Let’s face it, Amazon just isn’t generating the income for authors it used to. It can generate rank. It can even generate sales. But it is no longer generating a livable income for authors. To make money as an author in 2023 you need to find new ways to reach your readers and new ways to sell your books. That’s why I’m presenting you with four book launch plans for 2023:
The Kickstarter, The 100 Review Launch, The 100 Little Influencers Launch, and the Throw a Party Launch. There is nothing totally new in any of these plans, but they all have some new elements designed for the ways in which readers are choosing and buying books today.
The Kickstarter Book Launch
This is the most ambitious of the plans. It takes the most time and effort to pull off. But it has the greatest potential. I’ve personally seen it work and I’ve seen it fail.
Kickstarter is a way to crowdfund a new book by raising money from a large number of people, particularly people that the author does not know. The author uses the internet to ask unknown potential readers, as well as their own friends and family, to put up small amounts of money to “back” the project before it is offered to the general public. This means that you promote your book on Kickstarter.com before it is available to Amazon. Essentially you are bypassing the traditional methods of selling your book: book websites and bookstores, while selling directly to readers.
Kickstarter has a reputation for making authors good or even great money on a book launch. But like everything else in the marketing world, it has its upsides and its downsides. Authors have been successfully using Kickstarter to launch their books for about ten years. You don’t have to have a huge fan base to be successful on Kickstarter but you do have to work hard to make your campaign a success. Here are a few things to think about when considering a Kickstarter campaign.
- Kickstarter can be used by any author at any point in their career and at any point in the life of a book. It does not just have to be used before a book is listed at online retailers. But it must offer the reader something new and different they can’t get anywhere else.
- Kickstarter is a superb way to build a fan base. It can be particularly good for niche books that will never sell thousands of copies through traditional retail markets, allowing the small niche author to actually make money on a book.
- Using Kickstarter does not mean that you don’t need to market. Kickstarter is marketing. It is just marketing to a more targeted audience.
- Any author can use Kickstarter. It is particularly effective for comic books, graphic novels, sci-fi and fantasy. That doesn’t mean your books won’t do well on Kickstarter, no matter the genre.
- The first-time author and the established author can both use the platform successfully. It is also a great place to market your backlist—older books that are no longer selling well, particularly if you have several boxes of them sitting in your garage that you know you probably will never sell.
- Use Kickstarter to grow your fan base and to increase interaction with your fan base by offering them additional ways to connect with you. You can also use it to promote other services and products that you sell.
- Do research on Kickstarter techniques before you begin. Without understanding the ins and outs of the plan and the techniques that work best, your campaign will probably not be successful.
The 100 Review Book Launch
The 100 Review Book Launch uses the concept of Advance Readers to generate buzz about your book. This plan emphasizes reviews rather than sales, because you will be giving away a number of your books before it is even available for sale. You can give these Advanced Readers either PDFs or physical copies of the book. It often depends on their preference and on the type of book you are publishing.
So why 100 reviews? Because as potential readers browse Amazon for books, one of the first things they do before buying is check a product’s reviews. Research shows that 90 percent of internet shoppers read online reviews, and 84 percent trust those online reviews as much as they trust a personal recommendation.
Reviews lead to sales—and the reverse is also true. A lack of reviews turns off potential readers and keeps them from buying. The 100 Review Book Launch is a very simple technique that anyone can follow. It is not complex. It does not take a lot of money. What it does take is time, planning, and, most importantly, a willingness to put yourself out there and tell friends, family, and acquaintances that you have written a book—and that to make it successful, you need their help. Here’s how to do a 100 Review Book Launch campaign/
- Six weeks before your book is scheduled to launch, make a list of 100 people you know and have an email address for. These can be family, friends, clients, and fans. Anyone you know well enough to ask for help. If you don’t have an email for someone you really want on your list, call them and ask for it.
- Five weeks before your launch, make sure you have a proofread, print-ready PDF of your e-book, with the cover, ready to email to reviewers. Now is also the time to set up your Amazon ebook preorder. Do NOT set up your paper book at this time. As soon as you approve your paper book in KDP, it will appear for sale on Amazon. This can negate the effect of the e-book launch.
- As soon as your preorder is live on Amazon, send a personal, individual email to each person on your list. Do NOT use an email newsletter, blind copy, or any other method of sending out group emails. The goal is to create a very personal request to each person on your list. Explain in the letter that you are writing a book. Give a short, one- or two-sentence summary of it, and ask if you can send the person a free PDF of the book before the launch in exchange for a promise to write a review of the book and post it on the day of your book launch. The letter should make it clear you are looking for an honest review. If readers don’t think the book is worth five stars, they should not feel forced to give you a five-star review.
