Whew! You've written your story. You've gotten it edited and landed on a great cover. You have endorsements and a compelling blurb on the back cover. Are you now ready to launch?
It sounds like it, but make sure you aren't forgetting some of the important details in your rush to market:
Have you decided on your distribution platform?
About 70% of all books in the US are sold through Amazon. You may love or hate them, but this is how books are sold. But you don't have to place all your eggs in one basket. Consider also publishing and distributing through IngramSpark. Ingram is the largest wholesaler to bookstores, libraries, and other retail shops. Many of these do not/will not buy through Amazon as it is a direct competitor, so Ingram is your best way to tap that part of the market. You can actually market on Amazon through Ingram but you will pay double royalties so I would not recommend that.
Have you decided what format you want to market your book?
Some authors find most of their sales occur with eBooks (like Kindle) and others as paperbacks. In my experience, I'm selling about 70% Amazon paperback, 25% eBook, and 5% IngramSpark paperback, and <1% hardback. Others may find quite the opposite. It does depend on your genre. Do some research on similar books to see what you might expect. Set up for worldwide distribution (Amazon is easy and enables sales in most major English-speaking countries).
Don't forget audiobooks
This has become a popular format and is growing considerably every year. More people are opting to listen to books while they commute (especially with more people heading back to the office), workout, travel, or run errands. But you don't need to decide this in conjunction with your initial launch. I began offering my audiobook, The Corporate Introvert, almost a year after launching paper/ eBook. If/when you are ready to consider audiobook, do some research. You can read, record, and edit yourself either in your home or by renting studio space or you can hire a pro to read and edit for you. Depending on your choice and the length of your book, you may spend very little (on your own) or thousands of dollars. I spent about $1200 and hired talent through ACX. I'm thrilled with the product. You can consider a sharing arrangement where you pay them half and share the proceeds with the talent over many years. I opted to bite the bullet and pay it all and keep all royalties. A year later, I've recouped half my investment on audiobook royalties and expect I'll do fine in the long haul.
Have you uploaded your manuscript and cover to your distribution platform?
Whether you do this yourself or have your editor and book designer provide you the formats (highly recommended), be sure you receive the right formats for your distribution; ie, ebook is different from paper is different from hardback and Amazon/KDP is different formatting from Ingram etc. Not only do you need to be sure you've got all the right versions, be sure you order a proof copy of each so you can see how it looks before you launch. Do the margins and headers look right? Is the front/back cover design centered and the right font/color? If not, have your designers fix it and re-upload to avoid embarrassing mistakes.
Order paper copies for yourself
The days of stockpiling thousands in one's garage are over. Don't do that! Lean on KDP's print-to-order (when someone buys your book on Amazon, they print a copy and send it to them). It costs a bit more (not a lot more). But you will want some physical copies for you, your launch party (see below), any local indie bookstores (definitely hit them up), or sales off your website if you choose to do that at the beginning or later (limit to US sales as overseas shipping is exorbitant). You will pay KDP the print cost (for me about $4.50 on a 260-page black & white paperback) so that's not bad if your list price is $15-20 each.
Be ready administratively
Make sure you are registered on KDP/Ingram (they will collect and remit sales taxes so don't do that yourself but you will need to do it for others that don't do that - certainly your own sales). Have a spreadsheet to keep tabs of sales. Have materials to mail books yourself that you sell off your website (including bubble packages, maybe a sticker to seal it). Mail it media mail (currently $3.92 for most books).
When will you launch?
The answer may just be when you are ready - when you've done all the above steps and so releasing your work into the world is next up. It is worth considering if a certain date makes sense. If your book is about a holiday or focused around some event, launching on or before that date can be helpful. Book sales generally peak in November and December and before summer. January/February are often the slowest periods so take that into consideration.
Why will you launch?
This may sound like a ridiculous question. You've written the book and it's ready to be shared with the world. My question is meant to address this sense that the launch date is uber critical, that all sales are dependent on a successful launch. However, in reality, your sales are (or at least should be) much more than the sales on one day or even a launch week. No need to provide added pressure. Do the above steps to be ready and then do a soft or hard launch as you see fit.
What is a hard launch?
I'd say a hard launch has keen focus on the day of launch including a big show on your website, a blast to your subscribers, some media blitz whether it is The New York Times (that'd be nice), your local newspaper, or perhaps being a guest on podcasts that will be released on your launch date. Many will consider a launch party (more below) and try to hit the Amazon bestseller list by selling lots of books in their category during one hour (yes, that's basically how it works - still not easy but not really that meaningful either).
What is a soft launch?
Soft launch can be so unceremonious that you just push the publish button on Amazon and go about your day. Generally, it's selecting some items from the hard launch but best defined by less focus on one specific date. Marketing your book should entail website, subscriber, media, podcasts and the like, but you don't need to do them just one day and then check the box and move on. If so you might see a spike in sales on day one, but over a year or the life of your book, that one day will be a very, VERY small percentage of your sales if you continue to do the things you can to get the message out there year-round.
I love to throw a launch party. Not because I think I'm going to sell a gazillion books but primarily because it is a chance to celebrate! You've done it! Many (millions of) people dream of publishing a book and becoming an author, but a large percentage never make it. They lack the determination and fortitude to finish. If you finally get across that finish line, celebrate. My first book, In Search of Courage: An Introvert's Story, published the first week of COVID. Not a great time for a party. Four months later I pivoted to a virtual launch party with fellow authors joining virtual to share their works as well. The launch of my latest book, The Essential Guide for Families with Down Syndrome, was a great community event. We had many experts who contributed to the book along with others from the intellectual disabilities community join me. I read a few pieces of my book, our daughter shared her story and sang 'I Am Beautiful,' others talked a bit about their services or organization, and the community grew a bit larger and yet closer together. We did video the event which I shared with attendees who could share with their communities as I did with mine. Sales were fine but most importantly I felt a level of servant leadership that kicked off my book into the world.
My Launch Party was different for each book:
(L): Due to COVID, we did a Facebook Live Event with fellow authors
(C): I was a guest on over a dozen podcasts which released around my book launch date
(R): We had a great turnout for the Down syndrome community*
*Note, I was not on TV but there are lots of fun templates on Photofunia you can use for free
After your official launch date
Bask in the glow. Take some time off. Relax. And then get. back at it. Sales are really dependent on three things:
Online sales so advertise on Amazon (more in November).
Social media presence so publish blogs off your website and share with appropriate social media (select 1-3 SM platforms) and chitchat too.
Virtual/In-person marketing like podcasts, webinars, and talking to gatherings of your target audience - see September blog on ENGAGING).
Keys to Success:
Plan in advance. Select your launch date that supports your book and then aim for that date for months.
Provide yourself extra time in case you have website issues, editor/cover issues, uploading to distributor/publisher issues, etc.
Focus on certain launch plans listed above. Depending on the time you have available, that may just be a couple of things but do them well. Don't spread yourself too thin.
It's not about just one day. Yes, you can go all out on launch day if you want, but marketing is a year-round endeavor. Don't burn out on day 1.
Celebrate your success! You've been a writer. Now you are an author!
For our final writing blog, in November we will talk further about sustainable sales!
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