This is Part 2 of the Launch Strategies chapter from my upcoming book, Don’t Sell Your Book! If you missed Part 1, you can find it here: Part1
Free with Shipping and Handling Launch
The second launch method we’re going to talk about is free with shipping and handling.
For this strategy, you’re going to use a hard copy (hard or soft cover) of the book. You offer a free print copy of your book and the buyer just has to pay the shipping and handling fee. Before you panic, that fee usually covers part, if not all, of the printing and shipping fees.
Why does this strategy work so well? People end up with a tangible product in their hands. A print book has more value than an eBook, even if the information is exactly the same. The investment the prospective reader makes is often less than the price of some eBooks, and not more than the price of many eBooks. On the author’s side, a free with shipping and handling offer gives you a lot more information than you would get from online sales through a platform like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and even more than a simple opt in on your site. People will give you their full name (as opposed to a first name on the opt in box), full mailing address, phone number, and email address. While most of us love the ease of email marketing, having prospects’ addresses allows you to send direct mail offers to them. Most of your competitors won’t have this information. This gives you a unique marketing opportunity and competitive advantage.
To do this strategy, you need to have print copies of your book. You can buy books at your author rate and mail them out yourself or put them with a drop-shipping/fulfillment center. It is definitely less expensive to mail them out yourself. Typically, you can buy a 180 page book for about $3 per copy through most Print On Demand platforms. The fee to ship to you depends on how many you order, but you can easily calculate the cost of shipping per book.
Your next cost is in packaging and shipping the books out. If it costs me about $5 to print and have a book shipped to my house (sorry—Amazon Prime doesn’t work on author copies), I then have to put the book into an envelope, address and mail it. You can use media mail to save a bit on costs. It will probably run you between $8 to $10 per book. If you charge $6.95 shipping and handling (which is pretty typical), you are paying anywhere from about $1.50 to $3.50 per lead. (There are merchant fees in there, too.)
So if a book is priced at $16 or $20 on Amazon and someone can get it for $6 or even $8 shipping and handling, that’s a great deal for them. Building my list of book buyers for $2 – $4 per lead is not an outrageous cost. For some people, it’s a darn cheap lead. But it depends on your back end offer, the price of that offer, and how well your offer converts.
This is a strategy that Russell Brunson uses for a lot of his products. He’ll write an entire book outlining a process and he will spend two-thirds of the book telling you exactly how to do something. In the last third of the book he talks about whatever software he’s launching or whatever product he is launching. The pitch is simple and obvious. “Yes, I’ve just told you exactly how to do this on your own, but as you can see, it’s a lot of work and requires some technical expertise which you could probably learn if you have enough time and weren’t busy running your business. But… I have this reasonably priced product that does it all for you at the touch of a button. We’ve done all the hard work for you.”
If someone is interested in a subject, they may not be willing to commit $100 per month—at first. They want more information. Russell gives them that: Here’s a book chock-full of the information you’re looking for. The book prepares the reader by giving them all the information they need to make a decision as to whether or not they should buy the product.
This is the model Russell uses to launch his products and it is genius. Each book serves several purposes:
Know, Like, and Trust Factor. The book clearly demonstrates his expertise. You’re thinking he’s a great guy because he is sharing the information you need. His books are well written. They are jammed with useful content. By the time you get to his sales pitch, he has gained your trust and you like him. You are confident that he knows what he is talking about. (He does.)
Builds His List. He has done at least three of the free with shipping and handling launches that I know of. At this point he has a list that has got to be hundreds of thousands of people. When he has a new product coming out, he offers his book to his mailing list. He posts on social media, puts out YouTube videos, joint ventures with his friends who send out emails about his book, and does webinars.
Educates His Buyer. Because Russell sells software (and coaching and God knows what else), he wants his customer to be able to use the product. If someone can’t use the software, they aren’t going to keep paying him every month. They will abandon it. When someone buys his software, they understand how the software works, what it does and doesn’t do (so there are no false expectations), and they know what they need to do to set it up (or where to hire someone to do that). More important, they know whether or not the product is right for them. This creates a great customer/product fit which ensures customer satisfaction.
