How to Plan a Book Launch
An overview of actions to take to prepare yourself for a successful book launch.
Whether you’ve just finished your first book, or you’re a New York Times bestselling author, having a marketing plan is key if you want to have strong book sales and grow in your career as an author. After all, nobody is going to read your book if they don’t know it exists, right?
Having a book launch strategy can help catapult your book to early success and put it in a good position to enjoy stronger ongoing sales. Planning and preparation are key to having a successful launch. This article aims to give you a checklist of things to think about as you prepare to unleash your book upon the world.
Stressed? Don’t be! Take your time, plan ahead, and learn what works for you. And remember, in the self-publishing world, your books will always be available on any retailer where you list your work, so there’s always time to change marketing strategies.
How early should you start planning for your book launch? Opinion on this, as with most things in the self publishing world, is all over the place. Depending on who you ask, it could be three months, six months, or even up to a year before release. At the other end of the spectrum, authors rapidly releasing titles may notify their followers when new books come out, but otherwise don’t invest heavily in launch efforts at all for every title.
Don’t forget the fundamentals
Before getting too deep into the process of promoting and selling your book, first take a moment to make sure that book is in a rock-solid, sellable state, with all the formatting finalized. Important items to consider include:
- A quality cover - Ignore the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Everyone judges a book cover. This is your first impression to potential readers. It’s important the cover conveys the genre of the story, as well as the tone readers should expect.
- A polished manuscript - The cover draws interest, but readers are paying for the story. Make sure the text is as well edited and error free as possible.
- A blurb - Nail down that book description that convinces potential readers they don’t just want to read your book… they need to.
- End matter - This is the contact that comes at the end of the book, and may include an “about the author” page, as well as links to your website, newsletter, and social media accounts (more on those below.)
- Formatting - Does your book look professional? Review your ebook to check for errors. If you’re releasing the book as a paperback or hardcover, consider ordering a proof copy to inspect before the book goes on sale.
Build a launch checklist - There’s a lot to remember along the road to launch day! Make yourself a checklist of the activities you plan to complete, and establish a timeline for each. Ideally, this will help you build up a continuous cadence of hype around your book from its announcement, through its launch date.
Establish your author platform early.
In order to attract and retain readers, they need to know about you and be able to find out more about you and your books. If you’re publishing for the first time, now is the time to set these things up, and maintain them while writing future works.
Your Author Website - Your own personal website, where you control the content. Put the latest news and information about your book front and center, where it’s easy to find. Include a call to action, such as prompts to buy your book, sign up to your newsletter, etc. Include links to your social media accounts, and an email address, or “contact me” form that allows people to reach out to you.
A Newsletter - Although your email list may be small early in your publishing career, it’s a good idea to put together a newsletter, to reach out to readers, and keep them informed of the book’s progress, when it becomes available to pre-order (if you should to do pre-orders), and when it’s available for purchase. Commonly used email platforms include MailerLite, MailChimp, and ConvertKit
Social media - Having a presence on social media is hugely beneficial to growing your author brand, as these platforms allow you to connect with fans and spread the word about your books at little to no cost. Some popular platforms include:
- Twitter - Twitter lets users send out short messages of 280 characters or less. Hashtags can help users find tweets linked to the same topic. The platform often works better as a way to interact with readers and answer questions than for hard-selling books.
- Instagram - Primarily used for sharing photos, but also has the ability to share short video. Best used to image promotions, and providing a glimpse into your personality and writing process.
- Facebook - The company’s massive user base is ideal for advertising, and their ad platform allows for targeting potential readers by matching interests. Because their algorithms often do not show all posts to everyone who follows a page, and those posts can get buried in a user’s feed amongst so many other page and friend posts, it’s not as effective as a community hub for interacting with fans.
- YouTube - YouTube can be a great way to connect with readers, through videos where you talk about your book, answer questions, provide updates on upcoming projects, and offer your thoughts on the writing process. This platform is best undertaken as part of a long-term effort to grow your brand, as building a following can be quite a time-consuming process. Authors with sufficiently large followings have been able to turn YouTube videos into another recurring revenue stream.
- TikTok - This app specializes in short video content. It’s the newest platform on this list, but one many authors swear by, as its algorithms have helped put their videos about books in front of tons of eager readers. Even retails like Barnes & Noble are getting in on its popularity, often stocking tables with books often recommended by users on the app. It’s faster and less intimidating to create videos for TikTok than YouTube.
Reader magnet - We’ve previously covered reader magnets, but to summarize, this is content (a book, short story, novella, etc.) that you’re giving away for free, most often in exchange for signing up for your newsletter, and can be a valuable tool in building hype around your upcoming book. While this certainly isn’t required as part of a book launch plan, if you have sufficient lead time, you may want to have one available.
Create a book trailer - Think of this like a movie trailer or TV commercial, but for your book. You could treat this like a “behind the scenes” trailer with snippets of a self interview. It could be a dramatic reading of your blurb. Production costs can vary wildly on this, so carefully consider your budget and goals with a trailer if you’re considering hiring someone to produce this for you. Canva is a free tool I have seen serial authors use to create trailers for their work, so creating a basic trailer doesn’t have to be expensive, if you’re willing to take the time to learn how to make one yourself.
Grow your network - Join reader and author communities in your areas of interest. Participate in their conversations and make friends! Always be respectful of each group’s rules about self promotion. Approach these groups with a “pay it forward” mentality. If you’re kind, helpful, and supportive to members, they’re more likely to want to support you and your book when the time comes. Nobody likes the person who joins a group and immediately wants everyone to buy their book. Being trusted within these networks can help in building bridges with influencers.
