Do you want to perfect your book launches? Do you wonder if book launches are even relevant in 2020? This week’s AskALLi session with Sacha Black and Adam Croft will discuss the conflicting and often confusing subject of launching your book and giving it the greatest chance of success.
- Should you launch during the coronavirus pandemic?
- How changes in publishing have affected the relevance of big launches
- Which approach to book launches different authors should take
- How to set your new book up for ongoing, long-term success
Our fiction and nonfiction salon is brought to you by sponsor Izzard Ink.
Listen to the Podcast: How To Do Successful Book Launches
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About the Hosts
Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition-winning author. She writes the popular YA Fantasy Eden East novels and a series of non-fiction books that are designed to help writers develop their craft. Sacha has been a long-time resident writing coach for website Writers Helping Writers. She is also a developmental editor, wife and mum.
With almost two million books sold to date, Adam Croft is one of the most successful independently published authors in the world and one of the biggest selling authors of the past few years, having sold books in over 120 different countries. In February 2017, Only The Truth became a worldwide bestseller, reaching storewide number one at both Amazon US and Amazon UK, making it the bestselling book in the world at that moment in time. The same day, Amazon’s overall Author Rankings placed Adam as the world’s most widely read author, with J.K. Rowling in second place. In March 2018, Adam was conferred as an Honorary Doctor of Arts, the highest academic qualification in the UK, by the University of Bedfordshire in recognition of his services to literature. Visit his website, The Indie Author Mindset, or find him on Twitter.
Read the Transcript: How To Do Successful Book Launches
Sacha: Hello everyone and welcome to this evening’s or this afternoon or this morning, depending on where you are in the world, the Alliance of Independent Authors, Self-Publishing Fiction and Nonfiction Podcast. I am Sacha Black and I am with Adam Croft.
Adam: Hello, good morning. Afternoon, evening.
Book Launches During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Sacha: Wherever you all in the world, do tell us, let us know in the comments where you are. So, this evening’s podcast is all about book launches for both your fiction and nonfiction. And we’re going to look at launching both your first book and also later books in your series. First of all, before we dive into it, we did have a member question emailed into us.
So, I just wanted to pitch that to you, first of all. So the question was, what should somebody do about a launch given the current global climate in terms of Coronavirus and the fact that lots and lots of things are shutting down, should they continue to launch anyway or should they postpone and launch in a few months’ time?
Adam: It depends essentially on the type of launch you’re planning. If you’re planning a physical launch event somewhere, then that decision will probably be taken out of your hands. Most countries in the world are either on lockdown or heading towards lockdown. We’re probably going to be on lockdown within an hour. Our Prime Minister is about to make an announcement in an hour’s time.
So that decision will probably be taken out of your hands. If you are still planning a launch somewhere and your country’s not on lockdown, it probably will be at some point, just because of the nature of the way viruses spread. So that’s going to happen to everybody. If you’re planning an online launch, then it could possibly help you because, let’s face it, everyone’s going to be at home.
They’re not going to able to do anything else. The vast majority of people won’t be able to go out to work. They won’t be socializing. So, it’s entirely possible. And of course, you know, I say this, I’m just, purely as a, as a guest really, because no one’s ever been in this situation before. The world hasn’t been in this situation before.
So, I would imagine there’d be more people around at home, people who are going to want something positive and something uplifting. So, if you’re planning an online digital launch party, my expectation is that it would probably be a good time to do something like that. And if you’re planning a physical one, then it’s likely to be taken out of your hands anyway. They’re my views.
Sacha: Yeah. Yeah. And I think I share similar, I mean, depending on how long this goes on, my next launch may be in the middle of this, and I have no intention of stopping that, not least because it’s on preorder. But, you know, I have no intention of stopping it. It’s a digital launch. So, I just think we have to roll with these punches and kind of stay positive and hope for the best. Really.
Adam: As I say, I’ve got a book out on Tuesday and I’m doing exactly the same thing, carrying on as normal. And I think, you know, people will be looking to us as writers, as people who can keep them entertained, can keep them happy, can give them that escapism.
That’s a word that I’ve heard so much this week, more so than ever before. Escapism. So, I think it’s up to us to step up to the mark and to provide that.
Momentum is Key in Book Launches
Sacha: Yeah. So we’ve got a few principles that we were going to talk about before we go into specifics of launches, and this one particularly plays into one of the most important principles for me, which is, yes, launches are very, very exciting, especially your first launch.
We all get very, very excited. But once you publish that book, that book is available for the rest of your life and basically forever more afterwards. And so, whilst it’s important to focus in part on the launch, to get some, you know, good rankings, to get lots of sales, to get momentum. It’s actually the momentum that you need because you need to put aside some of your marketing money to keep promoting that book month after month, after month, after month, because it’s not the launch sale money that is going to keep you afloat for the rest of your career.
