When launching a new book, there’s a gamut of marketing activities authors and publishers can use to create buzz and generate sales. Despite that huge range of tactics, there are a handful of specific marketing activities that we hear authors and publishers buzzing about most. This post reviews those tactics, with examples from authors and publishers.
1. Launch an email marketing campaign
Despite the tremendous number of marketing channels and social media sites available today, email is still one of the best ways to reach fans and potential new readers. According to one study, 68% of consumers find email to be their #1 preferred channel for receiving commercial messages.
Readers who subscribe to an author’s mailing list are expressing interest in the author, so they’re a prime audience to receive an email about a new book. Of course, it’s important to keep subscribers engaged between book launches.
One way to build email engagement is to offer subscribers free content as a way to get them hooked after they first subscribe. For example, author Lee Strauss set up an automated marketing campaign for new subscribers in which she sends a series of emails with free content, including the first two books in her series. The final email includes a link to preorder her upcoming title. Then she emails subscribers whenever she launches a new book or runs a price promotion.
I have a five-email autoresponder:
- The first email welcomes the new subscriber to my readers list with the link to the free book (Gingerbread Man, the first book in A Nursery Rhyme Suspense series).
- Two days later I introduce them to the main characters of A Nursery Rhyme Suspense, Marlow and Sage (with photos), and give them part one of Life Is but a Dream (book #2). I also invite them to follow me on BookBub.
- A week later they get part two of Life Is but a Dream, and a week after that part three. The reason for this is to get them used to getting email from me, and to get them in the habit of opening. It also reminds them to put Gingerbread Man on the top of their TBR (to be read) pile.
- Email five is there to promote Hickory Dickory Dock, the third book in the series, with a link to preorder on iBooks. I also offer an exclusive look at the first chapter. Soon I will use this space to tell my readers about the fourth book, Twinkle Little Star.
In addition to hooking readers when they first subscribe, some authors send subscribers free content or news of backlist book discounts prior to a new release launch. Here’s a great example of an email from Steena Holmes that she sent subscribers three weeks before the launch of her new release, Saving Abby:
And here is the email she sent to subscribers on launch day:
Also, make sure the book gets a BookBub New Release Alert! BookBub sends New Release Alerts to an author’s followers whenever they launch a new book or novella. See how to get a book approved for a New Release Alert here. Authors, you can get started by claiming your Author Profile here.
2. Run a price promotion for a different book
A price promotion for a discounted backlist book can help draw attention to a new release. Readers are often reluctant to pay full-price for a book before they know the author’s work. However, they’re often inclined to try a book or author they’re not familiar with if it’s offered at a lower price. Discounting a backlist title can draw new readers likely to pay more for a new release, as 77% of bargain readers also buy full-priced books and 63% purchase other books by authors they discover as part of a price promotion.
But discounting alone isn’t enough — promoting a discounted book through services like BookBub allows authors and publishers to reach millions of power readers who’ve specified which genres they like to read. 89% of BookBub partners who ran a price promotion for an older book sold more copies of their new book after their promotion.
Also, be sure to promote the new release in the discounted book’s back matter. BookBub partners see a 3x higher increase in sales of other books in a series if links are included in the back matter of the discounted book, so don’t skip this step.
Author Julianne MacLean has found great success with this cross-promotion discounting strategy.
My current strategy is to discount a previous book in the series on release day and try to get a BookBub Featured Deal to run on that day or soon after. (I don’t run it before release day, because readers love instant gratification, and you want your new book to be available when your ad runs.) I arrange this 30 days in advance of the release, and I also book a number of ads on other promo sites for both the new release and the discounted book to keep the momentum going. I put as much effort into promoting the discounted backlist book as I do the new release. I’m always promoting two books during launch week.
Read a step-by-step guide to using price promotions to market a new book release here.
3. Solicit reviews by including a letter from the author to readers in the back matter
Generating reviews for a book is an important aspect of any book launch, as consumers look to reviews to validate their purchasing decision. Sending advanced reader copies (ARCs) to early reviewers and book bloggers is a well-known way to garner reviews. But regular readers of a book are also prime candidates for reviewers.
Consider including a letter from the author in the back matter asking for a review. It doesn’t have to take up much space, and can even be on the author’s bio page — but including this quick ask can be an effective reminder for readers to review. Melissa F. Miller asks for reviews in her books:
I also have a note in the back of the book thanking readers and encouraging them to review the book and/or lend it to a friend…. The vast majority of the 3,000+ reviews on that book have ramped up naturally over time, aided immensely by the fact that it’s free. It’s easy to take a chance on a free ebook, and when a free book resonates with a reader, they seem very inclined to review it!
Here’s a look at Irreparable Harm’s back matter, which has more than 3,000 reviews on Amazon!
