A step-by-step book launch checklist (premarketing to make your book a bestseller)

I’ve been meaning to share a book launch checklist for months (years?) but this question popped up in one of my private Facebook groups and I thought I should answer.

I am releasing a book soon but still don’t have the comprehensive “what that should entail” list. I’ve been starting to line up advance reviews, paperback copy, so they can get posted. Without having a large marketing budget… how does one get exposure on a new release (new author/ series etc?)

So here’s a short, rough prelaunch checklist to publishing a bestseller.

  1. Get a great cover designed. Put the Kindle book up for preorder. Publish the print book also if you can – if you want you can make it unavailable (don’t approve a new proof that you upload) – so people can review it but not buy it.
  2. Research keywords and categories. I use KindleSpy and KDRocket for this. I figure out what keywords people are searching for, which categories are less competitive, and try to make sure my content (book description) will show up in natural search results. I also try to get in a less competitive category – you can request up to 10 categories from KDP support. If you’re in a less competitive category, you can get the orange “bestseller” sticker much easier, and even keep it for awhile.
  3.  Run Amazon ads to get the book to show up near bestsellers and start populating your also boughts. $5 a day.
  4. Build a giveaway of similar books in your genre or topic. Maybe 5 or 10 books. Use Facebook ads to reach fans of those authors. Share giveaway with authors and see if you can get them to share it too. (I use KingSumo, but if you want a cheaper option you can use Gleam).
  5. Starting building content – blog posts, videos, powerpoints… stuff talking about you or your book indirectly but not focused on marketing. Just useful, cool stuff. Very simple content = a list of best books in your genre (maybe the ones you’re giving away), with links to the authors. Also, best quotes from best books. Or funniest reviews from best books. You can hire a virtual assistant to build some of this stuff. Build links into your content pointing straight at your book on Amazon.
  6. Join some groups and start making friends with other authors in your genre or field. Try to organize joint promos or list-trades (where you recommend each other’s books to your lists – make sure you only do this with quality books though).
  7. Make an ARC version of your book available (with BookFunnel or Instafreebie). Email your list and offer 100 copies (at least) to people who are interested. It’s OK to ask only for people who can read it soon, and hopefully review – and that they’ll also be able to get the book for free on Kindle later.
  8. Soft-launch your book. If you’re in KDP Select (which I highly recommend), set one or two free days and email your list so they can download it for free – you want lots of downloads so you can get more reviews, more quickly.
  9. Set book to 2.99, wait a week till you have a lot of reviews (you can email your list again to remind them to review it).
  10. Set book to 99cents, do a big promotion – advertise on book promo sites. My favorites (which seem to perform the best right now) are FreeBooksy, ENT, AskDavid.com, Book Barbarian, Robin Reads and Choosy Bookworm.
  11. Also set up a giveaway (I use Gleam) to get the list to Tweet about your 99cent promo. You can get quite a bit of visibility for giveaways like this – especially if you share them in related Facebook groups (I’ve been trying to get 1 million views for $50… I’m getting close).
  12. Sell 100+ books at 99cents… this should get you close to about #1000 in the Amazon rankings. IF you have good reviews (at least 10) a great cover and a killer description, your rank *should* stick there for awhile… it’s really, really hard to get everything right the first time though. Generally your rank will slip and then stabilize. Ideally you’ll stay in the top 10,000 (after that, rank will probably keep slipping until you’re invisible). If you keep slipping lower, you need to fix your cover or sales description.
  13. Even so, it’s hard to make one book stick long term. So you’ll want to use the rest of your KDP free days and do another big free book promotion, probably in a week or two after launch, and do lots of ads and another giveaway, to get more visibility (with the first book, you should focus on building trust with readers, not making money – in my opinion – though you can launch hard and spend a lot of ads and your book *might* stick and earn money, that’s unlikely if you don’t already have a platform).
  14. If nothing works and you’re not making *any* money with your book, put it on permafree to build your list while you write more books. Hopefully series or at least books in the same genre/for the same audience. When you have a series, read this post.

Want more details?

I’m writing up a huge case study post about what I’m doing to launch Shearwater – you can get it by preordering the book (I’m not going to share this one publicly, I’m just using it to boost preorders).

I’m also building some step-by-step case studies on publishing both fiction and non-fiction for my course Guerrilla Publishing. If you preorder the book, you’ll get the chance to get the course for a huge discount when I launch it (I’ll also be giving away 20 copies of the course). And even without the course, the book will help a ton.

Check out the details here – you can preorder both books or just one.

Need support?

I also set up a Facebook group where I share my latest book marketing epiphanies and experiments.
You can join for free, then introduce yourself and get feedback.



  • Jenetta Posted

    Thanks Derek. Love the gleam giveaway idea. Will be doing that my next .99 deal days.

  • Kristen Steele Posted

    The key here is that most of these things should be done way in advance of the book launch (more than just a month or two). Start making connections, building content and your social media presence as soon as you decide to write and publish a book. That way you have a built in audience.

  • Paul Nieto Posted

    Thank you very much for the promo sites. I am currenlty reading “Book Launch Blueprint” and have just signed up for the 21 Day Best Selling Author Platform course. Looking forward to it,

  • TariAkpodiete Posted

    great stuff as always.
    and i’ve pre-ordered!

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