Last week, I officially launched my new book, with much fanfare.
The launch involved a dozen guest posts on major blogs, two video trailers, special launch bonuses, and loads of reviews from people who were kind enough to look at an advance copy of the book.
And while it’s still too soon to know if the book will be called a success, I’m ready to call the launch a success;
- 3,504 people visited the book’s site
- 1,439 people watched the launch videos
- 83 people bought the book (paperback, or Kindle)
- 1,587 people (!!!) downloaded the free digital version
Are those numbers that will make a major publisher’s heart skip a beat? No, they aren’t.
But I’m not a major publisher – in fact, I’m not a publisher at all; Engagement from Scratch! was self-published which means that I don’t have a big marketing budget, ties to the media, or relationships with booksellers. And a year ago today, nobody in the blogosphere knew who I was.
All to say that I’m pretty happy with these results, and if you were in my shoes, I think you would be too!
But the point of this post isn’t to pat myself on the back (though it’s nice to do once in a while) – it’s to share what I did in order to make it all happen, and what I did wrong, and would do differently next time. Here is my ultimate guide on how to launch a book…
First, Write a Great Book
I’ll tell you everything that I did to launch and market my book, so that you can do the same. Before you start any of that, though, there’s one thing that you absolutely have to do:
WRITE A GREAT BOOK!
It’s almost too obvious to say, except that too often it isn’t; there’s the misconception that marketing can sell anything, where in truth, good marketing is just a megaphone that effectively spreads the word about what is already there.
In other words, if you launch the hell out of a mediocre product, it’ll crash down like a ton of bricks.
So you have to start by writing a great book, and that requires some real honesty. In my case, I wanted to write a book about building an engaged audience, but I had to admit that I wasn’t equipped to write that book. That’s what pushed me to approach my 30 co-authors, and without their wonderful contributions, the book wouldn’t have been very good.
So start by being honest with yourself about whether you can write a truly awesome book, and if you need help, get it.
Okay, moving on – the first step in my marketing plan (and hopefully yours) is relationships.
Build Relationships by Helping Whenever You Can
This is another one of those “pre-steps”, in that you should start doing it before you ever get to think about launch tactics, execution timelines, or even writing a book at all.
Whether it’s launching a book, growing a blog, building a business, or anything else, you’re going to need help, and that help will come from other people;
- You’ll need people to advise you about how to do the things you want to do
- You’ll need people to help you do things when you get stuck
- You’ll need people to spread the word about your work
- You’ll need people to stick up for you on the few occasions where trolls start attacking you in public forums
- You’ll need people to give you a kick in the butt to keep on working when you’re tired
Do you see the common thread here? Whatever you try to do, you’ll need people to succeed.
The beauty of it is that they’ll need you, too. So don’t wait until you need something – go and help them out. Right now. Consume their content, share their work, thank them for their effort, and ask them what else you can do.
This isn’t manipulative, and there’s no quid pro quo – you’re just building relationships and making friends, and people help their friends out; it goes both ways, and it’s the only way that a community can function. In marketing, as in many other areas of life, the right thing and the smart thing are the same thing.
Don’t wait to do this. Whether you’re ready to launch a book (or anything else) or not, you should get out there and start building relationships today.
Learn from the Successes (and Failures) of Others
There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Many books were successfully launched before mine, and many will be successfully launched after mine, too.
The cheapest way to launch a book, is to learn from the experience of others, so start by examining it closely (which you’ve already started to do, since you’re reading this post).
Here are some of the book launches that I followed closely while planning the launch of Engagement from Scratch!:
- The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss
- Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
- Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields
- Small Business, BIG Vision by Matthew and Adam Toren
- End Malaria by Seth Godin
Notice that while most of the books are targeted at the same market as Engagement from Scratch!, some aren’t – you should pay attention to what others are doing to reach your audience, but you should also look for cool ideas from outside of your industry.
With each campaign that you follow, make careful note of what you like, why you think it will be effective, and what went into doing it well. Make sure that if you want to borrow ideas, you do the full work of reverse-engineering their strategies, and not just copying their tactics!
Next, you need to lay out the components of your launch plan…
Choose Your Launch Plans
List out the different tactics that you want to execute, and the infrastructure and preparation that you will need in order to get it all right.
Here’s what I did with Engagement from Scratch!:
- Build a mini-site to act as a central hub for the book and launch. There were actually two versions of the site; one simple version for pre-launch (which just had the trailer, the option to sign up for updates, and a space below for comments or a pre-launch offer.
- Create a video trailer to build excitement. I actually ended up creating two trailers (read the whole story here), but basically one of them remained on the site, and the other was primarily viewed and shared on YouTube.
