Your book is about to be released into the world. You want it in the hands of as many people as possible. The question is, what do you do now? Where do you start? How do you craft a book launch that will really help your book take off?
A book launch is a whirlwind of activity that continues to go on for weeks. It can be an overwhelming experience unless you have a plan and system to funnel your energy into the right areas.
In preparation for my first book launch as an author, I put together a list of possible book launch ideas that I could use to get my book into the hands of the people I know needed it the most. As I was collecting and organizing all of these notes to keep in mind for future book launches, a much larger piece of work started to develop. The teacher in me couldn’t keep all of this stashed away in my Evernote account. I’m sharing these ideas in the hope that other authors will find them valuable and effective in launching their own books in this new digital publishing age.
I’ve worked in a publishing company for almost four years now and helped many other authors launch their books. It was very exciting to apply what I’ve learned from helping other authors and studying author book launches to my own book launch this year.
I’m no expert, but I’m a teacher. I’m a teacher because I love to learn–and I can’t keep what I learn to myself whether it is about writing, entrepreneurship, spirituality, or motivation. Most of the book launch ideas I present to you below, I have either tried myself or seen to be effective in the last couple of years. Things have certainly changed in the publishing industry in recent years and you can see how the Internet has really impacted the way we, as authors, get our books into the hands of the people who will read and love them.
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The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book Launch
First, a word of warning. There is never enough time to do everything you want to accomplish in your book launch. Don’t get overwhelmed by the possibilities. You have to select what you think will have the biggest impact. Book launches are truly a choose-your-own-adventure approach to marketing a product.
I picked some of the launch ideas from the list below that I thought would work best for me using the 80/20 rule. I chose the 20% of these ideas that I thought would have 80% of the impact and focused my energy on those. This will vary with every author and every book and I’m sure what worked for me this time won’t necessarily work for my next book.
Read through the ideas below and take note of the ones you believe will have the greatest impact for your market and commit to doing these things as your minimum marketing attempts. You might even make a list titled something like, “At the very least, I will . . .” After that do as many additional tactics as you can and see what works. Experiment and, if you can, enlist some help.
Finally, I want to give you some context about my experience and perspective. For the most part, I use examples of people who write non-fiction and work with a traditional publisher like I currently do. If you write fiction, I would love to read about your experiences with any of these ideas or some of your own most successful tactics in the comments of this post. The same goes with self-published authors. Please share your insights.
Since I’m not writing from the perspective of a self-published author, you won’t see things like “Give your book away for free using KDP select.” I’m not against that, but I feel like too many self-published authors use that tactic without a solid strategy in place. Think hard about a holistic approach to your book launch whether you are with a publisher or on your own.
Book Launch Strategy: The Book Marketing Journey
Traditionally, marketing experts use an analogy of a funnel to describe how they approach crafting a marketing strategy. The idea is that there are a large number of people at the top of the funnel, but the number get smaller as you travel down the funnel to the actual sale. So, one hundred people might hear about your book, but only fifty will like it, and only 10 will buy it.
Typically the stages in a marketing funnel look something like this:
In fiction book marketing you hear funnel terminology used a lot to describe selling a series of books. The idea is that you want to get as many people as possible to read the first book of your series so that they will get hooked and continue to buy the rest of the series. So, if you get 10,000 people to read the first book of your series at a low or no cost, then a percentage will like it and read book 2, then 3, 4, 5, etc. I’m not referring to that kind of funnel, I’m referring to the funnel of people who consider and then purchase a book. Even getting someone to download a free book requires them to be aware of it, like it, and trust you enough to invest their time in downloading and reading your first book.
I like the funnel analogy because it helps visualize the numbers at each stage of marketing, but the whole idea of a funnel just seems kind of manipulative. I have an image in my head of herding a large flock of mindless sheep into a small gate. I don’t think appropriately describes the book marketing process.
Since, as writers, we’re storytellers. I like to think of book marketing like telling the story of our ideal reader. I like to think of marketing in terms of the hero journey: a hero who is confronted with a problem but must go through a series of steps to reach the final conclusion and overcome the challenge.
Think of the work you do in marketing your book as building roads and bridges. When you launch your book you are building as many roads as possible to get your ideal reader to travel down a path toward hearing about your book, recognize that it is for them, and buying it. From there you want to take your reader on a journey through additional roads to join you in the common journey and pursuit of a vision for a better world.
So, here is the book marketing journey metaphor in brief:
Your ideal readers are on a journey. They are in pursuit of some important goal in life, whether they know it or not, and they are not sure which path to take. To get to where they want to go, there are rivers and canyons that they can’t cross without a bridge. They need a guide, they need some roads, and they need a bridge.
They travel along the following journey:
KNOW: At the beginning of your ideal reader’s journey to discover your book, you want to be seen on as many paths as possible that they are already taking to achieve to their goals. Some of these paths may already be with you via your blog, email list, or organization. Other authors, bloggers, organizations, and media hosts provide other paths. These ideal readers are taking all of these paths, but they have run into an obstacle, a challenge they can’t get through without the help of your book. They have come to a river or a canyon and they need your bridge to get across it. These readers will discover your book (and your bridge) while traveling on a number of different paths.
LIKE & TRUST: Once they hear about your book, you want to build the roads necessary to help them recognize you as a credible author that can guide them to their destination. They will want to know if your book is specifically for them and if it is able to help them continue on the journey they are traveling. They will checkout your website, listen to what you have to say, read some of the other things you have already written.
TRY & BUY: Once you’ve shown them that your path is trustworthy and you will be a good guide, give them the opportunity to buy your book as the bridge over a key obstacle that they need to overcome to continue on their journey. Your book is the bridge they need to cross over this canyon.
REVIEW & REFER: Once they buy the book, and cross that bridge, it is time to encourage them to help others use your book as the bridge their friends and fans need to overcome their shared challenges along the journey. Your readers do this by leaving reviews and recommending the book to others.
UNITE: They won’t stop there. Next, you will want to show them the next path in their journey. Together you and your reader will continue a life-long pursuit of a common vision for that final destination crossing many more bridges (books, products, courses, communities) along the way.
So, I like to think of book marketing in terms of a journey through the following stages:
The Book Marketing Journey
The ideal reader will:
- Know the book exists
- Like & Trust the author of the book.
- Try the book.
- Buy the book. (The Bridge)
- Read the book.
- Review the book.
- Refer the book to a friend.
- Unite with the mission of the author and buy additional resources.
I’ll go into each stage in a little more detail below, but understand that this is how I organize the following book launch ideas even though the work that you will put into these ideas come at various others stages of your book marketing timeline. It is very difficult to confine each tactic into just one stage of the book marketing journey since many of them accomplish multiple outcomes. Nevertheless, it is helpful to categorize everything you do into this system. This way, every time you come up with a new idea you can say to yourself:
“How does this idea help my readers know, like, trust, try, buy, review, or refer my book and unite with my mission?”
33 Book Launch Ideas That Work Today
Book Launch Stage 1: KNOW
People won’t read your book if they never know it exists. Whether they are familiar with you and your work or not, you need to get your book’s title and cover in front of the people who will benefit from and enjoy reading it.
The goal of the following book launch ideas is to make your ideal audience aware that your book exists. These tactics are directed toward two groups of people:
- Current: Through your platform to an audience you already have.
- New: Through other influencers to the audiences they have.
We’ll start with your current reach and then focus on new reach through influencers (media, bloggers, other authors, event organizers, etc.).
1. Write a book launch post on your blog.
Of course, the prerequisite for this an many other strategies below is that you have a an author website and a blog. Why a blog? Because it gives you the ability to create valuable content to share with your potential and current readers. It is a critical component to an author’s platform.
During the week that your book launches, be sure to notify people on your blog. Here are some ideas on what to include in your book launch post on your blog:
- Description of the book (modified for blog reading and blog readers)
- Bullet point list of benefits of reading the book (not just content of the book, but benefits in reading it!)
- Tell the story of how the book took you from point A to point B (assuming point B is desirable for your target readers)
- Send them somewhere that they can read a sample of the book like a sample chapter or blog post excerpts (see below)
- Describe any special launch week offers (see below) to incentivize sales and generate early buzz
- Embed any book launch media like a video book trailer or slideshow (see below)
2. Write a book launch email to your main email list.
Well, first I have to ask: You do have an email list, right? If not, start one.
I’m not kidding: If you are an author and you don’t have an email list, stop reading this right now, go to MailChimp.com and sign up for a free account.
Okay, so you have an email list. You’ve been using your author website and blog to get people on your email list so you can connect with your readers.
Now, what do you include in your launch email?
[Sidebar: Don't dismiss the help of a traditional publisher in this area. At least in my experience, the publisher emails really made a big impact. Their initial launch email offers produced 10 times the number of orders using the discount code than my initial launch email offer! I'll admit that I was not expecting this despite the fact that I work in marketing department of the company that publishes my book. Out of pride, I thought my much more intimate email list would produce more direct sales. Not so. Not many authors get to see both sides. Publishers do a lot more than meets the eye.
Quick note: Our publishing company is a little different since we've been building email lists with our readers for years, not just relying on bookstores, advertising, and other indirect promotion as our primary marketing avenues.]
Here are some suggestions for crafting your book launch email:
a) Subject Line: There are two options here:
- The “New Book Announcement” email or
- “Your Problem Solved” Email.
The second option is focused on content and the solution while the first option banks on your subscribers being very interested in your new book. I went with #1, but I wish I went with #2 in my first book launch. Content is my bread and butter and it works better than cheesy launch emails and posts that come off as self-serving. My launch email got half as many clicks and about 2/3 of the average emails I’ve sent recently. Why? People want solutions not offers.
Sell solutions not books.
Content: Keep it simple. Link to the landing page on your website and from there observe how they buy. The other option is to send them directly to Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, etc., which is fine too, but we should be just as interested in getting people to our websites as we are to getting them to a book page on Amazon. Getting people to our websites helps to build a long-term relationship with the person clicking on the link. Plus, you will likely have extra content in your launch posts and landing page (see below) that they can’t find on Amazon.
3. Set up a pre-launch blog post sequence.
Write a sequence of blog posts leading up to your book launch. Don’t surprise your website visitors and blog readers with your new book. Create a series of blog posts that solve the same problems your book solves. Don’t sell your book, sell the solution.
Don’t worry about sharing too much information. You can’t give away your book in a few blog posts. Or, if you can, then you may just need to write a better book. The book will always be a better method of delivery because it is packaged and organized in a way that a blog or website can never accomplish. People like packaged products.
This series of posts will get people excited about healing that pain point they need the most. At the same time, you add value and help people. Why else did you write the book in the first place?
4. Set up a pre-launch email sequence.
Send a series of pre-launch emails to both your main list and your separate book email list if you have one. The magic of this tactic is that you don’t need a blog or blog readers to get people interested in what you have in store for them. You just need the list.
Feed them information and hints about the book right in their inbox. Write and offer valuable content that meets a need and solves a problem, not just updates about your book and your “amazing” book (or blog) tour.
Don’t be shy. Send the emails and tell people what you are going to help them do. If they don’t like what you promise and they unsubscribe, that’s OK. You want to help people who want your help. You want to help people who will like and trust you. You want to help people who want to go where you want to take them.
What else can you do? Write blog posts and link to them. Create videos teaching about some topics in your book and link to them. Highlight your best stuff and give it away. Don’t keep the contents of your book a secret. If people don’t hear the messages in your book or they won’t be interested in buying it. Also, it’s OK to encourage pre-orders. Don’t try to stop people from pre-ordering so you can time their purchases during launch week. Give them a call-to-action while you have their attention.
5. Send out review copies prior to your book launch.
Send review copies to bloggers, editors, and media hosts to prepare book reviews for launch. You need to be everywhere during your book launch. The more audiences who will be exposed to you and your book the better.
Make sure you provide them with a nicely designed press release or media kit to provide more information about the book. Here is the book launch press release the publicist at our publishing house put together. It is very well done.
Rule of 7: I heard the other day that it takes people seven encounters with you for someone to remember who you are and what you do. Have you been featured on seven blogs, radio shows, podcasts, or newspapers with a wide variety of audiences?
The role of the publicist in a publishing company is so crucial. These men and women often have the relationships and contacts to get you in the door for an opportunity to be interviewed or featured in relevant media outlets. I fully admit I underestimated the impact of a press kit and publicity mailing. I thought my book would be too niche for certain shows that wanted me on right away.
This, by the way, is another reason traditional publishing still adds value. It’s all about the relationships. If your publisher doesn’t have a relationship with the media outlets you want access to, then you’re in trouble. Also, if you are hiring a publicist, make sure they have actual contact via email or phone with the hosts or writers you want to reach.
If you are a blogger, use your blogging network to see if other bloggers would like to read and review your book during the launch weeks.
Offer to save their time by offering to . . .
6. Write guest posts on other blogs during the launch.
Reach out to the bloggers you already know first. Usually they will trust you enough not to bother asking about what you will write ahead of time. Plus, remember that many of them could use a break from writing.
Next reach out to the bloggers you do not know well but who have the ear of your target market and target readers. Pitch them with 3-5 well-written headlines on topics you know their readers will love. Let the blogger choose the topic and then write the article.
Keep in mind that writing all of these articles takes a lot of time, but it there are a number of positive benefits. These include:
- You are forced to recall what you originally wrote in your book by writing about the topics again. It is nice practice for interviews and conversations during your launch.
- You get to solidify your one-sentence summary (see below) by writing a number of articles on various topics.
- You get feedback in comments and social media shares from the readers and contributors to other websites. This helps you know what topics to really focus on in your own marketing of the book.
- You build relationships with bloggers for the long-term (and maybe even for your next book launch).
7. Schedule a blog book tour.
Since publishers and authors are finding less and less value in scheduling actual live, in-person book tours (they are costly), many authors have turned to virtual book tours as a substitute. Some authors have gone so far as to formalize the tour as an event–something to follow as the launch days go on.
Essentially, a blog book tour is a scheduled set of guest posts and interviews on other websites related to your target market. Authors offer links from their websites to each of the blog book tour stops and save the blogger the energy in creating new content. Bloggers have to create new content so it is nice to have a break every once in awhile.
A virtual tour is a nice way to organize guest posts around the time of the book launch. Guest posting is a strategy you should be using anyway as an author, but doing so around the launch of the book really helps get the word out. Keep in mind that these posts on other sites should not be about promoting the book so much as promoting the content in the book. There is a difference. Take some lessons or stories from your book and repackage them for the audience of the people who have agreed to share your post or interview during the tour. This requires a lot of work, but you’ll be recognized as someone who adds value rather than sells books, thus earning their trust.
8. Recruit a book launch team.
One of the biggest goals in any book launch is to get as many people talking about your book as possible. You can try to start those conversations on your own, but gathering a team of people to help start those conversations is, of course, much more effective.
That is why a number of authors reach out to their closest supporters and colleagues to join a book launch team.
You can even reach our to your audience to join the team. These authors had their audiences apply to be in an inner circle of people on the launch team:
- Michael Hyatt gave us one of the best examples of book launch teams that scale when his book Platform was published.
- Jeff Goins did it too.
- So did Mary de Muth.
Michael Hyatt, for example, reached out to this audience, asked them to apply to be on the team, gave them some extra bonuses and access to him, and posted their names and websites with links from his website.
I had another friend, Mike St. Pierre, use this model on a smaller scale with his close online friends and colleagues and it paid off on his most recent self-published book launch. He had a number of social media shares and blog posts about his book thanks to reaching out and contacting this team of people directly by email.
Here is Michael Hyatt’s advice on recruiting people to join a book launch team: michaelhyatt.com/bestseller-launch-formula.html (See #5)
9. Conduct a book launch Facebook contest (or sweepstakes).
If you have a Facebook page with a large enough group of people (1,000 or more), you might consider creating an event around your book using your book and other offers as a giveaway prize. If you do decide to go with this strategy, make sure the contest relates directly with your book. Remember, the goal is to increase the awareness of the book with the target readers so they can decide if the book is relevant to their lives today.
The basic process for a Facebook contest around your book goes like this:
- You write a post asking for comments.
- People comment to be entered in the contest.
- You enter the names into a spreadsheet for the drawing.
- You select a winner and reach out for their mailing address.
- You post a link to a signup form.
- People click on the link and fill out the form to enter the contest.
- You collect the names and email addresses.
- You draw the winner.
- You contact the winner and send out the prize.
Note that restrictions always apply and be sure to reference the Facebook terms and agreements before doing anything.
(This also works with Twitter if you apply the same basic principles. The key is to get engagement but also sharing. There are some fun plugins out there that require a share to enter. This automatically creates a viral contest rather than just hoping someone will share the contest on their networks.)
10. Create and test a Facebook ad for your book.
People have been finding mixed results from Facebook ads, but I believe it is worth some more experimentation.
Target your own Facebook page likes if you have enough to target. Only 16% of your fans (likes) will see your regular posts, so don’t expect the majority of your Facebook connections to find out about your book randomly on Facebook. You can try to boost your launch week posts with Facebook ads.
I don’t have extensive experience with the Facebook ads, but I tested an ad with just a $50 limit on the day I launched a digital product on my website and I was amazed by the increase in Facebook traffic. These ads are highlight targeted so that when you do attract someone in your target audience and they share your content, they are sharing it with other people you are targeting. You only have to pay for the first click, not the share, and the share is where you get the most value. It all multiplies.
Just make sure you are selling the story, the benefit, the useful content that is worth sharing rather than your book’s product page or description. Your goal should be to promote content with Facebook ads that is worth sharing. “Hey, my book is here” doesn’t cut it.
Book Launch Stage 2: LIKE & TRUST
Now that you’ve reached your ideal readers and they’ve heard about you and your book, they will either like and trust you and your approach to meeting their needs or they’ll move on.
How do you get people to like you and your book?
Once a person is aware of you and your book, they will start to evaluate whether you relate specifically to his or her situation at the present moment.
Let’s say you are the author of a new cookbook. If I’m a person on the paleo diet, I will want to know if you or your book offers recipes for my diet. If not, I’ll move on to an author and a book that fits with my situation. I’m looking for relevance.
How do you get people to trust you as the author of the book?
We trust people who are honest and open with us. We trust people who fulfill their promises. This goes beyond simple credibility. You could have multiple degrees and certifications and years of experience, but in today’s world, if you can’t show your potential readers that you are in it for them, they won’t care.
Be generous with what you know. Share so much content that it feels like you’re giving away too much. Don’t try to keep your expertise to yourself, Be generous and helpful with what you know. Or, be vulnerable and open about your life, your struggles, and your successes and failures. Openness is a certain kind of generosity that many bloggers who are now authors have perfected and mastered.
Here are some ways to get people to like you and your book and earn their trust during the book launch process. Note that many of the ideas in the “Know” still also contribute to this Like & Trust stage. In fact, many of those tactics already assume that you have earned the trust of your potential book buyer because they are on your email list or visit your website.
11. The One-Sentence Summary: Clearly define what your book is about in one sentence.
Yes, just one sentence. Why? Because you will get a lot of people asking you, “What’s your book about?” during a casual conversation and if you don’t catch their attention immediately, you will quickly find your listener changing the subject.
The first few times people asked me about my book–even at conferences–I found myself fumbling over a description. Almost immediately, eyes would start to glaze over and their gaze would wander around the room while they nodded their heads and said something kind, but uninterested like, “That’s nice, congratulations.”
A one-sentence summary is not an elevator pitch, but an essential understanding for you to use in interviews, guest posts, and casual conversation.
So, in one sentence be able to describe what your book is, who it helps, and how it helps them. It is always an invitation to a more in-depth conversation. Your one sentence should identify the following:
- the target reader
- their biggest problem or need
- the solution or vision of a future that your book promises
(For example, my first book was written for busy religious educators who need ideas for personal spiritual growth and practical strategies for engaging students and parents in growing their faith.)
12. Create a book landing page on your author website.
Create a landing page on your website for your book and measure the conversions and click-throughs to buy your book. If you don’t have a dedicated book website, then you need a home for your book online (no, the Amazon.com product page is not your book’s home).
Create a landing page on your website or blog with an easy-to-remember URL. I included this in the content of my book and link to it in various places on my website (in the menu, in the sidebar, and from within posts).
This landing page should have some specific goals and call-to-actions. At a minimum, try to do the following:
- Describe the benefits of reading the book.
- Link to places where people can buy the book.
- Show testimonials and endorsements of the book.
- Links to supplemental resources for the book.
- Provide the opportunity to read a sample chapter and the table of contents.
- Provide the opportunity to sign-up for an email list to receive more information about the book.
13. Create a website for your book.
Putting everything you want to communicate about your book can be difficult to accomplish in just one page of your website. Creating a website specifically dedicated to your book is another approach to consider.
Even if you don’t create a website, buy the domain name that corresponds to your book’s title if you can (I use Bustaname to check for domain name availability). If it isn’t available, consider using the .net or add “book” to the end of your book’s title to obtain the URL.
If you are unsure about building a website specifically dedicated to your book, consider the following benefits:
- You have an easy URL to mention in interviews.
- You can more effectively collect email addresses to build your pre- and post-launch email lists.
- You can highlight multimedia resources like book trailers and audio clips.
- You can communicate the story of your book in multiple pages and ways.
- You can provide extra resources for the book all in one place (and link to the website from the book itself).
14. Create a pre-launch email list.
Are you still months away from your book’s launch?
Start a separate email list specifically about the book. Email them. Ask them questions. Get to know who they are and why the want to read the book. Then, when the book comes out, give them some bonuses and win them over as ambassadors for your book.
It may seem like a little bit of overkill to start another email list (you should already have one main list!), but there is a huge benefit to identifying and gathering up the people who are most interested and excited about this particular project you are proposing. The people on this list will be your top supporters so get to know them well and understand what resonates best with them leading up to the launch of your book.
15. Present a webinar about your book.
I’ve presented and moderated somewhere around 25 webinars with other authors in the last couple of years. I can’t stress enough how effective these events can be. Here are six reasons why you should set up a webinar for your book launch:
- It gives you a content-focused event to invite people to join during your book launch. It’s also easy for participants to share after they join.
- You will have an email list of interested buyers of your book.
- The video recording can be sent out and used as a part of the long-term book marketing plan. It’s shareable content and more interactive than a blog post.
- It doesn’t require any travel on your part. You can present right from your own home or office.
- It gives you the chance to review what you wrote in your book (sometimes we forget) and solidify the key concepts and top take-aways to share outside of the webinar.
- You will get questions during the webinar which will help you understand the parts of the book your readers find most interesting. You can use these questions for additional blog posts, videos, other content, and even your next book idea!
In the last few months, I’ve seen a lot of people trying out Google Hangouts, Livestream, Ustream, or Spreecast. These services provide the opportunity for a live event that doesn’t necessarily follow a presentation/webinar format and are great for Q & A.
