The Worst and Best Ways to Launch Your Book – Part 1
Writing a book can be so much work, and take so much energy, we sometimes forget that it’s only the beginning of the process. Whether you spend a month or a year crafting your book, it’s a Herculean effort to go from ideas to the page, so discovering that you’re just getting started can be a little daunting. In this two-part series we’ll take a look at some ways to make the launch process a little less painful, and give your book the kind of winning start that might lead to bigger things.
First, the Worst
In some sense, there’s no real wrong way to launch your book. It really comes down to doing what works for you, and what’s within your means. It also comes down your expectations, because depending on the kind of publishing career you’re trying to build, there are things that work and there are things that don’t.
Here are the top five worst ways to handle launching your book:
#1 – Finish the manuscript at 8 AM, hit publish at 8:30 AM.
We said it earlier—writing a book is a lot of work. It’s the kind of accomplishment that, once it’s done, we authors really want to share with the world. We want no less than to hang our masterpiece on the world’s refrigerator so that everyone who comes over to the world’s place will see it and coo over it and praise us for being such clever and creative little geniuses. We want a sticker on that thing, and no less than a gold star at that. Stickers are the best.
But it’s a bit early yet.
Unlike our 8th grade science paper on the lifespan of the fruit fly, this isn’t the kind of thing we can do the morning of, dashing off “The End” mere moments before hitting “publish.” There are steps. We need to follow those steps. Some of those, conveniently, make up our next few “worst ways.”
But to sum up #1, don’t just finish your work and put it on the market.
Ironically, we live in a world where certain innovative and industrious businesses (*cough* D2D *cough*) have made it incredibly easy to go from finished manuscript to published ebook. We’re in the era of instant publishing, and we’re empowered to write and publish from anywhere. However, that doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility we’ve embraced, to craft a story worth reading, and to do our best to infuse it with as much quality as we can muster.
Quality takes time. Give your manuscript that time. Like a fine wine, it needs to breathe a bit. Give it enough time to mature before putting it out in the cold, cruel world.
And that maturity starts with …
#2 Editing, shmediting
The least we should do (the very, very least) is pause, take a breath, and spend some time re-reading and editing our work. We’re bound to have left some typos behind. Maybe we changed the spelling of a character’s name, inadvertently, somewhere in the middle of the manuscript. Maybe we used “site” when we meant “sight,” or used the wrong there/their/they’re.
I’ve done all three of these. I’m with ya.
You could argue that you’ve edited along the way, and sure, we’ll accept that answer. You may be using a method similar to that of Dean Wesley Smith’s “cycling” technique, looping back every so often to edit what you’ve just written, before carrying on with the next 500 or 1,000 or 2,500 words.
That sort of edit-as-you-go method is fine enough, as long as you aren’t using editing as an excuse for not finishing your book. But you should also consider handing your manuscript off to someone whose sole job is to edit on your behalf. More eyes on the page lead to better pages.
Personally, I use a modified version of cycling, writing my daily word count and then coming back to it the following morning, editing what I wrote the day before and then letting the momentum carry me into that day’s word count. When the manuscript is finished, I do my more comprehensive edit pass, and when that’s done I hand the manuscript to a team of beta readers (my “street team”). I give them a timeframe for reading the book and for giving me any errors they find. I make those changes, and then I hand the resulting manuscript to a final editor, whom I pay to give me the best manuscript possible.
And I still have typos.
They happen. But you can lessen them significantly and make your book much more ready-for-prime-time if you pause before publishing and put some extra eyes on the thing.
Don’t skip the editing.
#3 Cover design versus Cover Denied
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that if you were willing to rush putting your book out, fresh from your keyboard, then you were probably willing to rush the cover as well.
Maybe you have mad MS Paint skills, and you’ve been complimented on your bitmap prowess.
Maybe you ponied up some dough on Fiverr.com and hired the best cover designer five bucks can buy.
Maybe you picked a lovely vacation photo, from that time you went to Hawaii with your kids, and managed to put a gun in the picture to make it look really ominous and scary.
These are ways you could go.
Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not choose any of these options.
Covers are a special kind of marketing tool. You may not even have thought of them in that light, but it’s true. Your cover is often the very first contact your readers have with you and your book, and your cover informs that precious first impression that readers have of you.
Get the cover right, make sure it not only looks beautiful and professional but it also fits your genre and creates a bit of intrigue in the reader, and you could see your book become a hit.
Get the cover wrong and hanging it on the fridge might be the best exposure you’re likely to get.
There’s a psychology to good book cover design. A good cover takes thought and strategy. Just like planning out a book, and subsequently planning out a launch or marketing strategy, planning out a cover requires you to take some time, make some considerations and determinations, and execute on something that will give your book the best possible chance of persuading a reader to pick it up and read it.
Spend the time. Do your research. If at all possible, hire a professional cover designer. It makes a difference, it really, truly does.
And if you can’t hire someone, it’s ok. There are viable alternatives. But the cost, at that point, is less about your financial investment and more about an investment in time. If you do have to make your own cover, using a resource such as the free cover templates at Canva, spend as much time as possible doing some research.
Go on Amazon.com and search for books that are similar to yours in both content and style. Find the top 10, and study them. Look closely at their covers, and see what traits they have in common, and where they differ. Get a feel for them.
