Relaunching a book — or even an entire series — can be a great way for authors to reinvigorate sales and get new loyal fans.
Independently published authors and publishers can relaunch books at any time. Traditionally published authors sometimes get the opportunity to relaunch a book when their publisher reverts a book’s rights back to them. This happened to Colleen Gleason when she reacquired the rights to her The Gardella Vampire Hunters series. We interviewed her to learn how she relaunched and marketed the first book in the series, The Rest Falls Away. She was kind enough to share her unique insights and ideas.
Colleen is an award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has written more than 30 novels in a variety of genres, including a young adult steampunk series, a saga about a female vampire hunter in 19th-century London, action-adventure novels, and contemporary gothic romances. Her books have been translated into eight languages, and she continues to publish books both independently and for traditional publishers.
What were your goals for the relaunch of The Rest Falls Away?
Since this book (and the other four in its series) had just reverted back to me from my original publisher, my goal was to relaunch this series and to give it “new life.” The series had been published between 2007 and 2009, and therefore was prior to the big ebook boom in 2011.
Since this title is the first in the series, my goal was to distribute this book and give it visibility as widely as possible in order to hook potential readers into the entire series. Therefore, I positioned this book — with its new cover and packaging — as a loss-leader, first-in-series free. I accompanied this book (which I consider a marketing tool) with the simultaneous relaunch of the other four books in the series.
What marketing did you implement prior to this book’s release?
Again, this was a relaunch, so the book had already been available prior to its repackaging and updating. Here you can see the old cover on the left and the new version on the right:
The Rest Falls Away and the rest of the series wasn’t available from retailers for about a month between the time the old version was for sale (via my previous publisher) and the time I relaunched it, so I spent the four weeks prior doing teasers on social media and encouraging signups to my personal newsletter. I also used this time to prep my street team. I discussed with them how we’d redone the packaging of the books and why, and got them organized and motivated to help spread the word. I have a private Facebook group for my promo team, and I do things like post ARCs of new books, teasers, and other info about how and where to spread the word. In this case, since there was an illustration incorporated into the new edition of The Rest Falls Away, they got to see it before anyone else.
I mainly used pre-launch time to gear up for the big relaunch day. I wasn’t worried about hitting a bestseller list because the impetus, the title I was promoting, was a loss-leader freebie — so it had no chance of hitting any lists.
How did you market your book on launch day?
On launch day, I did the following:
1. Posted updates on social media with links to all retailers. Social media for me includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Here’s an example of creative I used:
2. Encouraged my street team — many of whom were long-time fans and readers of this series — to spread the word via social media. We used teasers (images with text and/or pictures) to grab the attention of casual social media surfers, accompanied by links and more text to draw their attention. Oftentimes, we used quotes from endorsements from other authors or publications like The Detroit News and Publishers Weekly.
3. Sent out a newsletter to my subscribers.
4. Did several blog posts/interviews.
5. Started an online Facebook read-along group, which was heavily promoted in the front and back matter of The Rest Falls Away, on social media, and in my newsletter.
6. Offered several signed copies of The Rest Falls Away to random contestants and commenters on social media. Since the book was offered for free, I wasn’t cannibalizing or discouraging sales of that book by offering the signed copies.
Can you talk more about what the read-along group is?
It started off as a read-along group wherein we read 3-5 chapters per week of The Rest Falls Away, and then we went on to the next book in the series, Rises the Night. So it was a way to encourage people who had bought/downloaded the books to actually read them, and to create a community around the reading of it — discussions, dream movie casting, that kind of thing.
The participants were made up both of people who’d read the book/series before (many of them have read this series multiple times — 3, 4, 5 times) and new readers. It was a way for people who loved the Gardellas to encourage their friends to try out the series as well by joining the read-along group. You know, people come onto social media to talk about and complain about TV shows or movies. I was trying to duplicate that sort of community experience with reading a book. I would say it was very successful for the people who participated — they really enjoyed it. But of course, as the author, you always want more people involved. 🙂
Here’s an example Facebook post promoting this group:
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.
How did you continue the momentum in the weeks following your book’s launch?
I had a BookBub Featured Deal scheduled after the initial launch day, and so I worked around that. I continued the same sort of blitz on social media, and then began to participate with the read-along group. Again, many of the participants in that group had read the series, but others hadn’t, so it was a nice mix of people raving about the series and newbies. I was able to get some retailer support from iBooks, which included The Rest Falls Away in their “First in Series Free” promotion for Paranormal Romance.
I also sent a second newsletter to the people who hadn’t opened the first one I sent out, basically an “In case you missed it!” sort of thing.
Additionally, I hired a book-tuber who specialized in young adult reads to do some extra promotion for The Rest Falls Away during the month of relaunch. He published two videos that mentioned the book and series, as well as a number of tweets and Instagram posts to his 20K+ followers.
What did you find was the most effective way to garner new reviews?
Just asking for them. 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.
After writing and publishing more than 30 novels, I completely understand that every book isn’t for everyone. I’d rather have people who will like my book read it, rather than people who — if they read an honest review and would know right away it wasn’t up their alley — read it, dislike it, and ding it in a review. 🙂
Which marketing tactic do you think had the biggest impact on book sales?
Offering the first book in the series free as a loss-leader — at least when I relaunched the series — with advertising support from BookBub and other similar providers.
I have decent reach with my social media and newsletter, but that’s mainly people who are already aware of me and my work. Using effective advertising strategies broadens my reach to people who aren’t familiar with the series or my name. So using a free-sample strategy (first-in-series-free) along with the broadest distribution of that strategy (e.g., BookBub and other advertising) available is an extremely effective way to launch a series. Though of course I had no revenue directly related to The Rest Falls Away, the revenue stream exploded on the back-end with higher sales of the rest of the series.
Which marketing tactic had the least impact?
Hard to say, to be honest. Most marketing tools aren’t as easily quantifiable as a strategy like BookBub. I would say, at this point, the least effective tactic was printing postcards including the book information and links to where it could be downloaded for free.
How did you measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts?
Since these books were indie-published, I was able to not only see ranking changes on the retailer sites, but also see actual downloads and follow-up purchases that reflected the effectiveness of the strategies. And I was able to track them by day and time of the promotions. Additionally, I can track link clicks from my newsletter to retailer sites as well as through links on social media. To my surprise, I had a better click-through on Twitter than on Facebook on certain days.
What do you wish you knew now that you didn’t know when you started marketing this book?
I wish I’d had more supporting ads “stacked” around the main BookBub feature, as well as better link-tracking in order to better quantify the results. I also wish I had more people on my newsletter subscription list.
How has marketing your self-published books been different than when you published traditionally?
It’s different when I’m self-publishing my books than when I’m working with my traditional publishers because I am in complete control of all tactics and strategies — and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. I can do whatever I want, spend the amount of money I want, launch when I want, and have the look and feel and packaging I want… but then again, I’m doing it all myself with no support — financially, strategically, or in regards to resources.
So there is good and bad, positives and negatives to both. Chronicle Books in particular has done a number of marketing and publicity activities for my books that aren’t available to me as an indie author, including booths and signings at trade shows like ALA and Comic-Con, social media blitzes, and advance reader copy (ARC) mailings to a broad audience.
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