Pardon my asterisked French, but this post is going to be about as subtle as a slap in the face, OK? If you’re squeamish, BAIL OUT NOW.
I mean, it’s still funny because it’s me, but I think a lot of people have been deluding themselves about certain things and it’s time for them to wake up.
Do you know why we call the release of the new book “a launch”?
Because it is very similar to launching a rocket.
Oh, yeah? You mean like in the ’60s when the Mercury program rockets exploded on the launch pad and killed everybody?
Let’s start with something only slightly less dangerous: bottle rockets that you might have played with as a kid on Fourth of July.
Sadly, most book launches are not like a bottle rocket launch. You light the fuse and stand back for 10 seconds and zoom, it’s off, soaring skyward!
Of course, bottle rockets do tend to explode at the end of their little trip. And it is a short trip.
No, a book launch is more like the “space program” type of rocket launches that got Americans to land on the moon.
Here’s the comparison.
Do you think a moon rocket launches and goes really fast right off the bat? It does not. In fact, when you have watched rocket launches from Florida space coast – a little homegrown marketing here – there’s lots and lots of flames and bluster and rumbling before the rocket even gets a foot off the ground.
Prior to that, tons and tons and tons of work and science and math stuff and physics things happen to get the rocket ready.
You can stay with this tortured prelaunch analogy as long as you like but bear with me.
The rocket actually lifts off very, very slowly at first.
Then it gets a little faster and a little faster – and lots and lots of fuel (also known as energy) is used to get it off the ground at all.
And then what? It’s soars to the moon?
It needs a booster stage.
And that happens while the thing is still visible from the ground. From Tampa, we can see the booster stage happen when they launch something on the other side of the state.
I mean, it looks like somebody shooting off a flare at your neighbors house, but still.
And then what?
Then there’s another booster stage.
My point is this:
you don’t just launch the stupid book, you launch it and then boost it and boost it and boost it – until it starts to have the trajectory you want.
It may never get that trajectory. But it certainly doesn’t just get released and go to the moon. I wish that for you. I do. But that’s not the likely reality, and we all need to quit pretending it is.
Even Stephen King’s people and JK Rowling’s people do a bunch of pre-launch stuff to get the crowd worked up – but since they’ve sold a few gazillion books already, they have a little more certainty that the launch is going to go successfully.
You and I, we don’t have that.
We probably have to do a lot more work to get a rocket off the ground.
So here are the things you need to know to make it happen.
Number one. Well, as I alluded to, there’s lots and lots of pre-launch stuff.
So you have to do some advertising and get the crowd worked up. What kind of advertising? Well, prelaunch, I would get as many likes on my Facebook page as possible because those tend to be primarily friends at first and if you do some Facebook ads, you can have the ads targeted to “people who liked your page and their friends” so that would be your friends plus “friends of your friends.”
Also, friends of whoever liked your page, as in not just your high school buddies but also people who were beta readers or critique partners or people from your mailing list. Direct those people to like your Facebook author page. They will, because if they help to critique your book, they will certainly not mind liking your Facebook author page and helping you out. In return, you may need to help them by liking theirs. That’s fair.
Bottom line, you want to set up as much of that as you can. (By the way, since I’m being all helpful and all, go like my Facebook author page.)
I’m not going to pretend it’s a lot of help. It isn’t. It’s not going to sell a million books for you. But even if it only turns out to be 10 or 20 or 100 people, that is 10 or 20 or 100 more than if you didn’t do it, right? And all these little things are going to add up, because:
Number two: Do a pre-order.
You do all the hype and then set up a pre-order for a week or two or a month or whatever. Some people go for two months but honestly I can’t see that; I don’t have that many dang friends.
Anyway, your pre-order allows you to do some advertising to get people to buy the book – and give them an incentive to buy before it comes out to the masses. For example, if your book is going to be released for $2.99, have it been $.99 during the pre-order stage. That way, when the book comes out, it’s “sells a bunch on day one” and looks good on the charts.
(By way of explanation, here’s how it works: if you have your book available on pre-order for two weeks, and you sell one book every single day for those two weeks, on release day Amazon shows 14 sales the first day. So if you multiply that by a factor that is relevant to you, maybe that turns into 100 sales on day one or 1000 sales on day one or Mr. King if you are listening, maybe there maybe that’s 1 million sales on day one.)
Why do we care about that???