It’s actually those daily sales, you know, each day for the next year or five years or 10 years, that really make the difference.
Adam: Yeah, and it’s something that I found out over the years and the 10 years or so, I’ve been doing this is the momentum is absolutely key, especially when it comes to Amazon, which is, let’s face it, where most people’s bulk of sales are going to be.
And you’re absolutely right. Books don’t have a shelf life anymore. Because they don’t have shelves anymore when it comes to online digital stores. So, you don’t have to worry about making a big splash, from a PR point of view and from getting that ball rolling so you can start to generate from that momentum.
It can be helpful. But it’s not something to worry about. And I’ll say particularly if you’re launching your first book, don’t stress too much over that because you’ve got a handicap anyway, being a new author without an established audience, without a legion of readers. So, you’re going to find launches very difficult anyway, and very time consuming.
And I would argue the time is probably better spent at that time in your career on building up that fan base and writing future books.
There’s No Right or Wrong Way
Sacha: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think the second principle is that there is no right or wrong way to do launches. Everybody has a different way to do this. And I think that that goes for our, you know, writing journeys, our writing businesses and our writing careers as a whole. For every author who launches and focuses on Facebook advertising, there’s another author who will focus on delivering paperbacks into schools.
So, you know, I think that, try to not pay too much attention to, you know, myth and rumor and oh, somebody says I have to do it this way or that way. Actually, what brings you joy? You know, let’s focus on the bits of launch that you love and then do those really well because you will attract readers to you. Do you have any more principles before we go into specifics?
Adam: Well, only kind of following on from what you said there really, which is that, not just different types of authors will have different preferences, but different genres, different types of books. When you’re looking at the difference between fiction and nonfiction as well, the approaches will be different.
For example, if you’re a nonfiction writer, especially if you’re writing narrative nonfiction or certain types of narrative nonfiction, then in-person physical launches can often work best. Of course, that’s on hold now indefinitely. So, that’s probably not something we can advise on too much at the moment.
But, you know, once we’re all back up and running again, you know, you could launch books, nonfiction books, in front of relevant audiences at events, which have something to do with the topic that you’re writing about, for example, and if your book is based around a certain location, which can work for fiction and nonfiction.
I’m currently writing a new series, but it’s a fiction series, but based around a location. So, a lot of my launch plan for that later this year, fingers crossed, is going to be heavily location-based in that area. So, the book will drive it as well, the type of the book, the genre, and the audience that you’re looking to market to.
Approaching Book Launches for Fiction
Sacha: Yeah. And I think when you are location-based, it’s easier to get local, traditional media interested because you have a story there as well. But I’m sure we’ll talk about that in a bit. So, we’ve just had lots of people join us. I’m just gonna just shout out because, hey guys, like we might be socially distancing, but, you know, the internet helps us stop that. So, we’ve got people, so we’ve got Thomas from Palm Springs in California, Phil from Toronto in Canada, Brenda from Hartford. It’s CT, is that Connecticut? Don’t want to show my poor geography skills there. Connecticut in the USA. Joseph is also here in Irvine, South London.
We’ve got, Renee said she was going to postpone her launch, but she doesn’t think she will now. And I don’t think you should either. So, hello everybody, there’s also some more from Tunisia and Manchester, so thank you very much for joining us. Okay, so let’s get into it then. What, what, let’s start with your fiction.
How do you approach a launch for your fiction books?
Adam: It largely depends on the type of book that it is. I write standalone psychological thrillers, which I guess is what a lot of people will know me for, and they tend to be where I put a lot of the effort and the time and the money into launches, they’ll be quite heavily ad-based as well, because they can have quite hooky hooks, if you like, or punchy hooks, which will draw people in and that work well from an advertising point of view, they’ve got that headline that grabs people straight away.
Sacha: Oh, go on Adam, tell us your hook.
Adam: Oh, no, I’ve done too many now. I couldn’t possibly go through them all. And I’ve got my series books as well. Right. Three different series at the moment, and a fourth one on the way. They tend to be marketed more to existing readers.
I do, do a bit of sort of wider marketing, if you like, to cold audiences. But largely that tends to be warm audiences, so that will be heavily based around my mailing list. And I will also do Facebook ads, which will go to warm audiences. So, they’ll go to people who already like my Facebook page, people who are already on my mailing list and I will re-target people who have visited my website and looked at the books page there. So, these people are aware of me. They’ve possibly read my books before. So, they’re warmer leads and you know series books and about, well, with every book but, particularly with series books, I will then go back to those people and remarket to them.
