The Story Cartel Launch Plan

The entire course has been building up to this moment: when you finally push your baby book out of the nest and into the real world. It’s time to launch!

Launch

The first four steps are about making deposits, investments into people and relationships. You make all of those deposits so that you can withdraw favors on your launch. But this isn’t about transactional relationships. You always want to launch in a way that adds value to your collaborators.

Whenever I do a launch, I always have a few people who unsubscribe because I asked them to buy something or take action. However, the amount of people who start following me during the launch far outweighs the number who unsubscribe. Launches dramatically increase the size and connectivity of your audience.

That’s why I think of launches as the highlight of all my writing and platform building efforts. It’s like a weeklong party, and they’re just as fun and exhausting as that sounds). More than just a way to sell more books, launches are one of the reasons why we write.

What If You’ve Already Published Your Book?

It’s not too late to do a launch if you’ve already published your. Just do a “re-launch,” where you announce you’re launching your book again. You might use the excuse that you’ve updated the content of your book, you could re-design the cover, you might be launching a one-year anniversary edition, or you might not give a reason at all (which is totally fine).

Re-launches happen more often than you’d guess, both in the traditional and self-publishing worlds. If re-launching your book makes sense for you, don’t feel self-conscious about it.

Six Groups of Collaborators to Seek

Launching is like stage diving. You jump into a crowd of your closest fans, the ones who got there early to get spots in the front row, and hope they’ll catch you and hold you up. All launches rely on the support of your closest fans.

That’s why this rule is called, “Seek Collaborators, Not Spectators.” Spectators aren’t close enough to catch and support you. You need collaborators.

Here are six types of people you should seek for collaboration:

Beta Readers

Beta readers will be your first collaborators for your book launch. Beta readers are volunteers who read your manuscript and give feedback before you publish. I have had books saved from typos, poor characterization, and plot holes so many times by beta readers it’s not funny. They are saints.

Once your book is ready to launch, your beta readers will become an integral part of your launch team. Since they’ve given their own sweat and blood into making your book better, they have a sense of ownership. When you ask them to promote your book to their networks, they won’t just be promoting you. They’re promoting themselves.

How to find beta readers: One of the biggest reasons to blog, even if you just blog about writing, is to build relationships with these kinds of readers. I like to reach out to my top ten commenters individually and ask if they’d like to help.

You can also ask for help from friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. You might post, “Anyone want to help a struggling author with her masterpiece? I’m looking for beta readers. Let me know if you’d like to help.”

Your Cartel

Depending on who is in your Cartel, they might also function as your beta readers. One of the reasons we create Cartels is to inspire and improve your work.

Another benefit of having a Cartel is that they’ll often share your work with their audience. When your launch day comes around, don’t be afraid to ask your Cartel to help promote your book.

How to find your Cartel: See unit two!

Endorsements

Endorsements, or book blurbs, are reviews from other, well known authors that are few sentence long. If you look through a few books, they’re the quotes that show up on the front pages. They’re a great way to build authority for your book, and I highly recommend seeking out at least 10 before you launch your book.

How to find endorsers: This part is always a little scary. First, create a list of the best authors you know. Add a few authors who you don’t know very well, too. And then put two or three you probably don’t have a chance with but who would be perfect.

Then, reach out to them by email asking them if they’d be willing to read (or even skim) your book and provide an endorsement.

You’ll be surprised at how many people take you up on this. It’s a benefit to them because they receive prime placement in your book and on your webpage (see how I placed endorsements for Let’s Write a Short Story!), and it’s a benefit to you because you gain authority.

Core Readers

Your core readers will act as your reviewers and serve on your launch team. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Even people without a platform can generate word of mouth buzz for your book. What the Internet has taught us is that everyone has an audience.

How to find core readers: Share your story, and give people a place to reach out to you online (e.g. a blog or website). As you share, readers will begin to gravitate around you.

Reviewers

The other day, I was talking to an Amazon specialist who helps authors get more book sales on Amazon. She told me she will only work with an author once they have 25 reviews on their books. Anything less than that won’t gain traction on Amazon.

More reviews equals more sales. Collecting reviews is one of the most important parts of your book launch.

How to find reviewers: Of course, this is why we created Story Cartel. Put your book up on Story Cartel for free, share the page with anyone and everyone you know, and watch the reviews come in.

You could collect reviews manually, too, and before we built Story Cartel, I did everything with an email account and a PDF version of my book, but Story Cartel makes the process much easier.

We’ll talk about how to launch your Story Cartel page in the next lesson.

Media / Bloggers

They say the two best ways to promote books are radio and blogs, but I really shouldn’t lump these two together. The way you form collaborative relationships with bloggers looks very different from professional journalists. However, both groups multiply your audience in similar ways.

How to find bloggers: Search for bloggers who blog about your genre and reach out to them long before you need their help, introducing yourself by email and interacting with their work in the comments of their blog and on social media. Once you’ve developed a relationship, it will be easy to ask for their help.

And remember to be patient and gracious. Popular bloggers often receive dozens of emails asking for things every day. Try not to make a relationship withdrawal until you’ve made some kind of deposit.

Jump back to this lesson for more.

How to approach journalists: Reaching journalists takes planning, a great press release, and a lot of luck. Even that might not be enough, as there are more books and less book reviewers than ever before. Unless you’re working with a traditional publisher or want to hire a publicist, I suggest avoiding traditional media.

EXERCISE

Create lists of the people you have in each of these six categories. It may not be very many at first, but as you approach your launch, try to grow each list.

6 Steps to a Huge Launch

As I mentioned, launching is all about empowering other people to help you spread your message. If you only do that, you’ll have a solid launch.

However, when you coordinate all of your collaborators together, that’s when you really take off. Publishers try to focus all of this energy and attention on the first week of the book’s publication. They want the author to be “everywhere.”

Here are six steps to create a huge launch:

1. Build a Foundation With Generosity (T minus one year)

Generosity pays, and this is a theme we’ve come back to again and again in this course. Long before you launch, lay a foundation of trust by being generous.

Check Rule Two and Rule Four again for ways to do this.

2. Set a Goal (T minus three months)

A few months before your launch, set goals for your launch:

  • How many books do you want to sell the first week? the first month?
  • How many endorsements do you want to receive?
  • How many reviews?
  • How many downloads on Story Cartel?

Setting goals focuses your efforts, even if you never reach it. Make sure to especially focus on your goals for reviews, endorsements, and your launch team. These are the fuel that will help you reach your sales goals.

3. Assemble Your Team (T minus 1-3 months)

Long before your launch you’ll want to begin assembling and building buzz within your team. You might want to create a website specifically for your book (as I did with Let’s Write a Short Story!). Make sure to include an email signup form to collect email addresses so you can invite signups to your launch team later.

A month before launch, you should do a “soft-launch,” publishing your book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble pages unofficially. This allows you to collect reviews on your book. Just don’t tell anyone your book is live except reviewers who received the book for free (and make sure they know not to share, too).  See the next post on how to publish your book on Amazon.

Then, begin reaching out to the various people we talked about above who will make up your launch, giving them the book and asking for their participation:

  • Beta Readers (2-3 months before launch)
  • Endorsements (2* months before launch)
  • Cartel + Core Readers (1 month before launch)
  • Bloggers (2-4 weeks before launch)
  • Reviewers (2-4** weeks before launch)

*If you’re publishing a print book and are including the endorsements in the front of your book, you’ll need to have these endorsements ready well before launch. Depending on how you’re printing / publishing your book, it could be up to six months before.

**If you’re using Story Cartel, make sure your book is up three to four weeks before your launch.

Essential Tip: When reaching out to collaborators, email them individually whenever possible. Avoid sending group blasts. People respond to individual requests. When people are asked for help within a group, the bystander effect comes into play. By reaching out to people individually, even a large group of hundreds of people, you’ll find people are much more eager to help.

4. Launch

By this point, you should have gone through your book several times with beta readers, received several endorsements and dozens of reviews, and built your team to a good size.

If you haven’t already, you should put your book for sale on Amazon and all the other major online retailers. Now, it’s time to announce your launch.

  • Post an announcement on your blog that includes a very short summary of your book, a few endorsements, a few excerpts of reviews, and information about where people can buy it.
  • In addition, you may want to create a page with an excerpt or free chapter like this one.
  • Post an announcement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any other social media that you use.

You also want to ask your collaborators to share your book with their networks.

