Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Book Launches: Three Tips

This Week's Topic: What Are My Book Launch Tips?

The most important one? Have fun. Celebrate.

    Really. I'm not being a smartass this time. Whether you're releasing your first book or your hundred-and-first book, release day should include a celebration. Doesn't have to be big, but do recognize your own accomplishment. The book you worked hard on is finally out there. You did it! Yay you! Snarf a cupcake, binge an extra episode, or have a round of drinks with friends. Whatever you consider a treat, go ahead, indulge!

The second most important one? Have reasonable expectations. 

    The only thing wrong with dreaming is mistaking it for reality. Imagining your book-baby will bring in thousands--no, hundreds of thousands--of sales on its first day? {grimace} First week? {cringe}First...year? {cough} Aiming for a best-seller list? NYT or one of Amazon's niche categories? The former is much harder to hit than the latter. Even if you have a deep-pocketed publisher's support, selling 500k+ copies on release day/week isn't reasonable unless you already have established an audience larger than that. Building an audience of that size takes a lot of work and is what most authors are constantly striving towards.

    Already picking out your IRL launch party outfit? Picturing a full house at your local bookstore? Envisioning the line of costumed fans winding through the conference hall waiting for your autograph? Go back and re-read the previous paragraph about having an already established audience. Then do a web search for anecdotes about book signings. Even the famous have sat alone and ignored. Not trying to be a killjoy, just pointing out reality.  If you are invited to sign somewhere, make sure readers can actually buy your books (I know, that should be a given, and yet...). Get a fine-point pen that doesn't bleed and remember to ask how to spell a name instead of assuming anything. 

Don't set yourself up for disappointment by believing the wish-fulfillment fantasies portrayed in movies and TV. Even Roberts and Childs had to build their audiences before making it big. Be aggressive with your goals, but reasonable with your expectations.

The most practical one? Have a plan with built-in flexibility

    Make up a list of To-Do's 100 days before release day. If you plan too far in advance, then you'll have to revise/revisit more than once due to the inevitable changes in technology, changes in the production schedule, changes in what's hot trend-wise, or changes in your life. Know what is within your control and what isn't. Allow wiggle room in your schedule for the sake of your own sanity and the unexpected happening. 

   Pre-Orders: If you're doing a pre-order, you'll have some deliverables around the 90-day mark. Whether pre-orders are worth it, depends on your goals. If you're trying to hit a top-sellers list, then you probably want pre-orders so you can amass sales that are counted on release day. Me? I don't do 'em because I'm not after a single-day or first-week number boost. My audience isn't big enough to come close to hitting the kinds of lists that would drive more sales. 

    Ads: Do invest a bit of time to set up advertising on the big distributors. (Ads really aren't that hard to set up. Refining your ads for maximum ROI is where it gets eye-twitchy.) For those distributors that allow it, make compelling (legible with a call to action) graphics. If your current release is not a stand-alone nor first-in-series, then push the point-of-entry book 60+ days before your release and the series 30 days before release to stir interest in your new book. 

    Social Media: Leading up to release day, don't bother torturing yourself by using social media sites that you don't enjoy using or that you don't use regularly. You probably don't have a large audience there anyway, so you're just pimping into the void. Engagement stats on most platforms are in the fractions of a single percent, and conversions to sales are fractions of those fractions. Promoting there is not worth your effort. If you feel compelled to do so anyway (probably due to a contract), do not barge into established conversations/groups and promote your book (unless explicitly invited to do so). That's how you get haters (and wind up banned from the group). 

    On the sites you do use, if you lead an active audience (group, discord, followers, etc.) with whom you engage frequently, then they're probably cheering for you and would be crushed if you didn't do some fun promotions from which they benefit. This is the time to do virtual launch parties and swag if you can afford it. If you can't afford tangible goods, then go with a free digital copy of your book or gift of your time (but be safe and smart, there are a lot of unpleasant people out there). However, expect less than 10% of those members to actually buy your book. Conversions are more in the 2% range. Yeeeah, it's true, social media isn't great for ROI. So only do it if you enjoy it. 

    Newsletters: Hands down, newsletters offer the best conversion of subscribers to sales at 15%-25%. Those are outstanding numbers in the world of marketing, so this is where to focus your pre- and post-launch efforts. After all, your subscribers asked you to contact them (not to spam them, not to pester them with pointless babble). The topic of newsletters demands multiple posts unto itself, so I'll keep this short by saying if you're doing pre-orders, then you should schedule 2-4 swaps and one broadcast of your own to announce the pre-order. If you're not doing pre-orders, then wait until release day to contact your own subscribers and spread out your swaps. Remember: swaps mean you're obligated to promote the other authors' work in your newsletter in exchange for them promoting your book, so schedule accordingly. Send follow-up newsletters and schedule additional swaps to coincide with discounts you're running.  

    Do NOT spend more than you can afford on advertising, be it CPC, swag, or promo companies.

    Uploads: If you're self-pubbing, my best-practice (though possibly unpopular) piece of advice is to not upload placeholders for the sake of pre-orders. Sure, it's allowed by some distributors, but you're asking for a tech-glitch on release day. Too many authors have experienced their placeholder content being delivered instead of their final product. Spare yourself the nightmare by adjusting your schedule to only put into public that which is ready for the public. Similarly, make sure your book is done-done and uploaded at least two weeks before the distributor's lock-out date. If there are tech-gremlins at the point of upload, you've got time to panic tweak.

There you have it, my tips for launching your book. Kinda easy, no?

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