It’s time I collated all the material on book launches to sort out how to do this and give myself a plan I can follow.
The biggest problem with book launches is that they are either undocumented at the beginning stages, or don’t really tell what they did. There’s this gap between a person who starts writing books, and suddenly there’s a person with several books who has a huge list and can use that list to launch every new book to a big success.
So I went back over all the material I’ve collected over the years having anything to do with launches. Most of it sucked, as usual. Either it wasn’t real, or it was incomplete like above. Some was a mix – they filled in what they didn’t know with conjecture. Like mortar used between bricks shouldn’t be used to fill in the spot where a brick should be.
If you already have a list
Good for you.
In that case:
1) Find which ones want to be your reviewers. Segment these out and send them proofed copies of your book before you publish for their honest review and comments. Adjust the book based on what they tell you – or not. Part of the deal is that they should give your book honest reviews when it comes out.
2) Set your book up for pre-sales on Amazon (and everywhere else that enables this) and hit the podcast circuit to tell them about it.
3) When the book goes live, tell your list. Price it at .99 for the first five days or a week.
4) When you’re price is ready to go up to normal, you then remind your list again.
5) Once your price is where you want it, then you get back to finishing off your next book.
That is the normal launch for an established author. It primes the pump for Amazon and if it’s successful enough, they’ll start promoting your book for you. Mark Dawson and other authors will also run Facebook Ads to also accelerate the process, but Dawson usually only runs these on higher-priced sets where the sales income will pay for the ad costs. (Take his course if you can. Save everything to your hard drive so you can review it as much as you want.)
What most authors without a list do:
1) Publish the book at full price.
3) Start writing their next one.
What most authors do to get a list:
Blog when they should be writing. (Of course you can also just convert your blog into a book afterwards.) The bribes and “content upgrades” you offer can be used as incentives for people to join your list. Eventually (years later) you have a decent sized list – providing you’ve then started relationships with them, such as maintaining a regular newsletter and also weeding out those who never open emails after that first one.
The next thing they do is to guest blog, which gets their content in front of other audiences, so they’ll join yours.
Once you have a list, then you can do the first approach, which is most common.
Some will do the second and get some books out there, and then move to the first approach when they have enough of a list to make a difference.
Research shows a third route.
I did find that in general, the most routinely successful “launchers” used Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula, or something derived from it. Of interest to us is his “seed” launch, where you don’t really have a product to start with. By including your audience into your launch, you can then build your product as the audience goes through it.
Another datum showed up over and over that you really only want to publish once you have at least three books ready to go. (More on this point below.)
As well, you want to include your audience in writing your books – which is nearly impossible without having an audience in the form of a list.
Recent research on courses shows that this is the most likely candidate to be successful in list building, especially for non-fiction authors.
1) Walker’s “seed” launches have a record of building lists full of people who buy things.
2) You get instant reviews from everyone who participates.
3) Buyers tend to work to get their “money’s worth” and so will remain involved.
4) Courses pitch your books, and allow you to revise your books as well.
5) Courses help solve list building, relationship building, and income building.
6) People will buy an expensive course when they won’t buy a cheap ebook.
What I’m saying here is that doing a launch of a course plus your books looks to be the best way an unknown author can get started.
What makes up a seed launch: step by step
There are some steps which are common to all marketing which have to be included. Walker covers these slightly, but they are basic enough to be mentioned.
1. Who is your buyer?
You want to know about your ideal customer. This is an avatar, a fleshed-out concept. When you write, when you market, you do it all to one person. Just as when you are on a podcast – the best ones you listen to seem like they are talking directly to you. The best books you read are written just for you.
2. What problem are you solving for your buyer?
This is obviously pointed toward non-fiction authors. (Fiction authors have the problems of plot, character, and genre.)
Of course, you can study the forums to find these. While this is pushed by these “overnight success from Kindle” scam-authors, it’s a true datum. You will also find out what kind of terms they are using. It’s important to talk to them in the language they use. Just search for “[problem area] + forum”
You pick the problem area by something that interests you which you have had to find answers for or can’t find answers for. (Like how this podcast was started.)
3. Find your own voice.
Most people have been trained from birth to lie to themselves and everyone around them. They have never been taught to simply appreciate who they are and what they can contribute to this world. Those that have usually don’t talk about the experience of making the shift from trying to please everyone to just having and following a basic purpose or goal. When you talk about people like Edison, Ford, Franklin, Steve Jobs, Einstein, Elon Musk, Bill Gates – these people succeeded in spite of everyone around them. That’s usually attribted to being simply brilliant and genius and all that. Actually, it’s because they were almost brutally honest with themselves.
I prefer to study successful people who studied successful people and distill what they did and how they act into a short list of common principles. Joe Pulizzi did this recently with his book “Content Inc.” In that book, he lists 6 principles that all the successful businesses he studied used to get that way. One of these was what he called “Content Tilt.” Every successful individual and business used what they knew and what they were interested in order to narrow down to a niche they could succeed in. Pulizzi talks about a “Chicken Whisperer” who couldn’t find data on how to raise chickens in your back yard. When he visited forums, he found out a lot of people were out there just like him. So he used the answers he was finding and set up a site and products to help those people. And became an internationally known expert as a result (and also enjoyed nice profits.)
You have to take what you already know how to do (make a list) and compare this to what you are fascinated by (make a second list). You’ll find crossovers here and the best combination will give you your particular voice.
In this podcast, I give you suggestions on how you can make a living self-publishing. Each one is designed around the idea that you start from scratch with nothing but a computer and an Internet link. I also give it to you without fluff and sugar-coating. But that is my approach to this stuff. Writing is easy for me, so is researching. But marketing books has to be done, so I write about the problems I run into and the solutions I find. That’s my voice.
