When you’re preparing for a book launch, there’s a massive amount of book marketing tactics you can choose from — but which will make the biggest impact on sales? Which will give you the best shot at hitting a bestseller list? And if you’re a traditionally published author, what can you do in tandem with your publisher to become a bestseller?
In this post, we’ll walk you through how a traditionally published author hit the USA Today bestseller list during launch week by running a coordinated marketing campaign, using tactics proven to deliver sales and revenue. (Note that any self-published author can use this strategy as well!)
Brenda Novak is a hybrid New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense, with more than 60 books published. We’re excited to share exactly how she launched Face Off, the third book in her Evelyn Talbot series, to bestsellerdom — and how BookBub was a big part of her book launch marketing campaign. According to Brenda, “BookBub always delivers. I use them whenever possible.” Thank you, Brenda, for sharing your secret sauce!
PHASE 1: SELF-PUBLISHED A PREQUEL
While Brenda traditionally published her Evelyn Talbot series (books 1-4) with Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press, she self-published Hanover House, a 200-page prequel, before launching book #1.
There were several reasons Brenda decided to self-publish Hanover House:
- Take marketing control. By self-publishing this title, Brenda controlled its pricing and discounting strategy. This was content she could use to market the series on her own — something she could even give away for free.
- Create box set content. Brenda compiled a box set to sell as a fundraiser for diabetes research, and included this prequel as new content for the set.
- Grow her mailing list. Brenda has a dedicated landing page on her website where visitors can get Hanover House for free in exchange for signing up to her mailing list. This is a great incentive to subscribe, since this prequel is usually priced at $3.99.
“I never intended to make any money off of Hanover House (other than the fundraising effort). It wasn’t written for that reason. My goal was to create a tool I could use to build my mailing list and promote the series as a whole. And it’s served both purposes well. After the fundraiser was over, the money I made from selling this title is what has funded the promotion I’ve done for my traditionally published titles. It’s also helped guide me in finding what works and what doesn’t. Because it’s self-published, I can easily measure how my various efforts — BookBub Ads, Facebook ads, giveaways via my newsletter, etc. — impact sales simply by checking my vendor dashboards.”
Within Hanover House, she made clear to readers that the series continues — and encouraged them to buy the subsequent books. First, she included a letter to the reader in the front matter:
And in the back matter, she included the first chapter from Book #1 of the Evelyn Talbot series, Her Darkest Nightmare. After the excerpt, she included links to the retailer product page to make it as easy as possible for readers to buy.
Important note: Brenda cleared this idea with her publisher before writing Hanover House. If you’re under contract with a traditional publisher, communicate your plans to publish connected content early to ensure you have their approval!
PHASE #2: PROMOTED THE PREORDER
1. Sent a BookBub Preorder Alert
Three months before the launch of Face Off, Brenda sent a BookBub Preorder Alert to the 13.5K US followers she had at the time. Preorder Alerts are highly targeted since they’re only sent to the author’s BookBub followers, and at only $0.02 per eligible follower, they’re a cost-effective way to drive early sales!
The Preorder Alert for Face Off generated 1,000 clicks (at a 7%+ CTR), and she saw a boost in her book’s Amazon rankings thanks to this promotion! Brenda now sends Preorder Alerts to promote all of her upcoming titles!
2. Plugged the preorder in various newsletters
In many of her newsletters, Brenda includes a section reminding readers of her upcoming preorders. When she plugged Face Off, she included the release date and eye-catching icons leading to each retailer, so readers could easily navigate to their favorite one.
3. Built buzz via social media posts
Early and often, Brenda posted eye-catching images to her social media channels featuring Face Off’s cover design. She used a mix of high-quality photos…
…as well as custom graphics incorporating marketing copy that would resonate with existing fans of the series. (Consider using Canva or RelayThat to easily create something similar!)