It’s a very soft pitch. He says, “Hey, you can get my new book for just shipping and handling. It’s $6.99.” And people buy it because he has great information. That new book gets him new leads. People buy the book; they sometimes buy his software, probably more often than not. If they don’t buy right away, Russell just keeps sending them great content and makes offers on a regular basis.
This model requires that you have some money to market with. It’s not the cheapest way to launch a product, but it’s highly effective. It’s a great business model because of the way the books qualify and educate his customers.
The James Altucher Choose Yourself Model
This strategy requires that you have a reserve of money to carry costs for 90 days. James Altucher wrote a book called Choose Yourself and he said (essentially) “I want everyone to read this book. I feel so strongly about this that if you buy and read my book, forward your receipt to me, and I’ll refund whatever you paid for it or if you want, I’ll donate it to charity.”
This is a great list building strategy because of course, the person’s name and email is captured when they forward their receipt to James. It also creates a lot of buzz around the book. He is basically offering his book for free, but the sales are still counting towards bestseller ranking on Amazon and other platforms. How much did it cost him? I’m going to show you the math in just a page or two.
James Altucher was best known as a finance guy. He ran hedge funds and had a successful financial newsletter. But he also had the incredible knack of blowing all his money and building a company up only to lose it all. He started blogging about that, about how depressed he was, what his latest screw ups were. Misery must love company because he gained a large following. In fact, at one time, if you Googled the word “suicide” his name would come up.
James wrote a self-help book called Choose Yourself and sold over half a million copies. It was a Wall Street Journal bestselling book. He had a platform when he started. When I say he had a platform, I mean that he had people who followed him. He had a reputation in the financial field. He’d been doing essays, he’d been on TV shows. He’s probably best known for being suicidal, but he has a following. He’s got a huge Twitter following. He’s got a huge Facebook following. He’s got a lot of blog followers. When he wrote Choose Yourself he already had a strong audience. What he didn’t have was emails for all those people. Some, yes. But only a fraction of the people that followed him on social media or read his blog posts.
And of course, he wanted to get more followers as well as have a legitimate bestselling book. He hired a marketing team because he had the money to hire a marketing team. But he also wanted people to actually read the book. So he said, “If you buy my book, send me the receipt and then take a picture of yourself with the book or comment or review to show that you’ve read the book.” That sentence is actually at the very beginning of the book. The caveat was that you had to forward the receipt to him within three months of the original publishing date. He needed the receipt because there was an eBook, print, and audio versions and each was priced differently. He said he would reimburse people for the amount of the book or donate it to a charity if they wanted him to do that.
Let’s think about this. If somebody bought his book for $4.99 on Kindle and he reimbursed them that $4.99, how much was he paying per lead? You’d think, Well, he’s paying $5 a lead. Well, no he’s not. Because on Kindle at $4.99 he’s making a 70% royalty. He’s making somewhere between $2.75 and $3 per book sold, so each lead is costing him about $2.00. If everybody who bought the book said, “I’d like to get reimbursed,” and he reimbursed, it would have cost him $2.00 per lead. The print version of the book probably cost him a bit more per lead. But he was getting royalties that would help offset the reimbursement costs.
However, a lot of people wrote him and said, “James, I love this book. I don’t need a reimbursement. This book is so great. I appreciate it.” He got people to try his book with no financial risk. It’s the puppy dog close: Just take him home and see if you like him. People liked it and enough people liked it so that even though there were plenty of people who wanted a reimbursement, because sometimes people just do, there were plenty who didn’t and he probably broke even on that promotion. His main problem would be floating enough money to reimburse people while waiting the 90 days for the Amazon royalties to come in. (Or maybe that wasn’t a problem for him.)
Now, he didn’t keep the book on that promotion forever. He just did that for the three months after the initial publish date. But, there were enough sales to make his book a Wall Street Journal bestseller. It had buzz. It caught on fire. It was up on the top 10 rankings of all the books on Amazon, so he had enough momentum to get to the top of the rankings to become a bestseller and that helps sell more books. And it kept selling after the three month reimbursement period because of that buzz. A book that sells like that usually attracts the attention of a publishing house and eventually gets distribution in brick and mortar stores.
The book helped him rebrand himself. He was known as a financial guy. Prior to the book, most people knew him just as the financial newsletter guy or the hedge fund guy. Choose Yourself launched him in the self-development field and he moved into an entirely different market in a big way.
A Note on Pre-Sales
You can sell copies of your book, print or electronic, before you publish. Let me explain the strategy behind pre-sales first.
Pre-sales of hard copy and electronic books can help you hit the big bestseller lists like the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, and USA Today lists. The strategy is that all the pre-sales get counted on the day the book actually goes on sale and that big pop of sales for the first week can get you on one or more of the bestseller lists. This is a great strategy if you know you can get thousands of sales. There’s an entire formula to get onto the USA Today bestseller list (which will usually bring you to the attention of the Wall Street Journal). You need to sell upwards of 6,000 – 10,000 books to hit the list, depending on what other books are doing that week. USA Today counts pre-sales from Barnes & Noble and other online sites as well as print sales.
The New York Times bestseller algorithm is as closely guarded as the formula for Coca-Cola or Kentucky Fried Chicken, but it is based off sales from brick and mortar book stores. You can game the system to make the NYT list, but you are almost always caught and then you look like a loser. It will cost you in the neighborhood of six figures to promote your book to the NYT list. As of this writing, the New York Times does not count Amazon sales in its algorithm when calculating bestselling books.
And, it used to be that you could use pre-sales to create a large sales “pop” on Amazon and shoot to the top of their bestseller list on your launch day. Amazon no longer counts all the pre-sales on one day; they are counted as they come in. The pre-sales can help position your book to a higher ranking when you do launch, but you no longer get the big push. In that regard, there’s no point in doing Amazon pre-sales as a ranking strategy.
The caveat to pre-sales is that you have a 90 day window to launch. If you put your book up for pre-sales and then realize you won’t make the deadline, you can have a one-time, 30 day extension. That extension is for your whole catalog, not the one book, so use it wisely. If you fail to launch, Amazon will not allow you to do a pre-sale again for a year. You can cancel your release of the book by unpublishing the book but again, you won’t be able to use the pre-sale option for a year.
If you’re going to make your book available for pre-sale, don’t put it on Amazon. Use Barnes & Noble and other online markets. Amazon will account for 80% of your overall sales over time, but you don’t want it to undermine your pre-sale strategy.
Offering bonuses during your launch adds value for your readers/buyers as well as gives them a reason to buy during the launch window. Someone who thinks, “I’ll buy that in a week or so” or “I’ll get to it eventually” will be more likely to buy now if there is a time-sensitive bonus that appeals to them.
The bonus is also a great way to build your mailing list. Because the bonus is almost always downloadable, you can put the bonuses behind an opt-in form or landing page.
What should you offer? It should obviously tie in with the subject matter of your book.
Some of the bonuses that nonfiction authors have used:
- A special training or webinar just for book buyers
- Short eBooks or special reports that add to the content or subject matter of the book
- Video or audio interviews with expert(s) in your niche
- Downloadable spreadsheets or mindmaps
- Companion workbook or journal
- Contributed bonuses from others in the industry, usually eBooks or trainings
Special Launch Bundles
Fiction book authors have got this down and nonfiction/business authors would do well to follow suit. You can offer a special package that includes your book along with peripheral materials at a special launch price.
Whatever your bonus, the offer should only last through the launch period, for whatever amount of time you have determined. That gives people the incentive to buy sooner rather than later which helps your sale rankings. Even better, it helps build your mailing list.
Have you missed the earlier chapters? Start here.