- Have a great pre-launch offer. With Engagement from Scratch!, several of the book’s co-authors offered bonuses for people who bought the book before it launched. Then, responding to feedback from subscribers, I added a bonus offer for people who pre-ordered just one copy.
- Send the book to reviewers. We sent out hard copies of the book (not PDFs) to anyone who expressed interest in writing a review. This was an expensive proposition (roughly $2,000 in postage), but I think there’s something very special about holding a book in your hands, that you just can’t get from a PDF file. Keep in mind that a book review is an investment, not an expense, all the major publishing companies use this tactic in their book launching strategies.
- Guest posts on as many sites as would have me. With any launch plan, you should stick with what has worked for you in the past, and for me that was guest posting. So I approached 19 blogs, and landed 28 guest posting spots over a three-week period.
- Nominate your Engagement Superstar contest. Inspired by Jonathan Fields’ Ride the Butterflies contest, I invited Firepole Marketing readers to nominate whoever they felt was deserving of the title of “Engagement Superstar”.
- Launch bonuses and supporting a good cause. During the launch, anyone who bought a copy of the book also got two other books, for free, and a free image pack from Photos.com. Also, all of the profits from sales during the launch went to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
- Free digital version of the book. I wanted to make it easy for people to access the book, and was betting that if they liked it enough, they’d buy a copy, so I made the digital version of the book available for free to anyone who wants it.
It’s not enough to just make a list of tactics, though – you have to think through how they would all interact with each other. In my case, it worked something like this:
Give Yourself More Time Than You Think You Need
Once you’ve chosen the components of your book launch, you need to lay out a timeline for when you need to start and finish work on each part.
At a high level, this is as simple as creating a Gantt chart for the whole project, listing all the tasks so that you can see how they fit together in a timeline, and what the dependencies are between each task (for example, if you want the trailer to be embedded in the minisite, then you need it done by the time you want the minisite to go up).
The trouble with Gantting this out, though, is that we all experience a sort of Doppler effect with regard to planning; the further out we’re planning, the more efficient we think we’re going to be. We know about the little distractions that we have to deal with this week, but we tend to forget that there will be a different set of little distractions in three months, and that we won’t be able to work at optimal productivity on our book launch.
The lesson here is that however long you think things should take, recognize that your attention will be divided between the task at hand and any number of other things, which means that you should budget 150%-200% as much time for the task as your gut is telling you to.
Trust me – I didn’t do this, and I regretted it!
Double-Check Your Calendar
Before finalizing your launch timeline, make sure to check every major date against every major calendar (not just the ones that govern your day to day lives).
In other words, make sure there aren’t major religious or national holidays for any large group of people that you might be targeting.
I screwed this one up hugely with my Engagement Superstar contest. You see, I live in Canada, and up in Canada we celebrated Thanksgiving on October 10th. It didn’t occur to me that I was asking people to participate in my contest during American Thanksgiving until it was kindly pointed out to me by one of my readers.
Oops – sorry about that! :S
So anyway, double-check and triple-check every calendar you can find. Just because there’s no conflict that is obvious to you doesn’t mean there isn’t one that will affect your readers.
Clear Your Schedule for Launch Week
If you’ve done everything else that I’ve described here, then you should be all set to do the work leading up to launch week.
Speaking of launch week, I can pretty much guarantee you that if you’ve done everything that I’ve described here, and done it well, then launch week will be very, very hectic.
You can try to keep up with it, and you might even succeed (I did okay, more or less), but don’t make it any harder for yourself than it has to be. Clear your schedule, and make sure that there is absolutely nothing that isn’t essential happening during that week.
If you give yourself the time, and you do the work, then you should see some results!
Then all you have to do is keep on pushing…
Download the Book Marketing Infographic
As happy as I am with the results of the launch, I know that my work is just beginning. There’s a lot of marketing left to do; I have to spread the word about the book, hopefully to the point where it reaches a “tipping point” and starts spreading on its own.
I’ll cover everything involved in doing that in a later post (after I’ve done it, and can report back on what worked, and what didn’t).
In the meantime, I think there’s plenty here for you to get started putting together your own launch timeline, and to help, you can download the snazzy infographic that my friend Matt Tanguay at Fluent Brain put together to go with this post:
There’s nothing to opt-in for, and nothing to pay – just click here to download it now.
And after you download it, leave a comment, and let me know what you think!
Did you follow the launch? What could I have done better? What launch ideas have you seen that you’re going to try with your own stuff in the future?
Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available on Amazon, or as a free download).