And when you do make your cover, shrink it down and compare it to the thumbnails of those sample covers on Amazon, to see if it fits in. This is one of those times when you don’t necessarily want to stand out from the pack—readers are often looking for a book that will give them a similar experience to the last one they read, and the cover is their first clue.
Help them by making their choice as easy as possible. Give them a cover that fits the genre they love.
#4 Blasted Social Media Readers Never Buy Anything
Social media is frustrating. On the one hand, it’s a place where even the meekest of us can loudly and proudly share our opinions on the evil lack of morals among Curling superstars and their spouses.
Those people … always getting by on their rock star fame and Greek god-level good looks.
On the other hand, social media is seemingly a great place to reach out to an endless number of potential readers and tell them we have a new book, fresh off the presses Won’t you try it, please pretty please? You’d think that out of the millions and millions of people using Twitter alone, you could easily capture a sliver of a percentage just large enough to support your growing custom-built catamaran habit.
But no one seems to care. No matter how often we blast “Buy my book! My book is on sale!” out into the digital ether, we never see that sales needle move. Sad authors. Sad, sad authors.
Think for a moment about the last time you bought a book because you saw a tweet that said, “BUY MY NEW BOOK ‘THE MUGGER LOVER’ FOR ONLY 99-CENTS TODAY!”
Do you have an eReader crammed full of books you bought by first clicking on a tweet or a Facebook post or an Instagram photo?
Maybe you do. Maybe you have one or two or a hundred. Maybe you knew those authors personally and wanted to support them. Or maybe you have an obsession to feed—I certainly own a lot of eBooks about obscure historic facts and trivia. But consider … you might be the exception, and not the rule. The other 99% of the population likely doesn’t any books they were enticed to buy simply because the loud man on Twitter demanded it.
Social media is a great tool for doing one thing well: Communicating and building relationships with other people.
It’s terrible for practically everything else. Even the quality of the relationships you build there may not be that great, depending on your level of rage over Curling superstars.
If your primary plan for alerting the world to the existence of your masterpiece is to schedule a series of social media posts, I urge you to reconsider. This method, which we often lovingly label “batch and blast,” might get you a sale or two, over time, but it will more likely get you blocked and ignored in the immediate present.
People, oddly, do not like being yelled at, even if someone is trying to sell them something.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with telling your followers on social media that you have a new book out. But consider your approach carefully.
Try using the “cocktail party” method.
The idea, in short, is that if you were at a cocktail party, and were constantly blurting out “BUY MY BOOK ABOUT ROBOT MONKEY SEX PEDDLERS!” you likely would be asked to leave. Please put down the shrimp fork on your way out.
However, if you were to engage with other partygoers, talk to them like fellow humans, ask about their interests, and be part of a pleasant, two-way conversation, you might eventually find some opportunity to casually and calmly mention that you’re an author, and that you’ve just released a new book, and that you think they might enjoy it.
That’s the kind of conversation that could end in someone saying, “Lovely! Where can I find your book? On Amazon? Well then, I’ll just pop over and buy it right now, while standing in front of you!”
Don’t be a loudmouthed jerk, in other words. Talk to humans like they’re human. Care about what they have to say, participate in their discussions, be polite, and your time will come.
#5 Full-time Sales Watching with a Netflix Side Hustle
One of my favorite Draft2Digital features has always been our sales dashboard. You can see how your books are doing, the number of sales you’re getting and the channels where they’re selling, and the royalties you’re earning, all from a neatly designed dashboard filled with charts and graphs and filtered searching, oh my.
I love it. I treasure it. But I try very, very hard not to obsess over it.
For sure, you should monitor your sales. You need the data that dashboard provides to help you figure out whether your marketing is working. You need to know where you’re selling the most, and where you’re selling the least, so you can organize a strategy to boost your results. All that data is important.
But it can also become a huge time-suck, distracting you from what’s really important.
No … no, that wasn’t where I was going with that.
Spending all your time leaning your face against the screen of your laptop, staring at the sales results, muttering “open, open, open,” is not the way to a Zen writing life. That way lies madness. And possibly mild radiation poisoning.
Truly I say unto thee … writing your next book is the best marketing you can do for your current book.
Of course, if you always intended to have only the one book available, then there are no real worries here. You don’t have to have a second book, or a third, or a forth, if having multiple books isn’t part of your strategy or your goals. However, it’s still neither healthy nor productive to obsess over your sales.
It’s a terrible part of your book launch breakfast. It does nothing but put strain and stress in your life.
Set a recurring reminder on your calendar app of choice and come back once every few days to see how sales are doing. Any changes you make to your marketing strategy will likely take a few days to have an impact anyway, and you don’t want to risk making changes based on data that’s out of date.
Marketing strategies, like most things, take some patience and time. Try something, wait for the results, adjust, try again. Repeat. It is the way.
Don’t cause yourself a lot of undue stress by watching your sales figures at the pixel level.
That’s the worst of it.
There are a lot of ways you could go wrong with a book launch, and we’ve only covered five that tend to be the most common. You can actually get a lot of benefit out of shoring up against these five no-goods.
In Part 2 of this post, we’ll take a look at one strategy for a good book launch, including some of the best and worst times to release your book. Stay tuned, because you’re going to find that post very handy.