Okay, so that’s a little dramatic. I had a few fans… like, my mom, and my dad… and my husband thought I was pretty cool. My toddler thought I was amazing! I also had a few friends who’d stuck around since grade school.
But practically speaking, I had no audience. I was just “the mom next door.” I didn’t have a massive Instagram or Twitter following, and I had less than 300 friends on Facebook.
Yet, when I self-published and launched my first book earlier this year, I got over 10,000 downloads in the first three days and became a #1 internationally best-selling author. (WHAT!? I still can’t believe I get to say that.)
Did I have an amazing publicist? Nope. I didn’t have one at all. Was it luck? Definitely not. Thousands of books are published every single day, and most only ever get a couple dozen downloads.
So what happened? Why did my very first book, “Sorted: Freedom Through Structure” become such a success? The answer, quite simply, is that I had a great launch plan.
If there’s one thing I’m stellar at, it is research. Fortunately, there’s actually more than one thing. In fact, there are at least three: research, learning, and application. So you better believe that when I was preparing to send my baby (i.e. Sorted) out into the world, I spent many months researching and developing the very best plan I could possibly come up with.
And it worked out alright, if I do say so myself.
Okay, enough of the chit-chat: let’s cut to the chase. Below I’ve outlined exactly what I did that gave “Sorted” such a rocket launch and enabled me to follow my name with “#1 internationally bestselling author.” (Which, I have to admit, is probably my favorite part of this whole adventure.)
Step 1: Market Research for Your Book Concept
You likely already have an idea of what you want to write about, but before you even start it’s important to discover how many people are actually interested in the topic. The free Google Keyword Planner is an excellent tool to validate your book idea.
At the very least, ask a few family and friends what they think of your idea. (Give more weight to to the funny face they make when you propose your book idea then to what they actually say out loud to be polite. Just a tip.)
Once your research is complete, adjust your course as necessary.
Step 2: Start the Conversation (and Start Writing)
Once you’ve settled on your idea, you’re going to need a substantial amount of commitment to see it through. There will be plenty of times mid-way through the writing process that you’ll stop to second guess yourself. You’ll wonder if you really picked a good topic. You’ll wonder if you even know how to write. You’ll wonder if anyone will really want to read your book.
In all honesty, who knows. However, you must stay committed or else you’ll never even find out. You need to stay committed or else you’ll never even finish your draft.
Even if your book isn’t as well received as you would like for it to be, you still can have a successful launch. And there’s so many other things to be gained from the experience as well. You’ll become a better writer, you’ll discover what your audience really does want, and you’ll learn a whole lot more about the publishing process that you can use for your next book!
So you need to stay committed! Two quick tips for finishing your book:
First, have a plan. Check out my recent article, “How to Write Your First Book in One Month” for the specific strategy I used to complete my first draft. You can use this plan even if you want to stretch out the writing process over 3 – 6 months.
Second, talk about what you’re doing. Talk about it a lot, to everyone you meet. Tell them when it will be done and why you’re excited about it. This will help keep you excited about it, provide accountability and start laying the foundation that will help you form a strong launch team.
Step 3: Find Your Book Launch Team
Like I mentioned, when I did this, I had virtually no following. So, no excuses! You have every resource available that I did when I got my first 10,000 downloads.
To build your launch team, start by emailing everyone you can think of and asking them if they might be interested in being on your launch team. Tell them that you’d really appreciate their help, they’ll get a free copy of your book, and they’ll get to see “behind the scenes” of your book launch. All they have to do in exchange is write you a review on Amazon and share your book with their network/friends when it’s released.
After you email everyone, use your other communication methods to do the same thing. Private message your 58 friends on Facebook and mail your Aunt Rose a letter.
Then go public with it. Tweet, Snap, post a ‘Gram, and talk about it on your Facebook wall. Pitch your launch team to anyone you have a connection with.
While you’re at it, this is a great way to start building a following as well. You’ve already selected your topic, so you have at least a general sense of who your audience should be comprised of. Join some Facebook groups or forums and start networking!
And then go even more public. Post about it in all your Facebook groups and any forums you’re a part of. Be sure to come from a place of asking for help. Ask them to vote on your cover design, subtitle, author bio pick. Don’t try to sell your book to your network. Just tell them this is your first book and you need some support. Share the process with them. I think you’ll be overwhelmed by the positive response of people reaching out to help you.
Step 4: Plan Your Book Release Timeline
This doesn’t have to initially include all the nitty-gritty, but start by writing an outline of the big steps that you know need to be completed.