Which is why you could . . .
16. Conduct a live stream Q & A
This isn’t just for the techie authors out there. I saw Lewis Howes (THE webinar expert) do it very casually throughout the day of his book launch using Ustream. I also saw Dr. Scott Hahn, one of the most popular authors in my niche, live stream about his book in the evening of his launch week. Build some buzz on your guest posts and social networks to make sure people show up and have a few questions prepared ahead of time just in case people do not show up. You can always use the recording after the event is over.
17. Participate in an AMA Subreddit on Reddit.com.
This is a very new and exciting tactic that I’ve noticed a number of authors and celebrities use to promote their latest product or cause. I won’t get into the logistics of how Reddit works and why it’s so popular. Just know that there are a lot of users. It’s big and people tell me it is addicting.
Essentially, the AMA subreddit gives people the opportunity to ask questions and engage with you as an author. “AMA” is short for “Ask Me Anything” The questions participants offer vary from background stories about books to clarification on ideas and concepts. Many people tend to ask advice and can be amazed that the author actually reads, acknowledges them, and gives an answer.
Without a doubt, marketing expert Ryan Holiday, the author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, is behind the recent uptick in author AMA’s. He advised both Robert Greene and James Altucher on their recent book launches and both men participated in the AMA Subbreddit.
In fact, Ryan has shared a number of resources for conducting AmA’s. Check them out:
- Inside the AMA: The Interview Revolution that Has Everyone Talking (Forbes.com, 2012)
- How to Host a Successful AMA (Mashable, 2013)
Here are some examples of successful AMAs:
- Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek, 4-Hour Body, 4-Hour Chef
- James Altucher, Choose Yourself
- Robert Greene, Mastery
- James Rollins, Thriller Author
- Stephen King, Novelist and Producer
- Hugh Howey: 2012 and 2013 for his Wool series (Silo saga).
Not sure how to do a AmA chat? Here are Reddit’s tips on conducting one.
If you write fiction, there is a subreddit just for you. Explore and develop some of your characters by putting them up for a Q&A: www.reddit.com/r/IAmAFiction
Bonus: Another service just popped up called Daily QNA. Here is an example of science fiction author Hugh Howey’s Q&A for the release of Dust, the conclusion to his Wool series: Hugh Howey’s Daily QNA.
18. Create a video book trailer.
Movies have video trailers, so why not books? This launch tactic has been increasingly used in various genres. In video book trailers, authors and publishers work to tell the story of their book with a short video. It is easily shared and can be used on book websites, author website, in publisher marketing, and even Amazon author pages and product pages (though they have less emphasis in recent iterations of Amazon book product page designs at the time that I write this).
With every one good book trailer, I’ve seen about ten bad ones. Quality is key here. Video production can cost a lot of money and take up a lot of time. Plus, it’s hard to measure the exact return on the investment.
If you have the resources or the time, give it a shot. Just make sure you do a 80/20 analysis first to make sure you’re dedicating the right amount of time, energy, and money.
The best video book trailers I have seen:
- Tell a story rather than sell a book
- Have a clear call to action (a link to the book website, the author’s website, a suggestion to search for it on Amazon, a launch date, etc.)
- Look professional
- Have background music like movie trailers
In 2011 I experimented with a video book trailer for a book I contributed to and edited. In short, I used my iPhone to record the voices of some of the other contributors, edited the recordings in Audacity, purchased some background music from Pond5, and threw it all together using an old version of iMovie. The results were over 1,000 views, hundreds of email sign-ups, and multiple sales on the back-end of the email list.
Sometimes book trailers are more than just fancy ways of spreading the message of the book. They can also be key drivers of the book marketing journey from the Like & Trust stage to Try & Buy stages.
Here is the book trailer experiment I did:
19. Create a Slideshare summary of your book.
Slideshare may be one of the most underestimated sources of content on the web. Things can quickly go viral on Slideshare and reach a big audience.
The slideshow/powerpoint/keynote format enables you to really tell the story about your book in visually appealing ways. You can easily break it down into parts and highlight the most thought-provoking aspects of your book.
Don’t skimp on design here and never use bullet points. I’ll repeat: never use bullet points.
Some of the best examples from the non-fiction business world are (all went viral):
- Ryan Holiday: The Slides / His Comments
- James Altucher: The Slides / His Comments (See #9)
- Mitch Joel: The Slides / His Comments (See section 3)
This tactic may be a great way to tell the story about your book without creating a video book trailer and in some cases can spread much more quickly and to more people than a video on YouTube.
20. Set up an Amazon Author Central account and optimize your author page.
This is so simple to do and I can’t understand why every author doesn’t claim their Amazon author page today.
First, go to Amazon Author Central and set up an account with an Amazon account you already use (or, you could create a separate account at Amazon.com just for this purpose).
Then, Author Central will walk you through a few steps to claim your book(s). (If you are a first-time author, you will need to wait until your book is up on Amazon to do this.)
Add your professional author photo, your author bio, and link to your website and Twitter accounts and you’re done. You’ll have a special page just for you on Amazon.
Why create an Amazon author page?
- Your author page will link all of your books together. If you click on the author name under a book and they don’t have Author Central set up, Amazon will display a search for the author’s name including many random books in the results.
- Your picture will show up on your book’s Amazon product page. (That is, if you upload a photo to your Author Central account. Otherwise, a gray icon will appear next to your name.)
- You can control how content displays on your Amazon book page (as if you were the publisher of the book).
- You can add your blog and twitter feeds to your author page.
- You can update your bio with each new book or project.
- You can add multiple photos including some action shots to your author page.
- You can add video to your author page (a service that publishers have to pay for, but you get to upload for free).
21. Set up a Goodreads author account and optimize your author page.
People love finding books on Goodreads–a lot more people than you think. The same philosophy for Amazon Author Central applies here. Why not claim your name at one of the most important places people will go to find and discover your books?
Plus, Goodreads offers a number of ways to engage with readers using their platform, so consider looking into the possibilities especially if you are a fiction writer.
Book Launch Stage 3: TRY
With almost anything we buy, we want to try it out first. We test-drive cars. We try on clothes. We sign-up for 30-day free trials for services we need. For books, we do a couple of things:
- We read the table of contents.
- We read sample chapters or excerpts.
Once your ideal readers know your book exists, are convinced that it is relevant to their lives, and trust you and your ability to deliver on the promise of the book, they will want to try it out just to be sure it is worth the investment of both time and money.
This stage may seem very simple, but it is essential. It stresses the importance of a good table of contents and a good sample chapter. Amazon automatically presents about 10% of your book through their “search inside the book” program. On your website, you could obtain a PDF sample chapter of your book from your publisher and distribute it on your website as a free bonus for signing up to your email newsletter.
What can we do beyond sample chapters and excerpts? Here are a couple of ideas:
22. Highlight content you have created (or are creating) that is relevant to the topic of your book.
When you gain the attention of your ideal reader for the first time, they won’t know anything about you. If they are interested (like & trust), they might head over to your website. They will check out your about page and start to scan through some of your blog posts. In the process, if they connect with your writing and like what you have done in the past, you are going to earn their trust as a qualified and generous writer. In other words, they are trying out your writing before buying your book.
Specifically in this stage of the book marketing journey, however, you want to put content in front of this reader that relates to the book you are launching. In other words, you want to give them the opportunity to “try out” the perspective you bring specifically to this book.
You can do this in a few different ways:
- Highlight relevant blog posts in the sidebar of your website.
- Write blog post series with relevant content to the book (see above)
- Create or link to a content-focused video (not book trailer) you have created. (TED talks are a good example of this.)
- Get people on your email list or a book-specific email list and create content for them.
23. Write and give away the manifesto version of your book.
Rather than an exact sample of your book, can you rewrite and paraphrase the message of your book into a shorter, inspirational teaser of the larger work? A manifesto is a “a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
The best place to find examples of this tactic is the website ChangeThis.com, which features manifestos written by popular and up-and-coming authors and leaders. Jeff Goins wrote a manifesto on Change This and got a book deal out of it. Seth Godin used it as a place to plant his ideas in The Icarus Deception. Josh Kaufman also used the site to provide a sampling of the ideas in his bestselling book, The Personal MBA.
Of course, you don’t have to use Change This to try out this idea. Download some of their PDFs and imitate the layout style and call-to-action at the end of the eBooks as inspiration for your own manifesto.
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Book Launch Stage 4: Buy
A lot of authors feel uncomfortable with this stage of the book marketing journey. There is a certain uneasiness with putting a price tag on your art. There is also the fear of losing the trust that has been earned by potential readers over time.
I completely understand this feeling. It is easy to focus on the money you are asking for rather than the results you provide. Don’t forget that the value you provide far outweighs the price your readers will pay. You have to believe this before you ask someone to pay for your work.
Also, don’t forget that the people who arrive at this buy stage have already heard about your book, recognize that it is relevant to their lives right now, and trust your ability to deliver on the promises you are making with your book. You’ve earned their trust and you can make an offer that won’t damage that trust.
The tactics in this buy stage have to do with getting people over that last hump of uncertainty. They essentially answer the question:
Why buy now?
24. Encourage pre-orders of your book prior to the book launch.
Encourage pre-orders of your book unless you are planning to hit the New York Times bestsellers list.
I made this mistake with some kind of twisted logic that if I created a lot of buzz during “launch week” my book would get more exposure. At the time, I was following other book launches that tried to condense book sales into a one-week period of time. This way, they could hit the New York Times bestsellers list and call their book a “New York Times Bestseller.”
If you don’t plan to hit the bestseller list, then encourage as many pre-orders as you can.
Here was my mistake:
The launch week for my first book was before Memorial Day. My launch week posts and emails all hit right before the long 3-day weekend in the United States. Amazon sold out of their stock by Friday and as a result didn’t get the book back in stock until two weeks after “launch week.” Had I encouraged pre-orders, they would have been able to place a more accurate order in the first place and been able to re-order more copies before it was too late.
25. Offer book launch bonuses and incentives.
This tactic has become so popular among recent book launches it’s now becoming a mainstay. The basic idea is to create so much value during that first week of publication that the book hits the New York Times Bestseller list (or Wall Street Journal, Amazon Bestseller’s rankings, etc.) or creates so much buzz, that it gets a large number of influencers talking about your book.
Michael Hyatt calls this the “can’t-say-no-offer.”
Even if your goal isn’t to hit a bestsellers list, this tactic helps because the bonuses increase the number of sales from people who were on the fence about buying your book. It also provides your biggest fans with some additional bonuses that they deserve and would want to share with their friends and audiences.
What are some incentives you can offer to people who buy the book during launch week?
Try some of these book launch incentive ideas:
- Access to all eBook versions of the book
- Access to the audiobook version of the book
- Free downloads of other eBooks or information products
- Access to an iPad app to supplement the book
- Other bonus content like worksheets, checklists, or a reader’s guide to supplement the book
- Videos or audio resources to supplement the book
- Access to a membership site
- A private webinar
- Access to a live event (online or in-person)
- Private coaching calls
- Autographed copies of the book
How does this work? How do you prove someone has purchased the book? How do you provide them with the access to the bonus content?
The book launch incentives I have observed follow roughly this process:
- Point people to a book launch landing page that details all of your bonuses, incentives, extras, etc.
- On that page, provide links to buy the book.
- After people purchase the book, they forward the receipt to an email address of your choice (e.g. booktitle[at]gmail.com or bonuses[at]bookwebsite.com).
- That email address automatically sends a response that either signs them up for an email list or sends them a link to sign up to an email list (I use MailChimp).
- Once people are signed up for the email list (in MailChimp), they are automatically sent a link to get all the bonuses. You can set this up as a part of your email list signup process or as an autoresponder.
- Buyers click on the link that takes them to a webpage with links to download all of the bonuses.
- People bookmark the bonus page and download your fun stuff!
You’ll notice that all of this is automated. In other words, no one is actually checking to see if the emails people are forwarding to you actually include receipts or not. Your giving your audience the benefit of the doubt and expecting them to be honest.
Don’t worry, they will be honest. Michael Hyatt shared in a BlogcastFM interview that when he set up his “can’t-say-no-offer,” he went back and checked to see if anyone was dishonest about sending their receipts. During the launch he wasn’t monitoring the emails coming in, but he asked his VA to review them one by one. As he shared in the interview, they didn’t find a single email without a valid receipt.
26. Discount your other books.
If you are an author with multiple books, you will see your other related books jump in rankings and sales during your new book’s launch. People will hear about you for the first time, find out what you’ve written, and may choose your other books rather than the one you are launching! This is especially true if you are writing a series of books or books with a similar topic and theme.
If you are a self-published author, this tactic should be pretty easy in KDP Select. If you are working with a traditional publisher, make the suggestion. They don’t get authors asking for a lower price (and royalty) on your book. You might surprise them!
Although the books will be discounted and you won’t make as much money on them, the opportunity for increased exposure will make a big difference in the long run. Your name and your books will start to appear in multiple categories on Amazon and connect with multiple books in the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section of Amazon product pages. Plus, after the purchase, your readers will see your name twice on a bookshelf (actual or eReader shelf) rather than once!
This same logic could apply to any information products or other offers you have on your website. Discount them while you have a lot of eyes and minds on you and your new book.
Book Launch Stage 5: Read
As I look at my bookshelf inside our house or the Kindle shelf of eBooks on my phone, one thing is certain: I buy more books than I read.
Everyone does. Just because someone buys your book, it doesn’t mean they will read it. If they don’t read it, they won’t share it. If they don’t share it, other people won’t hear about it.
Most authors stop at the buy stage of the book marketing journey. It seems logical that the goal of any book launch is to get people to buy your new book, right? Not so. Remember, we’re focusing on a process, a journey from initial awareness about you and your book to a life-long relationship in the pursuit of a common goal.
As a part of your book launch planning, think of ways you can encourage people who have purchased your book to actually read it.
Try some of these ideas:
27. Write a good book.
This may seem obvious but let me explain. The most effective form of marketing you can do is make the product so good that people have to share it. Any and all book marketing is built into the book itself. Bad books won’t sell.
If you use any or all of the tactics I’ve compiled here, you will see a jump in sales at the launch, but the hope of long-lasting sales will be slim to none if your book isn’t good enough.
After that initial spark of buyers, will you be able to captivate the reader’s attention and get them to finish reading the book? Will these readers recommend it to a friend? Amazon reviews are nice, but I’m talking about real recommendations from friend to friend. Will someone pass your book on to a friend or tell them how much they loved it, how much it changed their life?
If not, you will never have enough book launch ideas to make up for a poor book.
Capture their attention with the first sentence. Then keep them hungering for more with sentence two, then sentence three, paragraph two, chapter two, three, four, etc.
28. Create a reader’s guide or leader’s guide.
Sometimes reading a new book, especially non-fiction, can be daunting. So, how can you help break down the book into highly practical applications to real life? One way to supplement your book is to write a reader’s guide with section summaries, reflection questions, worksheets, checklists, and exercises to help the reader integrate the book into their everyday lives. You can build this resource into the launch of your book or offer it as a free download on your website.
Another approach to take is to think about how the leaders of a group or organization can use your book to develop their staff or volunteers. Give these leaders all the tools you can think of to help accomplish their goals and the goals of the book. For example, you might create PDF handouts, PowerPoint slides, video lessons, a printable booklet, or mobile apps to equip leaders to use your book in a group setting.
Book Launch Stage 6: Reviews
Now that people have read your book and loved it, how do you get them to tell others about how it changed their lives? Product reviews on ecommerce websites like Amazon.com highly influence customer decisions about buying products. People want to be sure what they are buying worked for others or was a nice source of entertainment. Popular endorsements and media reviews are nice, but the actual reviews by readers of the book are more trustworthy and important to the modern shopper.
At this stage of the book marketing journey, our goal is to get our readers to post reviews on Amazon.com or Goodreads.com. Most people don’t leave reviews for books or other products online unless they really love the product or are reminded to post a reviews by the website where they purchased the book.
In seeking book reviews try these ideas:
29. Ask for reviews from friends and influencers before the launch.
Ask for Amazon reviews to be posted on the day of launch. Gather up a group of bloggers and friends to save their Amazon reviews until the day your book is released and post them on launch day. Amazon doesn’t like reviews for books that aren’t technically for sale yet. If you’ve sent review copies, ask for an Amazon review but make sure they wait until the week of the launch.
If bloggers have reviewed your book, ask if they would be willing to repost a summary or the entire review as an Amazon review. Don’t be shy about asking your friends and family to review your book either, just don’t break any of Amazon’s reviewing rules in the process!
(Note: The same applies for GoodReads reviews. You may have noticed already, but a number of websites are now aggregating GoodReads reviews on their websites.)
30. Reach out to the reviewers of similar or competing books.
Certain people spend a lot of time reviewing books on Amazon and Goodreads. Many of these people have public profiles that you can use to find contact information on their websites, via social media, or directly by email. Search through the reviews of books that are similar to yours and reach out to people who have reviewed those books. Offer a complimentary copy of your book and ask if they will post an honest review for you.
