On March 5th my first novel, Uncommon Stock debuted at #8 in its category on Amazon. Will is one of my favorite indie authors and his advice, codified in Indie and Small Press Book Marketing played a critical role in shaping my launch plan. He generously offered to let me share some of my lessons learned along the way. I hope you can use some of these strategies to help launch your own bestsellers! I look forward to reading them.
- Write a good book. Without one, none of this matters. It’s tempting to try to think up devious ways to growth hack your book but at the end of the day, it’s all a wasted effort if your content isn’t truly awesome. My perspective on successful titles is really simple: write a book good enough that people who don’t know you will recommend it to their friends. If you can do that, you can probably ignore the rest of this list anyway.
- Don’t ask people to buy your book. “Buy my book” sounds like a used-car-salesman. “Read my book” sounds like an author.
Influence influencers. If you already have a million Twitter followers and an oped in the New York Times then this won’t matter much to you. But if you’re a regular guy like me, then you’ll need help from people with platforms of their own to share your title. Brad Feld, a well known venture capitalist and tech blogger, shared Uncommon Stock via his blog and social channels and even temporarily switched his profile picture to the cover of the book. Why? Because I had been sending him drafts of the book since I finished writing Chapter 3. Will sums up the right approach to take with influencers of any kind (this includes media): give, give, give, give, ask. Do as many favors as you can think of for people and worry about the ROI later.
- Leverage your network. On/around launch day I sent ~200 individual personal emails, 2 email blasts to my list of ~600 members, published 3 blog posts, and flooded my social channels with content (you really only have an excuse to do this on Day 1). You need people to R3 your book: read, review, and recommend it. How can you inspire them to act? Create a sense of urgency (it’s launch day!) and tell them why their help is important (books that start strong snowball up Amazon’s algorithms).
- Cultivate gratitude and humility. Publishing is the path of 1000 favors. Every single person (including your mom) is doing you a solid by taking the time/money to purchase, read, and review your book. Think about how incredible it is that anyone at all is getting a kick out what reading what you write. Never stop telling people how much you appreciate their help, every little bit counts.
Do something cool. It’s easier to get coverage and social media amplification if there’s more to talk about than the simple fact that it’s launch day. I created a Twitter account for Uncommon Stock’s protagonist (@MaraWinkel) and incited a Twitter battle with a few people with large followings. Heck, we even built a website for Mara’s startup and a major venture capital firm announced an investment in the fictional company. This introduced new people to the story and was a talking point in itself.
- All format release. Make sure your book is available in digital and print formats on launch day. I didn’t do this because we were slow getting the print version through typesetting and I know it resulted in significant lost sales. I’ve also had a couple dozen people reach out to ask where they can get the print copy (so there must be many more that didn’t reach out). That sucks. I want to DELIGHT my readers in every possible interaction they have with me.
- Recruit a cadre of advance reviewers. The more reviews you can get on Amazon as soon as possible the better. I sent advance review copies out to ~50 people a couple of weeks before launch. Then I pinged those people shortly before launch day reminding them how useful an honest review from them would be. Then I reminded them on launch day that now was the time! We debuted with 28 reviews.
- Be strategic. Choose Amazon categories that are specific and not too competitive. Reach out to your alma mater and try to get in the alumni newsletter. Pitch low-lying bloggers or reporters with concise, compelling stories. Snag some endorsements from folks that have actually read your book. Etc.
- Write another good book. There’s nothing more important than building a backlist. It gives fans more of what they want. It gives prospective readers a new path to discovering you. Plus, writing books is why you’re doing all of this anyway!
For further reading, I highly recommend Will’s Indie and Small Press Book Marketing. He shares extensive detail on his various successes as an indie author and it’s the only book you need to read in order to prepare for your own release. I’m particularly impressed by how he’s applied growth hacking techniques like A/B testing to optimize his reader funnel. You should also check out the following three posts. I’ve found them insightful and actionable throughout the launch: