When I wrote my first book, Do No Work, I knew nothing about marketing. I thought announcing the book on my blog and emailing some friends and family on my list was enough for it to sell.
After I did those things, I expected to relax—champagne glass in one hand, cigar in the other—and watch the sales roll in. Every time I clicked refresh on my sales page the numbers would increase exponentially in some sort of impossible yet glorious parabolic curve.
Zondervan would be calling me begging for the hardback rights, and every Christian blogger and podcaster would be talking about Do No Work.
None of these things, of course, happened.
So when I started work on my second book, Under the Sun, I vowed to do things right. I soaked up everything I could on copywriting, book marketing, and ecommerce. I planned a grandiose launch replete with confetti and fireworks.
But as the release date got nearer, I fell further behind schedule. The editing process took longer than it did for my first book. I encountered snags here and there with ARC requests, formatting, you name it. As the deadline loomed I began skipping out on sleep, often dozing off at my computer only to wake up four hours later to go to my full-time job.
When April 15 came, the book was complete. Formatting, editing, keywords, description: all done. But I was exhausted. I had given everything I had. As a result, I’d all but scrapped my plans for a book launch.
But as the summer wound down, and I had the chance to soak in some sun on the beautiful shores of Myrtle Beach, I began toying again with the idea of launching the book. So what if it’d already been out four months?
So I whipped up a plan. The launch would employ five main strategies:
Guest blogging. I would reach out to several bloggers for the opportunity to guest post. With some I already had established a connection, others were shots in the dark.
Podcasts interviews. I would reach out to podcast hosts who broadcast to my same target audience.
Bonus giveaways. I would offer several giveaways to those who purchased the book within the launch window.
Launch team. I would seek out people interested in helping spread the word about the book. (A request which Erin graciously accepted.)
Discount. I would discount the book to $0.99 the first week and buy some small ads to boost rankings for the book.
In the end I sold a couple hundred books. Modest numbers for sure, but not bad for someone who just a year prior had basically no knowledge of book marketing at all. And here’s the most important part: that’s 200 more books than I would have sold otherwise.
So is a book launch still valuable? You can judge for yourself, but I’ll do one again.
What I’ll Do Differently Next Time
For my next launch, I’ll begin much earlier. I failed to budget time properly, focusing almost exclusively on finishing the book. And don’t get me wrong, the book is the most important part. But what’s the point of writing one if you’re not going to market it?
We essentially have to be two people in one. One moment we’re writers, and the next we’re marketers.
This is, I think, one of the biggest struggles authors experience. We essentially have to be two people in one. One moment we’re writers, and the next we’re marketers. In many ways, those roles are diametrically opposed.
The next time, I’m going to build in margin to my production schedule since every task seems to take longer than I think it will. If I get ahead of schedule? Great! But with margin, I’m less likely to crash and burn like I did with Under the Sun.
And I just might sell a few more books along the way.