This is the tactic that Mike Michalowicz used to get hundreds of Amazon reviews of his first book. He shares his process for getting Amazon reviews on his website and also in this BlogcastFM interview.
Book Launch Stage 7: Refer
Reviews are helpful, but an actual referral–someone suggesting your book to their friends–cannot be replaced. The people who share your book with others not only read your book and enjoyed it, they feel the urge to share it or even buy copies for their friends and colleagues.
What is the best way to get people to refer your book to their friends? See idea #27 “write a good book.” But beyond that, what can you do to streamline referrals?
We’ve already considered ways you can create shareable content to increase the awareness of your book, but here is one way to get people to buy the book for others:
31. Encourage institutional sales and bulk purchases.
If there is one reason why I wanted to be published by a traditional publisher (besides the fact that I work for them), it is the reach they have into the institutional markets. My first book is meant for teachers and religious educators in churches and schools. The book is most effective when it is read and used by a community of people. When we developed a marketing plan, we had to consider the ways we could reach individual educators as well as the leaders who would purchase the book in bulk for their staff or volunteers.
This is essentially the model that the organization 800-CEO-Read follows (which, by the way, owns ChangeThis.com). Their goal is to encourage bulk orders of business books in order to spread great ideas online. The publishers and the authors benefit because the book gets an automatic referral from CEOs and business managers to their employees.
If your book would be a good fit for groups of people working towards a common goal, figure out who the leaders of these groups are and find out how to reach them. Make sure the description of your book and your book website or landing page copy reflects the relevance to these targeted groups.
If you can, work out a bulk discount with your publisher or another organization like 800-CEO-Read.
Book Launch Stage 8: Unite
Here we are at the end of the book marketing journey, which in reality is only the beginning. Your ideal reader found your book, considered it to be relevant to their lives right now, trusted your ability to deliver on the promises you’ve made as an author, tried the book, bought the book, read the book, loved the book, left a five-star review, and bought copies for their friends.
They will want more. They haven’t reached their final destination and they still need your help. What other bridges do they need to cross on their journey? Show them the path and build them the bridge.
In this final stage of the book marketing journey, you unite with your ideal reader in a common pursuit of a life only seen in the horizon. There are many obstacles along the way and it is your responsibility to lead this new tribe of people along the way. They need you.
They will buy your other books. They will sign up for your membership website. They will take your online courses. They will buy your products. They will forgive you when you make mistakes and they’ll continue to look to you for help as long as you continue to earn their trust through unrelenting generosity.
There are a number of ideas for this stage of the book marketing journey, but in terms of a book launch, here are few ways people can unite with your mission right now:
32. Create an online course for your book.
If you are a non-fiction writer, you are a teacher. Creating on online course or partnering with an organization that can create one for you, is a great way to provide an experience for your readers that goes beyond the words on the page. Gone are the days when authors are only writers. Your readers want more. They have bought into your mission, your message, your goals, and your vision, and they want you to take them to the next level.
Write more books, but give you reader the opportunity to go deeper with you through an online course. We’ve never had a greater opportunity to do this than right now.
Michael Port partnered with CreateLive on his recent book launch. The experience was incredible. He gave a three-day-long course that lined up directly with his book. He was animated and essentially coached the audience through their business challenges right on video using all of the principles in his book.
Ironically, I was watching the replay of his first session on the morning of my book launch day while speaking at a conference myself. It was a fun reminder of the incredible strategies I’ve learned from Michael Port in the last couple of years.
A few months later, Josh Kaufman partnered with CreateLive at the time of his book launch for The First 20 Hours. Although the course was focused on his first book, The Personal MBA, there was bonus content related to his new book. You don’t have to do a course on your new book during your book launch to increase your reader’s ability to unite with you and your mission.
Although it is convenient to work with online learning software or companies like CreateLive or Udemy, there are other options as well. Create a course on your website using a membership plugin or Ning. There are a number of different options for you to consider and many of them cost only your time to create and a small amount of money to set up.
33. Host a book launch party or other book launch event.
Every idea we have covered so far has some element of digital communication. What about in-person, face-to-face events? Is that so old school that it isn’t worth the time anymore?
Far from it. Making connections with your readers online is fantastic, but there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings at live events.
When you schedule a book launch party or event, the goal is to gather people who already know, like, and trust you so that you can create the opportunity for a more intimate encounter with you as the author.
Here are some book launch party ideas that you could consider for your next book launch:
- Invite other big name authors as speakers at your event
- Get a company to sponsor the event (maybe even your publisher?)
- Approach your local bookstore
- Make it a themed party
- Provide some food or pay for catering
- Set up an event in Eventbrite, Evite, or as a Facebook event.
- Give away free stuff: autographed books, swag, other fun products
- Take lots of pictures and videos (get someone to help)
- Provide people who are meeting you for the first time, the opportunity to sign up for your email list.
The odds are good that you will be on your own in planning this book launch party. Your publisher will provide as much support as possible sending books and designing marketing materials for you, but consider this the entrepreneurial part of your role as an author.
Chris Guillebeau, from the Art of Non-Conformity, offers some great ideas for planning book launch parties in his DIY Book Tour post from his The $100 Startup. He self-funded his tour despite the challenges of time and money he knew it would present.
Another good example of a book launch party is Mitch Joel’s recent launch of Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Google sponsored the event and he invited Seth Godin to join him on stage. There might be ways you can recreate this model on a smaller scale with more relevant organizations and guest speakers for your book.
I hope these ideas were helpful to you. They helped me. Or, at least they gave me something to work with. The big decisions come when you try to put all this together. You have a lot of ideas, now it is time to go use them.
If you liked this guide and want to read more, I would love to start a conversation, answer questions, or help you with your next book launch. Sign up for this email listand feel free to say hello, ask questions, or share your story.
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We’re on our way to launching our books, but more importantly, helping our readers continue on the path to the life they dream of.
(photo credit: Trey Ratcliff)