Having a solid platform and network in place before you launch your book gives you and your book a powerful advantage.
Having a ready-made fan base will significantly increase the odds that your book launch will be successful—and that the goals you’ve set for yourself and your book will be reached or surpassed.
Yet, despite this, many authors find themselves with the launch of their book imminent, and no platform or community in sight.
With a book in hand (or nearly so), and no time for the long-term, slow-and-steady platform-building approach, what’s a panicked author to do?
What options do you have to promote your new book—and give it the best start—if your platform is not already established, you don’t have a mailing list of thousands, and your social media following is less than robust?
Well, just because your book is released on a certain date does not mean you can’t have an “official” launch at a later date. So if you’d prefer to take a month (or several) to get some of your online assets in place and build connections before you announce the launch of your book, do it.
However, if you’d rather not wait, there are several ways that you can get the word out about your book without depending heavily on a platform or existing relationships.
Just keep in mind that some of these are short-term strategies that may give your book an initial boost, but they will have much more “staying power” if combined with the foundational, long-term strategies that come from building a brand and business around your work.
Indispensable Elements to a Simple But Strategic Book Launch
Regardless of whether this is your first book launch or your 15th, the following factors need to be addressed to ensure you’re giving your book the best chance of success:
- Clarify Your Goals + Objectives. Clearly outline your desired outcomes for this book and launch. Do you want to generate interest in a planned series? Build a community around your cause or topic? Establish yourself as an authority in your field? Land a book deal with a major publisher? Earn a certain level of income? And how will you know when you’ve reached your objectives? How will you measure success?
- Define Your Target Audience. Who exactly are you trying to reach and why? Create personas of your ideal readers and note their background, demographics, and other identifiers or mannerisms. What are their needs or interests in terms of content? What are the barriers or objections they may have that you must overcome?
- Analyze the Current Market + Your Competition. Evaluate the market as a whole as well as your specific genre or topic area. Look at comparable books in your field. How are they being promoted? What do their launch plans look like? Can you gauge reader response? What aspects of their launch strategy can you tweak and incorporate into your own? Are there any specific issues or trends that could potentially affect your launch? Who are the thought leaders and key influencers in your genre and how can you begin developing relationships with them?
- Determine Your Pricing, Packaging, Positioning + Distribution Strategy. What pricing strategy will you employ? Premium, freemium (free + premium), permafree or discount pricing? Given your goals for your author business, will your pricing strategy help you meet your objectives? Clarify exactly what you will offer your audience: books (digital, audio, print, series, bundles), services (speaking engagements, teaching at conferences, and hosting workshops) courses, freelance work, or other products and programs that relate to your work. How will you package and position your offerings to meet the needs, wants or desires of your ideal readers? And what channels will you use to get your books (and other offers) into their hands?
- Determine Your Launch Budget. Even if funds are extremely low, you will need to budget for at least some expenses like a domain name and hosting for your website or book landing page, or printed copies of your book for giveaways.
- Outline Your Launch Schedule. Determine your launch date. What can you reasonably accomplish given your book launch time frame? Try to choose promotional tactics that will be the most impactful for your target audience. Then map out your pre-launch, launch week, and post-launch schedule.
Recommended Lean Launch Tactics
Your book is a marketing tool. Having an upcoming book release is a fantastic “in” for getting interviews, local media attention, and particularly local publicity and press (like radio, newspaper, magazines, blog radio, and podcasts).
Initially, it may be less about direct sales and more about building your authority, name recognition, and social proof – but that’s okay. Your lean launch will help you build your author brand and assets for future launch successes.
Determine which of the following tactics you feel will be a good fit to incorporate into your current lean launch strategy:
- Write a book worth reading. This is really non-negotiable, so seek out feedback, find a brilliant editor, and keep polishing until you’re certain it’s the best work you can produce right now. A remarkable book will generate word-of-mouth recommendations—the best kind of publicity you can get!
- Judge your book by its cover. First impressions are critical, and people will judge a book by its cover all day, every day. Book cover design has consistently shown itself to be one of the most important aspects in book sales, so a large part of your launch success (‘lean’ or otherwise), is getting the “packaging” right.
- Set up + personalize your Amazon Author Central page. Include branded content like your bio, pictures, videos, blog posts, and events. Ensure you give people multiple ways to find out more if they want, with links to your social media, author website, or your contact information. Don’t forget to claim your book(s), which will link your author name on all your book’s pages back to your full Amazon Author Page (where readers can see all your titles). You can also set up your pages for international markets, as well.
- Leverage local, targeted communities. It’s often easier to gain traction in your own city or region, so what events, organizations, or businesses focus on your target audience? What local or regional media outlets regularly cover authors or the topics/themes that you write about? What other venues (aside from bookstores) may consider featuring authors or books?
- Create a pre-launch, two-page funnel (a book landing page and thank you page). Build a professional book launch landing page for your book (preferably with its own domain) with an email sign-up option and a captivating incentive. This gives you a place to direct people to get more information about your book, while providing a compelling reason for them to join your list. After sign-up, people are directed to a ‘thank you’ page which contains an offer to pre-order a copy of your book – perhaps with an additional incentive. The additional incentive could be that they’ll also receive a free training, a discount for bulk purchases, or a digital gift pack of pre-launch goodies.
- Harness the power of Amazon algorithms + KDP Select. If you understand how keywords, categories, and Amazon’s internal sales system works, you can give your book instant visibility on Amazon. You can also consider a giveaway launch, where you make your book available as a free download, a $0.99 launch to increase exposure while still having your book on the paid book lists, or a Countdown Deal where the price of your book increases over your launch period – incentivizing people to buy early. Make sure to request that your book is placed in additional categories.
- Leverage other people’s audiences with blog tours, podcasts and/or guest posting. This allows you to “borrow” other people’s audiences and bring attention to you and your book. It can also increase your credibility, as there is an implied endorsement from the blog owner when you’re invited to post on their site.
- Build a book launch team. Recruit a team of people that not only support your work, but are also passionate about your message and the value you bring to your readers. Make it easy for them to share your content with their networks or provide reviews and endorsements for your work. In return, give them extra special attention and offer things like advanced review copies of your book, a private Facebook group to connect, an exclusive Facebook Live Q&A or launch party, giveaways, discounts, a signed copy of your book and other swag, or even offer a reciprocal promotion (if you have an author or two on your launch team).
- Pursue book reviews. Reviews are a form of social proof, and although it’s difficult to determine exactly how much weight they carry in terms of book sales, if Amazon favours them, you should too. Focus on increasing customer reviews on Amazon and book blogger review sites, and add a request for reviews at the back of your book.
- Build anticipation with pre-launch content. Pre-order offers, sneak-peeks, special events, relevant blog and social media content, email marketing (even if your list is small), sharing milestones or updates, and crafting visual assets all fall into this category. A clear sense of your ideal readers’ needs keeps you on the right path. Plus this gives your audience lots of opportunities to reach out to you — whether it’s through email replies, blog comments, or social media posts.
- Host Facebook or YouTube Live streams. Very few things are as effective at growing and engaging with your community as webinars or livestreams. They provide an invaluable way to share your message and connect with an audience that has given you permission to do so.
- Use paid + free promo sites. Consider running paid ebook promotions (that coincide with your KDP Countdown Deals), through book promotion sites that list discount deals and send out daily emails to their subscribers. Some sites to try are: BookGorilla, FussyLibrarian, BargainBooksy, Booksends, and Ereader News Today.
- Collaborate with other authors. Joint or cross-promotions with other authors can be beneficial for all involved. You can coordinate price promos, themed blog posts, or joint social media campaigns. Promoting or packaging your book with those of other authors helps each book gain exposure across the other authors’ platforms.
- Visit schools, libraries, book festivals, and conferences. As a published author, you often have the necessary qualifications to speak at conferences (try to contact conference organizers at least six months in advance). You can also present at schools, libraries, book clubs, or writers’ groups (either in person or via Skype).
- Contribute to web forums or Facebook groups. Every field has at least one or two forums or groups that people interested in your subject know and read. Find and join these groups. Contribute to them freely. Give advice, reach out and offer to help others. And if it’s allowed, put a link to your blog or website and the title of your upcoming release in your signature line.
- Paid advertising. This strategy works best if you have the budget for it, and if you have more than one book. Look into paid promotion sites that have large lists of avid readers (Kindle Nation Daily and BookBub are examples). Facebook or Amazon’s paid advertising are another options, however authors have reported mixed results. Digital advertising on sites like Facebook, Amazon, etc. enables you to target your ads to a finely-targeted audience based on user preferences, which is great. But unless you have a deep understanding of your audience, are willing to experiment over a period of weeks and months, and have professional ad design and marketing copy at the ready, it’s very easy to waste a lot of money on online advertising (and see little results).
Assuming you have a well-targeted book idea, a killer cover, and a thoughtful title for your new release, incorporating some (or all) of the above strategies into your lean book launch plan should give your book a lift and generate excitement on publication day.
However, do extend this momentum past launch day by building upon the new relationships and connections you’ve made and implementing longer-term growth strategies.
I’ve made it easy by sharing more of the strategies and tools you need right here: Launch Planning.
If you’d prefer a “done-with-you” experience, where I use my experience in branding, marketing, sales, and advanced promotional strategies to help you with your launch, then have a look at Launch Strategy for Authors.
You get my focused attention with one-on-one guidance and training, as well as a customized Book Launch Action Plan to maximize your launch (and avoid costly errors).
Questions? Let me know in the comments below.