How to plan your book launch (part one)

The questions I get most often from authors centre around launching their book, exactly what marketing should happen, where they should spend their money, where they don’t need to, what the essential elements are and when things should happen.

I thought it might be useful to give you a detailed timeline of all of the tactics you can apply to your launch plan. Many of these activities can be done for free or on small budgets, however this does involve your time, so start early and put yourself in as strong a position as possible to launch your book(s) successfully.


Book Launch Timeline 

6+ months before publication

This is the time to get your house in order, get all of the basics working so you are in the best possible position for launch.

There is plenty to do to set yourself up, namely:- 

1.   Your website

This doesn’t need to be incredibly sophisticated, but it needs to be a professional online presence for you – it must represent you as a professional writer. 

Essentials for your website in time for launch: 

- a data capture mechanism for your newsletter

- extract of your book with a pre-order link 

Examples:  

Tools: Most authors build their own websites with either Wordpress or Squarespace.

Useful links:

Recommendations: Bookswarm is an agency that builds websites exclusively for authors and publishers and is very cost effective.

 

2.   Your newsletter

When you are creating your website, include a newsletter sign up. Building a list of readers and prospective readers is incredibly valuable. As well as a way to engage with readers, you can use this email list in a number of ways – build a team to support your launch, get reviews and to buy your books! Consider this a core activity that will provide more and more value as you write and publish more books. 

Lots of authors do find this process difficult, but it does get easier and set realistic expectations. You do not need 10s of thousands on your list for it to have value. Aim to get 100 people on there as a starting point.  Plan your newsletters and send them every fortnight before launch – tease information, reveal your book cover, your writing news, pre-order date etc.   

Examples: 

Tools: Email management tools like Mailchimp and MailerLite

Check out other alternatives to Mailchimp here on Jane Friedman’s website  

Useful links:

Building your author newsletter - Lounge Marketing 

3.   Your social media presence 

Social media is a brilliant way to build and engage with an audience, not just readers but also publishers, booksellers, other authors, journalists and all kinds of interesting and valuable people. I recommend you concentrate efforts on 1 or 2 social media platforms and in simple term if you prefer Facebook then concentrate effort there, ditto Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest. This can be a huge time suck, so spend your time on one platform effectively and then consider expanding your efforts. 

Also, definitely create author profiles on Goodreads and Bookbub – both of these platforms are exclusively for voracious readers, so very valuable. 

Examples: 

Useful links:

 

6 Months before publication

1.   Your cover design/ book blurb/Amazon presence  

a.  Identify your readers  

Before you embark on this section, do prep work for your book, so you understand what competitor authors are doing. Learn from authors in the same space as you - have a good look at their marketing, category choices, pricing, creative, covers.

Why (and How!) to Reach the Right Readers - Diana Urban for BookBub

 

b.  Cover Design 

If you are self-publishing, then you will need to make sure your book cover is well-designed, looks professional and reflects the quality of your book. (My personal view is you should use an experienced cover designer to do this).

Ask for feedback on your cover design, get your followers involved in the process. And make a social media event of your cover reveal. 

Useful links on cover design:

Recommendations:

 

c.   Writing your book blurb

Potential readers need to be grabbed so your book blurb must work hard. Spend a lot of time writing your blurb, editing it and testing it on readers.

Useful links: 

Writing effective blurbs by author, Kerry Wilkinson - Lounge Marketing

4 Simple Steps to Write Better Back Cover Copy - Rob Eager 

Book sales description - Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn

How to Create a Book Hook - Rob Eager   


d.  Amazon presence

Most of your sales will happen on Amazon, so making sure you optimise everything is essential.

Choose The Right Categories And Keywords for Your Book - The Creative Penn

How to Write a Killer Author Bio - Reedsy


2.   Plan your publicity

Research a list of 10 – 20 journalists you think would potentially be interested in you. Do not underestimate the value of local papers, radio and other opportunities. Think about hooks that might give you ins with journalists – either based on a topical issue (working class writer, parenting challenges, local interest etc). Plan from now until launch who you will contact and when and book in and prepare for any opportunities.

Useful links:

Creating an Effective and Timely Book Publicity Plan - Reedsy

A Step-By-Step Indie Authors Guide for Attracting Media Attention - Book Marketing Tools


3.   Ongoing social media activity

-      Follow and engage with influencers, readers 

Now that you have your social media set up, use this time to connect with folks across the book industry, start building relationships. 

-      Drive folks to your newsletter sign up 

Links: see links on social media above


3/4 months before pub date 

1.   Plan you blog tour 

Aim to run your book blog tour for the 10 to 14 days that lead up to publication day. DO NOT leave this until the last minute, bloggers need a decent amount of lead time, don’t ruin your chances by approaching them last minute. Think wider than just reviews, lots of bloggers run features like ‘A Night in With’ or ‘6 books that defined you’, ‘your publishing journey’ – familiarise yourself with book blogs and if you see features like this, then pitch yourself. 

You can coordinate your own blog tour, I would advise you do this ONLY if you have very established relationships with a lot of bloggers, otherwise I recommend you pay for a blog tour organiser. This costs in the region of £100 so is extremely cost-effctive. 

Examples:

Blog tour example poster crime.jpg
LM - Image - Blog Tour example crime v5.jpg

Useful links:

Find bloggers to work with on the Lounge Marketing blogger list - Lounge Marketing

How to Set Up Your Own Online Book Tour - Book Marketing Tools

Online Book Tours and Why You Should Do Them - Book Marketing Tools

Online PR - How to Locate and Pitch Bloggers - Stephanie Chandler, Non-Fiction Author Association

Two organisers I personally recommend:

 

3.  Plan your launch event

After the hard work you’ve put into your book, I think everyone should have a launch event. Plan this for any day during your launch week. This could be in a local bookshop, above a pub, another venue you have access to. Can you try to make it different? Have a theme, some performance elements, a cool venue? Do you have friends or contacts that can help you? Wine and cake, always.   

Add your event to Facebook and invite your fans and consider adding it to Eventbrite too. Starting inviting friends and family as early as possible so people can fix it in their diaries.  

4.  Work on your newsletter more

Build a launch team/street team/VIP (through your newsletter list). You can ask your whole newsletter list if anyone would like to be part of your launch time. This is about encouraging a hardcore group that become your uber fans, read your books ahead of time, you make them feel involved, special. This is a close relationship, so if you can think of any perks to give them at any stage, then do (merchandise, early invites to your events). Communicate with them, ask them to help you, write reviews, share on social….right up to publication day. Offer them lots of value. Behind the scenes, your personality. Again this does not have to be a huge list, small and committed is fine at this stage.

Useful links: 

6 Steps to Build a Dynamic Book Launch Team - Start A Wildfire

What exactly is a street team? - Writer Unboxed

5.  Get your social artwork ready

Create artwork for your book promotions to use on Twitter, Facebook, your newsletter and any other platforms you use. Make sure your artwork has the right spec for each platform. I use this link which is kept up-to-date to check sizes of social images.

Examples:

LM - Example of a book ad for Twitter with review.jpg
LM - Image - Example of a Facebook ad.png
LM - Example of book ad on Twitter - very nice.jpg

Tools: I use Canva to design all of my artwork, it is free (there is a paid-for professional element).

Alternatives to Canva -  Sprout 24

Add Fireworks to Your Digital Marketing Campaigns with Great Content - Are.io blog

6.  Plan & book in your promotional campaigns

There are many book promotional websites and emails available, I would recommend you spend some of your budget on these, to run in the first couple of months after publication. BookBub is the the most well known of these with the largest email list - however it is pretty difficult to guarantee a spot for your book so do consider booking and planning other options. You can find promotional opportunities on the Reedsy list, here.   

Further posts on low-cost tactics:

Promote Your Book on a Budget - Aer.io Blog

What are the best low-cost marketing tactics for authors? Ask Alli podcast with Michael La Ronn and Dan Blank


Part 2 of How To Plan Your Book Launch will cover the months right up to publication day. This will be sent to my newsletter subscribers, so do sign up here (it’s FREE).

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