Similarly with BookBub ads, I’ll target myself as a keyword because, you know, those are people who have clicked on my ads, or downloaded my books and featured deals before, so they’re aware of me, and I will market to those warm leads that way. So, it’s, I guess, the approach for the psychological thrillers is the same, but with more added on top.
Launching Your First Book
Sacha: So, winding back a bit because I think there is a distinct difference between somebody who already has a 50,000 strong or 100,000 strong mailing list. I think, no launch is easy, but I think it is easier for somebody with an established audience to do that promotion because they have an established fan base.
So, for those who don’t, and perhaps they’re only on their first or second book, what other useful tips and tricks are there for launching when you don’t have an established audience?
Adam: It depends largely on your type of book. I think if you’re a fiction author, it’s very difficult because you’re coming at it completely cold and you’re looking to, to build up an audience first of all, before you start doing sort of big launches, so focusing on writing future books. Perhaps doing some, some Amazon advertising, something like that to kind of trickle some sales through there and build it up slowly. Get your mailing list going, push people towards that. I think if you’re looking at nonfiction. Then, if it’s your first book, then as somebody writing nonfiction and trying to kind of position yourself as an expert in your field, which is what you should be doing, then you should already be a prominent user of social media.
Twitter can be quite good for things like that as well. If you’ve got a specialist subject you’re writing about, try to build yourself up as an expert, an influencer in that area, and you’ve got an audience, people who are already interested in what you’re saying, the things you’re tweeting about, the things that you’re putting out there.
So that can be a great way, actually for nonfiction, of building up an audience. Perhaps better than fiction does on social media, lots of people try and push fiction through social media channels and it doesn’t work as well, I’ve found. So, I think it depends largely on the, the type of book you’re writing.
But yeah, launches in general, as a staple part of your marketing plan, I think for your first, second book, they’re probably not going to make as big a splash as you’d expect. And I think building up your audience and getting more material written and out there is probably the best focus of your time at that point.
Sacha: Yeah, I think, for the nonfiction, there are, you know, the book is such a useful tool in itself for your launch because you can take excerpts out and you can do, you know, you can do content marketing. You can, much more easily find podcasts, which is another way of connecting with audiences that you can pitch to be on.
You know, you can take excerpts, as I was saying from the book, and use those in blog posts, not just on your sites, but on other people’s sites. And yes, you mentioned also using it to become a speaker. So I think, in some ways, nonfiction is easier to come up with lots of innovative ideas, I think for a launch, or at least I found that I find it easier to do the marketing on nonfiction than I do the fiction because, yeah, I don’t know. That’s just me.
Adam: I think you can be innovative with fiction as well. I mean.
Sacha: You can.
Adam: Yeah, no. Yeah. All fiction is, is based around the subjects. I mean, for example, I mean the first one that springs to mind, and of course this isn’t something you can plan, is Mark Dawson when his, when the poisonings came up in, in Salisbury and that the two Russian spies had been being poisoned in the town that he lived in. And of course, him writing, you know, spy novels. It was a perfect opportunity. And he got himself on TV and radio and all the rest talking about it. So, there are kind of opportunistic things like that, which will come up. And you know, we’ve all got, there’s always a story or a background or something that has influenced it and these things do come up in the news.
So I think, you know, being, on top of things like that and being aware of PR opportunities and, you know, a way that you can perhaps talk about your book or still position yourself as an expert on a subject through having done a ton of research in writing a fiction book. You know, I think that the lines can certainly be blurred there.
The Power of Street Teams
Sacha: So, another thing, just moving back to fiction, that I find useful. I have a feeling you don’t use these, but, it’s a street team, or an advanced team. So, for me, a street team is basically a group of people who are interested in your story and willing to help promote it.
And they will do lots of things from reading advanced copies and putting reviews, either on their websites, on their podcasts, on their YouTube channels, on sales platforms themselves. If you create graphics and, you know, perhaps with their review quotes on them, they will share them on social media.
They will share images of your book cover. They might share your trailer, these kinds of things. So basically, helping you to spread the word on your launch day and that launch week. So, that is one thing that I have found useful. I don’t know if that’s because I write young adult and so therefore lots of the street teams are very engaged on social media.
But I think what that speaks to is finding where your readers are and then, you know, focusing and driving your launch to that, either social media platform or, you know, area where those people hangout.
Adam: Yeah. I think that’s probably why email marketing is my biggest tool by a long way, and that, that tends to work better than social media.
I’ve got my Facebook group as well, the Adam Croft Readers Group, which has, I think, two-two and half thousand people in, and they’re very good, they’re chatting to each other all the time and anytime anything comes out, there’s always a lot of discussion going on there. I think, again, that kind of placed my demographic.
It’s an older demographic, mostly over 50 or 60, mostly female. So yeah, if I put something out on social media, it doesn’t really get many retweets or likes, and you know, it doesn’t get many YouTube views and things like that because that’s not where the audience is. But, that’s largely how I initially get in contact with them.
And I get a lot of people coming back to me saying, ‘Oh, I, I mentioned this to my book club, or to my knitting circle, or my granddaughter’s now reading them’, or something along those lines. So, a lot of the kind of word of mouth stuff that they do and the help that they give and the street team stuff they’re doing is offline.
So, I think, again, think of your audience, think of your type of book and as you say, position it to your crowd.
Preorders: Fiction vs Nonfiction
Sacha: Absolutely. Okay. Well, what about preorders? Do you find there’s a difference for preorders for fiction versus nonfiction? Do you find one is more useful than the other?
Yeah. Do you use them? Do you not? How do you feel about them?
Adam: Well, my experience is almost all in fiction. I do have nonfiction out there as well, but, yeah, it’s nowhere near the level that the fiction has been. So, I can only really talk on that with any authority. I’ve done quite a lot of experimentation into preorders and of course, pre-orders count double on other vendors.
They give you a ranking boost on the day the preorder is placed.
Sacha: What do you mean, other vendors? Just clarify please.
Adam: Other, than Amazon. So, they, most of those, you’ll get a boost in the chart when someone places a preorder, and that sale will then count again for ranking purposes on the date that the book comes out. So, you’ll quite often bump higher up those charts than you will on Amazon charts because they only count it at the point that the order is placed.
So, I’ve done quite a lot of experimentation into preorders. I’ve done different pricing points. I’ve done different lengths of preorder anything from, two months ahead to not announcing it at all and just putting it live and then announcing it to my mailing list. I’ve even tried that. The longer preorder periods do give you a bigger day one boost.
But after about six months, I think I tested this across seven or eight different books, and after six months, sales levels work almost identical. So, by that point, everyone who’s bought the book will have bought the book. So, launches themselves in the long run, in the lifecycle of a book, really don’t seem to matter a jot.
They certainly don’t, for mine anyway. Of course, it might be different for other people in different genres, different styles. But yeah, about after six months, it tends to kind of even out. I still do them. I think it can be helpful, especially if you’ve got a book that does land well and does resonate.
Then on those vendors other than Amazon, you’ve got that double boost in the rankings and you can hang around up there a bit longer and perhaps get some, some organic ranking love as well. But that, that’s been my experience anyway.
Blogging and Content Marketing
Sacha: Yeah. And I think something you said there is really, really important, which is that, I don’t know if you said it in these words, but basically your mileage may vary.
And the point here is, if you are planning to write more than one book, then experiment, because, you know, it might be that your particular niche readers react to certain things in different ways. So, it is always worth experimenting with these. And don’t be afraid of experimenting cause you can’t really go wrong. Once your book is published. You can promote it, keep promoting it anyway. So, we had a question come in from Irvine I think, which said, what are your feelings and beliefs on blogs? So, I’ll just answer this briefly. I think it depends whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, and I think it depends on the types of blogs that you are talking about.
So obviously, if you were to write an article on a blog that gets 100,000 hits a week, it’s probably going to have some kind of a knock-on effect on your sales, you will probably see some sales from that. I would say that you are more likely to get that with a nonfiction book and a nonfiction niche than you are with a fiction niche.
Just because there are more content marketers for nonfiction at the moment than there are for fiction. That’s not to say there aren’t fiction content marketers, it’s just that you find more of them for nonfiction. If you are talking about a blog tour in terms of blogging, and you writing Q and A’s or articles for book bloggers, for example, I think it’s something that you would probably have to experiment with. I know for me personally, I have done that for one of my books and I didn’t find much of a return on my investment, particularly on my time. It was quite time intensive to write to those articles and I didn’t really see any sales corresponding from that. So, I don’t know, what your experience has been Adam?
Adam: Well, again, think of your audience. I think, as you say for nonfiction, it’s natural, that kind of narrative factual form lends itself very well to blogging. So, you know, you’re talking on the subject that you’re an expert in as well.
