Book Launch Best Practices

Posted by: Kevin Tumlinson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

The Worst and Best Ways to Launch Your Book – Part 2 

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the top five worst ways to handle your book launch. We just can’t leave this on a negative note, though. It would be wrong. So, in this post we’re diving into one possible strategy for doing your book launch right.

Just something to keep in mind: This is just one way to do this, not the way to do this. There are a lot of techniques for launching your book successfully, and you have to find the one that works best for you. This post outlines some general (and occasionally specific) tips and best practices for getting the most out of your launch, so they should serve as a good place to start.

Let’s get to it.

The Secret is Planning

Honestly, this isn’t much of a secret.

It’s the kind of secret that nobody ever wanted to keep to themselves, because even when you tell someone “my secret to success is that I make a good plan,” they don’t really believe you anyway. They will continue to pepper with questions, to find out if you used a WordPress plugin that makes readers love your book, or if you bought a magic taco that helps spread the good word.

Tell no one of the taco.

There are certain things to consider in planning your book launch, and spending time on these things will only help you in your quest for literary world dominance.

Marketing starts before you’ve even put a word on the page.

For a certain segment of the population, even just the word “marketing” induces chills, fever, lethargy, perhaps screaming and running with hands flung wildly in the air. Marketing can be intimidating and scary. But only if you’re locked into thinking of marketing in terms of spreadsheets, ad buys, data mining, and maybe a killer robot or two.

The reality of marketing, and the thing that takes some of the stress and fear out of it, is that it can be boiled down to the simplest of ideas:

Marketing is the art and science of increasing the odds that a reader will discover, buy and read your book.

I had to throw “art and science” in there, because there are aspects of marketing that range from showmanship and theatrics all the way to statistics and demographic research. It can be a wide berth, but that makes it easy to park.

And that’s good news, because it means that regardless of whether you are a data nerd or a social butterfly, or maybe some glowing hybrid creature of myth and legend, there’s a marketing strategy that fits your needs and your style.

There are two relatively easy ideas to keep in mind, when it comes to marketing your books:

#1 Your best marketing tool is to write the next book. Opinions on this vary, but we’ve seen the numbers. Authors who have a larg backlist of books tend to have an easier time with sales. Not only do readers have a book to click through to, after they finish the first, the chances that someone will stumble upon your work go up exponentially when you have more “points of contact.”

The more books you have, the more likely someone will discover you.

#2 Your marketing needs to be something you can do consistently. It does no one any good if you come up with a brilliant way to get attention for your books, but you can only swing doing it “every now and then.”

For example, if you find that making YouTube videos has a dramatic impact on your book sales, that’s fantastic. If you find that making those videos takes months of prep time and research, not to mention hours of time, it may not be the best marketing tool for you.

The best marketing tools are those you can do consistently, with as little effort as possible.

The consistency part is the most important, in that equation. Focus on finding something you can come back to, maybe even something you find fun to do, even if it only moves the needle in tiny increments. Those tiny increments can add up. Over time, you can fill a bucket or an ocean, drop by drop.

Acquire Your Target

Who is your target audience? Who will love your books the most? Enough to buy them, every time you release one?

More importantly, where do people in your target audience buy their groceries? What kind of deodorant do they prefer? Where do they hang out to unwind? Boxers or briefs?

You may not need all of those details, but you should definitely do all you can to define your target audience as specifically as possible. You want to know them as well as you’d know your own kids.

You want to know where they hang out online, because that will be a good place to post advertising to reach them.

You want to know what kind of movies they watch, because you can target people who love those films with any ads you place.

You want to know how much they spend on books each month, because you can use that information to determine your cover price.

Know your reader. Create little dossiers on the ideal reader. Make it your hobby to learn as much about them, and what they want in a good book, as you possibly can. And write the book they most want to read.

We call this writing to market, and though the phrase sometimes gets used like a swear word, it’s really the smart way to approach your writing career. It means writing the book you most want to write, but finding the market that will most love to read it before you start. Then you can write the book in a way that will meet the expectations of that market. No selling out required, no “writing to a fad.” Just you, making something you love and that your ideal reader will love and buy.

How to Use Preorders

Preorders have always been a popular tool, particularly for traditionally published authors. If you’re Stephen King or Lee Child and your publisher announces that a new book will release a year from today, it can generate some buzz. Anticipation builds the closer you get to release date. And without even having a book available, the publishers know what’s going to be hot, and what’s going to be a dud.

It works a little different for the indie author.

The problem is, for most indie authors … and how can I put this delicately?

No one has heard of you.

So, announcing on Twitter that you have a preorder available probably isn’t going to generate much of a wave. You may not see a record number of sales or have anyone chattering about your release on their blogs or podcasts or social media posts.

However, if you’ve spent time building a platform of your own, a mailing list of readers and a bevy of social media followers as a start, then a preorder can be a big benefit for your release.

Some things you’ll want to know about preorders:

The idea is to build some buzz. Particularly on Amazon. A preorder, aimed at your loyal readers, can result in a stream of sales prior to release day. Amazon pays attention to these as much as they do sales on launch day and beyond, and if you get enough of them flowing you can watch the sales rank of your book climb. If you maintain that long enough, eventually Amazon’s algorithm will kick in on your behalf, promoting your book to readers with similar tastes as those who are preordering your book.

The payoff comes when the book finally releases, and the sales are recorded. You’ll see a nice spike in sales that day, which can help get the book even more attention. Kind of gives the ol’ ego an assist as well.

