what makes a successful book launch indie publishing

What Makes a Successful Book Launch?

This week at Indie Publishing Austin, we talked about Book Launches. Specifically, what makes a successful book launch and how authors can drive sales.

Twenty three indie publishers attended. Though we’re all at different stages in our journey, everyone had something valuable to add to the conversation.

We kicked off with an outline of my “bare bones” launch for my short story, Stolen Choices. I went over how I enrolled the story in KDP Select, so I could use their 5 day free promotion. I also tweeted and shared it with my friends on Facebook. Apart from that, I did little promotion. However, this process helped me start to grow my mailing list, and familiarized me with the self-publishing process, so I would call it a success over all.

Much of the conversation that followed centered around different ways to promote your book launch. Starting with…

Blog tours

What is a blog tour? A series of posts where the author (who has a book coming up) writes a series of unique guest post content on several popular blogs in their niche. The goal is to get your name and work in front of more readers, to boost the success of your book launch.

Ideas from the group:

  • Use Alexa.com to accurately judge the size of a blog’s audience. Only pitch blogs that are sizable.
  • Martha is collecting blogs and review sites so that she can send ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) to, review sites that are in her genre. When she pitches the blogger, she shares a private link to a page on her website for the blogger to read about her and the book, to see if it’s a good fit.
  • Your strategy should first consider what your goal is — if you want reviews, how do you get them? If you want sales, how do you get eyeballs on your work? Make educated decisions from there.

Interviews

Interviews are a good way to promote—on podcasts, on radio, on tv, for newspapers, etc.

  • One author (sorry I forget who..) says she has seen a bump in sales when she does interviews. But her interviews are really focused, and her purpose is very clear — she’s there to sell her books.

Conferences

Conferences are good — especially thriller and romance conferences, it’s a great way to meet readers and get your name out to fans in your genre or niche.

Contests

Winning or placing in a contest can give you a stamp of approval, that may in turn make your book launch more successful.

Enter a lot of contests, so that if you win you can put the seal on your website.

Social Media

Have a long-term social media plan, and implement it well before your book launch. You can do things like…

  • Make Pinterest pages for your characters — which deepens the experience for existing readers, as well as attracts new readers.
  • Make a social media plan — decide how much time you want to spend. You can schedule posts to go out throughout the following week.
  • Stephen Amell — “social media done right” check out his Facebook page.

Email Lists

Again, these are something you have to build up well before your actual launch for it to be useful, or add to the success of your launch. You can use Mailchimp or Aweber to make an email list.

If you do have an email list, when you launch a book, you can promote directly to people you know are your fans. Suggestions:

  • Don’t combine different genres in one list.
  • Put a link to sign up for your mailing list in the back of your book, and on your website.

Timeframe on Book Promotions

How far in advance do you start lining up promotions, blog tours, etc.?

Martha says she starts a year in advance, Frank says he starts 6 weeks in advance. It’s really up to you, but obviously more effort usually equals better results. Again, have a strategy in mind first, and make educated tactical decisions from there.

What If You Don’t Have an Audience?

Kindle Select might be good for a new writer to help them build a platform. But keep in mind it requires a 90-day exclusivity contract with Amazon.

Ways to Get Reviews For Your Launch

No one disagreed that a book needs reviews for a successful launch. Reviews provide social proof that show readers your book is worth reading.

LibraryThing — It is a good library catalog for your books (as a reader). It also has early reviewer list.

Library Journal — has been around a long time, a great place to try to land a review of your book if you’re traditionally published. You can also apply to make your book available to libraries.

ChoosyBookworm also has a “Read & Review” program that helps authors get reviews on new books.

Finally, StoryCartel helps authors find honest reviews as well.

Another way to get reviews is to find top reviewers on Amazon (i.e. search the reviews of books similar to yours, identify a reviewer, and find their contact info). Then contact top reviewers directly.

KDP Royalties

Some folks asked about KDP royalties, so I’m going to include here the current royalty model Amazon is using.

  • $0.99 – $2.99 — 35% royalty.
  • $2.99 – $9.99 — 70% royalty.
  • $9.99+ – 35% — royalty.

You can also read more about royalty rates on Amazon KDP’s help website.

Advertisement Options for Indies

(Don’t forget to check their website for submission guidelines before you submit your book! Usually they require a miminum number of reviews and a minimum rating of about 4 stars, but they may make exceptions for new books, or have programs for new books like those Read & Review programs mentioned above.)

Targeted Promotions

Some ideas for targeted promotions:

  • Speaking gigs on a related topic, to targeted audience (i.e. rotary club for a women’s fiction writer) or a scifi panel at a Con for a scifi/fantasy writer.
  • Convention book signings are a great way to promote.
  • Frank says, “I only release a book the weekend I’m doing a book signing at a conference.” That’s one strategy!
  • Book launch parties!

Pre-orders as a strategy.

Pre-orders “stack up” and count toward sales on the release day, which can go a long way to helping make your book launch a success.

This is a fairly new strategy that Amazon reserved for traditional published until late last year.

Here are KDP’s rules on pre-orders. Other platforms have been allowing pre-orders for some time, but making them available on Amazon could be a game changer. It was still a bit early and not many people in the group had had a chance to use KDP’s pre-order function yet, but those that did thought it was helpful!

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