Note: Launch Strategies is part of my forthcoming book, Don’t Sell Your Book! If you haven’t been following along, you can start here.
Why would we talk about launch strategies in a book that preaches don’t sell your book? A launch is your book’s debut and it’s wise to take full advantage of this marketing opportunity. While royalties are secondary to our goal, distribution—getting as many books into your target market’s hands as quickly as possible—is exactly what we want to do.
That is our number one goal with a launch. Our secondary goal is to attain some sort of best seller status for the book, whether it is number one, top 10, or in the top 100.
The average book sells fewer than 250 copies in its lifetime. Ouch! A large part of exploding past that dismal lifetime statistic is creating as many sales as possible when you launch. More sales at launch equals more traction and, in time, more reviews.
In this chapter, I’m going to discuss three launch strategies:
- The Free or $0.99 Launch;
- The Free with Shipping, which Russell Brunson does to maximum effect;
- The James Altucher, Choose Yourself Launch, which was a phenomenal launch and a great case study.
The Free or 99 Cent Launch
This launch strategy works by putting your book on sites that promote free or low-priced books, typically $0.99. These are sites that have built huge lists of people who like to read and are most likely to snatch up a free or low-priced eBook. Every day, they send out an email with a list of book deals in various genres. The good thing is that the sites segment their lists so you are getting your book in front of people who at least have a likelihood of being interested in your book.
Why would you give your book away? (Did you see the title of this book?) A free or low-priced launch gives you lots of downloads, which raises you higher in the algorithms. With that many more books out, you are more likely to get more reviews and reviews sell books. It also gives people an incentive to get the book now rather than later: after the launch, the price will go up.
There are tons of sites in all genres that do these send outs. You just have to Google them (just type in (Book Promotion Sites”) make a list and find the process to submit to the site. Every site will have a place where it says submit your book, submit your new book, submit your deal. When you contact these sites, you give them the book information, an image of the book, and you let them know, “Hey, on these dates, this book is going to be free or 99 cents.”
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 80% of your competition. (But we’re definitely not stopping there!)
You can promote your free book on numerous sites. Sites like booksy, bargainbooksy, booksends, and fussylibrarian have large lists of readers who snap up free and $0.99 books. While these are better for fiction than nonfiction, the advertising rates are low, you are getting in front of a targeted audience (though you do need to be choosy here) and most are worth at least testing. Bookbub is the big-daddy site and, while some of these sites accept just about every book that is submitted, Bookbub reflects its lead in the marketplace. It’s difficult to get your book placed in their daily promotions and the book has to meet several requirements. You can’t just “buy a promotional ad.” In addition, Bookbub’s promotional ad costs are relatively high, but they do give good results. Bookbub does have pay per click and pay per impression ads available. They work in much the same fashion as Facebook and Amazon ads and those do not require jumping through hoops.
Another site is BooksButterfly.com. Booksbutterfly has a huge mailing list of people who actually like to read books. They send out to their list of readers which is segmented by the types of books the readers prefer. So if you have written a book on accounting, they’re not going to send it to people who want romance novels. If you’ve written a science fiction fantasy, they’re not going to send it to somebody who’s into a forensic medical police procedurals. Booksbutterfly is a paid service, starting at $100 for free book downloads. It guarantees a minimum amount of free downloads or sales, depending on whether your book is free or $0.99.
Most of the sites lean very heavily towards fiction. But many have lists of nonfiction readers, too. Look for sites that have the genre of the book that you’ve written; they are out there.
You want to stagger the site promotions so your sales are spread out over the launch period (usually about five days). If you are going to submit your book to several sites, choose the site that has the highest amount of subscribers for your category for launch day. On days two through five, stagger the sites so if you have a promo site that is not huge, it goes on the same day that has another promo site sending out or is buffered between two larger promo sites.
The goal of this launch strategy is to get a ton of downloads on Amazon (and other sites) within a short time range. First, it drives you up in the Amazon ranking algorithm. Amazon actually has bestseller lists for free books. So there is a freebie bestseller list on Amazon. The free or $0.99 promotion drives you up into Amazon’s organic search. It helps introduce readers to a new author (that would be you) and it puts you and your book in front of readers. So it’s a great lead generator. And, if you get enough downloads, it will get you up to the top of the free rankings which helps when you move your book off the promotion back to the regular price. In short, it gives you momentum.
By staggering your promotions over a five day period, you are generating continuous, steady sales which gives your book traction. Most books have an immediate 24 hour pop when they launch. They never gain the traction you need to keep making sales after launch week. By spreading out your promotions, you create a longer track record which keeps you up in the Amazon (and the other online platforms) rankings and makes you more likely to gain Amazon’s notice when it comes to making the “Hot New Releases” listings as well as the best seller rankings.
Using KDP Select
In order to launch your book as free, you need to put it in Amazon’s KDP Select program. (This has its own downside, which I will get to.) KDP Select is the author side of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. The Unlimited program is like a library card for Kindle eBooks; it allows subscribers to “borrow” your book. The author/publisher is paid for the number of pages that were actually read. (Yes, Amazon can track how many pages you read.) All of the money from Kindle Unlimited subscribers goes into a monthly pool. Amazon skims off their share and then pays out a per page rate to authors/publishers.
KDP Select has a few special promotions in addition to allowing your book to be in their Unlimited program. One is to discount your book to $0.99 or free for up to five days in a 90 day period. You might run a three-day promotion one month and a two-day promotion the next. There is also a “Countdown Promotion” where your book goes on sale and every day the price increases. The sooner someone buys your book, the lower the price, which gives a strong push for people to buy your book sooner rather than later. Again, you submit your Kindle special to as many sites as you can with the promotion days specified.
The downside to KDP Select is that you can’t have your eBook for sale anywhere else on the web. If you’re going to give away your book for free, you need to limit yourself to Amazon, at least for the first 90 day period. For people who only publish on Amazon, this is no big deal. I don’t like being restricted to just one distributor for my books, even if that distributor is the 800 pound gorilla. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you want to be in Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, etc., then this isn’t the program for you.
However, there is nothing that says you can’t just price your eBook at $0.99 and skip putting your book in KDP Select. The minor upside of having it in the Select program is that you still receive the same royalty rate when your eBook is priced under $2.99. (Amazon pays a 70% royalty rate for eBooks priced $2.99 – $9.99 and only 35% for eBooks priced below $2.99 or above $9.99) If you ran a promotion within KDP Select at $0.99, you would receive the 70% royalty rate. Frankly, the royalty is not what we’re going for here. While I have used KDP Select in the past, it is not, for me, a difference-maker for many authors.
Making Your Book “Perma-Free” on Amazon
Amazon doesn’t allow you to put your book up for free outside of a special promotion with KDP Select. However, Amazon does price match with other sites. You can put your eBook on sites like Barnes and Noble and Kobo for free (as well as your own site). Once your free book is up on one or more of these sites, simply send an email to Amazon asking them to match price. It may take more than one request, but Amazon will change the price for you. This is best for books you intend to keep permanently free. If you plan to charge for your book, you might just manually change the price to $0.99 (via your KDP dashboard) for any promotions you do and then change it back to the regular price when the promotion is over. Again, this will affect your royalty rate since you’re doing it outside of KDP Select, but royalties are not the goal for us.
Your Own Site
Can you offer your book for free or $0.99 on your own site? Sure. It’s just a matter of setting up an opt-in or a payment button and automatically delivering the book. But the point of the strategy is to get you and your book in front of new eyes. While you could and certainly should have your book for sale on your site (or links to where people can purchase the book), you want to leverage other company’s platforms, whether they are paid send out sites, free promotion sites, book sales platforms like Amazon, or blog/podcast audiences. Let’s face it: None of us gets the amount of traffic that Amazon gets.