Writers in the Storm

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August 1, 2016

10 Steps to a Successful Book Launch

Heather Webb SmilingHeather Webb

Launching a book—especially a debut—is an utter whirlwind of excitement, sobering facts, and unknowns. (We won’t even touch upon the extreme terror that hits from time to time.) But within this chaos, there are ways to tackle it all and stay sane. Let’s take a look at a few ways I manage a launch.

  1. KEEP A CALENDAR Use this calendar for guest posts, interviews, FB or Twitter IMG_1234chats, in-person events, giveaways, etc, ONLY. I buy a paper planner (though some prefer an online calendar—fine), highlight different categories in different colors, and make daily lists of things to accomplish. (I know—once a teacher, always a teacher.) But this type of organization offers me clarity and helps keep me on top of due dates. I have a family calendar for everything else.
  1. SET ASIDE MONEY IN ADVANCE You have to spend money to make money. This is the most basic marketing manifesto. It’s also the truest. If you aren’t willing to shell out some dough to give your book a push, chances are it won’t go anywhere. If you’re one of the lucky lotto winners at your publishing house, more power to you, but there are so few of these—even for many big, established authors. It’s best to look at your market placement realistically so you can give your book its best chance in the saturated reader-sphere.
  1. DEVISE A PLAN What will you need all that money for? Ads in papers, magazines, bookish websites, and also for blog tours. Seek out a professional to help you with this. There are some very knowledgeable and reputable organizations that help promote writers. (BUT BE CAREFUL. Do your research. Ask for final numbers, click-throughs, impressions and also take a look at their client lists. There are loads of Mickey Mouse operations out there robbing authors of funds.) Also, I’d recommend not going overboard with in-person tours. They’re expensive, rarely covered by your publisher, and hardly ever sell enough books to make it worthwhile. Plus it can be truly humiliating sitting there all afternoon with a stack of books, only to have people walk by you all day and avoid your gaze. I say this with three books under my belt worth of experience.
  1. GO AFTER THE MEDIA, but be realistic. You have limited time so make it count by doing the things most comfortable for you. Start by making a list of all outlets you’d like to approach. Gather the emails and phone numbers you need. Work through your list, with a professional press release in hand. Remember to be polite and give them solid reasons why your book is appropriate for their station/channel, etc. In other words, find the true HOOK in your work that will speak to people, not just the byline you have on the cover copy. If you have a publicist already, you may want to talk with them about how you can split the work. If your publisher doesn’t assign you one, there are many companies and freelancers out there, but again BE CAREFUL. Research. I’m not entirely convinced a publicist is worth it. Some sing their praises.
  1. IMG_1233DESIGN PARAPHERNALIA like book marks or postcards—something you can sign. (People like that.) Keep them in your purse, your car, your computer bag. Give a stack to your mom to give out. I’m serious. My mom papered an entire grocery store parking lot. (This is why I call her mom-ager)
  1. GIVEAWAYS Remember that Goodreads and LibraryThing prompt readers to add your book to their TO READ list when they enter a giveaway. On release day, those platforms email everyone on that list to announce the release. This is crucial to getting the word out.
  1. REACH OUT TO BOOK CLUBS interested in hosting you. There are wonderful online book clubs and also in-person clubs, of course. Look to them as they may become your biggest supporters. One note here. Not all books are good for every single book club. For example, my in-person group gravitates toward literary fiction, historicals, and the occasional thriller. An online group I belong to is mostly women’s fiction and romance. Still another is young adult. Once again, do your research. OH! And don’t forget to bring the cupcakes. Everyone likes cupcakes.
  1. CHAT A LOT Create a hashtag related to your book, genre, or topics in the novel and set up chats on Goodreads and Twitter, maybe FB as well, depending on which makes you the most comfortable. Another word of caution here. It’s fine to promote your book, of course, but do not rely on social media to sell much. Plus, people get sick of hearing about it. New figures just came out that shows less than 1% of books are sold through social media avenues that are author-driven. Something to chew on.
  1. DON’T REFRESH your Amazon and Barnes & Noble ranking every five minutes. It will drive you insane, and really doesn’t mean all that much. Go play with some friends instead on your release day.
  1. STAY CALM Going completely ape shit crazy won’t change the massive amount of work ahead of you OR help you sell more books. Go for a run, do some meditation, get drunk—for the love of all that’s holy, take the edge off. There’s only so much of this entire process we can control. Besides, the day your book releases will feel strangely anti-climactic. Also, later down the road comes the post partum. but that’s a post for another day.
  1. CELEBRATE I promised ten points, but this is too important to ignore! Despite all the pressure, despite things not going exactly as you imagined, despite the many balls dropped along the way on your end and/or your publisher’s, remember that you’re LIVING THE DREAM! You’re published, people are reading YOUR words, and loving them. Also, you’ve worked your tail off to create something meaningful or entertaining. Bask in the excitement and be proud of yourself. Celebrate like it’s 1999.

Do you have a tip to share that you learned during your book release? Maybe you're getting ready for your debut release and have a question? 

About Heather

Cover 1- hdHeather Webb writes historical novels for Penguin and HarperCollins,which have been translated to three languages and have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan magazine, France magazine, and Reuters News Book Talk. BECOMING JOSEPHINE follows the life and times of Josephine Bonaparte set to the backdrop of the French Revolution, and RODIN’S LOVER released Jan 27th, chronicles the passionate and tragic story of Camille Claudel, sculptor, collaborator, and lover to the famed Auguste Rodin. A FALL OF POPPIES releases in 2016.

Heather is also a freelance editor and contributor to award-winning writing sites WriterUnboxed.com and RomanceUniversity.org. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Twitter: @msheatherwebb

40 comments on “10 Steps to a Successful Book Launch”

  1. Oh Heather, so true - especially #9! Haven't yet mastered that one. And thank you for #6. I knew everyone wanted their book added to my shelf, but I didn't know why.

    Thanks for this informative post!

    1. You know...I've decided that my next book release, I'm going to schedule something fabulous away from the computer. Maybe a spa visit with girlfriends or something random that I never do. Treat myself to celebrate!

  2. Thanks, Heather. Great advice. I wish I'd seen this post two months ago. I seem to have done everything you've advised against and driven myself crazy checking my Amazon ranking. You've given me a great deal to think about.

    1. Ahh, shucks, that's too bad. Well, we live and learn. It took me a few times to figure out how I want to do things...I'm guessing I'll continue to change as my books and the times do as well. 🙂

  3. This morning I spent an hour working on a calendar for my debut then finally logged into email and saw this post. Number one, check. 🙂

    Printing this to have on hand as I muddle through this next year. Thanks for the great post, Heather!!

  4. Fantastic post, Heather! Couldn't be more timely, with my debut launching tomorrow. I'm absolutely taking all of this advice to heart. I think I'm going to have to focus on the last three at this point 🙂 I'm also really surprised at the 1% statistic... Crazy! We've been led to believe it's the biggest platform! Good to know!

    1. Isn't that crazy? I think social media can work, but only if you're a power author with loads of content and a very unique platform. Also, I think writers make the mistake of advertising to other writers. Sure, we're readers, but we need to move outside of those tightly-knit and smallish groups. Much luck to you on your launch, Anne!

  5. I say we get that 1% information out into the world so authors can stop spamming and set up tribes instead. 🙂

    Great post, Heather! I love the steps. #9 made me laugh, and Laura's comment made me laugh even harder. Every author I know does this!

    1. Yes! Agreed! It's nuts. I think we'll see publishers moving away from caring so much about social media platforms in the future. Sure, they'll continue to look us up, but they're getting all this new data and seeing how ineffective much of it is as well. 🙂

    1. Angelina, I'm going to let Laura reply to your question. The bookmark next to #5 and #6 is all hers. She designed, had it printed , and even bought and attached the tassels herself! Those of us who know and love Laura, know that she didn't pay an arm and a leg for it, either.

      1. Nice. I would love tips from her. My sister does art for me so I can get her whip up some beautiful art work, just need to see if I can print it myself or there are sites and or crafts ideas. ^_^

        1. Angelina, I had them printed double-sided at Vistaprint, then ordered the cords online. When Vistaprint has a sale, you can get a good deal!

    2. I've used Zazzle.com and also Vistaprint.com. I prefer Zazzle myself, but it's totally dependent on your taste. I've also used Staples and they've been wonderful. You can pick up at the store and not pay for shipping.

  6. Heather, like Orly, this is so timely for me. When I read it, I dug out the calendar I received last week from a charity that I donate to. I'm resistant to making lists, but I'm looking at this as a "lesson plan"--and I'm very good with those. As RWA 2016, Laura and I attending a workshop on scheduling "production." The speaker brought in a laminated wall-banner sized calendar that can be re-used.

    1. I used to be able to keep a million things in my head at once, but as a writer and mom, that has become totally impossible for me so the calendar really works well. I check both calendars every day to stay on top of things. 🙂 Wishing you loads of good luck on your launch!

  7. Check, check, check. Feeling smug. Then OMG I totally forgot #7, #8, #10. And now it's too late!!

  8. Thank you for this list. This is the most concise - and possibly most useful - book launch post I remember. As part of my Book Launch Plan, this gets pasted at the beginning with each point expanded with action items. Thank you so much.

    1. I'm so glad to help, Robert! I could go on and on, honestly, but we're all overwhelmed with launch as it is. No need to have me add to it! Good luck with your book! 🙂

  9. Heather, this is a great post--timely for me, too, with a book coming out in October. It seems like no matter how many novels I publish, I always feel this combination of anxiety/excitement/depression/joy because there is no ONE way to guarantee that the books we work so hard to write will succeed in flying off the shelves. May all of your books have wings! You deserve every success.

  10. This is so interesting. Despite all the warnings that I've read in this and other sites, I still kinda thought that the publisher did the heavy listing when it came to launching your book. This is great information.

  11. Well, everyone's already said it, but this post couldn't have come at a better time! My book releases October 25th. The good news is...a lot of what's recommended I'm good to go!

    And yes, that stat about 1% sold due to social media - "we" know that's the truth because although we may be authors, we're also readers who behave just like anyone else when it comes to book solicitation on the web. Mostly ignore it. Now, if someone talks to me about a good book, or sends me a personal email - whole other ballgame.

    1. You make a great point, donnaeve! I've never bought a book because of something on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter. But when a friend tells me to read something, I buy it. Word of mouth sells.

      1. Thx Fae! I hope publishers (like mentioned above) do realize it does very little to help promo a book. The tools are great for making friends though. 🙂

  12. Great post, Heather, and wishing you all success with launching! Looks like you've got it down by now 😀

    Question regarding your marketing step #3 and your book club step #7--in both, you advise us to do our research. AGREED!! Got any tips on how and where to start with both of these daunting tasks? The web is a vast hole one can easily fall into...and keep falling...and falling...Maybe this might be a future post, if too much to explain here. Thanks for any insights you can offer.

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