Becoming a Working Author

The Perfect Indie Author Book Launch

When you get close to finishing your latest novel, you’ll have to get serious about the marketing side of writing. That’s right; you need to plan the perfect book launch to stimulate Social Media, tickle Amazon’s algorithms, and get readers ready to buy the book you’ve spent countless hours honing to perfection.

I’m going to assume that you’ve already written a great story and that you’ve also enlisted a top-notch editor to put your mind at ease. If that’s not the case, remember that an editor will likely make the difference between a decent read and a compelling, easy to follow story. Don’t skimp on your editing.

Also, you’ll need a great book cover. The days of Indie Authors selling well with second-rate covers have long past. You’ve got only one shot at capturing a reader’s eyes, and it’s usually while they view postage-stamp-size thumbnails. Spend the bucks, and you’ll get many more clicks.

Don’t forget that your blurb is the second thing readers will see, so it better be an excellent and captivating view of your book. If it’s great, you’re in business. If not, readers will look elsewhere.

Designing Your Author Website

While some people don’t believe you need an Author Website these days, there are several terrific reasons you should spend the time on one. It’s a home for you to post updates about your new book, place links to your existing books, and a way to interact with readers. If someone Google’s your book or even you, shouldn’t they find a place that can market you?

That’s right. Your website is about you. It will connect to your social media platform of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  A place where visitors can read your biography, see photos, and read your blog, as well as see your latest social media posts.

If you’re using Amazon, remember to connect your Author Central page to your blog! You’ll also want to have an email list signup form or at least a “Follow this blog” link.

You should also provide occasional evergreen content, which is information that readers enjoy, not just speaking engagement and books signing news, but something that will still be fun to read in a year from now. This can be a story about choosing writing, your favorite book, author, or anything in that vein.

If you’ve got short stories or a novella or First Free book that you use to attract new readers, make sure your website readers have the same chance to download free work!

Choosing Your Book Interior

You may have already chosen a book interior, but it’s important as an author to ensure that your readers can interact with you. You’re their favorite author, and they want to see you at your blog, website, and perhaps find links to your other books!

Your paperback can list your links, but your eBook can have live links, and readers do click on them regularly. They are best found at the end of your book and should highlight other books and include a link to any Book Trailers you’ve produced.

Is a book trailer necessary? No, but if you can get one made inexpensively (shoot for $100 or make one yourself with PowerPoint), it’s an engaging vehicle that can sell your name and your book.

Just write yourself a compelling script that tells viewers about your book and why it’s imperative that they immediately buy your book. You can do that, right? Tell them about the benefits they’ll gain from reading, and you can hook ’em.

If PowerPoint is too old-school for you, produce something with your Android or iPhone. There are plenty of apps to get the job done – for free.

Author And Marketing Networking

There are a million people writing books today, but not so many that your friends and contacts will be unhappy if you give them a jingle on the phone and catch-up with their life. At some point, when they ask what you’re up to, tell them you finished a book, and gee, you could use some help.

They’re likely to use social media and have plenty of contacts. They might even know a local bookstore owner, a café owner, a gift shop, or radio station contact. Use what’s out there! You know lots of people, and they can make a huge difference to your launch.

You probably know some other authors, and coordinating your launch with them for blog mentions, backlinks to your website, and other mentions will help. They’ll be gracious because in the future they’ll call for some help from you.

Media and Promotional Materials

You might not be thinking about a local launch, especially if you were concentrating on just an eBook, but paperbacks are often just as popular at Amazon. If you don’t do a paperback (and an ACX Audiobook, which takes about two months to schedule and produce, schedule accordingly), you are leaving a lot of cash on the table.

You can produce a Press kit, which should include a glossy page of your book cover, a separate biography, and your contact information. Another thing to add is what’s called a one-sheet, which is a prewritten Question and Answer page about you and the book plus any prereviews and endorsements.

Other (more costly) options include bookmarks and postcards with your book cover on one side and contact information on the back.

Press kit – This is the expanded version of your book one-sheet. Provide more detailed information on the book, and your full author bio. Include links to download hi-res images and other ancillary content.

Media coverage, no matter how small, will help with your sales, your exposure, and your credibility. So, be sure to thank anyone who helps in even the slightest way! You can do that first by giving them whatever they ask for in the form of coverage before you blab about your book.

Save your contact list because it’s gold. Just like your previous buyers, they will be your first go-to and can make or break you. Treat ’em well.

Joint Ventures and Incentives

Joint ventures can include working with anyone connected to the book, such as the book cover designer, your book trailer, your editor, a bookstore, a radio station, podcaster, or even book clubs.

Many people in the book marketing trade are just small enough operators to be interested in some type of co-branding or shared marketing campaign. Book stores may be willing to share advertising expenses for a book signing, or at least let you put a fancy, glossy poster announcing your signing date and book cover in their windows.

Incentives can include anything that drives that shared marketing or even bulk sales of your book. Yes, bookstores will ask for a healthy (usually 40%) discount off your paperback cover price, but that’s just the start.

Book clubs, business events, and other groups may book you to do a “talk” about yourself and your book. It can be a valuable cooperative if you can cultivate a group, because those in the audience will feel at least a little obligated to buy a book, and many will want to meet a real author and get your autograph. Take advantage.

A Book Launch Team

Beyond your marketing group of friends and family, you may already have fans of previous books or people on social media who you have “liked” posts of or so forth. These online groups and individuals are valuable at your book launch.

If you’ve ever used an ARC group, you know that the letters stand for Advanced Reader Copy. These are people that you know through sales, emails, or advertising that have agreed to receive an early copy of your book and perhaps place a review at Amazon or Goodreads.

Your ARC group might be as few as three or four, or as many as 50, but either way, they’ll let you know if there are problems you need to fix in your story, and they’ll do some reviews, which always helps with sales.

Your Local In-Person Book Launch

I’m big on turning local events into great sales opportunities. You might not have an extended book tour scheduled, but getting even one or two local book stores to give you a shot on a Saturday afternoon is an excellent opportunity to meet and greet – and sell some books. Your book is a conduit to a satisfied customer who will sing you or praises for years. Don’t miss out.

Speaking at any business event is a start. Don’t forget about book clubs, Toastmasters, VFW, associations, even schools, and universities. I’ve sold books at malls on tiny kiosks rented for a day, at fairs, carnivals, and also to local service companies who gave away my books as Christmas presents for their best customers. There are many great ideas for a local book launch, so let your imagination go wild.

Online Book Sellers – Amazon and Draft 2 Digital

No author should be without a strong presence on the web, and much of the previous advice for your book launch has centered on connections. Your Amazon Central Author page is another great device to get views on your brand.

Author Central is a place that allows you to list all your books (available on Amazon), tell a little about yourself, and connect your blog, so it updates automatically (I told you that author website could be valuable).

You’ll be setting up a KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account so you can sell your books at Amazon (eBook and paperback), but Amazon also allows widespread distribution. That means bookstores can buy your book at wholesale prices direct. You’ll get a monthly check or direct deposit!

There are many other online booksellers from Google, to Apple, to Nook (Barnes & Noble). If you want to streamline your sales channels, you might consider Draft2Digital, which partners with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, Tolino, 24Symbols, OverDrive, bibliotheca, Baker & Taylor, Hoopla, and Vivlio. Yes, that’s a lot of online bookstores. D2D takes a small percentage of your overall sales, and many people are perfectly happy with that for the convenience. Just remember that if you use KDP, you lose some benefits (like markdowns and Kindle Unlimited) if you list your book at other sellers.

Another place for an Author page, bio, and list links to your book sales sites is AuthorsDen. They are cheap (free at one level) and draw many viewers to your name and books. If you hate the idea of maintaining a blog and an author website, this is a good second choice you can manage easily and inexpensively.

The Advent of Podcasting

Podcasting is extremely popular right now. I’m not saying you’ll ever be as popular as Joe Rogan, but you can design your podcast to connect with fans, or you can sign up with independent podcasters who interview authors and discuss books.

Another option is filming yourself reading a bit (perhaps a chapter) of one of your books and place the video on YouTube and your author website. Sorry, you really might want one! Where else are you going to put that first book trailer?

Your podcast or YouTube episodes can even be a Multimedia program where you read your entire book over several episodes. You won’t make money on that book (well, perhaps a little if you get the requisite subscribers) unless you monetize with an ad, but there are good reasons to make your first book free – whether on Kindle, or a podcast.

If you do set up your own podcast, you, too, can interview authors in exchange for links to your podcast and author website.

Maximizing Social Media For Book Launches

Social media has been a keyword and key-driver for views and book sales for years. Having a Facebook author page might not sound like much fun, but you’ll instantly be able to connect to your personal page, your email contacts, and your website can be designed to post your blogs to your author page instantly. It’s easy. You’ll probably be shocked to find that your followers will grow to 100 people in an afternoon. Then, post about your progress on your blog, and your feed can go directly to Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.

Email Marketing and Mailchimp

Collecting email addresses of book clients takes time. You’ve got to have a website to do it or a program like Bookfunnel that uses reader magnets such as a free story or book to entice new readers to join your mailing list. If your blurb and freebie are good, you can add hundreds of subscribers in a month. And, if you keep writing great stories, those subscribers will stay with you and buy future books for years.

You can always solicit your own email signups for freebies, buy whichever way you go, treat ’em like your best friends. Don’t inundate them with slush and garbage. Send them a notice once a month at most and include a free story with your latest book pitch.

Using an email marketing campaign program such as Mailchimp can help you delineate your subscribers, and design colorful email newsletters that are eye-catching as well as good sales tools. Telling your subscribers about an upcoming book is always a good way to go.

Paid Advertising – AMS and Google AdWords

Paid advertising from Bing or Google is costly. If you are driving clicks to your website where viewers may then click to purchase your book from you, or a sales outlet (such as Amazon), it’s a tough go. I’ve done it to stimulate interest at my sites, but a click-through rate from your site to the books of 5 to 7% is very good. Getting them to buy once they get there is a smaller percentage. When I’ve managed to sell at 2% overall, I’ve been happy. If you make $5 on a book sale, then your ads can’t cost more than 10-cents to break-even.

Ads through AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) will do much better because viewers enticed by your ad click straight to your book. The click to the book costs you whatever your bid amount was. If you are paying 15-cents and you sell to 10% of the clicks, it costs you $1.50 per sale.

Other outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon will produce numbers that you’ll have to analyze to keep going or quit. Either way, getting more eyes on your book at launch is critical for sales and momentum.

Unfortunately, Amazon algorithms and what tickles them is confusing, even after all these years. The more you sell, the more Amazon will push your book, and the more “also bought” comparisons you’ll get, and the more reviews you’ll get, and the process continues. Do nothing, get nothing in most cases.

Online Book Tours

You can order an Online Book Tour from many suppliers, and they contract with book blogs and reviewers to get the news out about your amazing book. Unfortunately, most of those hard-working and dedicated book reviewers have small audiences. And, the audience they have is usually interested only in specific genres.

In a few words, they won’t hurt. But, if you get some links to your website, a few sales, and perhaps a review or two at Amazon, you are probably doing well. If you’ve got the bucks, go for it. If not, pay for a couple of individual blog posts and see how that goes.

Email Book Marketers

This final way of getting the news of your book to the masses is fraught with hustlers and poorly connected sellers. They want to get you sales, but most of them can’t. You can give some of the bigger ones a shot, like Kindle Nation Daily, Book Gorilla, Ereadernewstoday, and even Bookbub. Still, you’ll have to wait until you get some traction at Amazon and reviews before they are likely to pick you up.

Also, Bookbub runs about $700 for an average book, but they have more than 1 million email subscribers. You’ll also have to discount your book to do a “deal.”

Smaller sellers like Bookkitty, BkNights, and Ghostwriter777, have Fiverr gigs that run from $5 to $25. Kitty is a group of websites and Facebook. Nights is a website and emails. Ghost is websites and several social media hits with author profiles. They will not make you rich, but a few sales for a $5 gig always helps. Remember, some of your later sales may also come from the links on their sites that stay indefinitely. That is especially true with author profiles.

The Sixty-Day Cliff

Many authors have learned that Amazon has a lot of love for them when they first list their books and make some sales. However, after 30 to 60 days, love fades. It’s called the sixty-day cliff. You’ve got that time to keep the sales humming or later you’ll be bumming because the party’s over.

Part of the anticipated drop-off is that there are millions of books on Amazon and more coming every day. You’ve got to rise like crème to the top, and you’ve got to keep selling. Staying at a certain level of sales, say at #12,000, is called getting sticky. It happens as you sell quickly, gain reviews, get “also bought,” and climb any sub-genre into the top 10.

Getting into those small niche’ best-seller spots can be critical. And, they become self-sustaining as people see your book on the list and decide to give-it-a-go. Get sticky, and you can get healthy financially. Ignore your launch marketing, and readers will ignore your book.

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