LAUNCHING A BOOK is not for the faint of heart — whether publishing traditionally or doing it yourself. I am reminded of this fact daily now, in my efforts to keep up with all the tasks related to launching my second memoir, Accidental Jesus Freak: One Woman’s Journey from Fundamentalism to Freedom.
Like many authors, when I published my first memoir, I didn’t really think much about the launch itself until after the book was published. And I knew nothing about book marketing. Even though I’d already published two books (a 2002 college textbook on desktop publishing and, in 2011, Week by Week, on journaling), I’d never really done anything special to advertise or get the word out, other than post about it on my blog and to my email list.
At least I had an email list.
Each time I published, I’d sell a few books, and then things would settle down to an unsteady dribble of occasional sales.
In late 2016, I realized that if I was going to be successful as an author I needed to overcome my internal resistance, bite the bullet (to use an overused cliché), and learn how to market my books. I began reading every blog I could find on the topic, bought books about email and book marketing, took expensive online classes, and spent money on “exclusive” launch checklists.
I’ve learned that marketing starts long before your book sees the light of day, somewhere between line editing and the start of production (cover design and book formatting).
I’ve learned how to use lead magnets in ebooks as a way of growing my email list and gaining loyal readers. (A lead magnet is a link to a free product in exchange for someone’s email address.)
I’ve learned how to advertise on Amazon to jumpstart or increase book sales.
And I’ve learned that the plethora of advice on how to launch and market books is both overwhelming and contradictory. And sometimes it seems that the only people who are “best-selling Amazon authors” are the ones who sell books on selling books.
Still, I have learned a lot about bringing a book in the world.
Lessons Learned and In Progress
There is no perfect book launch formula. If I tried to do everything the experts say I should do, I’d have to work at it full time, which is not an option for me — and I’m guessing not for you, either. I’ve learned it’s best to pick from the available options those tasks that best suit my availability and personal inclinations. Do what I can and don’t sweat the rest. For me, the indispensable activities have included:
- Getting endorsements. (Asking for endorsements starts months before the book’s publish date, and takes a certain amount of courage.)
- Creating book landing and sales pages.
- Inserting free products or offers (lead magnets) in all my ebooks.
- Developing a “launch team” of loyal readers and promoters. These are my ambassadors in the world.
- Staying engaged with readers through social media, email, and my blog.
- Getting as many book reviews as possible — I’ve had to learn to be assertive and persistent about asking, because even with the best of intentions, people forget to post reviews and need reminders.
- Scheduling local readings, launch events, and a blog tour.
- Entering book award contests. Not the Mother I Remember won Finalist for both the Sarton and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Winning awards goes a long way to instill confidence in potential readers to take a chance with your book. I’m hoping Accidental Jesus Freak will do even better.
- Figuring out which tasks will bring the best return on investment and doing those. For example, I don’t have much time to run around and personally promote my book to local venues, a few copies at a time. So for me, online marketing, which has greater reach, is the most productive use of my time.
- Getting help. Another thing I have learned is that it’s nearly impossible to do everything myself. This time around, I’ve hired a marketing firm to assist with certain aspects of the launch — organizing a blog tour, media pitch, review gathering, and Amazon book page optimization. They’re just getting started, so I don’t know whether this has been a wise move or not. Either way, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of material for another blog post on the topic. And I’ll be sure to let you know about my experience and whether their services were worth the expense involved.
When it comes to social media, go where your audience is. Choose one or two social media platforms and forget the rest. In spite of its unfriendly algorithms for authors, I like Facebook because of its conversational nature. Same with Goodreads. And I detest Twitter. So I’ve created a presence on Facebook that works for me, and I’m working on increasing my interactions on Goodreads. You might prefer Instagram or Pinterest. This is a personal choice, and I don’t think any one platform is better than another — it’s how you use it that counts.
Whatever happens, I know some things for sure — it’s important to recognize my limitations, take time to enjoy the new relationships and conversations my story has generated, and celebrate bringing this expressive bit of myself into the world before I go back to my writing corner and begin another.
Do you have experiences to share about launching a book?
Please leave a comment.