- Set up a spreadsheet to record the responses you receive. Make sure you immediately send the PDF along with a thank you email to anyone who agrees to review your book.
- Touch base with the people on your list both at three weeks and at two weeks prior to your launch. For the people who have agreed to read the book, remind them about the review date. For the people who have not responded to your request, ask them again if they would like to review the book. Make sure you keep a record of anyone who has specifically said they are not interested in writing a review, and don’t bother them again. Some people just are not comfortable with writing reviews.
- One day before your book goes live on Amazon, send everyone on the list who has agreed to read the book a final reminder to post their review on Amazon the next day.
- Follow up the day after with personal thank-you notes to the people who have reviewed your book and additional requests for a review from those who have promised them. Continue to follow up in the coming weeks.
Not everyone who has received an early PDF will respond with a review. And not all of them will be a five-star review. But if you follow this plan diligently, you should receive 20, 50, or even 100 reviews within six to eight weeks.
The 100 Little Influencers Launch
This plan can be used anytime throughout the life of a book, and so is not just a launch plan in the traditional sense. Conventional wisdom tells us we need word-of-mouth marketing to sell a book. But just how do you get it? Your friends have told their friends, who have told their friends, but it’s the law of diminishing returns: Sales have slowed to a trickle and your Amazon rank has dropped like a rock.
It’s time to find some influencers. So, just who is an influencer? In the world of marketing, it is a person with the ability to influence potential buyers by recommending a product by promoting it on their own social media sites. We are all familiar with names such as the Kardashians, or Justin Bieber, but we don’t need them—no, we need influencers in our own genre, whether it is historical fiction, fantasy, business, psychology, or something else. You need the book bloggers, bookmakers, podcast hosts, and others who talk and write about books—specifically about your genre of books These are the people who are influencing others on what to read next. They have been following from a few hundred to several thousand over a million followers. So how do you find them?
- Join TikTok and Instagram and look for book reviewers. Lurk for a while and see how the sites work.
- Research book bloggers—people who write about your genre. Find them and follow them.
- “Like” and comment on their posts. Follow people who write about your genre.
- Bloggers, Boktokers, and Instagram users need content. As an author, you have content they need.
- Contact them by posting on their site or by using the email they put on their site. Ask them what they need. A book to review? In what format? Bookmarks? Other “book swag” to give away to their readers?
- Once you know what your influencers need, make sure you get it for them. Send them a copy of your book. Let them interview you. Send them great photos of you and your book. Listen to your influencers and they will help you to get your book in front of hundreds of new readers.
The Throw a Party Launch
It’s finally here. The day you have dreamed about for months, maybe even for years. A carton—or two, or three, or six—arrives on your doorstep, and your book is here. Now, what are you going to do with it? You want to go right out and start selling it. Instead, plan to have your books arrive at least a month before the official launch date. That will give you time to take care of all the final details for your launch events. I’ve been through plenty of book launches where I watched the author sweat it out waiting for the books to arrive the day before the book launch. Believe me, it’s not fun. But throwing a party is.
- Find a site for your launch. Can you pair with a local boutique or small business to hold a launch? This is more cost-effective than holding a launch at a restaurant, although I’ve seen many of those. Think outside the box. Who do you know who has a room you can use? A local co-working space, a church, any easily accessible public place will work.
- Write a basic press release announcing your book launch—include the time, date and location. Check with your local newspapers on how soon they need the article. Some papers need only a matter of days, others several weeks.
- If you are footing the bill for the party, you may have to restrict the number of guests, everyone’s budget is limited, after all. The point of the party is to get people together to celebrate your accomplishment. And to buy your books.
- Plan to read a small selection of the book/
- Have a table set up to display the book and accept sales; designate someone to take the money and hand out the book while you as the author act as host, network, give a short speech or reading from your book, and sign copies.
- Even if the event is private, invite the press, and also send a follow-up press release and photos of the event to local media.
- If you are hosting a public event, such as a book signing at a local store, a seminar, or a workshop, make sure you send out as many flyers, press releases, email invitations, or other types of advertising as you can to attract a large crowd.
The great thing about an event is you never know who you will meet or reconnect with—even if, or possibly especially if, it is your own event and you have set the guest list. After all, everyone who attends your book signing or launch party presumably has come to meet you. You may not have a chance to spend as much time as you like with every guest, so have a guest book at the launch to make sure you get names and contact information for everyone who attends.
Follow up with written notes thanking everyone who helped make your event a success. Don’t forget to post some photos of the event on social media, and tag the photos with the names of the people in them. People love to look at pictures of themselves and their friends. It is one more way to bring people to your website and keep you and your book in front of your audience.