The pre-launch work for your book can be daunting. The devil is in the details and the more you can prep upfront, the more successful your launch will be. If you haven’t read Part 1 of Pre-Launch, you can find it here: Before You Launch.
Depending on your resources, your launch may take more elbow grease than money. If you have unlimited funds, then by all means, hire a top level marketing firm, spend the several hundred thousand dollars to become a New York Times bestseller, and go be happy. For the rest of us, it’s time to roll up our sleeves.
You want to start marketing your book as early as possible. You can get good traction with a combination of special pricing and promotional sites (discussed in the Launch chapter), but to have a powerful, successful launch, a street team—a cadre of family, friends, and business associates—who are willing to help you get the word out about your book, is a no cost strategy that can work incredibly well.
Assemble Your “Street Team”
While you can do all the technical work necessary to publish your book, it helps to have a team to actually launch it. For those with money to burn, you can hire people to do this, the equation being the same as with most things: The more money you pay, the less actual work you should have to do. Please know that even if you have a sweet deal with a Big Six publisher, you will be expected to do some marketing. The difference is that they will set up a lot of the systems for you.
For those of us who are publishing independently, one of the systems we need to set up is our street team—those wonderful people who will help you get the word out about your book. I divide my street teams into two tiers: Tier One are the people who have mailing lists and social media clout. Tier Two are the folks I call “civilians”—they aren’t online marketers, but they are willing to not only buy your book, but share the news about your book to their friends and on their social media.
I tell my clients to make a list of 100 people that they think will help them get the word out about the book. About a month before your book launches, email each person individually, tell them you have a book coming out and ask them if they would be willing to help you get the word out. Reassure them that it will take little time and effort on their part; you will supply them with emails and social media posts to share. Then thank them in advance. Make it easy for them to say yes. Tell them, “I know you’re busy. If you’re willing to help out, just hit reply to this email with a yes in the subject line.” If you know the people well, you can say, “Just let me know one way or the other. Thanks in advance.”
Some will. Some won’t. Don’t worry about the ones who don’t. Appreciate the ones who will. Send them a follow-up thank you email and let them know the date and the process involved. In two weeks, send a reminder email. I like to do a cover sneak peek in this email, which helps generate a bit of excitement (no one is going to be as excited as you are, except maybe your mom).
You are going to prepare seven to ten emails to send to your own list about your book coming out. Take three to five of these and change them a bit to reflect that they are coming from someone else. I prep an email to go out a week before the launch—a sort of save-the-date, heads up email announcing the book is coming out. I’ll send the third person version of that to my street team the day before I want them to send it. That way they don’t have to go hunting for it.
I’ll send a reminder email two days before launch letting people know I am going to send them the emails for the send out. The day before, I will send the emails with the days they should be released. I ask people to send on launch day, the day after launch while the promotion is still going on, and then on the last day of the launch (for a three-day launch). Most will only send out on launch day, or launch day and end day. That’s okay. It is all appreciated. I will send a reminder email to people on the days I’d like them to email their lists, and again, I will include the email I want them to send so they don’t have to go hunting for it.
Some people like to get all the emails ahead of time, load them into their autoresponder platform, set it and forget it. That’s terrific. Easy for them and the emails actually get sent out.
I will also send a few social media memes for people to post and share. Some people won’t bother to post them. I always say, “Hey, if you don’t want to bother uploading these, if you see one on social media, will you click the share button?” It’s such a simple thing to click share, but if you don’t ask people to, they won’t think to do it.
On that topic…
Creating Social Media Posts
You want to prep eight to ten social media posts to use during your pre-launch, launch, and for continued marketing. You can hire this out fairly cheaply or do it yourself using programs like Canva, Crello, PicMonkey, even the much-ridiculed Paint or, yes… PowerPoint.
Think about how people use social media. Some check their notifications and click on those first. Some skim down their feed first. But everybody eventually scrolls down and the goal of your post is to catch their eye and get them to stop scrolling long enough to see your post and (hopefully) click on your link.
Think about your audience. What do they want to know? What do they need from you? These are questions you should have asked yourself when you started to write your book so the answers should come easily to you. Remember the adage, “People buy what they want and justify it as a need.” So what do the people who will read your book want to know? That’s what you use to tease people into clicking your link. Come up with five or more points that you are confident your future readers want to know about.