Influencer and media outreach - Reach out to bloggers and podcasters who cover books in your genre. Consider offering to write guest posts in exchange for the blog running a blurb about your book. Pitch yourself as a guest on a podcast to discuss your book, if it’s a good fit for that podcast’s audience. Expect to be turned down more than have these offers be accepted, but every bit of exposure helps! Also, be respectful of the blogger or podcaster’s schedule. Many can have guests lined up weeks, or even months, in advance, so it’s best to reach out early. Content creators are unlikely to shift their plans to bring someone on at the last minute, especially if you’re a newer author with little or no backlist.
Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) - It’s important to get a healthy collection of reviews on your retailers of choice as soon as possible. Book reviews are important social proof that people are reading (and hopefully enjoying) your book. Ask yourself this: How much confidence would you have in buying a book from an author unknown to you, if it has only a few (or zero) reviews?
An ARC is a copy of your book given away for free in advance of the book’s official release date, provided in exchange for the recipient leaving a review. However, not every person who received an ARC will follow through and leave a review upon release, so it’s recommended to give out 3-4 ARCs for every review you want to receive. If you’re looking for 15-20 reviews in the first few days, that would be 45-60 ARCs.
Focus on your target audience with these ARCs - people who read books in your genre and so would be inclined to like your book. If you don’t have enough people to meet your goals from people you know directly, or have build a relationship with through social media posts, there are services available to help connect you with ARC readers:
- Book Sirens - If your book is accepted, there is a $10 fee, then $2 for each reader who download the ARC. Their site claims roughly 75% of their ARC downloads lead to a review. They have systems in place to help remind readers to leave a review.
- NetGalley - They do not charge per download. Their basic plan starts at $499 for a six-month listing. Reviewers are expected to leave reviews for at least 80% of the ARCs they download.
Host a giveaway - Who doesn’t like free stuff? Don’t be afraid to give away a few copies of your book. Giving away books and other swag like bookmarks or stickers and help generate buzz. Giveaways can also help increase your followings on social media platforms. The hope here is that some people who didn’t win the giveaway will still buy the book now that they’re aware of it. Goodreads offers a paid service for running giveaways, but there are lots of ways to run on yourself for free.
Retailer Bios - If you’re publishing on Amazon, be sure to set up your Amazon author page, so shoppers have a chance to learn more about you without leaving the site.
My book is published! Now what?
Congratulations on releasing your book! Now’s not the time to relax, however. There’s still work to be done!
Throw a book launch party - You’ve worked hard to get to this point. Think of your launch party as part book tour style event, part victory lap. Your party could be virtual or hosted at a physical venue. Decide that scale that works for you. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with hosting a small party for close friends.
Digital launch parties commonly take the form of live streams over Twitch, Youtube, or Facebook Live, and provide you an opportunity to talk directly to potential readers and pitch to them why they need your book. Invite any fellow authors you’re friends with to join you in the stream (either via audio or video), and have a premade list of topics ready to keep conversation lively if there are any lulls in the stream’s chat.
Physical launch parties can happen in a variety of venues. If you have connections with bookstores or libraries, talk with them and see if they’d be interested in hosting your venue. Have food available for guests, if the venue allows it, and have plenty of books on hand to sell and sign.
Word of mouth - Across your newsletter, website, and social media channels, make sure everyone knows your book is available to purchase. Don’t be afraid to ask people who enjoy the book to let their friends know about it too!
Follow up about reviews - remind everyone who has an ARC that the book is now released, so they can post their reviews.
Book promo sites
Book marketing is hard work, so it can be beneficial to enlist the aid of sites designed to help promote your book. Use of book promotion sites won’t eliminate your continuous need as the author to be the biggest champion of your work, but they can help you reach new readers. Due diligence is needed when choosing who to work with though, as there are a LOT of scammers operating in the book promotion space. That said, here are a few that are frequently recommended.
- BKnights (Fiverr) - They claim their site has 50,000 active readers, with 5,500 unique visits a day. They focus on free or discounted books, with a 4.9 out of 5 review score, from over 28,000 reviews.
- Robin Reads - They send their users daily notifications of new book deals. Books have to be free or $0.99 to be considered. Prices for their service vary by genre.
- BookBub - Is an expensive option with a list of requirements for consideration, which likely puts it out of reach for first time indie authors. However, with their massive reach and user base, they’re a platform to consider if you have a backlist of content to sell, above and beyond the featured book.
- Bargain Booksy - They focus on books available on Kindle, sending out daily emails, as well as featuring books on their site. Prices vary by genre. Books must be priced between $0.99 and $5 to qualify for their promotions.
Paid advertising - Advertising through Amazon and Facebook can help drive attention to your book, but caution is recommended here if this is your first book. Ads are more effective when you have a backlist of books someone lured in by the ad can also buy, making it easier for ads to pay back their cost. With only a single book, it may be difficult to run an ad profitably unless you’re experienced in advertising through these platforms and skilled with your audience targeting. Start with a small budget, and gradually increase it if the ad is converting to sales.
Congratulations on completing your book! Planning ahead is key to a successful book launch, so don’t procrastinate. Hopefully the ideas presented here help get you started on building that checklist for launch day. Remember, in the indie and self-publishing world, you have flexibility to change strategies and try new things, so don’t obsess over perfection, and don’t feel like you have to do everything listed here. Take what you learn and apply it to the launch of your next book.