As requested, I’m posting my thoughts/strategies on the launch of my very first book Miss Mabel’s School for Girls. Don’t feel obligated to sit and read it all at once. Skim away and pick what you want, or bookmark it for later reference.
*Note: I don’t launch books like this anymore. 9 books later, I’ve taken away a lot of this work and just let it go because I have readership. But this worked for me as a first book release strategy because I needed traction and warm bodies to read.
So we are clear: this is by no means a post to say DO IT THIS WAY. This is simply me telling you what I did and my assessment of whether I’d do it again or not. I firmly believe that every book launch needs to be tailored to the genre, book, and audience.
1. I wrote a good book. At least, in my opinion it’s a good book, with multi-levels of professional edits, an ebook formatter, a typesetter, and a cover designer.
2. I made the release about the readers. At the heart of things, they are most important. Since readers are the reason I have a job, everything is about them. Except for the writing. That’s all about me.
Okay, it’s all about them.
3. The Power of the Book Bloggers.
Don’t underestimate it.
I started following several book blogs last summer with the goal to keep up with current book trends, make some internet buddies, and figure out how the online writing/reading community worked.
SO GLAD I DID THAT SMART THING.
I found some book bloggers that I liked, who kept things interesting (I’ve dropped my subscription to a few), and made sure to comment every now and then or support them in whatever way I could.
Turns out, when you’ve got friends that blog about books, and then you release a book, they’ve got your back. Some of them weren’t able to help me, and some didn’t respond to my emails, but they still run awesome blogs and may help me in the future.
The book blogs that I regularly followed at that time (but may not be active now):
Allie at LittleBirdieBooks
Sharon at Sharon’s Book Nook
Maria at Books j’adore
Elina at Book Bunny
Lizzy at My Little Book Blog
Manda at I Solemnly Swear
Cathy at The Crazy Bookworm
Then there’s Candace.
There’s more, I’m sure of it. If I’ve forgotten you, I apologize.
4. I did a blog blast type thing, but I didn’t do a blog blast type thing.
I’m not really sure what you call it. A launch party or book blast or something like that. Basically, I constructed a post (see next item) with Candace at Candace’s Book Blog, and she sent it out to her small army of book bloggers, who then posted it release weekend.
My thoughts on this approach:
1. This definitely got me exposure on release day. I had referrals coming in all day from these book blogs. DID IT INCREASE SALES? There’s no way to tell, really. But I believe it did.
2. The real reason I believe this approach worked is because I went to each and every blog, left a comment to thank the blog host, then clicked the little box that says notify me. All launch weekend long I tracked comments people made on each book blog. Some of those comments I followed up with. If they were another book blog, I’d offer them a review copy.
3. Did I do it for the next book? Not on the same scale, and didn’t even contemplate it for the third book. But now that MMSFG is out garnering, hopefully, her own following, it may or may not be necessary. I think this wouldn’t be as easy with the second book in a series unless I offered the first book for a discounted price when the second book launches.
5. DO WHAT WORKS.
In regards to the post that Candace and I sent out, I was adamant that I would not do character interviews. I never read them. See my rant/post about it here. You know what does work?
Pretty, pretty pictures work.
I spent almost an entire Saturday with my MIL getting giveaway swag ready and then taking the most professional photos we could. I also scoured the internet for awesome images that look like something you’d find in my world and emailed the owners for permission to reuse them.
We are visual people. We like pretty things. So I showed my readers pretty things.
Candace and I did a visual tour of Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and it worked beautifully. Lots of comments on changing it up, and even more people said they were intrigued because of what they saw.
6. Return the love.
I had tons of bloggers and book reviewers help me out by reading, reviewing, and posting a review on launch day. So, as a result, I promoted the brains out of them on my social media, especially on the Facebook page.
I also publicly thanked everyone who helped, which was probably all of you reading this.
7. Rafflecopter didn’t work for me.
For real. I’ve done it in the past and will never do it again. Why?
Because it’s constructed to mostly benefit the person running the giveaway by garnering twitter followers, Facebook likes, and blog posts. It’s not really geared towards normal readers.
I’d say maybe 2% of my readers have a twitter account. 50% have Facebook. And the rest of them, like my grandma (who is, I’ll have you know, one of my biggest flans), don’t want to leave a comment on the blog.
8. I made the giveaway work in my favor while benefitting the readers.
My goal for the giveaway was to make it so anyone could win and Miss Mabel’s would get out there. Not only would that help me meet more people, but it would also increase the likelihood that Miss Mabel’s would bust out on all kinds social media.
Things I did that I’d do again for my giveaway:
– Had a central meeting point on my blog not associated with social media. (Because not everyone has Facebook or twitter, remember?)