4. Ran a BookBub Ads campaign promoting the preorder
About six weeks before launch, Brenda ran a BookBub Ads campaign promoting the preorder. BookBub Ads is a self-serve display advertising platform that lets you promote any book to BookBub’s audience of power readers at any time. Brenda targeted fans of a comparable author with her ad, which accomplished two goals: it drove early sales and increased exposure of the upcoming title to relevant readers via ad impressions.
5. Discounted the prequel Hanover House
Brenda discounted Hanover House to $0.99 about one month before the launch of Face Off. She figured that would be the right timing for new readers to buy this prequel, make their way through books #1 and #2, and be eager for Face Off (book #3) upon launch. Again, since Brenda self-published Hanover House, she had control over the timing and pricing of this discount, even though the rest of her series is traditionally published.
In order to drive as many unit sales as possible, Brenda ran a BookBub Featured Deal to the Psychological Thrillers category. Featured Deals are a great way to generate exposure that can result in subsequent sales of an author’s other titles — 70% of authors report an increase in sales of their other books (including full-priced books!) after running the promotion. The Featured Deal for Hanover House generated over 6k clicks and 1.5K sales!
To further increase her reach, Brenda also ran BookBub Ads campaigns during the week of the discount, testing out different image designs and author targeting options.
6. Chose Face Off for her Facebook group’s monthly book meeting
In Brenda’s Facebook group of 14K members, she holds a monthly book group meeting via Facebook live video, where members are encouraged to read either one of her own books or another author’s books. A few days before launch, Brenda announced that the following month’s meeting would be for Face Off, which encouraged members to preorder or buy the book as soon as it came out.
PHASE #3: RAN LAUNCH DAY PROMOTIONS
1. Sent a BookBub Featured New Release
BookBub automatically emails all of an author’s followers a New Release Alert when they release a new book, but Featured New Releases lets you announce new books to a whole category of BookBub members — a much larger audience!
On launch day, Brenda ran a Featured New Release to the Thrillers category. These emails include a curated list of new releases hand-selected by our editorial team in BookBub members’ favorite categories. This promotion generated 2.3K clicks and over 400 bookmarks from BookBub readers.
2. Sent a newsletter to mailing list subscribers
On launch day, Brenda sent a newsletter to her subscribers to announce the launch of Face Off. She personalized the subject line of her email (mine read: “Diana, have you been waiting for this?”), which helped grab recipients’ attention! She also included links to each retailer as buttons in the email.
3. Ran a giveaway on Facebook
To build buzz on Facebook, Brenda hosted a giveaway on her author page. Readers needed to comment telling Brenda where they purchased Face Off for a chance to win a Kindle Fire. This simple entry method was effective, generating nearly 2K comments.
4. Hosted a launch party
On release day, Brenda held a launch party at a Barnes & Noble in Naperville, Illinois. Of course, not all of her fans could attend, but she posted a video from the event on her Facebook page so everyone could view. It was another opportunity to remind readers of her launch!
5. Included Face Off in her monthly Reader Box
Brenda also runs a subscription reader box service, which is a unique idea that lets her share books and swag with her most loyal readers. “Subscription boxes were gaining in popularity, so I decided I’d offer 50 ‘Professional Reader’ boxes each month in which readers could get an autographed copy of the book we were reading along with other fun, reader-related items… Demand immediately outpaced our supplies and our expectations. After only a short time, we were selling 500 per month.”
For her September reader box, Brenda included Face Off, further extending the reach of this book, and making sure it got in the hands of her most avid readers likely to review the book online.
MARKETING CAMPAIGN RESULTS
Brenda ran all of these campaigns in tandem with St. Martin’s Press’s marketing efforts. They handled sending ARCs to early reviewers, supported the title on their social media channels, ran giveaways on Goodreads, and ran Facebook ads.
Thanks to Brenda and her publisher’s fantastic coordinated campaigns, Face Off hit the USA Today bestseller list for launch week!
Congratulations, Brenda, on running such a stellar book launch marketing campaign! We hope this has helped authors and publishers alike see how traditionally published authors can play an active role in promoting their launch, and how any author can successfully promote a new release.
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