If you can combine your release date with some form of promotion and extend the momentum to a week or so after launch day, the benefits continue to go up even higher. More sales, more discoverability, more money.

Average preorder length is 111 days. Median length is 28 days. So where should yours fall?

Aim for 28 days. Scheduling your preorder about a month out is plenty of time for most authors. If you happen to be very well known and have a strong following along the lines of a Lee Child or a Dan Brown, you can get away with a longer gap between your preorder announcement and your launch date. But for most of us, 28 days is plenty of time, particularly if we’ve prepared the rest of our marketing plan in advance.

Set your price lower for the duration of the preorder and keep it there for a couple of weeks after. This is different advice than you’ll likely get elsewhere. Common wisdom has been to lower your price—maybe set it at $1.99 for a $4.99 book—during the pre-order phase, and then spike it up to full price the day after the launch. If you want to take advantage of all those magical algorithms, however, as well as the momentum you’ve built up from early sales, then keeping your price low for at least a couple of weeks after launch will help tremendously.

Some Handy Book Launch Facts

Your book launch isn’t all about preorders, of course. There are other considerations: Timing; The best marketplaces for distribution; Pricing best practices.

In fact, let’s start there.

Pricing Best Practices.

First, we should start with saying there is no one single, best price for your books. Each genre is a little different. Each country behaves a little different. There are a lot of factors that can influence this. That’s why this section is called “best practices” instead of “rock-solid rules.”

The best way to look at this may be by genre, so here’s how pricing tends to break down, based on data we’ve gathered over the past five years:

Romance – Most popular price: $3.99. Second most: 2.99.

Mystery — $4.99 / $0.99

Thriller — $0.99 / $3.99

Fantasy — $0.99 / $3.99

Sci-fi —$0.99 / $4.99

YA —$3.99 / 0.99

Like I said, those are “best practice” prices. Your mileage may vary. There are no hard and fast rules on what works for pricing, and there are plenty of examples of successful books coming in at vastly different ranges than those above. So your best bet is to observe the marketplace, see what’s selling, determine what’s similar to your own work in terms of audience, and price according to the average.

Remember, the more popular your work becomes, the more you can eventually ask for it (to a point). People happily pay $14.99 for the latest Stephen King book but might not touch yours if the price is above $4.99. That isn’t a judgement on quality or professionalism or anything at all, beyond your level of public awareness. Make it your goal to become known for producing great books that people can’t put down, and soon enough you can charge almost anything you like.

Timing is everything

So what’s the very best day of the week to release your book?

Well, that would be Sunday.

And what are the worse days?

Thursday, and its much prettier sibling, Friday.

Surprising? We thought so too. Honestly, I always operated under the assumption that Fridays were the best days for a release, because people were going into a weekend, and might want something to read. Sunday may take the top spot for a variety of reasons—maybe readers are finishing up books they already own, over the weekend, and need something new to start for the next week.

Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

It may only be an anomaly as well, because ultimately we’re really talking about percentages by degrees here:

  • 16% Sunday
  • 15% Monday
  • 15% Tuesday
  • 14% Wednesday
  • 13% Thursday
  • 13% Friday
  • 14% Saturday

You can see that even though there are some clear winners and losers here, the difference is usually just a percentage point away. Although that 13% on a Friday feels like some bad ju-ju, if you ask me.

Again, the thing to remember is that marketing is about improving your odds. So if you have a 3% better shot of your book getting a good launch on a Sunday instead of a Friday, why not stack things in your favor? Schedule your release for a Sunday night and relax a little, knowing you applied at least that much strategic thinking.

So what’s the best time of year to do a launch?

Well, December and January, of course. Or maybe that isn’t “of course” sort of information. But we know from our own data that book sales tend to go up around that time of year.

Why? It could be Christmas … that’s an obvious one.

My own personal theory, though, is that it’s New Year’s.

People equate reading with improving their lives (I agree), and as one year closes and a new one begins, it’s a good time to try to foster more reading in our lives. Pick up a book about investing in stocks, or read something smart and fun, or get to one of those classics you skipped in high school. Reading is a good way to start a new year.

Of course, if may also be that more people have some time off during the Christmas and New Year breaks and are looking for something to relax with. This is all one-part magic anyway, folks.

So what’s the worst time of year for a book launch?

September.

Because, September.

I mean, school is starting up, lives are getting busy, the weather is kind of blah, and people are thinking more about the upcoming holiday rush than any leisure time they may have. Most people just want to muddle through to the weekend enough times for the weekend to become Christmas break.

The reality is we may never know the “why” of these things. Not without putting in some intensive and pricey research. We do know that these are the trends. We can experiment to find the dates that work best for us, but we at least have a starting point.

We even have a basic sketch of a release strategy:

If you’re planning your release and your book is finished and ready to go around August, it might be worth waiting until November to set up a preorder to release your book on a Sunday in December. You can spend the months in between on your editing and cover design, getting those perfect.

Can’t hurt.

You do you.

In the book launch game, in marketing, in the whole world of publishing, there’s really one rule to rule them all:

Do what works best for you.

No one, not even we Draft2Digital geniuses, can tell you the one true way to do any of this. We don’t even know what that one-true way might be. We don’t know everything. Despite the rumors.

When it comes down to it, you’ll need to test and experiment and learn and grow, and ultimately do the things that get you the best results, consistently and with as little investment on your part as possible.

Don’t worry, though. You’re not alone. We’re here to help. It’s kind of what we do.

Good luck, and we wish you the very best of book launches. Go on the bestseller success! Tell ‘em we sent ya.

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