Six months ago, nobody had ever heard of me.
Okay, so that’s a little dramatic. My parents had certainly heard of me, and my husband and kids. And I had a few friends who’d stuck around since grade school.
But practically, nobody had ever heard of me. I was just “the mom next door.” I didn’t have a massive Instagram or Twitter following (still don’t), and I had less than 500 friends on Facebook.
Yet, when I self-published and launched my first book earlier this year, I got over 10,000 downloads in the first three days and became a #1 internationally best-selling author. (WHAT!? I still can’t believe I get to say that.)
Did I have an amazing publicist? Nope. Didn’t have one at all. Was it luck? Definitely not. Thousands of books are published every single day, and most only ever get a couple dozen downloads.
So what happened? Why did my very first book, “Sorted” become such a success? Quite simply, I had a really good plan.
If there’s one thing I’m good at, it would be research. Fortunately, there’s more than one thing. In fact, there’s at least three: research, learning, and application. So you better believe that when I was preparing to send my brain-child out into the world (AKA my first book), I spent months researching and designing the very best plan I could possibly come up with.
And it worked out alright, if I do say so myself.
Okay, enough of the chit-chat: let’s cut to the chase. Below I’ve outlined what I did that gave “Sorted” such a rocket launch and enabled me to follow my name with “#1 internationally bestselling author.” (Which, I have to admit, is probably my favorite part of this whole adventure.)
Step 1: Choose and validate your book idea
The key word here is “validate.” Use the free Google Keyword Planner tool and discover how many people are actually interested in your specific topic. Or at least ask a few family and friends what they think of your idea. (Give more weight to to the funny face they make when you propose your book idea then to what they actually say out loud to be polite. Just a tip.) Adjust your course as necessary.
Step 2: Start writing and start talking
Once you’ve settled on your idea, seriously commit to seeing it through. There will be plenty of times mid-way through the writing process that you’ll stop to second guess yourself. You’ll wonder if you really picked a good topic. You’ll wonder if you even know how to write. You’ll wonder if anyone will really want to read your book. And, in all honesty, who knows. However, you need to stay committed or else you’ll never even find out. You need to stay committed or else you’ll never even finish your draft.
Even if your book isn’t as well received as you would like for it to be, you still can have a successful launch. And, there’s so many other things you’ll get out of the experience as well. You’ll become a better writer, you’ll discover what your audience really does want, and you’ll learn a whole lot more about the publishing process that you can use for your next book!
So you need to stay committed! Two quick tips for finishing your book:
First, have a plan. Break out your nerd glasses, figure out how many words you can write in an hour and roughly how many hours you’ll need to write to finish your book. It will be less than you think (for Sorted, I only had to write for 30 hours. Totally do-able.) Then, block out constant time in your schedule. I scheduled an hour a day for a month. Boom. It was done. It felt really good!
Second, start talking about it. Tell everyone you know what you’re working on. Tell them when it will be done and why you’re excited about it. This will help keep you excited about it, provide accountability and start laying the groundwork for your launch team.
Step 3: Build your launch team
Like I mentioned, when I did this, I had virtually no network. So, if I can do it, then you can do it too!
Email everyone you can think of and ask them if they might be interested in being on your launch team. Tell them that you’d really appreciate their help, they’ll get a free copy of your book, and they’ll get to see “behind the scenes” of your book launch. All they have to do in exchange is write you a review on Amazon and share your book with their network when it’s released.
After you email everyone, use your other communication methods to do the same thing. Private message people on Facebook, and mail your Aunt Sally a letter.
Then go public with it. Tweet, Snap, post a ‘Gram, and put it up on Facebook. Offer all the connections you do have the deal outlined above.
And then go even more public. Post about it in all your Facebook groups and any forums you’re a part of. Be sure to come from a place of asking for help. Don’t try to sell your book to your network. Just tell them this is your first book and you need some support. I think you’ll be overwhelmed by the positive response of people reaching out to help you.
Step 4: Plan your timeline
This doesn’t have to initially include all the nitty-gritty, but start by writing down the big steps you do know. Outline the dates for when you’ll:
Have the first draft complete
Edit it yourself
Send it to an editor
Send it to a formatter
Have your launch team to write their reviews
Submit it to Createspace (or whichever publishing company you’ve chosen)
Submit to Kindle Direct Publishing
Hit the Publish button and officially launch your book!
Once you have your timeline all worked out, email your launch team and let them know what to expect! That way they’ll know what to look forward to, and everyone will be on the same page.
