How to Give Your Book the Best Lift Off
In March (next month!) I’ll publish my third full length novel Deep Blue Eternity. It is 5 weeks away. I have a fabulous publisher in the UK that takes care of all the commonwealth markets (UK, South Africa, India, Australia etc.) but in the good old US of A my book launch is squarely on my shoulders. In fact, in our global marketplace, all my marketing efforts affect my global sales whether it’s me doing the publishing or not. I don't consider myself an expert, but I know what worked for me. I also have a marketing and public relations background that stood me in good stead.
My first book, Eversea, that went on to get me my three book contract with Eternal Books in the UK and several wonderful foreign rights deals was the one where I really put myself behind the marketing. Why? Because, I’d just sacrificed months of my life to write it, spent money on an editor and cover designer. In my mind, to then drop it into the book-o-sphere and hope, by some miracle, it made an impact would have been a little arrogant. Or negligent. So, I swallowed my nerves, and endeavored to give it the absolute best launch I could.
In honor of Romance Festival 2015 (#romance15) I’m going to give you a snap shot of what I did. Some of this will only be pertinent to those that self-publish. But being a “hybrid” author (one that also has a traditional publisher), I’d say that some of the marketing elements can and should be employed by everyone. Today, I will deal with the "3" in the "3-2-1 Launch".
So the short of it is, my efforts worked. I had my own measure of what success for my book looked like to me, and I far exceeded it. In fact, I had several measures of success. One was articulated as I stood crying with a glass of wine in my hand to my husband: I was terrified, I sobbed, nobody would buy it, and if just 100 people bought and read my book, I’d die happy.
I let myself have that bit of drama. Then I added that perhaps if I recouped my expenses (not time of course, because well, if it didn’t do well, it was just a hobby and hobby time isn’t really worth much) it would be okay.
THREE MONTHS PRIOR TO RELEASE DAY
Finally, I decided that I was being a baby and this was my dream! It was, wasn’t it? This was the “one day” dream that I kept in my back pocket. I’d finally gotten brave enough to pull it out and give it a shot. It’s not like I could stuff it back into my pocket. Dreams don’t work like that. As soon as you decide to do something big your whole universe starts to shift to accommodate your decision. You may not recognize it at first, but it does. So you have to go for it. For me, there was only one thing more terrifying than putting my book out into the court of public opinion, which feels akin to stripping naked in the middle of a busy mall, and that was not having the dream in my back pocket anymore. There are far too many clichéd quotes about a man with no dream, I’ll spare you. But you get the point. Well, hell, if you’re naked in the mall, there’s no back pocket. You better slap a new outfit on, pull up your boot straps and get to work!
Many times when I spoke to a fellow author, they'd ask me what I did. So here you go. I’m laying it all out there.
The 3-2-1- launch refers to months. Yes, MONTHS. Three months before release day and the Launch period. I'm working on an expanded version of this post, but for now I'll keep it simple. You can and start even earlier. But we're going with the quick and dirty.
So you’ve written a book, now what? Now you need to take a breath, pause and get your action plan in place.
1) Pick a release date at least thee months out.
The first step is to pick a publication date. I suggest three months. I know, I know, if you’re already published, people keep urging you to write more and faster. To get your books out as fast as possible. Preferably every three to four months. For the first one though, you need to do this right. (well, you have to do it right for all of them, but I digress). And I’m sure if you’re new to this, you’re about ready to rip the Band Aid off and just see if you’re cut out for this writer thing. If people hate it, you can slink back to your regular life, no harm, no foul. Right?
Wrong in my opinion (and please remember this is simply my opinion). You’re harming and fouling yourself. Stop it! (By the way, I’m fairly bossy. You may have gathered that.) The good thing is, once you have that first action plan in place, it gets easier and doesn’t take up as much time. And you can actually start on your next book during this three month time frame.
2) Send the manuscript away.
Send it to your content editor (let's assume you have a quality one already lined up - I don't care if you are the next JK Rowling, she had one, you should too) and send it to your beta readers (let's assume you have found those too. Betas whose opinions you value and will actually take into consideration when you get your first round back from your editor). You need your manuscript off your desk, so to speak, so you can get on with your launch plan.
3) Find your reviewers
Use this time away from your manuscript to do the most important job of all! For future books, you can use this time to get started on your next manuscript and get another in the pipeline. The most important job of all is to get reviews for your book. Real ones. Not your mother and your hairdresser.
This will take up your largest chunk of time. And this needs to start three months out, because bloggers and reviewers have a LOT of books to read and you want time on their schedule. If you send them a book that is already released, they have no reason to make time for it.
Spend several days making a list, a spreadsheet if possible, of book bloggers and reviewers. There are hundreds, if not thousands of them. Stick to your genre though. I understand that there are blog tour companies that have these relationships, but I argue that you need to have a personal relationship with reviewers and bloggers to make sure your future books are always on their radar. THIS SHOULD BE DONE IF YOU ARE TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED TOO!
If they have a FB page, like it and follow it (get notifications). Find out the reviewers first name. Visit their blog site, and their twitter feed and make a note of their real name as well as their email address . Find out how they like to be contacted for reviews do they like a request on a form on their site, or a personal email? If you email them please make sure and use their real name that you have found out from your research of their accounts. This is not stalking, this is being respectful and showing them you’ve taken the time to do your homework properly and care for their opinion.
4) Find a blog tour company and get on their schedule
You thought I was going to say you don’t need one of these based on what you just spent all that time doing, above? Wrong. You need to find a good blog tour company that does a Release Day and/or a Release Week Blitz. Good companies like Xpresso Book Tours book months in advance. THIS SHOULD BE DONE IF YOU ARE TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED TOO! On release day or during release week, the blogs who have sign up for the blitz will post your book cover blurb and teasers as well as any other information you have had time to prepare: a short interview, excerpts etc. This is a good time to run a giveaway as well. I ran a contest for a kindle for my first book release. I had 8,000 entries. Second prize was 5 signed paperbacks. Some of these readers are still my die-hard loyal fans who interact with me on social media daily. I have not decided yet if I will run a giveaway for Deep Blue Eternity, but I will post about it if I do!
5) Get your cover started!
The back and forth and finding the right imagery and small tweaks and changes can take a month or more. Get started! And don't do it yourself, unless your day job is as a senior art director or graphic designer. And don't use your artist friend. Find a graphic designer. Please. It's important. Send the designer the blurb, key elements to the story, anything symbolic that may help. And this will be important for marketing in Month TWO, not just because of the reasons you think (judging a book by its cover etc.) but because you can do some fun marketing things! I'll explain in month TWO what I did for my first book Eversea.
In my next post, I'll cover what happens TWO MONTHS OUT FROM RELEASE DAY!