This is Part II of a three part series that goes behind the scenes of how I wrote, published, and marketed an Amazon Best Selling book in less than 90 days. To read Part I, click here. To read part II, click here.)
If there is one pice of advice I wish I could give to every blogger, author, and passionpreneur, it’s this: LAUNCH EVERYTHING.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends and clients come to me and tell me the story of how they brainstormed and created this awesome thing, poured their heart and soul into it, only to debut to crickets.
When I ask them what their launch strategy was, they inevitably look at me with a completely blank expression.
We live in a noisy world, people, and it’s harder than ever to get people’s attention. That’s why it’s so important to go through the process of getting people as excited about your book (or passion project) as you are. For me this process stretched over about a six week spam of time.
Here’s an exact replica of my email communication plan:
- [Date] Subject Line
- [10/10/2014] Big News! I’m writing a book but I need your help!
- [10/17/2014] GET. EXCITED. The CGC book cover is here!
- [1/15/2015] Aaaaand we’re back! Plus two exciting announcements. (Note: One of the announcements was a reminder that the CGC book was coming soon.)
- [1/20/2015] It’s my birthday and I want to celebrate with YOU! (Note: I included an image of the CGC book cover and referenced the upcoming launch as one things I was celebrating.)
- [1/26/2015] The CGC book comes out next Thursday! Want to be on my book launch team?
- [1/29/2015] CGC book launch delayed until next week. 🙁
- [2/2/2015] CGC book updated (SPOILER ALERT: the book comes out TOMORROW!
- [2/3/2015 – morning] The CGC Book is here!!!! (Plus three reasons you should buy your copy today!
- [2/3/2015 – afternoon] Reminder: Buy the CGC Book and get free coaching!
- [2/4/2015] Help CGC reach #1 on the Amazon Bestseller List!
- [2/0/2015] We did it! CGC is an Amazon Bestseller!
In my experience, the best launches start about three months before the product release. In month one and two, you hint at the fact that you are writing a book, what’s it’s about and when it will be published. In the month prior to your book release, you want to send a series of “get excited” emails to your community giving them more and more information about the book and how awesome it is.
Two types of posts that I found to be particularly helpful during my launch was the “help me make a decision” email (I asked for help with naming the title of my book) and the “sneak peak/behind the scenes” email (I gave my email list a look at the book cover long before the book came out).
If you don’t already have a community of subscribers, remember that your friends and family can also act as your biggest fans. In lieu of a more in depth email communication strategy, make sure you are at least keeping your network posted on your progress via social media.
Putting together a book launch team
While I was researching book launch best practices, I came across this epic article by Michael Hyatt where he details his book launch strategy. Early on, I made the decision that because of the number of other projects on my plate, I didn’t want to do a huge launch for The CGC Book. I knew from jump that my launch would consist of a few emails to my community and one or two strategic social media posts.
After reading Michael’s article, however, I decided to add one last element to my strategy: a book launch team.
A book launch team is essentially a team of people who volunteer to give you feedback on your book as well as help you promote on launch day. About a week before my book came out, I sent out an email to my list and asked if anyone wanted to be a part of my book launch team. All they had to do was reply to that email and say “hell yes!” (What can I say? I like my crew enthusiastic.)
About twenty women volunteered. Since the book was already finished, I envisioned their role being mainly to support with book promotion on launch day. I provided all 20 women with an advanced copy of the book and asked that they write an HONEST review (positive or negative) of the book before the official launch date.
My rationale was grounded in the fact that books with reviews are more apt to get noticed than book without them. Six of the women ended up writing reviews and I believe that this definitely added to the book’s credibility on launch day.
Creating a listing and pricing strategy
So, people are officially excited for your book to come out! Whoot!
Unfortunately, building buzz is only one part of a successful book launch strategy. The other part has to do with how you price and list your book.
Let’s talk listing first.
For me, listing my book was a surprisingly multi-faceted process. Maybe I hadn’t done enough research into what exactly book listing entails (quite probable). All I know is that my plan to start the process at 8:45 PM on a Thursday night, speed through in 15 minutes, and then be on my couch with a glass of wine in time to watch Scandal did not exactly go as planned. This is my attempt to save you from a similar fate! There are four small tasks that compose the listing process.