  • Email all your collaborators and ask them to share (i.e. Cartel, reviewers, core readers, etc.).
  • In your email, include pre-written Tweets and Facebook posts so they can share your book as easily as possible. (Click-to-Tweet is a good tool for this.)
  • Thank them for all their help!

For the next week, use any excuse to talk about your book on your blog and social media. Quote reviews. Take screenshots of your book climbing up Amazon bestseller charts and share them on Facebook and Twitter with a link to your book page. Thank your collaborators publicly. And of course, ask people to buy your book!

You spend all year being generous with your platform. Your book launch is the time to make it all about you. (But of course, even as you’re making it about you, you want to give the limelight to your readers and collaborators, the people who are experiencing your book.)

5. Reward Those Who Share

To incentivize sharing, you can create a giveaway on your blog. At the bottom of your announcement post, tell your readers you are hosting a drawing for people who share the post on social media or their blog.

I would avoid giving away free copies of your book. Instead, offer another book you’ve written, a free service you provide, an Amazon giftcard, or even a Kindle. Here’s an example of how this works from The Write Practice.

Publicity Stunts

In addition to the steps above, there are a few publicity stunts that you can do to add a little more buzz.

The Price Increase

A week after you launch your book, raise the price. Make sure to give your audience plenty of warning. Announce early on you’re only offering the book for a “reduced price” for one week. Announce the price increase to your readers (but not to your collaborators since they already have the book) on social media, on your blog, and by email. This technique creates urgency and sells a lot of books.

Blogging “Book Tour”

This is a technique many authors have used, including Seth Godin. The idea is to guest post on as many blogs, whether large or small, as you can about your book. Note here that every post has to be unique, which could be a challenge, especially if you write fiction. You might ask bloggers to interview you instead of writing guest posts.

The key is to time all of these guest posts and interviews for the launch week, making you appear to be everywhere.

Awareness Blog Tour

This is similar to the technique above, but you do it in advance of your launch.  In my opinion, this is a much more effective technique. Guest posts are better at raising awareness than selling books. Use them as a way to build your list of reviewers or core readers for your book.

Give Bonuses to Purchasers

Michael Hyatt used this technique with great success when he launched his book, Platform, which hit the New York Times bestseller list May, 2012. He gave seven free bonuses to people who bought his book the first week of his launch that totaled $375 in value, including two video series, two free eBooks, and the audio version of the book.

If you’ve written other books or have any other products to give (perhaps an action figure of your main characters?!), consider using them as an incentive for readers who buy your book the first week.

Google+ Hangout Event

These are growing more popular as a way to easily connect with huge audiences (for example, here’s a good one with Margaret Atwood), and one of the reasons we use Google+ so much in this course is because I want to help you get familiar with using this tool to connect with your fans.

Twitter Chat Event

Like a Google+ Hangout, a Tweet Chat is a public way to talk about your book. Ask a friend to interview you and sign up for Tweet Chat.

Create a Book Trailer

Book trailers are a good way to help visual people find your book. These can be expensive and time consuming to produce and may not be the best use of your time unless you have a very large platform. But if you’re experienced with narration and video editing, it could be a fun promotional tactic.

Book Signing

Book signings used to be the bread and butter marketing tactic of the publishing industry. However, in the digital age, people are much less willing drive to a bookstore, perhaps hours away from where they live, to see an author they probably haven’t heard of. I read recently that even Al Gore has a hard time drawing a crowd to his book tour, and publishers big and small are abandoning book tours and book signings.

You might host an event at your local bookstore for your local community, but I wouldn’t recommend making book signings a major focus of your publicity efforts. Unfortunately, they are growing less and less effective.

When you’re ready, click here to move on to the next lesson.

  • Ann Stanley

    I’m glad that you’re leaving this course open to us. I’m not quite ready for this information and it is meaty, meaning that there’s too much here to remember! It’s really solid advice, and I’m seeing what a great tool StoryCartel is for soliciting reviews. I will come back to it when I’m a little closer to launch, although I will get going on the generosity aspect. Thanks.

    • http://erikasimone.com/ Erika Simone

      Exactly. I can’t wait to use this. But I’m several months away from needing to go through it step by step for my book.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.peers Lisa Peers

    I agree with Ann: leave this up on the site (forever)! This is great information and exactly why I signed up for the course. Thank you!

  • oddznns

    I’m at -3 to launch for Heart Bones. And I’m re-reading this oh-so-carefully. Thanks Joe!