Next, find images that will stand out in a social media feed that are relevant to your points. Where do you find these images? If you’re using Canva, Crello, PicMonkey or any similar graphics programs, there is a library of images available through them. You can also use the royalty-free image sites such as FreeImages.com, Pexels.com, Pixabay.com, or Unsplash.com (which has some very cool, out of the ordinary images). If you can’t find anything you like there (doubtful—there are millions of images), then go to a paid site like iStock.com or ShutterStock.com. They have images that are more tuned into specifics and in some instances, are a better quality.
Pull out a quote from your book, a truism, ask a question. You can overlay the text on the image and you should always add your brand to the image so that when it’s shared, your name, company name, and/or website is included. Write a short line for the post that entices people to click the link to your book. Add the link. Most people link to Amazon, even if their books are available on other platforms. Why? Because most people buy books on Amazon. They have an account already set up, they have Prime; they have one-click shopping. You want to make the buying process as easy and seamless as possible. Eighty percent of your sales will come from Amazon. Leverage their omnipresence.
If you use a graphics program like Canva, PicMonkey, or Crello, you can correctly size the images for various platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc. If you don’t want to go to the trouble (and more important, if you don’t want to confuse people or overload them), choose the platform you know that most of your people use. I use the same size images for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I don’t do Instagram; my people aren’t there. If that’s your main platform, then size the images for that.
Speaking of social media, you probably are already in social media groups that are interested in your book topic. If you’re not, you should be. Do a search for groups and join the groups that have a combination of a large amount of members and activity. Read the group rules about posting self-promotional content. Most groups don’t allow spam, but they usually have one or two days a week that you can advertise your services or share your writing. If you see a group that is all promotional posts, you might as well join and post there, but to be honest, I suspect most of the people in these groups drop their promotional post and never read any of the others.
Choose three or four images for your Tier One Street team to use. Make sure you give them the post copy to go with the image, including the link. Again, make it easy for them. Change “my book” to “my friend’s book” or “my colleague’s book” so all your team needs to do is copy and paste.
You can also use blurbs or lines from reviews in your social media posts. These are incredibly powerful because they are basically recommendations from a third party, not you. You should ask for blurbs from your advance readers and, when reviews start coming in, see if you can pull out short (one or two lines) quotes to use in your marketing. How do you get blurbs (endorsements) and reviews?
You gotta ask.
Asking for “Blurbs” and Reviews
Another way of saying that is, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”
And this is where fear kicks in. It will show up as “I don’t want to impose on people” or “I don’t know anyone who writes blurbs or reviews.” The real fear is that people you know and respect won’t like your book. Maybe they won’t. That would probably be good to know before you publish. But in all probability, they will be kind, tactful, and may very well finally convince you that “Yes, your book really is wonderful and helpful and well-written.”
So, take a deep breath, stuff those fears back down your throat, and do it anyway.
How DO You Get Blurbs?
What’s a blurb? Blurbs are those wonderful and pithy quotes from people saying nice things about your book. You can pull a blurb out of a review – pick a great line and attribute it to the reviewer. But what you’re really looking for is an endorsement of your book from someone with influence.
Optimally, you would like to get those short quotes or endorsements ahead of your launch day so you can include them on one of the front pages of your book, a few for the back of your cover, in your book description, and in any marketing you do.
You want to reach out to people you know in your field or industry, people with a following, people who are respected in your field or an adjacent field. Someone who has written a book (or more than one) is a good person to ask.
Make it easy for the person to say yes. Offer to send a copy of the book in their preferred format (most will take a Word or PDF document), tell them how long it is (they can gauge how long it will take to read the book and write the blurb), and give them the date you need the endorsement by.
Quick Note: NEVER offer to write the blurb for them. If they say, “Just write something and I’ll sign it,” simply say, “Ethically, I’m not allowed to do that.” It will come back to bite you in the butt.
With luck, the people you ask will actually read your book, but people who are asked for endorsements on a regular basis, will usually skim. That’s okay, as long as their endorsement makes sense and doesn’t obviously negate anything in the book.
Not to sound like your mom, but remember to thank people for their endorsements. When the book is close to your launch date, you can thank them publicly and individually on social media. It’s nice to mention anything they have that they sell—a book a course, their blog, whatever. It might look like, “Joe Ferrari, author of the fascinating book, Mind Hacks of the Fast and Thorough was kind enough to say this about my new book: [Insert fabulous blurb here].” You also want to send them a written thank you note and perhaps even a small gift.
Reaching Out to Someone You Don’t Know
This REALLY comes under the heading “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Is there someone you admire and have followed who would absolutely make your year if they would endorse your book? Ask them. Let them know your connection—you’ve followed their career, loved their latest book, whatever. Tell them (briefly) about your book and ask them if they would read it and give you an endorsement. Respect their time—which gives them a graceful out (always give people a graceful out), and also mention the deadline you are working under.
