Launch steps

Book Launch Reflections: Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends

The week after Sit Write Share launched, I wrote this description of book launch activities. My goal was to involve my network to reach readers. Here’s how I invited and supported my book launch partners, the tools I used, and the materials I created. If you are contemplating a book lauch, perhaps some of these ideas may be helpful.

Why Have a Book Launch?

Once you’ve written your book and published it, it’s time to cause complete strangers to find it. I am an uneasy marketer. Many people have told me that my audience, would-be writers, can’t benefit from my book unless they find it. I get that, but I still find the activities involved in attracting attention uncomfortable. That acknowledged, I decided that I would find activities that I could enjoy with a little effort. My network is a good size, and over the course of the launch I learned that many people wanted to help. They just needed to know what to do.

In a way, this article and perhaps others that will follow are an epilogue to Sit Write Share. The central idea of the last experiment in the book, Share Experiment 16, is that you don’t have to rely on just the people you know personally. You can also reach the people they know, and beyond. This experiment’s moral is, “Use your network and connected networks to reach readers.”

Part of the launch strategy is to get as many people as possible to buy the book on launch day, since that means appearing in a high ranking positions on New Release and Best Seller lists, which leads to  attention and more sales.  One way to encourage launch day sales is to offer the book at a low price to create urgency and a willingness to take quick action.  Because I’m the type of person who doesn’t get to things right away myself, I decided to enhance that strategy by raising the eBook price by $1.00 a day until I reached the full price.  That way if people are one or two days late, they still feel like they’re in on the deal.  It’s a little extra work for me, but it felt like it would lead to better will toward the book.

Getting Ready for a Book Launch

I asked 6 people who had been beta reviewers to write Amazon reviews for the book so that there would be some social proof on the day of launch.  That was anxiety provoking because two of the people I asked were Canadians, and it looked like their reviews would not appear.  My first reviewer, a Canadian, posted his review on April 22, but it didn’t appear until April 27.  In contrast, an American reviewer posted his review on April 27 because he got busy over the weekend.  His appeared within a few hours.

At the suggestion of Sharon Danzger who used a similar strategy with her book, I sent emails to various people in my network inviting them to become launch partners.  I tended to send the email to individuals or small groups so that I could tailor the message to the recipients.  At the bottom of the email below my signature, I included a picture of the book cover and some of the text from the back of the book.  I also provided a link to a form to sign  up. The form asked them to check off which actions out of a list of 10 possibilities they were personally willing to take.  I also made promises:

By signing up here, you let Kathryn know what kind of support you need to bring her book to the attention of other writers who would benefit from her experience helping people get their writing done and out the door. For example, if you sign up to post to social media, she will share snippets that you can tailor and post.
She will also send reminders.  The remembering is on her.

It felt awkward to send emails asking for help, but several people wrote back to thank me for giving them specific ideas of ways to contribute.

My very first answer arrived 1 month and 4 days before launch.  My most recent answer arrived 2 days before launch.  Around 80 people signed up, making very different promises. Some agreed to buy the book in paperback or ebook form on launch day. Some agreed to post reviews on Amazon and/or GoodReads. Some agreed to post on one or more forms of social media. Some agreed to send emails to friends and colleagues who might find the book interesting.

Respondents included family, close friends, writers’ workshop members, colleagues, and even former colleagues. One was a man I haven’t seen for years, but he reminded me that he is a life-time member of my fan club.

Supporting Materials

To keep my promises to remind and support people, I created four documents and a directory of social media images.