Your book description is the text that goes on the back of the book. It’s essentially an attention grabbing description of why your book is awesome. If you’re a fiction writer, this looks like an exciting overview of your main plot line. If you’re a non-fiction author, you want to highlight what people will learn from reading your book. This is your chance to convince people that your book is going to change their lives in some positive way so don’t waste it!
Your Author page is optional but I highly recommend you have one. It’s a great way to give folks a better idea of who you are and where you live on the Internet. It’s nice when people buy your book but your ultimate goal should be to build a long term relationship, something more then a
one night, ahem, one book stand.
The Amazon bookstore is broken into categories and choosing your book categories is one of the most important aspects of the listing process. While you need to be able to sell 2,000-3,000 books on any given day in order to make it to Amazon’s general list of best sellers, it is possible to make it to the top of a specific category or genre by selling a fraction of that number.
Most books can easily fit into more than one category. What’s important here is to pick the most specific niche possible while still maintaining an accurate description of your book. For instance, my book fits under the category of self-help but I knew that this niche would be crowded with other advice books. Because my book is primarily composed of first person accounts of different situations in my life, it can also be considered a memoir.
Because I’m a black woman, I got even more specific and listed the CGC book under “Biography & Memoir -> Ethnic -> African American.” It was here that my title truly had a chance to shine. When listing your book, be as specific and as creative as possible in order to have the highest chance of success.
Once you’ve got your listing together, the next step is to come up with a price for your book. Your pricing strategy will vary based on the goals for your book. If your goal is pure exposure, it makes sense to price your ebook in the $.99 – $2.99 range. If your goal is to gain credibility and make a little more money with each book, then pricing closer to industry standard is your best bet.
My goal was a mix of the two. I primarily wanted to gain credability and a bit of money from royalties but also wanted to make sure the book was affordable to women with less discretionary income. With this in mind, I priced my paperback at $12.99 and my ebook at $5.99.
When all was said and done, here’s what my final numbers looked like:
- Copies sold: 86
- Royalties: $337.80
- Highest Category Bestseller Rank: #5
- Copies sold: 55*
- Royalties: $210.10
- Highest Category Bestseller Rank: #88
*Not counting copies sold by me during book signings and speaking engagements.
At the end of the day, I definitely feel as if I accomplished my goals with this launch! I was able to publish my book, sell a good number of copies in the first week, make it up to number five on the bestseller list in my category, and most importantly increase my level of credability within my niche. I will continue to promote the CGC Book but no matter what happens from here on out, I feel satisfied that this project was a success!
5 most important lessons I learned
- Tell people about your launch date in advance. Not only does this build buzz around your book but it also adds another layer of accountability to your project. It’s one thing to tell yourself that you’re going to write a book. It’s another thing entirely to tell about a hundred of your closest friends and family!
- Give yourself plenty of time to go through the uploading and approval process. Now I’m not going to lie. I tend to do things a little on the last minute side. (Procrastinators of the world, UNITE!) In this case, I ended up having to push back my publication date a full week because I didn’t give myself enough time for the uploading and approval process. Give yourself at least two weeks!
- Be strategic about the first image/status you post. This was a huge lesson for me! As part of my book launch announcement, I did a fun video of my opening my very first book after it was delivered from Amazon. This meant that in my book launch announcement on FB was a clip to the video and not an image of the book cover. FAIL! About 30 people ended up sharing my status and while they mentioned and linked to the book, at first glance was just a video screen shot of a random black chick (me!) holding an Amazon box! Make sure the first status/image you share has all the relevant information: book title, link, short description, and book cover image; because this will likely be the status that people share.
- Categories matter! If I hadn’t taken the time to choose the right categories for my book, I never would have made it to number five on the Bestseller List, or been featured as a “Hot New Release,” both of which provided a huge amount of credibility and exposure to my book early on.
- Say thank you. Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to say thank you to everyone who helps you throughout your book writing, publication, and marketing process. Without the people who are willing to support you in big and small ways, the journey would be even more challenging than it already is!
Even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer,” I believe that publishing a book is a worthwhile goal for anyone interested in building visibility within their niche. With a little creativity, dedication, and hard work, anyone can succeed in getting their ideas out into the world in a big way!