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In this episode of All Things Book Marketing, we welcome author and President of Author Imprints, David Wogahn, to discuss what makes for a successful book launch – from reviews, to distribution plans, to the ABCs of who should make up your active launch network. Let’s dive in…
What makes for a successful book launch?
David shares that the first thing he advises authors to do is to ask themselves: what is my goal? Each author’s goal is unique to their book, perhaps company, life… so it’s important to get clear on what their goals are in order to achieve their version of success. Success isn’t one size fits all! One author might want to influence readers, while another wants to entertain readers, and yet another wants to drive their business forward. David says that everything – from pricing to how you market the book and beyond – will point back at that question: what is the author’s goal?
What should authors consider when it comes to distribution?
Distribution is one of the first things that David talks to his authors about. In today’s world, for most indie authors at least, distribution is going to take place one of two places: Amazon or IngramSpark. An author wants to consider, again, what their goals are when determining best path for distribution. Are you a speaker who is going to need lots of books printed to sell or as cost of admission for one of your sessions? Is there another bulk-sale opportunity? Or is print-on-demand a better fit? David can help guide authors in these very complicated routes.
What does the timeline of a book launch look like?
Generally, an author should have their book done 60-90 days before launch. David says it’s crucial that authors don’t make changes to their book within a 30-day window before their launch, because once the book is approved for distribution, Ingram can print copies any time – authors don’t get to decide when that happens, Ingram does. David has seen nightmare scenarios of books going out without important changes made – so authors should think ahead as much as possible and plan for their book to be completely finalized 60-90 days out.
Another reason ARCs should be completely ready by that window or before is that that’s when trade publications (think Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, Kirkus, etc.) will accept ARCs for review consideration. Many first time authors make the mistake of waiting far too long to submit their books for editorial reviews, and in fact the window is really three to four months prior to publication. Working backward, then, David recommends planning for your book launch at least 6 months in advance.
Are book sales the only measure of success?
Of course, book sales are the first thing an author thinks of when it comes to measuring a successful book launch. But that’s far from the only measure of success, David insists.
David advises authors not to worry about their ROI, at least not at first. Instead, focus on how many people are reading the book; how many people is the book actually reaching? After all, if nobody is reading it, what is it all for? The more people who read your book, the more other people will hear about it and the current of interest stays strong.
How important are book reviews to the success of your book launch?
Book reviews are extremely important! David prefers to break it down into two types of book reviews: consumer and editorial.
Consumer reviews (reviews from customers/the public) are crucial, especially for indie authors. The more consumer reviews authors can rack up for their book – especially pre-publication – the better fueled the project will be right out of the gate. Reviews lead to opportunities such as marketing, price drop promotions, and more. Reviews can be used by your publicity team early on to garner more attention for your book. Humans like to read reviews and know that something is worth their time, so the more (hopefully positive) feedback you can get early on, the better. David compares it to a restaurant opening that gets really hyped up, but when potential diners show up, nobody is in the restaurant eating; you want a line wrapped around the building. The same is true for your book! Five to ten reviews on Amazon is a good starting goal for the first 30 days, as that will help get the ever-important algorithm interested in your book and show it to more people so you can begin to get that “line” forming.
The other type of reviews are editorial reviews (think industry and trade publications, media reviews, etc.), which you can submit for on your own, but if you’re working with a publicity team, they will take that off of your very full plate and submit on your behalf. A good publicist has relationships with media contacts who are the best fit for your project, know the guidelines for each individual publication, and the best timeframe to submit your book for review.
Why is online marketing considered a critical success factor?
David’s term, critical success factor (CSF), implies that online marketing is absolutely essential to the success of an author’s book launch. He shares that authors should have what he calls an ABC list of people who will assist with this online marketing: the A list is a short list comprised of those folks who you hope will endorse your book – a foreword writer, for instance, would be part of that list. The B list can contain influencers who will activate their networks. And the C list are the people you hope will actually buy your book: for instance, the people on your email list. Authors should ideally know who is on each of these lists before their book is even finished.
These people are so critical in assisting with online marketing because they will help spread the word about an author’s book in unique ways – from word of mouth recommendations, to endorsements, to sharing across their social media platforms, and beyond. This is essential to a successful book launch because it helps to create major buzz – before publication day even arrives!
Thank you to David for joining the All Things Book Marketing podcast to share his expertise on the topic of book launches. For more information about working with David, read on…
David Wogahn is the president of Author Imprints, an award-winning publishing services company that helps authors professionally indie-publish books using their own publishing imprint.
David is also the author of several books including the Countdown to Book Launch™ workbook, and the author of the first LinkedIn Learning course on self-publishing.
He is a frequent speaker and trainer, including presentations for the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), the Independent Writers of Southern California, and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.
Before founding AuthorImprints.com in 2011, David worked for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, the Los Angeles Times, and was co-founder and COO of the first online publisher of sports team branded websites known today as the CBS College Sports Network.