Monday, December 7, 2015

The Launch Day

Everything in this blog series has been leading up to the book launch. To get the most out of it takes a lot of planning and preparation. Your book launch will likely be the most important moment of its publication. not just because it’s your book’s big day, but because the sales on this day will likely set the tone for the entire run.  Get it wrong and you may be struggling for every sale afterward. 

And yes, I got it wrong. But I've learned a lot since then.

Sell early and sell often

The ultimate goal of launch day is to sell as many books as possible.  Now, that is the ultimate goal of every day after the book comes out, but the difference here is that with the advantage of pre-sales, you have the ability to give your book a significant boost up the sales charts. Amazon ranks books every few hours so a sharp spike could throw a book into a list of top titles for all or part of the day. This will make the book more visible to people browsing for a new read and you could pick up readers who would never have heard of it otherwise.

Having your book available on Amazon for a month or two before its actual sales date gives you a wonderful opportunity to promote and sell ahead of time.  This is where your loyal fans and your family in friends will get in and reserve their copy.  Then when the book becomes available, all of those queued sales go through as though they were all purchased at once. [I've since found out this information is wrong, please read the correction at the bottom of the article.]

I did not take advantage of pre-sales because it is something that my publisher doesn’t believe is beneficial—something we strongly disagree on. Although, to be fair, if you’re an unknown, first time author, it isn’t likely to make much difference, since the people who will be buying during the pre-sale period are likely to be people who will buy on launch day anyway.  To really have an impact, you need those guaranteed buyers in the pre-sales and more buyers on the day the book comes out.

It’s a party

A launch party is an absolute must. For many of us, an online party is our best chance at involving a large number of people. I wrote about this in an earlier post, so today I'll spend some time on an in-person launch party. Definitely consider one if you live in a spot where you have a lot of local support, an event like this will allow you to give the personal touch and sell face-to-face and offer signings. But it isn't without potential drawbacks. 

I have heard of publishers covering all or some of the cost for events like this, but if they’re not paying for it or if you’re self-published, you will want to keep in mind that an in-person party could be a costly endeavor and you’ll want to weigh that expense against the promotional benefits.  Are you merely spending a thousand bucks so you and your friends can have a party?  If so, good on you and good for your friends, and if you have the money to spend, why not? But if this is your advertising budget, there could be better ways to spend it. And also don’t forget if you’re self-published, every copy you bring to the event, is a book you have to eventually sell.

With a live event you really want a venue that will attract new people.  Think a bookstore, a library, or a bar (or coffee shop) with a literary crowd, maybe one that occasionally does readings.  The idea is to expose you and you’re books to a wider audience, not to sell to the converted, so access and traffic from the public is important.

Whether it’s online or in the artsy coffee shop, the important thing about a party is to show just how excited people are about the book. So make sure your supporters show up and get them revved up.  If you launch your book and no one seems excited about it, no one else will be.

It’s all about sales, and it isn’t

This advice may be making me seem sales oriented (or even money obsessed) but if you’ve gotten to this far, then writing isn’t just a hobby, it’s a business and you have to look at what success for your business will look like.  If selling isn't important to you, there are many better ways of putting your work in front of readers than having it in stores.  When your book is on the shelves sales means readers.

I said at the beginning, the launch date will strike a tone.  It will be your big sales spike and the next day those sales will ebb. After that two things might happen: it will continue ebbing until it plateaus at a point of zero sales; or it will pick up momentum and start to climb, possibly eventually surpassing that initial spike.  There are other things that can factor into the momentum besides the launch, and I will discuss them in other posts, but the launch will set the pace.

* Correction:
A reader informed me that my facts are wrong about Amazon queuing sales and after careful research it seems I was perpetuating a myth. There is a community that believe that this is how it works (and perhaps it does work that way with other retailers). Amazon counts sales the day their made and does not bunch them for launch date. 

I considered rewriting the section above with this new (read: correct) info but honestly, I'm not sure where I stand on the issue anymore. Some say it is advantageous to do pre-sales to generate buzz and get traction before launch date. But is it better not to have pre-sales in order to maximize sales on launch day? It may take some time for me to come to an opinion on this. 

Does anyone out there have experience with it? What worked best for you?

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