Last week, the (hot, humid) Florida summer finally broke – I actually felt a hint of coolness in the morning air.
Okay, it was still 75 degrees, but I was so excited I nearly skipped down the driveway!
You see, fall is my favorite time of year. It signals the start of my true loves: football games, holidays and going outside without being instantly drenched in sweat.
The season also brings, however, memories of a peculiar nightmare from over twenty years ago.
Back in those days, Christmas was my favorite holiday. You awake to your very own pile of gifts: what could be better?
Well, in this nightmare, my eagerly-anticipated goodies were nowhere to be found. In their place was a note simply reading:
“Sorry! Love, Santa”
It sounds silly, but as a 7-year old, this dream was heartbreaking.
As an adult, however, I watch my friends go through something like this on a daily basis – and it’s just as devastating!
Epic Sales to Epic Nightmare
Over at Duolit, I help out indie authors who have walked right into their own Christmas morning nightmare.
After the trials and tribulations of the self-publishing process, their reward isn’t the pile of book sales they imagined, but the equivalent of that “sorry” note from Santa: meager sales with half (or more) coming from folks related to them.
Heck, I’ve been there, too: our first book sold exactly 14 copies (although none to family members, so at least there’s that).
The good (or bad) news is that we’re not alone: sadly, 80% of books flop, and that’s just traditionally published work. If self-published books and ebooks were included, the percentage would certainly be much higher. Most people don’t even know how to self publish a book!
Why do good books flop?
If you’re like most authors, you imagine the publishing process to go something like this:
- Write a kick-booty book
- Publish said book
- Market the heck out of it
While that model works for traditional publishers (who have the means to throw tons of money at old-school marketing channels), modern indie authors need a different solution. To prevent a flop, we must flip that outdated thinking in an epic way!
The post-promotion problem
You see, the problem isn’t necessarily what you’re doing to promote your book, it’s when you’re doing it.
Waiting until after your book is published to begin marketing starts you out at an immediate disadvantage. You end up like a spawning salmon, struggling to swim upstream: working twice as hard for half the results!
If you’re ready to break out of the 80% flop trap, the good news is that I can help. It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction, sci-fi or YA, this stuff works!
The bad news, however, is that these flop-proofing strategies take time and patience — in other words, there’s no magic button for instant success. Work hard, persevere and you WILL get there!
7 Flop-Proof Book Launch Ideas
1. Chill out.
Once you (finally) finish your book, I completely understand the temptation to release it as soon as possible, but heed this warning: rushing your launch will negatively impact sales.
After wrapping up that final round of revisions, take a deep breath and step away.
Plan a launch date three to six months down the road. You’ll still beat the pants off the traditional publishing timetable and have plenty of time to ensure a successful launch!
Note: If you’ve already released your book, this still works. Simply plan to release a second edition!
2. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
You may not even know how to self publish a book. So while you’re chilling out, take part in some (friendly, non-creepy) stalking. Check out successful authors in your niche and note the promotional methods they use. You can also look at rollouts of new stuff by people in other industries – once you learn how to launch a new product in one area – you can transfer those skills! Ask yourself:
- When did they release their book?
- Where did they promote it? Which tactics did they use?
- How can I adapt this to my book? What can I do better?
3. Connect with your readers.
After completing your stalking (err, research), invest some time toward building your fanbase. Even if it’s a very small group, dedicated followers increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts exponentially.
It may sound backwards, but having merely 100 true fans (I’m talking Twihard-levels of adoration here) are far more valuable than 1000 more wishy-washy readers.
While you can connect with your readers strictly through a newsletter, it’s far more effective to know them individually.
Begin recognizing their names, responding to them thoughtfully and offering up exclusive perks. In exchange, you’ll have a built-in “street team” come launch time, ready and willing to evangelize your book!
4. Elicit the help of your fans.
Don’t assume, however, that every one of your new-found fans will automatically become book purchasers!
You know that enticing Asian restaurant in the mall always handing out free samples? Follow their lead and whet your fans’ appetite by releasing snippets of your book. Ask for feedback (involving them personally in the publishing process) and they’ll be hooked!
Sharing bits of your work prior to its official release also:
- Allows you to utilize your readers’ feedback to improve your work
- Builds excitement for your book’s release
- Helps your fans feel invested in your book’s success
5. Don’t underestimate professional editing and cover design.
It’s a secret your readers loathe to share: if your book hasn’t been professionally edited and designed, they can tell.
Worried about the cost? Save up the money while you’re writing and revising your work (another reason why delaying your launch rocks). Don’t think of it as throwing money away — this is simply a smart investment!
For the best return on that investment, take your time and choose the best editor or designer for your personality, genre and budget.
If you can’t afford both editing and design (and I can’t recommend both highly enough), here’s my advice: If you write fiction, choose editing. If you write non-fiction, choose design.
6. Solicit quality reviews.
You know those crazy-dedicated fans? Contact a few of them directly and ask for an early review of your book.
Add in the thoughts of other prominent authors in your niche, and you’ll have quality social proof in place before your launch – a crucial tool in converting unconvinced readers into purchasers!
When soliciting reviews:
- Contact reviewers at least 2-3 months in advance; this gives them plenty of time to read your work and write a thoughtful analysis.
- Don’t pressure your potential reviewers! Be selfless and gracious in your review requests.
7. Create a compelling pre-launch offer.
While you’re gathering reviews, put together an irresistible offer for your list. Consider creating a special limited edition of your book (with unique packaging or other such fanciness), serving up a great deal or (even better) combining both.
Whatever you decide, make this offer exceptional and exclusive.
Scarcity (whether through a limited-time offer, a set number or copies or special edition packaging) creates buzz for your book’s release. In addition, the value you’re offering rewards your fans for getting in on the ground level!
BONUS Tip: Don’t sleep during launch week.
The moment is (finally) here and it’s time for your book’s (epic) release! You’ve already put in a ton of work, but don’t rest just yet! During launch week, it’s your job to be everywhere and anywhere.
- Guest post for powerful blogs both in and related to your niche.
- Host a series of webinars on your book’s topic.
- Offer special, limited-time pricing or bonuses.
Your goal for launch week: make it impossible for readers to resist purchasing your book!
Are you ‘go’ for launch?
The strategies above all revolve around one central point: for an epic, flop-proof book launch, you must put in an equally epic amount of work before your book hits the shelves.
Kick the promotional can down the road, and you’ll find yourself madly swimming upstream.
Toward a Christmas tree.
With nothing but a “Sorry!” note from Santa underneath.
I know some of you (like me) have lived through a flop, so I’m curious: how did you feel? What will you do differently next time?
If, on the other hand, you’ve released a successful book, what advice do you have for your fellow authors? Let’s discuss in the comments!