A simple 10-step book launch plan you can easily use to outrank bestselling authors.

I tend to go overboard with my courses and tutorials, and am trying to simplify. 

Today I’m at the San Francisco writer’s conference and I keep finding myself repeating my book launch formula to authors. I told one writer,

“Authors don’t like book marketing because they think it means telling strangers about your book.”

She said, “But that’s what book marketing is!”

Unfortunately, nearly everybody thinks book marketing is telling people to buy your book. 

But that doesn’t work (is it “marketing” if it doesn’t result in sales?)

Even more unfortunately, most of the people who charge thousands of dollars to do “book marketing” use outdated tactics that also don’t work.

 

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So here’s my 10 step plan.

This is what I do. Sorry it’s just the rough notes. If you don’t understand something, I’ve probably already written 5 blog posts about it, or you can grab Guerrilla Publishing or get one of my courses.

Very few authors are actually doing these things, which makes it really easy for me to get tons of free traffic and visibility, and keep my books ranking well, without ever telling anybody to buy my book.

 

1. Write blog posts about “best books in (your genre)”. Do 10 of those. Tell the authors you featured them and they might share (easier to do if your blog or site is a genre-specific site rather than personal author blog).

2. Review those books on youtube, feature them on your site, get authors to see/share your video review. Post on amazon (when you review books, you can add a video review – that gets your face in front of lots of readers; more importantly, if you email the author and let them know with a link to the post on your site, they’ll probably share it with their audience).

3. Do a book giveaway with ten best books closest to yours.

  • Engage and build relationship with your list by asking questions/telling stories.
  • Build email list to 1000+ targeted readers (who like your genre/topic).
  • Build twitter and facebook followers to 1000+ (promoting a giveaway with paid twitter or facebook ads will result in lots of followers).
  • use targeted facebook ads to reach readers who like those books; use KingSumo or Gleam to get them to enter/share. Email and remind them to share again to increase odds.

4. Set up book on preorder.

  • Run multi author promo with peeps in your field (you need to find other indie authors who are trying to promote their books and offer to organize something for them – most will be eager. Get everyone to share YOUR page on your site where you feature all their books (if you feature their free books on instafreebie, instafreebie will also usually share it with their email list).
  • Put up sample or ARC book on instafreebie.
  • experiment with amazon ads, use 300+ keywords and see what converts the best (you won’t get many sales on a preorder book with no reviews, but you can still see which keywords get the most visibility and clicks). If you’re using keywords of authors/books in your genre, you’ll start populating your “also boughts” and “also viewed” section.’

5. Break your book into 20 teasers

  • Read small sections on youtube
  • make pretty graphics with the text – add book or author name to bottom (use Wordswag or Canva). Share on Pinterest/Twitter/Facebook
  • Share one a day leading up to book launch

6. Post articles on high authority sites using keywords people are searching for, link to your blog and amazon book.

7. Use keywords in amazon description.

  • hook, story, conflict/character + social proof + keywords
  • description has to SHOW UP when people search for things – the more people are searching for those things, the more eyeballs you’ll get. Then it has to CONVERT those readers to buys/downloads (if the cover isn’t strong enough, they will never even read the description!)

8. Send ARC out to your list of 1000, offer them free book (with bookfunnel or instafreebie). Ask for reviews on launch.

  • or publish paperback and make it unavailable, so they can review on the preorder early

9. LAUNCH book. Wait a couple days (rank is always wonky right after preorder launch). Make sure the typos are fixed and everything looks good. Remind your list to get the free book and review it as soon as they can. Wait until you have at least 10 book reviews.

Go big with amazon ads, spend to $20 a day (or even $100) for your launch week. If done right, you should at least break even (even if you don’t, you’ll be populating your also boughts, which are really important).

10. PROMOTE – either free campaign first, then 99cent campaign, or the other way around (the smaller your audience, the more free books you will need to give away). Spread out promotions, do a big free or 99cent promo every couple weeks. Advertise on all the big book promo sites.

  • ENT, AskDavid.com, Book Barbarian and Robin Reads, Choosy Bookworm, Fussy librarian, FreeBooksy. Bookbub if you can get it.
  • “Ad-stacking” means do them all and spread them out, a couple every day.

 

DONE – if your book cover, reviews and description are good enough, you will “stick” at a certain rank on Amazon. One of my books has a resting rate of 1500, another 5000. This depends greatly on the amount of readers looking for books like yours, but you should keep tweaking the sales description to see if you can get it to climb a little higher. Tweak, then do another promo.

If your books stick and earn money, spend that money on advertising. If they don’t stick, you need to fix your cover, description or reviews until you’re getting more traffic + conversions.

TROUBLESHOOTING – if your rank keeps dropping and you can’t get it to stick anywhere…

  1. It’s probably your cover – not good enough or attracting the wrong readers.
  2. Or the description isn’t converting anyone.
  3. Or you didn’t get those 20 reviews I told you to get.
  4. Or you wrote a book with zero market. You can TRY to at least get visibility by using more keywords people are searching for that are marginally related, but then you’re attracting the wrong audience and they may not be satisfied with the book. If you’re doing everything right (and I doubt you are, there’s always room for improvement) and you still can’t sell books, your book may not have a market (next time, figure out what people actually like to read/buy, and write that kind of book). 

Alternatives: just keep building content and traffic – feature other authors on your website, organize joint author promotions, always be giving out favors and helping other authors in your genre step up (give favors, don’t ask for favors). The easiest way to get people to share your content is to talk about them or their book.

I had someone review Guerrilla Publishing recently and they said there was “nothing new” in it. I find that surprising, since most of the things I talk about are things that even my bestselling author friends have never considered. But oh well. I give these tips out for free because I know that knowledge is just the beginning – most authors don’t have the tech or book design skills to actually get everything right. And if the basics (book cover design, sales description, keywords) aren’t right, then nothing you do will work. I can get any book to show up for any keyword search, but converting those readers to buyers is another story, your book has to look and sound amazing, and you need a lot of social proof, to convince strangers to buy it.

Again, I never do that – I give my books away for free to fans until I have hundreds of book reviews… then it’s a lot easier to get strangers to pay for it. My books are doing OK and earning consistent money with very little promotion, but I worked hard to set them up and launch them right… and they could all be doing much better (I also know that the real money will kick in once I finish more series, so I’m not investing much time or energy with these first books.)

 

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About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book editor turned book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He's been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors write and publish bestselling books. FREE GUIDE: Sell your work without selling out.