Some will. Some won’t. Some big names (usually speaker/guru types) actually charge for blurbs and it’s a matter of paying the fee. But you may be amazed by some of the big names who will respond. And that says a lot about them in a very good way.
Advance Review Copies (ARCs)
Four and five star reviews of your book will have a direct effect on your sales. (So will one and two star reviews, unfortunately.) You want to line up as many friendly reviewers as you can to post a review of your book on launch day, or within a few days of launch. Your goal is a minimum of 20 reviews.
Four to six weeks before your launch date, contact people to ask if they would review your book. You want to ask people who are, first of all, fans of your work. If you have an email list and a following, it is very simple to send out a broadcast email asking people if they will leave an unbiased review on launch day in exchange for a free (electronic), advance copy of your new book.
You also should contact people in your industry (but not competitors), who you can count on to post a positive review. If you have “name” contacts, people who are known in the business world, or in your particular niche, you should also ask them to review your book. You can email or call—either way make sure it is a personal request.
Two weeks (maybe three weeks if your book is long) before you launch, you want to send Advance Review Copies to people who have volunteered to read and review. Remind them of the launch date and reiterate how important it is to have the reviews posted on (not before) the launch date or within a few days thereof.
On launch day, send an email to remind them to post a copy of their review. Tell them to mention that they received an Advance Review Copy in return for an unbiased review. In that email, put a link directly to the review page for your book. Don’t make people work to find it. Again, make this as easy and frictionless as possible.
Buy an Author Copy for Your Review
In fact, buy several author copies: one for you, one for a friend or two with sharp eyes. You want to read through the print copy of your book and look for anything that is off. Sometimes there is one word or one line hanging at the top of a page, all by its lonesome. For some reason, typos jump out at you from the printed page much more readily than from the screen. You can see if you missed justifying a right margin somewhere or if a chapter doesn’t start lower on the page or if the first paragraph of a chapter is indented when it shouldn’t be and all those little things that we might have missed.
And you will still miss something. It’s the nature of the beast. Just about every book has a typo or three in them, even the ones put out by the Big Six publishing houses. They happen. The goal is to catch as many as you can so your book looks as professional as possible.
Prep an Online Media Kit
In order to keep the sales ball rolling once you launch (or to get it rolling, for that matter), you should reach out for interviews. The interviews can be on podcasts, print media (anything from your local newspaper to your industry newsletter to popular magazines, depending on your niche), blogs, television, and radio (talk radio listeners buy books).
A new book is newsworthy which means you could get some traction with a press release as well as have a reason to reach out to do these interviews. A press release has a canned format and is fairly straightforward to write. That being said, you want the press release to catch the eye of editors who are looking for content, so it has to be INTERESTING. This goes back to the “What’s in it for our readers?” question. So, you want to be clear about the benefits of your book and how it will help the end users (readers) of the editor who is going to decide whether or not to run your press release.
You can send the press release to your local and state newspapers and magazines. You can also use a company like PRWeb.com which hosts press releases on its site as well as distributes to media partners. PRWeb is kind of pricey these days. I honestly don’t know if it’s worth paying for the lower tier services, and the higher tier services still don’t guarantee results. I think you are better off contacting local features, business section, and arts and entertainment editors (books are usually in that section of the newspaper) directly.
On your website, you want to have at least a basic media kit. This would include:
- A description of your book, including who it’s for and how it benefits people
- A 3D graphic of the book
- A couple of high resolution images of you (at least one head shot)
- Several blurbs or review quotes about the book
- Your contact information
- Sample Interview Questions
If you have done interviews before, no matter what media, mention it on the page. If you have short clips of interviews or clips of you speaking, put up two to three of those. Before someone puts you on the radio or TV, they want to make sure you’re not boring and can put words together in a sentence.
Put out your press release on your launch day. Remember, this is free publicity so it may or may not hit on the right day. That’s okay. At least it hit.
There’s a lot to do before you launch your book, but all this prep work pays off on launch week when you’re nervous and your mind is spinning with all the to-dos on your list.
I love this! Thank you so much, Barbara. This saved me so many headaches and I now feel well equipped. Stumbling onto your site just about 5 weeks before my launch is perfect!
Glad to be able to help. Launching has so many steps at once it can be overwhelming. It’s exciting, though!!
Best of luck on your launch.