– Had a list of straightforward instructions on how to earn entries that’s visible and easy to find.
-Made earning entries easy by simply sharing on social media. 1 share = 1 entry.
– Made myself accessible so they could communicate questions to me at any time: IE- I plastered an email address everywhere.
– Made sure the swag is extra awesome and applicable to the story. It was pretty unique and people seemed to really like that
– I didn’t give away copies of the book in the giveaway because people may not buy it in the hopes to win.
– I made sure the pictures of the swag were as professional as I could manage. I did it with an old kodak, actually. This is important because: the prettier the pictures, the more likely people will share. IT’S WHY PINTEREST WORKS SO WELL!
9. Leaned on my author buddies.
My writing friends were amazing at my launch. They promoted their brainz out. Really. All of you guys who hosted me on your blog, or bought my book, or read it? Awesome. Seriously. Without all the people who I reached out to, or reached out to me, this post would not be happening.
10. I gave away free advance copies to anyone who wanted one.
There are differing opinions on why we shouldn’t give our books away for free. I see the argument for and against. But I decided to @#$^*@# with that and gave away like it was the apocalypse.
I’ll do this in more controlled methods for later books. Exposure was key. I felt it worked because:
1. I feel it garnered a lot of loyalty and excitement.
2. I sent the PDF to people I didn’t know but someone else said, hey, they love to read! Send it to them! That way I knew I could trust the feedback to not be family-tainted.
3. MMSFG garnered a lot of reviews (we hit almost 40 the first two weeks) not just because posting a review earned you slips for the giveaway, but also because of the advance copies that went out. I told people that I sent it to, ‘Send it to one or two friends that you absolutely trust and tell them I’ll give them the advance copy if they agree to read it and review it for launch weekend.’
Most people were more than happy to do that. I got plenty of reviews the first week from people I didn’t know in Alaska, Arizona, and other places. I also made it very clear that I never interact with people regarding their review, and I wanted them to post an honest response.
1. Not everyone posted a review as promised, which is fine. It’s not something I can, nor want, to control. I don’t really care enough to try.
2. A needed sense of organization, which I don’t, so I had many headaches.
3. I plan to give away advanced copies again, but NOT to the extent I did for the first book. Now that the first book is out, I’ll use the super-stars that popped up with this launch to help me with the next one, and will likely be more selective.
As a general rule, I’m wary of Goodreads. Love it. Use it to some extent. But as an author I’m vewy, vewy, wary. However, it’s an engine with a lot of power for a book release.
What I’ll do again:
1. Post a giveaway that ends the day before the launch. Then send the books on launch day. Two of the readers that won the Goodreads copy of Miss Mabel’s posted reviews. It also got it out on the TBR lists so that when it was available it was already “out there” and people have at least seen the cover.
2. Give away several copies: I gave away 5 and had almost 1200 people requesting on the first giveaway. I’m a week into another month long giveaway on Goodreads and already 350 people are requesting it.
I’ve also found that Goodreads tends to act “as it’s own entity” with people that I don’t know on any other social media, so I’ve let Goodreads do it’s own work and that has worked well so far.
12. I did other stuff.
The post on the progression of my book cover went over really well with readers because they had no idea what goes into the behind-the-scences stuff, so I blasted that a day before the giveaway started to garner more interest and anticipation. It’s one of the highest visited posts I’ve ever had.
I also did interviews that really had not much to do with anything but were far more interesting than ‘what’s your writing process?’
13. Had a goal to always be associated with good things
No matter what, I want people to see my name, my brand, my book, my story, my whatever, and think good things.
Bottom line. Period.
14. I made everything easy to find.
The ‘buy’ links are front and center on the book page. It’s also simple, easy to navigate, and gorgeous!
It took me about three months and 15 different attempts to get the website just how I wanted it and I’m so glad I took the time.
15. I made the subscription option a priority in the giveaway.
What I didn’t tell most people is that my main motivation behind doing a giveaway was to get subscribers to MissMabel’s.com. I made it so that subscribing to the website would earn them as many entries as buying the book.
HOW EASY IS IT TO SUBSCRIBE? Too easy. That’s what.
Those subscribers will be the backbone of my future book releases. And I give them exclusive free stuff, like free audiobooks and the book, Short Stories from Miss Mabel’s for free.
Are your minds slush yet?
Mine is. I need a chai. I always need more chai.
In conclusion: I think for that first book, focusing on your reader is key. Make it easy. Give yourself space to find people, and focus on exposure. (I know people will differ in opinion and that’s totally fine). For me, I took the focus off royalties and placed it on visibility.
Still going strong 9 books later. #justsayin