What’s your voice?
When you know who you are talking to, what they want to solve, and how you can talk to them about it, then you are ready to being to start.
The conventional prelaunch means getting enough people into the pilot so that you can get feedback. Walker’s first seed launch had 6 buying customers and he “comped” another 24 people into the course so that he had enough interested people to get it rolling. (He got those 6 people by speaking at a conference.)
But he recommends getting at least that many people onto your list and into that launch.
There’s a bunch of hooey that happens around here that says go out to social media and connect with people so they get interested in being an early adopter and reviewer for you. Even Jeff Walker says on one of his videos that it’s really dead-simple to get between 50 and 100 email subscribers by going out to social media. But he doesn’t tell you how. (Thanks, Jeff.) Another “authority” who sells courses on how to get thousands onto your list, at least tells you to use the old MLM trick of contacting 100 of your friends and asking them to join your list.
The problem with this is that they aren’t really your audience. They are a start, and that’s it. It’s not certain that this will even prime your pump.
Right now, the best course of action – although you probably don’t want to hear it – is to run Facebook Ads to get course buy-in.
This is my route right now. This is a test of my own dogfood. This podcast is just saying that all these points have tended to show up at the same time and point in this direction.
I’ve bought Mark Dawson’s FB ads course. And finished most of it. The rest now has a reason to get completed, as well as a probable restudy of anything I still have a question on. (You find his intro videos elsewhere on the web, where they explain a great deal of the basics.) Or you could get a Perry Marshall book on it.
So: set up your basics course somewhere (Teachable or Thinkific are free to get started, Udemy will keep your price at $50 or less.) Don’t put much up other than a representative landing page with good art, and the outline, plus maybe the first lesson. Set your price at something it will be worth by the time you finish it – and include a discount for being part of the pilot (with lifetime access.)
Now start building your prelaunch sequence.
You’ll need four videos which build excitement, per the usual “sideways sales letter” that Walker lays out. You’ll also need to create downloads (content upgrades) as bonus gifts so people can review your material and test it for themselves.
You then create the emails which will introduce and keep the audience excited through the sequence. Walker’s full course goes into this in more details with the “triggers” and “hooks” he uses to pull everything off.
I’ll be hosting this on my own site, as it’s built on Rainmaker and allows all this automation to be built in. The course itself is also hosted on my own site with Rainmaker’s LMS.
You can do all the above with a decent autoresponder service and virtually any of the course providers I’ve listed. And it shouldn’t cost you more than sweat equity if you’ve already invested in a podcast mic and set up (less than $100.)
Your actual launch date is built into the autoresponder sequence. The course will accept buy-ins at any point, you just have to tell them where to find it. But then you can shut off new students on the date you set in order to build anticipation for the next launch.
If this is all you want to do, you can simply re-launch this course several times a year to generate income in spikes. Each launch is better than the last as you come out with new versions.
This approach seems the most sensible, as every ring of that hub-and-spoke marketing can get its chance at making income for you, or at least being lead generators.
1. Every lesson has a short-read ebook, thin paperback, podcast, powerpoint, and video.
2. eBooks and paperbacks sold on the various book distributors. Podcasts are delivered one per week with the course sponsoring them. Powerpoints are posted on Slideshare for SEO purposes – with ads for that course. Videos (with extra ads inserted for the course, as well as links) are posted to YouTube.
3. Your course is also promoted on the marketplaces. Affiliate sales are also enabled.
The result should be tons of people to fill your list. Your new eBooks add to your deep backbench and your other books should start selling better. Your podcasts should produce leads, but also give you audio for the videos and a later audiobook. Your videos can produce leads. Together, all these parts increase your income as a course. And then you create a comprehensive book that can be sold as ebook or paperback (even deluxe dust cover hardback) through Amazon and everywhere else.
Regular launches stick you to the clock, personally. You have deadlines to meet, and like a Kickstarter cycle (just another launch, actually) for a month, you are tied into making sure that this cycle goes well. It just depends on how well you promote it and get the “buzz” going.
But you’re stuck to that clock.
I don’t like that. My muses don’t like that. Running a launch means having another J.O.B. to slave at.
Consider the option of an Evergreen launch. When someone opts in, they are given a link which starts a sequence of pre-scheduled content happening. You are creating a user experience that they can graduate from, or not.
All your material is still there – and you can get busy working up the course meanwhile, releasing parts of it and checking back for comments to correct what you have set there. For me, I’d take my current membership list and “comp” them all in just so I could get the feedback.
Once I’m done with that pre-launch sequence, I then move onto creating the course. I can then take the time needed to write other books that may be needed as part of the course. I no longer worry about selling the course itself, or having a spike and dive of my income. Meanwhile, I’m running FB ads to get people into the course, and watching the feedback on those ads. I can always take down the pre-scheduled prelaunch, or just close down the landing page which starts it. Then I could run a regular launch at any time.
This fits better for my lifestyle as I keep finding material that needs to be researched, or written and podcast for my audience. I’m not putting the rest of my life on hold until I can get back to it.
You see, a regular launch has the pre-launch, the launch, and the review. Then it has building the course itself and its own review. Only then (unless an emergency happens) do you get back to your regular schedule.
On the evergreen launch, while you are increasing your list and income, you don’t have to put off anything else you want to do.
Sure, this is about a year’s worth of work for the massive projects I’m planning. And as well, I’m going to be doing this for two courses at once. I still intend to continue regular publishing of classic public domain works as I can. (So don’t try this at home without adult supervision.)
And it’s taken this overlong podcast to sort all this out.
I wish us both the best of luck.
See you next time.