Recently I had the chance to interview book marketing expert Lynn Serafinn. Now’s your chance to sit in on our interview session and learn some amazing tips about how to kick start your book sales! (PS – Lynn is also from the UK, so don’t mind any strangely spelled words. 😉 )
Kristen: When in the book publishing process should an author start promoting their book and planning their book launch?
Lynn: Really, an author should start promoting their book the minute they have landed the title for it! When I say “promoting” it, I don’t mean trying to sell it, but rather, building an online platform for themselves through blogging, YouTube and social media. This helps grow their network and mailing list, and starts to establish them as experts in their chosen field. If an author already has a good network, they should start to create content on the specific subject of their upcoming book and “name drop” their title at the end of articles, indicating a book is coming out soon (e.g., “This article was an adaptation of ideas from my upcoming book My Book Title coming autumn 2013.”)
Kristen: Should all authors consider doing an Amazon “bestseller” launch?
Lynn: I don’t think big launches are a good fit for all authors. Back when I was a new marketer, I used to take on any author who wanted a launch. But these days, I never take on a client for a full book launch unless/until I can see their online platform is solid. Big book launches are expensive and they require a substantial amount of systems to be in place before they can be pulled off successfully. Also, if you have no platform, you are unlikely to attract very influential partners to support you. So you owe it to yourself to spend at least a full year building your online platform before you even consider approaching partners for a launch.
I have observed that the books that sell the best in bestseller launches are the ones by people whose business/brand is well established. They may be first-time authors, but people already know who they are and what their message is. Because the business is already well established, the book tends to be more useful to the public, for the simple reason that the author knows what works and what doesn’t work for their own clients, customers or readers. These kinds of launches also tend to attract the best partners and have the most focus. Finally, the author tends to have an integrated business plan for what this book will do for them, and the expense of the launch brings a good return on their investment not just through book sales, but through business growth.
I have also observed that first-time authors who are also brand new business owners tend to struggle. The author may be very passionate about their work, and they may be willing to pour their last dollar into a launch, but I really don’t recommend this. While they should develop a modest launch and long-term marketing plan for their book, they absolutely should not put themselves into financial difficulty to do a bestseller launch when they do not yet have the systems in place where a) they can attract a strong network of partners and b) they already have an audience of buyers for their book and their business products and services.
Kristen: What are some of the activities you help authors with in the six months leading up to their launch?
Lynn: If their platform is already pretty solid, I first look for the “gaps” in their online platform and fill them. Then, I work with them to create a blogging and leads generating strategy to increase their following while we do the mechanics of the actual launch. Then, over the next six months, we work with my team of seven people to plan and deliver a telesummit, coordinate a Virtual Blog Tour and a radio media tour and coordinate and mobilise a team of network partners who will help promote them. We also design the graphics, make all the web pages, autoresponders and marketing copy, make a video book trailer, invite high profile guests to speak at the telesummit, create intake forms, collect and manage data, get endorsements and reviews and get systems going on Amazon, including book categories and author profile and a lot of other bits and bobs. All this takes a tremendous amount of work from our team and the author. Fortunately, I’ve got a highly experienced team and can depend upon them to do the job splendidly.
Behind the scenes, a lot is going on in terms of motivating and communicating with partners and crisis control. As the project manager, it’s my job to deal with all the possible worst-case scenarios that will arise in a calm, efficient manner. My clients are “allowed” to freak out, but I cannot.
Then, on launch day, there are a lot of things to do around tracking sales, capturing screenshots and motivating partners. I really focus on developing a proper “team” with my network partners, so they get behind the client, and vice versa. It’s my goal to ensure everyone (not just the client) benefits from the launch.
Kristen: You told me that you always recommend “kick starting” an author’s book sales before an Amazon launch. What do you mean by that? What benefits does it give the book and author?
Lynn: By “kick starting” I mean ordering two or three copies of the paperback and Kindle version of the book from each of the Amazon websites (or at least the English language sites in US, Canada and UK). You can send them to people who live in those respective countries. To make it practical, you could send it to people you have asked to review or endorse your book.
There are three reasons for “kick starting.” The first is to ensure your book is listed as being in stock on Amazon. The only way Amazon will purchase a quantity of your books is if they see it is selling. Some people use pre-sales for this, but I prefer to use the kick-start method. When authors do not do this, they may get to launch day and Amazon says the book is out of stock, which can put off buyers from buying it.
The second reason is so that your book will appear in the sales rankings. Until your book has sold at least one copy, it will show no sales ranking at all.
And the third reason has to do with placement. Most of my authors either use Lightning Source for printing and distribution, or they are published by major publishers. All of these channels use either Ingram or Baker and Taylor for distribution to retail outlets, including Amazon. When you submit your title for distribution, you have to choose the categories into which your book may be classified (they call these “BIC categories”). Unfortunately (and inexplicably), Amazon’s categories don’t quite “match” the BIC categories and your book can end up catalogued in some pretty arbitrary categories. The only reliable way to find out where your book is placed is to kick start a few sales within. Hopefully it will appear somewhere in the “top 100” in at least one category, even if only for an hour. This should give you an indication of where Amazon has placed the book. If the category is way off, you can write to them via Author Central, and give them suggested changes. As an example, a few weeks before my book The 7 Graces of Marketing came out, I discovered they had placed it in the “accounting” category. Wow, what a mismatch that was! Fortunately, the kick-starter strategy ensured it was all sorted out before the launch.
Kristen: What other book launch tips you can share?
- A launch is a business investment. Invest wisely. Having an international #1 best-selling book can open up many doors to you and your business. But don’t go into it with “rose-coloured glasses” and no plan of what you want this status to bring you.
- Don’t expect anyone to do a launch in less than six months. If you suddenly get the idea to call a marketing company like mine one or two months before your book comes out, thinking they can “do it fast” for you, you’re wrong.
- Also, know that some of my most successful launches happened six months after a book came out. Just because your book is coming out next month does not mean you have to launch next month.
- Don’t try to do it on your own. Hire an experienced team to do it for you, and focus on doing the things only you can do—writing, doing interviews, creating your business products, etc.
- Don’t expect your Virtual Assistant to be able to run a book launch for you. I’ve seen that fail time and again. An Amazon launch is a specialist skill, and you’ll only frustrate yourself and your hired help if you ask the wrong people to do a launch for you.
- Don’t cut corners. Do it right. You won’t get the results you want if you try to save money by eliminating any of the essential components.
- If you’re not ready for a launch, there are still many things you can do to market your book and build your long-term platform. That is why our company offers alternative packages for authors who many not be quite ready to invest in a big launch. Then, when their second book comes out, they’ll be in a much better place to invest the time and money a successful launch requires.
- SECRET SAUCE: Your 1st book will very often increase in sales as a result of a successful launch of your second book. Every time you launch a new book, it has an impact on past titles if they are written for the same audience.
Thanks Lynn for a great interview!
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing and Tweep-e-licious! She is listed in the top 20 of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards.