book, and read other content you’re producing.
If you’ve invested your time in social media, you might wonder if you can skip an author website. While you can still operate primarily on social media, you’ll still want to be using that social media to direct your followers to get on your email list. Your email list is, and will remain, at least for the near future, your most successful selling tool. So, at a bare minimum, you need a landing page that you can send readers to so that they can get on your email list.
Social media changes every day. You don’t own that platform, and your 15,000 followers could disappear overnight if someone reports you and your account is frozen, shut down, or even hacked. I’ve seen it happen too many times. But you own your email list. And generally you need at least a landing page to grow an email list.
Here are the three big reasons to make sure you have a website that works for you…
You need to grow your email list.
I cannot say this enough. I just finished 30 interviews for the Women in Publishing Summit, and almost every author I spoke with talked about the role their email list plays in their book sales. A website gives you the opportunity for people to learn a bit more about you, determine if they want to be on your email list, and of course, gives them the place to download whatever lead magnet (a free sample of your book or a short story or something else relevant) to get on the email list. If you’ve been writing good content, they may find you completely organically as they are searching whatever topic you’re writing on. Maybe you wrote a blog post about the evolution of vampires in books… or the different types of vampires, and you’ve got a fan looking for more because they love vampires. They see your post, hit your website, and because they love vampire books, they are THRILLED to enter their email address to download your free story or sample chapters. Your existing readers also enjoy learning more about you, and a website gives you more of an opportunity to share.
You own your author website.
Social media is a great way to reach your audience, but it’s ultimately controlled by someone else. These sites are controlled by other corporations who get to say what you can and can’t post, who can see your posts, and who control your data. Your website works for you and only you. You own your website. You want ownership of your book so why should your website be any different? Your business and artistic priorities are at the center of your website.
Your author website is “sticky”..
Your content is searchable forever. When people are searching for content, if you had a great post that got a lot of traction and is positioned well with SEO (search engine optimization – ie, when someone searches for your topic, your website returns in the searches) it can bring completely cold traffic to your doorstep. And that content stays out there. This is another good reason why you should start creating content early in the process… so you can start gaining traction on your website, but that’s a different blog post! Having a website that continues to bring traffic results in continued traffic to see your books. And ideally, results in more book sales.
I wrote a piece of cornerstone content on my blog 9 years ago. This piece continues to bring traffic and because my book, which is on the same topic of the article, is listed as suggested reading at the end of the blog post, continues to see sales just from this post. Because it was a great post on a topic people were looking for.
Building an author website doesn’t need to be scary.
I know there is a lot to consider when it comes to building a website, and it can be intimidating. You might be worried about how to find hosting, how to set it up, which tool to use, how to integrate all the things. But don’t get overwhelmed!
We have partnered with a company called Pub-Site that handles all of these things for you, at a super low cost! Fauzia Burke, 25+ year book marketing guru, has worked with some really really well-known authors. She recognized the value of a website for authors in their book marketing journey a long time ago, and also saw the frustration many authors faced in trying to learn how to create one. So she and her husband decided to do something about that. They built Pub-Site so that authors would have an option to easily build a very professional author website, with all the elements we need to sell books and grow our email list, at a super low monthly cost; without having to also purchase hosting (it’s included!) or figure out how to design and integrate all the things. Fauzia will be joining us, along with her Pub-Site co-founder and tech expert, John Burke, for a FREE webinar and demo on Building Simple Websites for Authors on Tuesday, February 25, at 1pm EST. Fauzia will share with us why it’s important for authors to have their own website, what her experience has been in working with really big name authors (they manage the Tom Clancy official website!) and give us a demo of exactly how to use the tool.
If you’re considering a website (and you should be!) you’re going to want to make the time to attend this webinar.
We are PUMPED up right now. We have a children’s book launching September 15th, and based on the engagement the book is getting across Netgalley, Instagram, and GoodReads, we are positioned for an incredible launch.
There is one tool I see authors skip over time and time again, even though it’s FREE and they probably even already use it. What is it? GoodReads! Yes, the same site where you compare notes with your family and friends before you vote on a book club choice has HUGE marketing potential for authors. Think about it: you’re probably a reader with an account on GoodReads. You can probably remember more than a few occasions where you saw that one of your social connections had 4-starred a book, and you went right in and stuck that same book on your “want to read” shelf. Maybe you even headed straight to Amazon to buy it. And in doing so, you spread the word about that book for its author – your interest served to market it for them for free. It’s an excellent way to leverage social connections to reach people already primed to read.
Back in 2017, my phenomenal team member, Nancy, and I went to Book Expo in NYC. We listened to this fascinating presentation about GoodReads. They shared the details of how, because of the activity on GoodReads, the book had THOUSANDS of reviews and a ton of buzz before it even launched. The book hit ALL the big lists at launch, and sold a ton, thanks in no small part to the GoodReads strategy, combined with a solid launch and marketing strategy.
[bctt tweet=”How we use #goodreads to market our #booklaunches. #booklaunch #bookmarketing #amwriting ” username=”womeninpublish1″]
We knew it was a powerful tool before that day, but it really gave me a whole new understanding of how much it can move the needle.
I had been using GoodReads as a reader for a long time. I love the fact that it’s a social site dedicated 100% to avid readers. True book fans. Everything that happens on the site is related to books, reading, authors, and writing.
I recently recorded this introduction to GoodReads for authors that you can check out on my YouTube channel.
If your book is available on Amazon Kindle, it’s even MORE key that you get your GoodReads profile up and running.
Amazon doesn’t let folks leave reviews on their website until after a book has been released, but the BUZZ of readers is such an important part of having a successful launch.
So want to have your book in places where people can leave reviews leading up to the launch.
Want to learn all there is to know about GoodReads?
I have a $37 course that will show you ALL the things!
You TOO can have over 50 reviews before you even launch!
Every time we walk a new author through the advanced reader part of our launch process, they get a little nervous. “Won’t it kill all my sales if I give away the book for free?”
Well, the short answer is NO. But even more importantly, I cannot tell you enough how important it is for the success of your book for you to have a LOT of reviews and activity on your book. That will bring in organic new traffic outside of your reach. It also gets the eyes of librarians and book retailers on your book.
Having great reviews to influence potential buyers is so important, and you can’t snooze on it, especially when you’ve planned a marketing strategy all around your launch day.
Back to GoodReads. Another cool thing is that it is integrated into the Kindle interface – so if someone is reading your book on Kindle, the option pops up to add it to your GoodReads shelf and mark it as READING. Every time you do something like this, the notification goes out to all of your friends and followers.
So imagine: you will have some avid readers with LOTS of followers on GoodReads, and their entire network is notified when they start reading your book. Pretty amazing, huh?
You can see the power of those reviews for our upcoming children’s book release, “Rupert’s Snowman.” Even though the book isn’t launching until September 15, Phillipa already has more than 50 people weighing in on her book, endorsing it to their social network. It’s all part of a great launch strategy (you can join her launch team and watch her work, friends – she’s going to have an exciting one!) and it works both because she has a truly fantastic book AND because she’s put in the time to explore and maximize success on GoodReads and other places.
Even more exciting, we just started a giveaway for Rupert’s Snowman yesterday, and over 600 people have already entered!
Holy smokes, this is exciting!
Setting up your GoodReads account as an author is one of the totally free things that you can do today to market your book, so go play around with setting up your author profile. Don’t be shy: ask your network to be sure to follow you as an author there! And if you want more tips and tricks for a successful GoodReads experience, you can grab my quick, powerful GoodReads course — it’s a $37 investment that you’ll see returned with increased book sales and a bigger author platform!