Assign dates to each of the following tasks:
- Finish the first draft
- Edit it yourself
- Hire an external editor
- Hire a formatter
- Ask your launch team to write their reviews
- Submit it to Createspace (or whichever publishing company you’ve chosen)
- Submit to Kindle Direct Publishing
- Hit the “Publish” button to officially launch your book!
Once you have your timeline worked out, email your launch team and let them know what to expect! That way they’ll know what to look forward to, and everyone will be on the same page.
Step 5: Pre-launch slowly
During your pre-launch, you need to do two things: 1) get your book ready to launch, and 2) get your final draft into the hands of your team to start reading.
All of the editing and formatting must be completed and a cover design must be created before you are ready to submit it to the publisher. I used Createspace to publish the paperback and Kindle Direct Publishing for the ebook.
Kindle goes pretty quickly (just 2-3 days), but you need to submit it to Createspace at least a month before you plan to launch. After you submit it, you’ll wait for them to approve it, then order a proof copy, then have to re-submit for their approval again. The whole process can take anywhere from 10 – 35 days.
While you’re waiting for the publisher you’ll have plenty of time to get your book into the hands of your team. Here’s my biggest recommendation: individual follow-up. It is fine to send out the draft as a mass email, but then, a week later, you need to start following up with each member of your team individually, asking them to write their review. No, this is not the most efficient time-wise, but it is by far the most efficient as far as results go, which is what you’re really after. For the most successful launch, you want to get as many of your team members to write their reviews in the days before you actually publish.
Step 6: Release Your Book to the World!
Once your final drafts have been approved by the publisher, click the “publish” button several days before your actual launch date. This will enable your team to go write their reviews, and will allow you to make sure that all systems are “go” for launch day.
Make sure you are extra vocal in the days leading up to the launch, reminding everyone you know that it is coming up, emailing your list, and talking about it on social media. Build up as much hype as possible!
- On launch day: email your list and remind them to go download your book and share it on social.
- Post about it on all your social media accounts at least three times per day for the first three days of your launch
- Post about it in every related Facebook group you are in (Be sure to check their rules about promotional posts first though. Many groups have specific guidelines you have to follow.)
Free Launch vs. Paid Launch
When you publish your book, you get to choose the price. You also get to choose if you want to run certain promotions, such as making the book free for a set number of days. Should you do this? In my opinion, the answer is absolutely to do a free launch and offer your book at no cost for the first 1 – 5 days.
Why would you give your book away for free? Quite simply this: If you do a paid launch, you’ll sell a couple hundred copies (maybe) to your network. They’ll read it, and if they really like it, they might pass it on to a friend… but overall, unless you continue to hustle your butt off, your book sales will almost immediately plummet. You’ll get lost in the millions of other books on Amazon, and no one will ever hear of it again.
However, if you do a free launch, here’s what will happen instead: several thousand people will download your book, plus most of your friends and family will still buy a copy to support you. Those thousands of people who got your book are all free advertising. There is a much better chance for your book to get shared. PLUS, this catapults your book to the top of the Amazon listings, making it much easier for people to find it organically.
Step 7: Follow Up (a Vital Step!)
When you launch your book, there are several important things for you to do to maintain sales afterward.
- Include a page in your book that offers free bonus resources on your website. This will incentivize readers to get on your email list, which will enable you to contact them in the future.
- Publish content on your website regularly, and include an ad for your book at the bottom of each post. When your content ranks in Google, people will discover your book.
- Gradually raise the price of your book until you notice resistance.
- Keep communicating with your list! Keep sending them good quality content so that you stay on their radar and they remember to share your book with others who it could help.
- Get out there! Guest blog posting, getting interviewed on podcasts, and doing speaking gigs are all great ways to make your name known and spread the word about your book
This certainly isn’t everything there is to know about a self-published book launch (that would be a very long blog post), but I’ve shared with you several of the strategies that really helped me launch SORTED successfully. Considering that I went from completely unknown to a #1 internationally bestselling author using this plan, I would definitely recommend that you try out this method as well!
I’ve put together a checklist of all the steps mentioned in this article, plus a few more that I used as well. Even if you’re not quite ready to launch your book yet, you should still pick it up to save it for when you are ready. Click to download the checklist for free!
If you’re interested in learning more about the process of writing and self-publishing, be sure to subscribe with your email so that I can let you know when I post more articles on such topics.
You can check out my #1 international bestseller (still can’t believe I can say that!) on Amazon (http://amzn.to/1PXhEkV), click here to download the first two chapters for free, or head over to www.sortedbook.com to read all about the book that has inspired an international movement of life-organization.