Many people write a book without ever thinking about how they are going to handle the book launch and/or market the book. I did that with my first “real” book. (It was very sad. Trust me.) I was fortunate that I didn’t publish until the world of self-publishing entered the print on demand phase, or I would have been, like many earlier authors, hiding cartons of unsold books in my house.
So, while we’re not out thousands of dollars in printing costs, I don’t know too many people who write a book to see it go unsold. It’s disappointing to put in the time and hard work necessary to write a book and then not have it sell. At all.
I was talking with Susan Friedmann of Aviva Publishing and host of the podcast Book Marketing Mentors and she said the average book sells fewer than 250 copies in its lifetime.
A large part of exploding past that dismal lifetime statistic is creating a ton of sales when you launch. While you can make the Amazon best seller list with fewer than 20 sales (and sometime fewer than 10) that’s really NOT what you’re after. You want to make enough sales so you can get a few reviews up on Amazon and to be noticed by the Amazon algorithm.
The Free or $0.99 Launch
That’s why people offer free and discounted downloads of their books when they launch. So, let’s start with that launch strategy. You may not want to do it with your book, but you should know the why and how behind the strategy before you dismiss it.
Why would you give away your book? The idea is to get your book into as many people’s hands as possible. If you’re using a book as a lead generator, this makes perfect sense. It also increases your download volume on Amazon. Amazon actually has a bestseller list for free books (yes, I understand the irony) and having your book on that list encourages those people who like “free” to click and download your book, too. If you have put links to your website or a sales page in your book, then you are getting what you want—people reading your lead gen book who might click through to your site.
For discounted books ($0.99 for example), that whopping low price is often enough encouragement to get people to buy—even more so if that price is for a limited time only. So, if you do a special launch discount for three days only, you have built-in urgency. Buy the book now or pay more in a few days. Don’t miss out! People will click to download the book, but they may or may not read the book. (Think about how many books are sitting unread on your reader right now.) If your goal is to get people to read the book in order to click through to your site to buy something, it may never actually get read.
But, if your goal is to jump start your sales, have a large number of downloads right off the bat, get onto the bestseller lists in a category or two, and have enough readers that you will pull some reviews off your launch, then discounted is not a bad way to go. In fact, it’s pretty darn good.
With enough downloads, even at $0.99, Amazon notices the activity and will put your book on the front page of the category. Your book will come up higher in a keyword search and you may even be lucky enough to have your book featured in an Amazon email (or two) which is the Holy Grail for authors. Being featured in an email will just about guarantee hundreds if not thousands of sales, depending on the subject matter.
To do a free giveaway of your book, you need to enroll your book in the KDP Select program. You can offer the book for free for up to 5 days every 90 days (so, four times a year). You click to enroll the book in KDP Select and then you click to create a free promotion. (KDP is menu driven and fairly easy to use.) Enter the start and end dates of the promotion, choose your price, including free, and save your choices.
You might also want to make it a Kindle Countdown Deal (there’s a drop down menu). If your book is normally priced above $2.00 and you’re offering it for less, you can preserve your 70% royalty payout. (Amazon pays 70% royalty on Kindle books priced from $2.99 to $9.99, which is their pricing sweet spot. Anything more or less goes down to a 30% royalty.) If you’re giving your book away for free, it doesn’t matter if it’s 70% or 30%. Any percentage of nothing is nothing. Enrolling in Kindle Countdown gets you on certain dedicated pages specifically for these deals and you may even be featured in the Daily Deals.
Side Note: If you want to have your book permanently free on Amazon, you need to put it permanently free somewhere else on the internet, and then notify Amazon that your book is free on such and such site and ask for a price match.
Get the Word Out About Your Book Launch
Just putting your book on Amazon for free or cheap will not sell your book. (Sorry.) You then need to get the word out about the great deal and let people know it’s only a great deal for a limited time. (I’m a fan of the three day promotion, but then, I haven’t tried a five day. Anyone who has, please let us know about how it worked out in the comments below.)
If you are planning to have friends or JV partners announce your great deal, you will need to coordinate with them ahead of time so they can hit the ground running on the first promo day and keep the emails going for the length of the promotion. Give them enough emails to send out for the full promotional period. (Yes, that means you write a series of emails and give them to your JV partners and friends. Make it easy for them to help you.)
Be ready to post your deal all over social media, in groups you run and groups you belong to. Also, ask people to share your posts. Not everyone will, but a whole lot more people will share a post when you ask them to. Sometimes people just don’t *think* to share a post. Don’t forget to do some Facebook lives to announce the great deal on your book.
If you can guest post on someone’s blog and have that post come out in time for your promotion, then do that. The same goes for setting up speaking gigs, either virtual or live. Radio or local TV talk shows, local media, podcasts—anything you can be on that will run during the promotion, time it out to coincide with your promotion dates.
When the Book Launch Promotion is Over
When your promotion time is over, you put the book back up to its real price. The idea is that your book now has enough downloads to be up in the Amazon rankings and more people will see it and buy it, even at the higher price.
Does that work? Why yes, it does. Otherwise I wouldn’t have spent the last 1,200 words telling you about this launch method. The free or low-priced book launch helps your book overcome inertia. A body in motion tends to stay in motion (unless acted upon) and the greater number of downloads at the beginning of a book’s life time, the greater the number of sales overall. Once a book has achieved a tipping point of sales, it stays nearer the top than books that didn’t get that initial push. Once you’ve cleared the 250 to 300 book hurdle, you’ve pretty much outsold most of your competition.
Ongoing marketing will keep your book visible. But that’s a post for another day.
Have you written (or are you currently writing) a book and don’t have a marketing plan? I can help. Contact me for a free laser market analysis session: Barbara@BarbaraGrassey.com Put Market Analysis in the subject line.