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.
KEEP A CALENDAR Use this calendar for guest posts, interviews, FB or Twitter chats, 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.
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.
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.
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.
DESIGN 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)
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.
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.
CHAT A LOTCreate 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.
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.
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.
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?
Heather 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.