Well, that's a long title for a blog post. That bodes ill for the length of the post itself. But let's dive into my experience with my latest novel, Flickers.
About this time last year I signed up for Tim Grahl's Launch A Bestseller course. Grahl is a book marketing expert, he's an authentic & trustworthy voice on the internet because he tells it like it is and he has a good background in the publishing industry and in getting books of a variety of types onto various bestseller charts. His website is here.
Flickers, my middle grade suspense novel, was going to be out in just about a year and since his course suggested a nine-month program to prepare for launch day it was perfect timing for me to get me some "bestselling" learning. I ante'd up the money and dove in. All I'd every really done in terms of a national launch was to post on Facebook or Twitter when the cover was released then post again on the actual day the book came out. I, too, would dutifully inform my email newsletter subscribers. And I'd do an in person launch in my local bookstore. But this course forced me to have a plan.
I won't go into great detail about the contents of the course other than the focus was to reach out to influencers (people you know or would like to know in the industry), to build your email "following" and then really aim at promoting the book for the final month before it was released. The idea is that you want people to pre-order the book and therefore those sales, which have been accumulating for a few weeks, will all count on book release day and that will place your book higher in a variety of in-store lists across the country and launch you onto the national bestseller lists (charts, of course, work differently in different stores, from Amazon to Indigo to independent stores and quite differently in different countries). Because this was the Canadian release I was only concentrating on selling the book in Canada (it is not yet available in any other countries)
I gave away free "goodies" to anyone who pre-ordered (my goodies included a PDF about the creation of the book, a director's cut chapter, audio of the first chapter & a thank you video). My email list was 1300 at the time, Facebook friends was at around 5000, and Twitter at 15,000. Of those people only 42 signed up for the pre-order goodies. That was much lower than I expected but you do have to remember that those 42 are my superfans and many of them were purchasing multiple copies. They went into a variety of stores across the country (or online) and ordered the book which meant that the stores would order more copies. I also did find out that many (I didn't have an adequate way to poll this) ordered the books but didn't bother with the freebies (some said they didn't want any aspect of the story spoiled by spoilers that might be in the giveaway).
As I said, my normal launch modus operandi was to mention the book once in awhile online then a few times on the actual day it was released. What all of this pre-sales "talk" did was allowed me to stretch out that promo and create more buzz than usual. I was also going to be launching the "real" book at a theatre in front of about 500 students (that deserves another post) and had set up a website so that parents could pre-order the book (this also added to pre-sales, of course).
The book debuted at #4 on the juvenile bestseller lists for Independent Bookstores. It did get momentum because two weeks later it was the #10 book overall on that same list (overall means that it was competing against all the books in the bookstore). I couldn't track sales in Chapters but on Amazon.ca it went as low as 500 overall (Amazon doesn't add up the pre-sales on launch day, it just keeps track of them as they are bought, so it's harder to go up the charts). And I won't get the actual number of copies sold until my publisher sends me my royalty statements.
So I'm left with a bit of a jumbled study. And there's no way to measure this against past success because, well, I wasn't so good at measuring past success. Plus, I would have to launch the exactly same book without the promo. I am mostly certain that none of my novels had made the top ten overall list before. So I'm very happy with that. I also have the support of HarperCollins Canada and their mighty sales team, so my sense is that their "sales" heft along with my own launch program gave the book its best chance possible to succeed.
Things I learned in no particular order:
1). Launching a book is work. From writing emails, to contacting bookstores, to building my subscriber base for my newsletter. It was very time consuming. But all that work paid dividends now and will continue to do so in the future.
2) Put on your "sales" hat in a clever way. There's nothing more boring than an author shouting "buy my book." So I was often looking for new ways to get that information across. And, at the same time, trying to be genuinely helpful to people.
3) Your fans don't mind hearing from you more than once. My newsletter usually comes out once a month but I sent eight emails in the six weeks leading up to launch day (first teasing the "goodie" pre-sale, then promoting it, and finally sending out a launch day email). I did lose subscribers (which is normal), but generally readers were excited by my excitement, so to speak, and understood that the emails would slow down once the book was out.
4) Launch Teams are a great help. I formed a launch team by asking for "joiners" on social media and my email list. Their only duties were to post about the book two days before it came out and again on launch day. I made a "share" page so that they didn't even have to write the posts (in other words I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to share). And I sent them reminders on those days, so they didn't have to put it in their calendars. 46 people signed up and those posts were instrumental in getting the word out and building buzz.
5) I now have a great template for my next book launch. Ummm...I better start writing that book. Now!
Overall, I'm pleased with what I learned from the course and how I was able to apply it specifically to my book launch. I'll continue to use the method that I learned, tweaking it here and there.
Thanks for tuning in. As I said I can't be entirely sure about my sales numbers until I get my royalty statement from HarperCollins. And I'll be waiting with baited (or is it booked?) breath until that day.