At this time of year, we're likely to spend more time thinking about forward planning, so today on the blog we're sharing some top advice from ALLi partners and authors on timing the launch and marketing of your self-published books in 2017.
Coordinating the Launch of Different Formats
Firstly, it's important to note the different production timescales required for print and digital. Theoretically it's a faster process to produce an ebook than a print one, and fewer processes are involved, e.g. you can proof an ebook online rather than requiring print books to be delivered.
So if you're planning to launch both e and p simultaneously, go for the lowest common denominator: the time it will take you (or the formatting service provider that you're using) to prepare the print book.
Some authors prefer to soft-launch the ebook first, so they can cater for any critical appraisal before committing to the print book. Others like to launch both simultaneously so as not to disappoint anyone who prefers the one you're launching second.#TopTips for #authors: For your #selfpub book launch @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet
Consider Your Service Providers
If you're using service providers rather than doing your own formatting, remember:
the best providers usually have the biggest queues
Years ago the IT manager at my then place of work had a sign on his office door that I'm sure many author service providers would love to show to author clients sending supposedly urgent requests:
Lack of planning on your part does not create an emergency on my part.
A Note About Audio
While audio books are obviously on the up, I don't know of anyone yet who launches audio at the same time as ebook and print. This is probably at least partly because having a good track record of e and p book sales and reviews will help you leverage a better deal with audio service providers. That may change as more providers enter the market.
Eretailers vs Bricks and Mortar Stores
One of the joys – and arguably one of the dangers – of eretailers is that you can launch a book on there really, really fast. You just upload your interior and cover files, and hey presto, within a couple of days at most, your book's in the eretailers' catalogue.
Getting your paperback into physical stores – if you manage to do it all – is a much longer, laborious process. When targeting bricks-and-mortar stores, bear in mind that this sector operates a little like the fashion industry, in that trade publishers operate a season ahead, In this week's edition of The Bookseller, for example, the trade magazine for British booksellers, Non-Fiction Editor Caroline Sanderson is giving her top picks of books to be launched in April. It's cover advertises a book that is targeted at the Spring Mother's Day market. This is because booksellers will be planning ahead what to order for their Spring displays.
It's important to understand that this is how booksellers operate, especially if your book is topical for a particular time of year, so that you can get in early on your target stores' planning. Acknowledging that booksellers carefully curate their stock way in advance, rather than ordering ad hoc and on a whim, will help you gain the bookseller's credibility and respect.
The Importance of Pre-Orders
While trade publishers are notorious for taking a very long time to move a book from first contract to publication, that long run-up to a launch enables them to build in lots of pre-launch marketing to booksellers. Here's expert advice from Andy Bromley of ALLi partner member Ingram Spark:
The most common practice to disadvantage indies is not putting their books on pre-order, using that time to market the book, write blogs, give talks etc. Three to six months is optimal.
Although traditional publishers follow this model, this isn’t why I recommend doing it (because as soon as the book is published, most traditional publishers consider the book ‘back list’, certainly after 12 months). I recommend it because it supports the buying cycle of how retailers order stock.
For example – if you have a Christmas book coming out, setting the book up in the next month would allow time for it to be considered by the buying community that buys a season ahead of time (so typically during August/September for titles being stocked in December). So often I see such books coming out the second week of December, thinking the market will respond when they are already focused on the Spring. I have not evidenced based this yet, but I would bet the pre-order titles are more successful than those published only at the time the book is ready to order.
Andy's advice obviously applies particularly to the supply of print books, where the timescale is prolonged because of the involvement of wholesalers, distributors and booksellers to get your book in front of potential readers.
Pre-orders for Ebooks
You can also put up ebooks on pre-order at eretailers, but make sure are confident of meeting the timescale you set yourself, because if you miss your target dates, some eretailers will ban you from the pre-order programme after that. This may sound a harsh punishment, but we need to bear in mind that, like bricks and mortar stores, the priority for these retailers is to optimise the customer's experience, and they don't want to let down customers who have pre-ordered a book in good faith only to be let down. (Ok, their ultimate priority is actually to turn a profit, but you know what I mean!)
A word from professional ALLi member Keith Dixon on the best timing for ebook pre-orders:
My own experience tells me that readers prefer a short window for pre-orders because it means when they place their pre-order they don’t have to wait long for the book, and when they’re notified of its availability they’re more likely to remember what it was they ordered.
Finally, to help you plan out your marketing year, whatever kind of books you write, I'd like to refer you to this evergreen post from our archive by industry expert and commentator Mick Rooney – a must-read whenever you're making a new marketing plan.#Toptips for #authors on timing of launch/mktg for #selfpub books - by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet