Here are 10 important things you should avoid to help ensure you have a successful book launch — in the short- and long-term.
This is the seventh in a series of blog posts focused on essential book marketing topics for self-published authors in our campaign, 2021: The Year To Find Your Readers. These posts will cover topics in two categories:
1. 100 days before publish. Tasks to accomplish while your book is still in production.
2. 100 days after publish. The latest and greatest book marketing tactics for self-published authors.
Two weeks ago, I posted 10 “Do’s” for authors to ensure a successful book launch. Now it’s time to address the flip side — the important “Don’ts” — that self-published authors need to be mindful of as you plan your event.
I’m happy to report that few book launches ever truly “fail.” Still it’s useful to point out ways you can avoiding sabotaging your book launch efforts by eliminating these common mistakes.
1. Don’t rush your launch
This old maxim sounds like something my fellow Philadelphian Ben Franklin would say. And yet, this truism goes back to 190 BC.
“Haste makes waste” is how it goes. For authors, these are words to live by when it comes to the run-up and publishing of your book.
I’ve witnessed this countless times: An author spends many months — even years — writing their book. Once they type, “The End,” it’s like a switch flips in their head and now the timeline for getting the book into the hands of your readers becomes critically urgent. Go-go-GO!
While it’s important to inject a moderate sense of urgency into the process of self-publishing, rushing the process inevitably leads to poor planning and even worse execution. This dovetails with my earlier post that speaks to planning an extended calendar. There are hundreds of details that need to be nailed down for a great launch.
Consider the worst-case scenario: Let’s say, because of some late proofing rounds, you are forced to delay the launch by a few weeks — or even a month. Who really cares? Getting it done right is so much more important than getting it done quickly.
If you are self-publishing, you’ve got to give yourself a little wiggle room when you set your publication date. You’re also giving yourself a break. You won’t become superhuman during your launch phase, so allow time in your scheduling and plans for other priorities in your life.
2. Don’t downplay the contributions of your potential audience
Some of the most successful authors I know make a point of socializing throughout the writing process. Your goal someday is to engage your potential readership in the development process before you even write your next book.
No matter when you draw people in to your book publishing process, the fact remains: The more invested people are, the higher the value they will place on your work because they helped create it. They’ll be the evangelists that will help promote your successful book launch.
Even I sometimes fantasize about going off to live in a French village and write my next books in solitude. Making a conscious habit of nurturing a social, community-oriented mindset builds relationships and trust. It can draw people in and make them feel that they are part of something special that’s about to happen for you and your book.
3. Don’t forget to establish goals for your launch – and beyond
This next piece of advice is difficult to quantify, especially in a blog post meant for thousands of authors. Goals can and should vary from individual author to author. But at the end of your launch campaign, it’s impossible to determine whether you’ve achieved your goals if you’ve never outlined any milestones or objectives to begin with.
Start small and be specific with goals like the number of books you’d like to sell on launch day, the number of people you’d like to add to your email list, or the number of people you want to attend your launch event to make it easier to determine if you were successful at achieving that goal. Be mindful in specifying launch goals that help you work towards the long-term results you desire.
More experienced authors might want to state goals such as: “I want to increase my subject matter authority.” To measure success, you’ll need to get much more specific. Maybe it’s a goal of X numbers of podcast interviews, or Y number of invitations to speak at events. These, too, can be part of your overall book launch plan.
This book and launch should be elements of a much bigger plan for your writing — and perhaps your speaking, teaching, business – career. Having this viewpoint allows you to ask yourself a key question: What do I want this launch to accomplish that will help with the next book and launch? Never be afraid to look ahead.
4. Don’t be confused about your target audience
This one probably deserves to be at the top of the list. If you aren’t sure who your prospective reading audience is, your launch party is going to be a waste of expensive cake and drinks. Being unclear on who your intended audience is — or is not — almost guarantees a launch campaign that will be unfocused. Your messaging will either be too general, vague, or completely miss the mark.
The rationale is easy to understand: authors don’t want to make wrong assumptions or alienate any potential reading audiences. I’ve seen this as authors build their marketing platforms – websites, social media handles, and more. It’s so easy to fall into the mindset of:
I want more readers; why exclude anyone?
Fair enough, but it’s a huge mistake to employ a one-size-fits-all approach to your marketing and book launch. Do your research during the writing process and ensure you have identified — and identify with — your ideal audience. The more specific you are about the people you are trying to reach (i.e., the people who will really “get” you and your book), the more appealing your offer and the more engaging the conversation with your audience becomes. It will begin with your book launch and flow into your other marketing efforts.
Here’s a good way to stay narrow: observe what other authors in your niche or genre are doing right (and wrong); study the changes, trends, and direction of the market; and identify any gaps in the marketplace where no other author has staked out his or her turf.
Once you take a hard look into even the largest of book genres, you’ll find an incredible amount of diversity: different types of readers, different wants and needs. Opportunities abound to cover even well-trodden areas of literature if you find points of differentiation.
In your mind’s eye, try to focus your launch plan on building deep connections with a small group of people rather than a hesitant and weak connection with many. What you learn from a hyper-focused market will help you make smarter decisions about your book’s potential in other markets while reducing your risk of missing the mark on launch day.
5. Don’t misunderstand the REAL marketplace
As I mentioned in my recent BookBaby Live broadcast on Facebook and YouTube, there’s a very real, yet invisible, attendee that is sure to attend your book launch: the computers that power the Amazon algorithms. For the sake of this article, let’s just call him “Jeff.”
Jeff is actively monitoring the activity on your Amazon sales page — how many people went to it, how long they stayed there, what web page they came from… lots of data. Everything you do for your launch, besides serving wine because we know Jeff doesn’t imbibe, is intended to motivate people to get busy online. Your energy and efforts need to be oriented in this direction. You can read much more about how Jeff and his friends work on my BookBaby Blog post about the importance of your pre-sale period.
For some authors, it’s a lifelong dream to place their book in their county’s 15 book shops (or whatever local opportunities you have). That might be important for your ego, bragging rights, or showing off to your old high school English teacher. But it’s not going to impact your royalties in a meaningful way. Well over 90 percent of your eventual book sales are going to come through the Internet. Prioritize your time accordingly.
6. Don’t shy away from the spotlight
More than a few authors do not relish the role of book marketer. They would love nothing more than to spend their days writing page after page of prose and leave the hard work of marketing and selling to others.
While this is luxury most of us can’t indulge, it’s even more important for authors to come out of their shells and seek the limelight for their book launch. Even though it might feel uncomfortable at first, authors are the greatest marketers for their book and brands.
Look at it this way: self-knowledge is a very powerful tool, and knowing who you are, what you’re about, and why you do what you do can provide a significant and compelling way to break through the noise. You are the key to positioning yourself and your book and it can make all the difference in persuading not only readers to buy your book, but for bloggers and influencers to help share your story.
Here is the place where you should infuse your personality and message into every piece of content you share, and your uniqueness will give you a competitive edge.
7. Don’t let your book launch be a one-night stand
The day after your book launch needs to be a continuation of the momentum you’ve generated over the past few months. Ride the wave! Too often, new authors expend all their effort and focus on their launch date and completely fail to create any sort of post-launch marketing and promotion strategy.
After a six-month march to the launch, it’s tempting to take a well-deserved break after all the excitement and hoopla. No question, you should take time to celebrate. You’ve just launched your book to the world!
Now is not the time, though. Book that time on book-launch-day-plus-100. Part of your launch planning should involve mapping out ways to leverage your launch momentum, follow up with new opportunities, and analyze and measure the results of your launch.
Here’s where online advertising opportunities such as Facebook and Instagram ads can maintain the launch momentum. Nonfiction books are also well-suited for campaigns on sites like LinkedIn.
This is not the time to pull back on efforts or spending. Use the energy and buzz you’ve generated to open more doors.
Maybe most importantly, take the time to personally thank everyone who contributed to or supported your launch. You couldn’t have done it without them.
8. Don’t forget to write a great book
I probably should have mentioned this much earlier. It’s a very hard truth, but sometimes it’s not the launch, it’s the book, that fails.
I can’t compile this long list of Do’s and Don’ts of book launches without mentioning this obvious deal-breaker.
If your book stinks, there aren’t enough tips and tricks in the world that will make your launch a success.
Even if your writing is top-notch, there are other ways to crash this launch party before it gets off the ground. For instance, you can:
- Fail to get professional editing.
- Fail to get professional book cover design.
- Fail to have professional book formatting.
- Fail to optimize the metadata on your Amazon selling page.
If there are quality issues with your cover design, editing, layout or even the story itself, you are much better off delaying your launch until you can deliver the highest-quality book you can muster.
On the other hand, never let PERFECT get in the way of GREAT. When the time is right — and you’ve worked with professionals to ensure a great result — you need to be able to pull the trigger.
9. Don’t forget, hard work is required for a successful book launch
Everyone wants to make their lives easier. Technology often allows that. Shortcuts that free up time or money and allow you to grow your writing career are worth pursuing.
But there are darned few shortcuts or hints I can offer to lessen the workload of this very important event. Well, wait: I thought of one. Do you have Oprah’s number on your cellphone?
If not, get ready for six months of details, details, and more details. This can be where your definition of a successful book launch can get skewed for all the blood, sweat, and tears. Expecting a best-seller or an instant hit, especially with your first book or with “part-time” effort, is just not realistic.
It’s easy for new writers to lose focus because they’re looking for a short-term gain instead of looking for long-term growth for their careers. You’ve got to accept that you’re building a business around your writing and your priority should always be focused on results in terms of years — maybe decades — of efforts.
There are very few people who have enjoyed true overnight success in the publishing marketplace. But there are thousands of successful self-published authors who understand that publishing is a marathon event. For many it’s a lifelong pursuit. Success is earned over the long game.
Keep things in context: An effective book launch should give you a boost, but it should also tie into a long-term campaign that seeks to earn money and a fanbase over years, not weeks or months.
10. Don’t forget the very best by-product of a great book launch
This one might not be obvious until the days following the big event. What I’ve learned is that many authors experience another kind of takeaway from a great launch:
Motivation to write more books!
All the adrenaline that’s still flowing through your veins should be directed towards your fingertips by way of your creative brain. Use the positive vibes and emotion to power your way through chapter one of your next book.
It’s a stone-cold hard fact: Authors who have a sizable backlist of books are more successful than the writers with a single edition to their name. Not only do readers have a book to click through to after they finish the first, the chances that someone will stumble upon your work go up exponentially when you have more “points of contact.”
The more books you have, the more likely someone will discover you. Then you can start planning for book launch #2!
The “Do’s” Of Planning A Book Launch
Planning And Capitalizing On Your Book’s Pre-Sale
Metadata Optimization For Your Book
Creating A Low-Cost Book Trailer
Your Author Website Must Have…