But fiction authors can do that too. I personally don’t. I know of a couple who do use forms of content marketing, which is very relevant to their niche. A couple that spring to mind are Rebecca Bradley, she’s a crime author and a former police officer. So, she writes quite a lot about the forensic sides of things and police procedure and blogs about that under the guise of kind of helping crime writers get it right. So, she does very well on that front. A guy I know called Peter Laws, he writes kind of horror mysteries and he also blogs and reviews films and does so for magazines or horror films and, and things like that. And the old, old slasher movies. So, yeah, they’re two people who, I guess, blog or do content marketing that does feed in very well as they’re fiction. So, the audiences will be similar and there’s a lot of crossover there as well, and you can pull people from one to the other. So I think, you know, think along those lines as well, and think of your audience and you know what they’re going to be interested in and don’t kind of play up to your fiction books too much, but, you know, kind of play around in the same sort of circles, if that makes any sense.
How Important Are Paid Ads?
Sacha: Okay. One last question from me. How important are paid ads at this time for launching? Are they essential? Can you still launch without them? You know, and also, paid ads versus things like paid newsletters like BookBub’s and, and BookGorilla, or whatever they’re called.
Adam: I think it depends on where you are in your career.
I think you will need to do some form of paid advertising. There’s just, there’s no doubt about that because you need to bring new readers in wherever you are in your career. If you’re an established author, then readers will forget about you. They’ll, they’ll die. Yeah. Perhaps at a higher rate than before nowadays, but you know, these things will happen, and you will have attrition of readers and people will just choose not to stick around for whatever reason.
So, you do need to constantly keep bringing new people into the fold. If you’re a new author, you’re looking to build up that audience and build up that tribe. So, you’re gonna need to do some form of advertising, whether you’re advertising to build up your mailing list, whether you’re paying for newsletter promos, whether you’re paying for ads to boost your newsletter, whether you’re paying for AMS, BookBub ads, Facebook ads to directly sell books, there’s gonna need to be some level of spend.
And I think once you’ve got that audience and you can market to it, that spend does probably reduce in some ways, because you’ll be paying less to remarket to people with the new auto market sort of in the first place. So, yeah, I think, do you need ads in some form? Yes, do. Is that me saying, go to Facebook ads and set up an ad saying I’ve got a new book out, go and buy it now?
No, there are, there are different ways of doing it. There will need to be spend because it’s a business and businesses require investments and they require marketing and that comes at a cost.
Sacha: Yeah. And, I’ve read a good book on Facebook ads by Mal Cooper. So, if anybody’s going to this completely fresh with no idea how to do Facebook ads, go and have a look at Mal Cooper’s, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck.
And I believe, she’s just launched a second edition. So, have a look and make sure you’re picking up the second edition, not the first edition.
Launching at a Specific Time
Sacha: Okay, so we’ve just had another question come in saying, in launching a book about true paranormal events, 300 stories about one location, should they target October slash Halloween?
Adam: If we’re out of locked down by then, yes. If we’re not in a second wave by then, then yes, absolutely do. Obviously, you know, it goes without saying to kind of bear in mind the climate at the moment and the state of the world and that, you know, things in October might not happen.
We genuinely don’t know yet, but yes, from a purely, what’s the word I’m looking for? Not rooted in current events. Yes. I would say that is definitely a good thing to do, or you know, even throughout the winter, you know, you can do these kinds of ghost walks and things like that, and that would be an ideal way of timing if you organize something like that.
Quirky is Good
Sacha: Any last tips and tricks or quirky things that you’ve done for launches that you’ve enjoyed? Or any final words on launches?
Adam: Not really. I think quirky is good. I think with any form of marketing and advertising, standing out is what works more than anything. You know, that goes right through from a PR perspective, right through to things like Facebook adverts where your image needs to catch people’s attention, your hook or your blurb need to catch people’s attention.
It’s all about pulling them out of where they are at that point in time. So, I think, yeah, I think I’m going to latch on to that word, quirky. And, yeah. Think about that and think about sort of how you’re gonna stand out, not do things the same as other people. That’s a mistake some people make as they look at me or look at other people and they say, okay, well they do it that way, that must be the way to do it. It works for them. It’ll work for me. But everyone writes very different types of books, everyone has different personalities, different readerships they’re aiming for and usually, if it’s worked for somebody else, that’s even less reason to do it yourself. It’s about finding and carving your own path and standing out.
Think Long Term
Sacha: Absolutely. And I think the last thing that I would say is to think long term. So yes, your launch is important. It’s exciting. But my last point would be to say, how can you look after those readers who have gone and brought and read your first book? How can you capture them? Are you capturing them in a newsletter?
How are you going to look after them going forward? How are you going to treat them well, you know, so that they are then excited for your second, third, fourth, fifth, 20th, 100th book launch?
So just to say, I hope that everybody is safe and well, stay safe and well, and yeah, we are wishing you and your families health, love, warm wishes and lots of book reading.