  1. How to buy and give the book. You’d think this would be simple, but there are numerous complications addressed in this document.
    Buying:  Given that the kindle book is going on sale first, how do people without Kindles read it (hint: Kindle apps on other devices).  How do people outside the USA find the book? When will the paperback version be ready?  How can people recommend the book to their bookstores and libraries or friends who don’t like Amazon?   Since I plan to publish the book on Ingram, I can say the book will be available to them within a few weeks.
    Giving: It turns out that I get credit for eBooks that people give away, but not until the receiver downloads the book to a device.  Since the launch day price is $.99, it may make sense to launch partners to give it directly to some of their friends, rather than send emails about it.  But not everybody knows this is possible or how to do it, and there’s a crucial step to get credit on launch day:  it’s important to ask the recipient to go ahead and download it.
  2. How to write a review on Amazon or GoodReads. The same review can be posted both places.  There are some people, particularly ones to whom I’ve given gifts, whose reviews may not be accepted by Amazon.
  3. How to post on social media with sample posts. I created 12 short posts that could be copy/pasted into LinkedIn or Facebook, and another 8 that are short enough for Twitter.  I included some guidelines that handle the differences among the platforms.  For example, it’s hard to put links in Instagram, so the images posted there need to contain information to help the viewer find the book. I also provided a set of 8 images that could be used in Instagram and other social media. A friend, Sherri Fisher, created the images for me.  The idea with these resources is that  particular launch partners pick one to post on the social media platforms of their choice on launch day and another on paperback availability day.  Giving people some choice was intentional so that my social media would not sound like an echo chamber of exactly the same message.
  4. Sample emails that can be copied and tailored. I provided two, one for family and friends and the other for clients.   My hope is that people send these out to people they think would benefit from the book.

Tools Helpful for My Book Launch

I shared the documents by putting them in Dropbox and generating links to put in the email.  That turned out to be a good choice because I could update the documents with additions and corrections by uploading a file of the same name to the same Dropbox directory.  The link in their email would go to the updated file.  That meant I didn’t have to send out lots of oops emails as I figured things out.

I used Yet Another Mail Merge to send the emails.  There are fancier programs for sending emails, but I know this one, and I’ve been learning more than my share of new systems lately.  Also, I had the results of the form in a spreadsheet.  With some very simple massaging of the data, I could play back to people what they promised.  After all, I said I’d do the remembering.  One email might have this list:

Post a personal statement on LinkedIn on launch day.
Buy a paperback version.
Post on Facebook or Instagram about the book.

Another might have this list:

Post on Facebook or Instagram about the book.
Send emails to friends and colleagues that might be interested.

Book Launch Timing

One complication occurred.  I sent out these resources on the Monday before a Thursday launch date.  In their shoes, I would have needed time to think ahead about activities like these, and I might have missed the big email on the day it arrived. While I tried to be clear that the goal was for everything to happen on launch day itself, some people went ahead and acted immediately. I should have known my sister would. She used to do her weekend homework on Friday afternoons.   I decided that it was all good.  Yes, my numbers on launch day might be slightly lower.  But I was already showing up in various lists, causing a friend who is not a launch partner to email me that he’d seen my book in Hot New Releases.

I created and scheduled an email to go out at 6AM on launch day morning. That was me firing the starter pistol.

Today is April 28, the day for you, wonderful launch partner, to contribute to the Sit Write Share launch, whether that means buy, review, tweet, post, email, or whatever combination of verbs you chose.

If you already got started earlier in the week, wonderful.  You have already reached people, so we’ve seen action on the book page.   I’ve gotten a couple of #1 New Releases in particular categories, and I’ve even been within the top five Best Sellers in a few categories.

If you waited, that’s wonderful too, because the more that happens on launch day, the more momentum the book gains.

May you enjoy reading the book and/or connecting with your network today.

I’m hoping you want to put the book to work.  If you do, get your copy of the workbook for navigating the 55 experiments by  by signing up for my blog/mailing list.

These emails also included the commitments each person made so they didn’t have to try to remember.

Moral:  Some people want to  help and will be grateful for your suggestions.

My Own Actions on Launch Day

I decided to make a short video for LinkedIn, given that I’ve heard that video content gets more attention there.  The script took me just a little over a minute to read.  One of my workshop members showed me the tool which I used as a teleprompter.  That beats trying to tape the script to the wall.  I practiced several times getting feedback that I need to smile more.   I think my advisor believed it could have been better, but I reached the point that I needed to say “Good enough,” and get it posted.

I spent launch day and several days afterwards collecting New Release and Best Seller numbers every two hours to see what progress I’d made. It was a high moment to find myself on best-seller lists with people like Anne Lamott and Stephen King. Probably a mediocre day for them, but a very good day for me.

Then of course, I said “Thank you!” to my launch partners who helped make it happen.