Step 5: Pre-launch slowly
During your pre-launch, you need to do two things: 1) get your book ready to launch, and 2) get your final draft into the hands of your team to start reading.
To get your book ready to launch, you’ll need to have all of the editing and formatting complete, get a beautiful cover designed, and then submit it to the publisher. I used Createspace to publish the paperback and Kindle Direct Publishing for the Ebook. Kindle goes pretty quickly (just 2-3 days), but you need to submit it to Createspace about a month before you plan to launch. After you submit it, you’ll wait for them to approve it, then order a proof copy, then have to re-submit for their approval again. The whole process can take anywhere from 10 – 30 days.
While you’re waiting for the publisher is a great time to get your book into the hands of your team. Here’s my biggest recommendation: individual follow-up. It is fine to send out the draft as a mass email, but then, a week later, you need to start following up with each member of your team individually, asking them to write their review. No, this is not the most efficient time-wise, but it is by far the most efficient as far as results go, which is what you’re really after. For the most successful launch, you want to get as many of your team members to write their reviews in the days before you actually publish.
Step 6: Rocket launch your book!
Once everything is ready for launch, and your final drafts have been approved by the publisher, click the “publish” button several days before your actual launch date. This will enable your team to go write their reviews, and will allow you to make sure that all systems are “go” for launch day.
Make sure you are extra vocal in the days leading up to the launch, reminding everyone you know that it is coming up, emailing your list, and talking about it on social media. Build up as much hype as possible!
On launch day, email your list and remind them to go download your book and share it on social.
Post about it on all your social media accounts at least three times per day for the first three days of your launch.
Post about it in every related Facebook group you are in (Be sure to check their rules about promotional posts first though. Many groups have specific guidelines you have to follow.)
Free Launch vs. Paid Launch
When you publish your book, you get to choose the price. You also get to choose if you want to run certain promotions, such as making the book free for a set number of days. Should you do this? In my opinion, the answer is absolutely, do a free launch and offer your book at no cost for the first 1 – 5 days.
Why would you give your book away for free? Quite simply, this: If you do a paid launch, you’ll sell a couple hundred copies (maybe) to your network. They’ll read it, and if they really like it, they might pass it on to a friend… but overall, unless you continue to hustle your butt off, your book sales will almost immediately plummet. You’ll get lost in the millions of other books on Amazon, and no one will ever hear of it again.
However, if you do a free launch, here’s what will happen instead: several thousand people will download your book, plus most of your friends and family will still buy a copy to support you. Those thousands of people who got your book are all free advertising. There is a much better chance for your book to get shared. PLUS, this catapults your book to the top of the Amazon listings, making it much easier for people to find it organically.
Step 7: Important follow up
When you launch your book, there’s several important things for you to do to maintain sales afterwards.
Include a page in your book that offers free bonus resources on your website. This will incentivize readers to get on your email list, which will enable you to contact them in the future.
Publish content on your website regularly, and include an ad for your book at the bottom of each post. When your content ranks in Google, people will discover your book.
Gradually raise the price of your book until you notice resistance.
Keep communicating with your list! Keep sending them good quality content so that you stay on their radar and they remember to share your book with others who it could help.
Get out there! Guest blog posting, getting interviewed on podcasts, and doing speaking gigs are all great ways to make your name known and spread the word about your book
This certainly isn’t everything there is to know about a self-published book launch (that would be a very long blog post), but I’ve shared with you several of the strategies that really helped me launch SORTED (http://amzn.to/1PXhEkV) successfully. Considering that I went from completely unknown to a #1 internationally bestselling author using this plan, I would definitely recommend that you try out this method as well!
I’ve put together a checklist of all the steps mentioned in this article, plus a few more that I used as well. You can download the checklist at: www.gillianperkins.com/free-book-launch-checklist/. Even if you’re not quite ready to launch your book yet, you should still pick it up to save it for when you are ready!
If you’re interested in learning more about the process of writing and self-publishing, be sure to visit www.gillianperkins.com, where I’m constantly posting new content about such topics.
Gillian Perkins is the #1 internationally bestselling author of “Sorted: Freedom Through Structure.” She is a serial entrepreneur, the owner of four successful businesses, and a professional consultant. Gillian lives with her husband and two young sons in beautiful, green Oregon. You can find her online at www.sortedbook.com, www.gillianperkins.com, or on Facebook.
Contributors to jaclynmellone.com are members of the Chasing Dreams and Littles Incubator.