Here at The Book Designer, we get a lot of questions about how to successfully launch books. If you’ve been searching for tips or tricks to use for your own book launch, I think you’ll find this article by Kimberley Grabas quite helpful.
With a book launch – much like outrageous stunts or death-defying acts of daring – you really only have one chance to get it right.
Other book marketing and promotional strategies can be tweaked and refined over time, but your official book launch comes around but once, and you’ll need more than a smidgen of courage to see it through.
Launches Need to Pack a Punch
They need to build excitement and anticipation to a fever pitch, and on launch day, deliver on all the promises.
This doesn’t happen by accident.
Just like a carefully orchestrated stunt scene in a movie, your launch requires a detailed, step-by-step action plan to pull it off – to create a real and exciting experience for your audience.
Yet often authors are so focused on writing and editing their new book to a shine, they postpone the hard work of mapping out a launch strategy until too late in the game.
Usually with dire (or at least extremely disheartening) consequences.
Why Book Launches Fail
There are many reasons why a book launch can go horribly wrong.
And many authors are unwittingly sabotaging their book launch efforts by not avoiding these common pitfalls.
[Mandatory disclaimer: the following are harmful and sometimes fatal acts of miscalculation that SHOULD NOT be attempted or repeated by any author, at any time.]
- Refusal to Collaborate and Socialize
One of the most important things you can do before launching your book – even before you start writing it – is to engage your potential readership in the development process.
The more invested people are, the higher the value they will place on your work – because they helped create it.
Encouraging a social, community-oriented mindset builds trust and and makes people feel that they are part of something special.
Plus, their input will help you identify what matters most to them, the benefits they want your book to deliver, and even the launch strategy (messages and channels) that will ensure your book gets traction.
- Rushing to Get It “Out There”
It’s interesting that after spending months – sometimes years – writing your book, there comes a moment when a switch flips and getting your book into the hands of your readers becomes URGENT.
Sure there should be an element of urgency, or you’d never get the book to market. But rushing inevitably leads to poor planning and lack of preparation. Things are missed, deadlines pass and an author’s stress levels hit the ceiling.
Instead, start your planning process early – ideally while you’re still writing or editing. If you are self-publishing, give yourself a little extra wiggle room when you set your publication date.
Have your author website or book landing page ready and functional. Make sure it’s not only easy for people to buy your book, but easy for them to share the information with their friends.
And remember to be aware of your time constraints as you plan. You won’t become superhuman during your launch phase, so allow time in your scheduling and plans for other priorities in your life.
- Forgetting to Set Specific (Any) Goals or Objectives
It’s very difficult to determine whether you’ve reached your goals during your launch campaign, if you’ve never outlined any goals or objectives to begin with.
Taking action is fantastic, but you always need to have a direction or a destination in mind so that you can tell whether you’ve met or exceeded your expectations – or if you’ve slid completely off track.
Be careful that the goals you set will actually help you achieve the results you desire. Specific goals like the number of books you’d like to sell on launch day, the number of people you’d like to add to your email list, or the number of people you want to attend your launch day webinar make it easier to determine if you were successful at achieving that goal.
A goal like, “I want to increase my authority” needs to broken down into more precise objectives like, “during my launch period I will write four guest posts on influential sites in my genre, give five podcast/radio interviews on topics related to my book, interview one influential author or industry expert for my own author website, and create a free PDF guide on a compelling topic in my genre or related to my book”.
Keep in mind that this book and launch are also part of a bigger plan for your writing career. What do you want this launch to accomplish that will help with the next book and launch?
- Having No Idea Who You Are Trying to Reach
This one can be – and often is – fatal.
Not knowing or fully understanding your target audience, or what they value, can cripple your launch before it even has a chance to get off the ground.
How do you hit a target you don’t even see?
Often authors will have no clue as to the intended audience for their book, which guarantees the launch campaign is unfocused, aimed at the wrong audience, or the message is too general or diffused to be meaningful.
When you’re struggling to build a platform and a readership for your work, the thought of excluding or alienating anybody who might possibly be interested in your work, is terrifying.
You want more readers, not less. Why exclude anybody?
The reality is that the more specific you are about the people you are trying to reach (i.e., the people who will really “get” you and your book), the more appealing your offer, and the more engaging your conversation with your ideal audience becomes.
(Go here for more on the mistakes writers make when identifying their target audience.)
- Being The Lone Wolf
It takes a village.
I’m not sure if – statistically speaking – there actually are a larger number of introverted writers than extroverts, but the stereotype remains: great writing happens in quiet seclusion.
The Muse arrives and the good stuff flows only when you’ve locked yourself in a room (with the story as your sole sustenance).
Because writing is not thought of as a group sport, many soon-to-be authors have drawn the solitary act of writing their book into their promotional efforts as well.
However, the most successful authors have used the power of the group to increase their sales.
From boxed sets to multi-author buying events, they’ve leveraged their followings to cross-promote to their readers – multiplying their impact as a result.
In fact, there are many benefits of author collaboration, like increasing visibility, the pooling of resources, and opportunities for jointly created books and other creative projects.
Reach out and start making connections early so that relationships have time to develop, and clever ideas for joint ventures during your launch can be fleshed out.
- Lacking an Understanding of Your Market
Don’t look now, but your lack of market knowledge is showing…
A lack of current market information makes it nearly impossible to make appropriate decisions on your launch action plan, or any other marketing choices.
You must use facts to make good decisions.
You must be acutely aware of what other authors in your niche or genre are doing right (and wrong), the changes, trends and direction the market is moving in, as well as any “holes” where opportunity might exist.
Tackling too broad a market is often a problem, because once you look inside a big market, you’ll find an incredible amount of diversity: different types of readers, different needs, and different pain points.
To build a stronger launch plan (and consume less resources in terms of time and money), you need to focus on building an insanely deep connection with a small group of people, rather than a hesitant and weak connection with many.
Not only does what you learn from a hyper-focused market help you make smarter decisions about your book’s potential in other markets, it reduces your risk of “missing the mark” on launch day.
So, do your research. Get “belly-to-belly” with your ideal reader, gently stalk authors with comparable books, and keep abreast of the latest industry info and happenings.
- Looking For a Shortcut or Expecting a Miracle
“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” – David Bly
There are some shortcuts you might look for – those that free up time, money and allow you to grow your writing career. Most often, these come in the form of automation or systems.
Others shortcuts, however, are just going to cause you problems.
Be careful that your definition of a successful book launch isn’t skewed. Expecting a bestseller or an instant hit – especially with your first book or with “part-time” effort – may not be realistic.
Writers lose focus because they’re looking for a short term gain instead of looking for long term growth for their careers.
So, the first thing you have to accept is that you are building a business around your writing and your priority should always be focused on results over the long term.
There is no such thing as an overnight success.
Stick with launch methods that you can expect REAL results from (not gimmicks or aggressive tactics that burn bridges).
An effective book launch should give you a boost, but it should also tie into a long-term campaign that seeks to earn a living and a fanbase over years, not weeks or months.
Success is earned, and it’s more often than not played over the long game.
- Assuming Book Launches Are Only for Big Name Authors or People with Deep Pockets
“That might work for author x, but it won’t work for me.”
Get rid of the idea that you only have a specific set of skills and talents for specific tasks, or that there is some sort of exclusive club for successful authors that you’re not a part of.
A successful launch doesn’t require heaps of cash, a huge network or a secret handshake. If you have a well planned launch, with clear goals and objectives you expect to achieve, your launch may be dramatically more effective and fruitful than a well-financed but unfocused one.
Self-imposed limitations will only hold you back, so stretch your imagination instead of trying to justify why something won’t work.
Don’t fail to step up to the plate or allow yourself to be held back by circumstance.
When you’re about to start making excuses for why your launch can’t be as rewarding as the next author, stop.
And re-ignite the spark that started you on this path in the first place.
“To expect defeat is nine-tenths of defeat itself.” – Henry Mencken
- Enveloped in an Author Identity Crisis
You have, right now, one of the most potent and persuasive means to make your book launch stand out. Do you know what it is?
Self-knowledge is a very powerful tool, and knowing who you are, what you’re about, and why you do what you do can provide a significant and compelling way to break through the noise.
How you position and differentiate yourself and your book can make all the difference in swaying readers to buy.
In fact, when you discover and build on what makes you different, you eliminate your competition.
Who can be more you than you?
Spend some time getting to know yourself and the reasons you write what you write. Use this insight to “style” your launch.
Infuse your personality and message into every piece of content you share, and your uniqueness will give you your competitive edge.
- Having No Clue What to Say
When I see authors struggling with this during their launch, I know that they are also struggling with #4 (know your audience) and #9 (know yourself).
When you can clearly articulate who you are and what you can bring to the table, as well as how that meets the needs, wants and desires of your ideal reader, the conversation always flows.
Think of it this way: do you ever dread meeting up with a good friend for fear of not having anything to talk about?
When speaking with someone about an interest you’re both passionate about, does the conversation ever get stymied or awkward?
When you have a deep understanding of a person or share a common interest, the interchanges are often deep and rewarding. And running out of time is more likely than running out of things to talk about.
If you shrink at the thought of being a smarmy salesperson, shouting “Buy my book” throughout your launch period, then take a step back and get to know your target audience better.
What are they begging to hear from you? What do they want that only you can provide?
If you’re not sure, ask. And listen carefully to what they tell you.
Then plan launch content that addresses their biggest fears, hopes and desires – and share it freely without expecting anything in return.
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When you build this foundation, people are often more than happy to support you when the time comes.
- Convinced It’s Not Worth the Effort (Or You’ve Already Missed the Boat)
Everything you’ve read about planning and executing a successful book launch has warned that you should start early.
But what if you already have your book in hand, or your release date is two weeks, one week or one day from now?
What do you do when there is no time to plan, or you’ve focused on writing and have no platform or fanbase to speak of?
Or perhaps what you’ve heard from those brave authors who’ve gone before you, is that a book launch sounds good in theory, but inevitably ends up being a colossal waste of time, effort and money – with little to show in the way of results?
Well first, don’t give up too quickly just because things get uncomfortable. Overcoming the challenges will bring you closer to your goals, so focus your efforts on what you can do.
If your book is already out, leverage it to build your platform for your next book launch.
There are many opportunities that arise for published authors: speaking engagements, podcast interviews, local media spots and other events, where having authored a book gives you the credibility and the qualifications to participate.
If you’re self-publishing, consider moving the release date so that you can give yourself the time you need to make plans and build connections.
You can also consider “re-launching” your book to give it a boost and build momentum for future projects.
Your book is an asset even without a big “splashy” launch. Just adjust your goals and expectations and keep moving forward.
- Entertaining the Belief That Your Genius Should Be Obvious
Assuming your book will sell on its own merits without you having to lift a promotional finger will most likely lead to disappointment.
Again, it is your responsibility to make it abundantly clear to your intended audience why your book is relevant.
Nobody cares about you or your book as much as you do (yet), so it’s your job to help them see its value.
No amount of literary genius will compensate for a book that goes unnoticed and unseen.
In fact, if your book is that necessary, you are actually doing your readers a disservice by not making them aware of its existence.
Accept that it is not someone else’s responsibility to get your book into the hands of readers.
Hold yourself accountable for your own career and develop a launch action plan that ensures your brilliance gets discovered.
- Failure to Ride the Wave
With all this effort and focus timed to peak on your launch date, often a post-launch strategy gets ignored.
It’s tempting to take a much needed break after all the excitement and hoopla – and you should take time to celebrate. You’ve just launched your book to the world!
But having a plan in place to leverage your launch momentum, to follow up with new opportunities and to analyze and measure the results of your launch, is critical.
Don’t be tempted to pull back. Use the energy and buzz you’ve generated to open even more doors.
Note what worked well, what didn’t, and take the time to personally thank everyone who contributed to, or supported your launch in some way. Their help was no doubt indispensable.
- Not the Launch, But the Book That Fails
We can’t really complete a list of launch missteps without mentioning the obvious deal breaker.
If your book is subpar, no amount of launch razzle-dazzle is going to help.
If there are quality issues with your cover design, editing, layout or even the story itself, you are much better off delaying your launch until you can deliver the highest quality book you can muster.
Be careful not to get stuck “perfecting” your book – when the time is right, you still want to be able to pull the trigger.
But, a high quality, professional debut will only work in your favour, with a well-planned launch helping you take it to the next level.
Make the Leap – Without the “Crash and Burn”
Launches can be nerve-wracking, adrenaline soaked experiences that push you to your limits – but they can also be exhilarating and a whole lot of fun!
Just take care to plan well (and avoid the above), and you’ll be well on your way to a gutsy and awe-inspiring book launch.
Over to you…
How important do you think a launch is to the success of your book?
If you’ve already launched a book, what did you do that really made an impact? What would you do differently for your next launch?
Add your thoughts and insights to the comments below.
Kimberley Grabas is a writer and the founder of YourWriterPlatform.com, where she provides writers with the resources, tools and inspiration they need to build their platform, engage their fans and sell more books. Download her free eBook, The Quick Start Guide to Building Your Writer Platform.