Julianne MacLean takes a similar approach:
I include a letter to readers in the back of all my books, and I say something like this in the body of the letter: If you enjoyed this book, please consider leaving a review at Goodreads or your favorite online retailer to help others discover it. (A live link to your book on Goodreads doesn’t hurt.)
Colleen Gleason also asks readers for reviews in her books’ back matter:
I don’t “incentivize” people to write reviews; I simply ask by explaining how helpful it is for not only the author, but for other potential readers. I put a request in on social media, in my newsletter, and sometimes in the back matter of my books suggesting that the reader leave a short review.
4. Run a unique giveaway to build buzz
Giveaways are a great way to garner reviews before and after a book’s launch. But giveaways are so common that it’s important to make sure any giveaway you run is memorable. Have participants enter a giveaway contest by doing more than simply clicking a button.
For example, prior to the launch of her book The Body Electric, Beth Revis ran a giveaway in which readers had to try to guess the book’s setting.
My book is set in Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean. I did a week-long campaign and giveaway where I revealed clues about the setting and had people guess where the book was set. The giveaway lived on my blog here, and I used Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter to post a few extra clues and entice people to enter the main contest.
The giveaway actively engaged readers as they tried to solve the mystery, and sparked interest as I announced the book. It also gave me openings to discuss the book without being spammy; I could talk about how I went to Malta, what inspired me, what details made or didn’t make it into the book. In short, I generated conversation and information, not commercials.
Another great giveaway example is one that V.E. Schwab and her publisher Macmillan launched for A Gathering of Shadows where participants had to submit fan art for its predecessor A Darker Shade of Magic for a chance to win a signed advanced reader copy. They also created a Tumblr to display all of the entries here.
5. Coordinate a multi-author box set
Multi-author box sets can help authors reach new readers. For example, three authors published by the same imprint — or three independent authors with a series in the same genre or with similar themes — can join forces to create a themed box set. Packaging these books can triple each book’s audience, since each book will gain exposure across the other two authors’ platforms.
There are several ways to approach multi-author box sets. Here are two popular strategies we’ve seen publishers and authors employ:
1. Include the first book in a series in the box set. When launching a later book in a series, include the first book from several different series in one box set. Within the box set file, include a promotional page after each book promoting the next book in the series, so readers can easily continue reading each series.
Megg Jensen took this approach when she was preparing to launch the final book in her Reckoning series.
In the fall of 2014, Hidden (book one) was included in a multi-author epic fantasy box set, which served as another funnel into the series — again leading toward the goal of selling that final book in April of 2015.
Often, these sets are set up by authors and filled via networking. I was asked by the organizer to join this particular set after being recommended by another author. These box sets are a great way to find new readers. All of the authors in the box set market it to their reader base. It’s the ultimate cross-promotion strategy. It’s also good for readers because they are often able to pick up these box sets for $0.99, or sometimes for free!
2. Include the new release in a limited-time box set. To kick-start buzz and sales, include several books launching the same month in a box set that’s only available for a limited time.
Each month, Harlequin launches a new themed multi-author box set priced lower than the combined price of the individual titles. Each set is only available for a short time. For example, in March 2016 they launched two Harlequin Medical Romance box sets.
6. Create a dedicated community to foster loyal evangelists
Giving fans a dedicated community space can help them feel more connected to a book and author. While these communities might not have thousands of members, the fans who participate often become loyal advocates for a book and author, which is essential for creating word-of-mouth buzz.
One type of community is a read-along group, which is like a virtual book club — a public or private group (via a social channel like Facebook or Google+) where participants read a designated number of chapters of a book per week and discuss them in the group. Having the author participate in the group is a great incentive for fans to join the conversation.
For example, Gardella Vampire & Colleen Gleason Hang-Out Page is a read-along Facebook group with hundreds of members for Colleen Gleason’s series The Gardella Vampire Chronicles.
It was also an added perk, I think, that the author participated. I didn’t run the group; I had moderators doing that. But I popped in occasionally to answer questions, make comments, and announce news/promos/etc.
In this group, we’ve gone ahead and read a total of five books in this way, and people really seem to enjoy it — especially since the latest one that was read in the group, Roaring Shadows, was a much-anticipated new release last summer — so no one had read it, and they were all discussing it quite enthusiastically. It’s not a big group, but it’s a dedicated one and I love that about it.
Here’s an update Colleen posted to her Facebook page promoting this group:
Creating a community also works well when there is a specific objective or incentive for group members. For example, Rodale Books created a Facebook group Official Wheat Belly Detox to promote the book Wheat Belly: 10-Day Grain Detox. In this group, over 6K readers support each other to achieve the goals outlined in the book. Rodale regularly runs new challenges for group members, and sets the date of the next challenge in the group’s cover photo.
What’s your favorite way to promote a new release? Let us know in the comments below!
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