Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.
The Anatomy of a Book Launch
Once authors finish their books, the next logical step is the book launch. Actually, they should be thinking about the launch BEFORE they even start writing!
Essentially, a book launch is all the activities and promotions that are done to introduce a new book to the world. These can include:
- Getting PR (public relations) and media coverage for the author and the book.
- Soliciting book reviews.
- Book signing events.
- Social media posts and mentions.
- Blog posts or guest blog posts.
- Email marketing.
What Is the Purpose of a Book Launch?
Aside from merely introducing a book to the world, book launch efforts are aimed at getting early sales. The hope is that a large initial sales volume will help get the book on a best-seller list which could propel even more sales. However, the volume that needs to be sold to make it on such a list is so high that the chances of getting a self-published book on them are akin to winning the lottery.
Regardless of whether a book makes it to a best-seller list or not, early sales can help authors and publishers recoup their investment in writing and publishing it.
What Is a Virtual Book Launch?
A virtual book launch is really no different than a regular book launch, except that it is limited to activities and promotions done online such as social media, blogging, email marketing, etc.
The only book launch activity that really cannot be done online is a book signing. Even though there may be ways to offer signed copies of a print book through outlets such as Amazon's Fulfillment Services, it could be costly and just not worth the added expense and hassle.
The Myth of Getting PR Buzz for a Book
In a past career life, I was responsible for public relations activities for industrial trade shows. These were national or regional events attended by thousands. Yet getting mentions and features in the media was tough. I even had to beg media outlets in my employer's own company to cover one show. So when I get asked by authors about getting buzz—which means getting mentions and getting featured in media channels—for a self-published book, I just smile at the innocence of their inquiry.
Most people instinctively know that getting attention from the mass media—newspapers, magazines, radio, and television—is super tough. Yet when self-published authors write a book, they immediately think that because they have a book, that all changes and the media is going to be awed by their accomplishment. Sorry, news editors are not impressed. Your landmark publishing achievement is just another one of the thousands of requests for press that bombard them every day. Even funnier is that self-published authors think that news outlets will automatically discover their new work. That does not happen!
One way that authors can get a leg up for media attention is by using a press release distribution service. Editors, for both online and offline media, subscribe to these services to help filter the press release flood that is churned out every day.
However, these services are not free. Yes, there are "free" press release distribution services out there. But, as with anything, you get what you pay for.
An example of a popular and reputable paid press release distribution company is PRWeb.com. Even though they may be lower cost than some, entry-level packages start in the $100 range, and go up to about $370, per press release (prices as of this writing). Higher-level packages offer greater exposure on news feeds and premium news outlets.
As you can see, contrary to popular belief, PR is NOT free.
What About Book Reviews?
At a writers' conference I attended recently, it was noted that book review departments at various newspapers are getting smaller or being eliminated. Not surprising given the uncertain future of most newspapers. So flooding book review editors with your self-published book may be a lesson in futility since they may only have resources to concentrate on the most popular, usually traditionally published, books.
Plus, readers now look to Amazon for "real people" reviews when buying books. This is why authors and publishers now have a greater interest in soliciting early book reviews on Amazon from individual reviewers. But that has its own challenges since reviews may not be automatically done by readers and reviewers.
Should You Do a Book Signing?
Book signing events may not be the early book sales bonanza that self-published authors envision. It can be difficult to get any bookstores or venues to host or sponsor, except for small locals. And hosting one yourself can be its own expensive nightmare. Book signings for self-published books may do little to create a buzz in the media since signing events are rarely on the media's radar except for possibly a BIG name author.
Why It's Probably Too Late to Get Buzz for Your Book
If you're asking about creating buzz after a book is published, it's already too late. Creating buzz and PR for a book starts long before the book is written and published by building an author platform.
An author platform is the author's audience of social media followers, email subscribers, and fans. That platform should be built and grown over time. Then, when the book is done, the audience is more likely to be interested in buying the book, and, most importantly, sharing it with their own followers. That's how buzz really gets built.
For example, I have an author friend who built a massive platform of hundreds of thousands of followers on her blog, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Not only are those followers interested in whatever she publishes, but she has been able to regularly receive media coverage and features on news shows and documentaries.
Start building your author platform yesterday . . . or today, since yesterday is already over.
Leveraging Your Author Platform for a Book Launch
Given all the challenges of getting mass media coverage, book reviews, and book signings, self-published authors should do everything to leverage whatever platform they have built and control. That would include social media, blogging, and email marketing.
This should not be a continuous stream of "buy my book" messages! Rather, continuously provide interesting and relevant content related to the book's topic or genre. By doing so, you'll imprint and cement your brand and expertise on the minds of your followers. Your book then becomes just another form of your content to "buy" with their attention and dollars.
Why You Might Not Be Able to Afford Your Book Launch
Unfortunately, what often happens is that authors spend so much time, energy, and money on the launch that they have nothing left for continuing promotion and marketing of the book. Others believe that any marketing done during the launch is all that it takes. What both fail to realize is that a book can (and should!) have a shelf life of many years. So pacing and planning for continuous promotion is a more effective and cost-effective approach.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 13, 2017:
Hi teaches! Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for stopping by and reading! Have a great week ahead!
Dianna Mendez on August 13, 2017:
Thank you for the information on a book launch. It is valuable to all writers.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 01, 2017:
Flourish, I can get no higher compliment! :) Thanks for your kind words and taking time to comment. Have a fun and relaxing July 4th!
FlourishAnyway from USA on June 30, 2017:
I like your straight talk, no nonsense style. Someone needs to just tell it like it is, and you are the expert!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 30, 2017:
I'll bet you're anxious, billybuc! But making a living comes first. Thanks for taking some of your precious time to stop by. Have a great July 4th holiday weekend!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 30, 2017:
A book launch is something I haven't done in over six months, and I'm chomping at the bit to get back to my fiction writing. Sigh! Thanks for the reminder, Heidi. Unfortunately, I have some good money available if I do these freelance jobs, so the creativity will have to wait.