Well, if you have one sale on day one versus 14 or 100, more is better. The Amazon algorithms as far as I know – and I don’t – seem to like volume more than lack of volume. Call me crazy, but they are in business to make money, too, so they pay a little more attention to books that are selling. With all your preorder sales hitting on day one of your release, it will look like your book is selling! People like to do what other people are doing, so a book that debuts January 1 with one sale as opposed to a book that debuts January 1 with 14 sales (or 100 or 1 million) looks better to other potential book buyers.
And, you’re not going to get 100 reviews from zero sales, so more sales is eventually going to result in more reviews.
Also, if these people who bought your book during the pre-order phase were primarily derived from liking your Facebook author page, they are closer to you and you can pound on them and say, “Please review my book! That will help it do better!”
I would hope that part was obvious but maybe it’s not. That’s another booster stage. Get it?
Number three: You need to advertise.
I have spent the last two weeks looking at author forums online about how different people promote their book. I have nothing against doing events. I do events. I’m going to do a book signing on April 15 at a bookstore. That’s an event. But I’m not paying to be at that event, at least not out of pocket; they are getting a percentage of books sales. That’s only fair.
No, by events I meant events where you pay $100 for a table (or $150 or $250) and you hope to sell enough books to make that worthwhile.
Most of the people, and this is just a guess but I’m gonna say it is way upwards of 90%, but most of the people who do events where you have to pay for a table do not recoup the investment.
But let’s definitely call it an investment. Because again, it’s advertising. It’s getting your name out there. It’s meeting people. At some point you will have to decide whether or not doing 100 of those in a year and spending thousands of dollars is a good idea or not. I would say do what your budget can afford and view it as a chance to learn and network and
Don’t view it like that.
That’s where everybody makes their mistake.
View it as a damn business and you are there to sell books and make money.
And if you can’t sell books and make money, salvage the expense by networking and gladhanding and learning tips on how to do the next event better.
I’m not saying you need to be to disappointed if you don’t sell enough books to cover your costs, I’m saying you shouldn’t be happy about it and you shouldn’t rationalize it, but walk away determined to do better next time – and then do the things necessary to make that happen.
Some of those things are making sure you get your costs down on your paper back to where it’s only costing you three or four dollars to print, maybe five dollars per book after shipping, so that when you sell it at a reasonable price – Not $15 or $20 but probably $7.99 because
even though your mother loves you, no one else has heard of you – but you can still make some money.
Even at five dollars gross profit per book, you’re gonna have to sell 20 books to pay for a $100 table. Most of the time that’s not going to happen. Plus there’s gas and a bunch of other miscellaneous expenses that go along with it, so maybe your overall cost (not even counting a hotel) would be closer to $200 or $300. You’re not going to sell enough books most of the time to cover a $300 expense. But it is an expense and it is deductible and you are getting an education and education is not free so that’s fine.
But if you spend $10,000 this year losing money at events and only selling 100 books, you really need to look at that, OK?
That’s all I’m saying.
Do some events but don’t pretend they are going to do the work for you. You have to do the work for the event. The event is the same as if you were at your local library. You would have to do all the work to get people there. Maybe your library is a better draw than mine. I have to promote like crazy to get anybody in there who wasn’t already going to stop in.
And that’s the real key. YOU have you have to do a lot of work.
Whether it is a paid event or sponsored event or whatever, you are that frenzied team of engineers in physicists over at NASA, so don’t pretend you don’t have to bust your butt constantly before the launch. That’s where that you’re dropping the ball. That’s where people sign off on the fantasy. It’s just a place for you to go and set up your stuff and hopefully pitch your book to people who are walking through who never heard of you and who don’t necessarily come in wanting to buy your book but who might if you are engaging and interactive.
If you don’t do that, these events aren’t going to work.
3B: Paid Ads
I have had a fair amount of success from very, very, very, very, VERY few paid advertisements I’ve done.
There are a million places that will take your money and return zero results to you. So buyer beware. Because of that, I am not going to tell you where I advertise. That, and the fact that I paid to advertise there, so if I’m going to advertise them here, they need to pay me.
Okay, I won’t hold my breath.
If YOU have had success with any kind of paid advertising you have done, I strongly encourage you to say so in the comment section below. Name the place and tell what kind of results you got and don’t be shy. Five books sold is better than no books sold, and 100 books sold is better than that. Tell all, without reservation.
Do not tell me places you heard we’re good, only places you have personally experienced that gave you a result.
By sharing our successes and failures, we will all be part of that team that launches the rocket.
Welcome to NASA, Neil Armstrong. Now let’s get to the moon.
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.”
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