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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How Book Launches Have Changed in the Digital Age

by Anne R. Allen

Most writers have been picturing it since we started scribbling ideas for our first novel. It's the light at the end of the tunnel, the goal that keeps us slogging along, the Holy Grail of our writing journey—


We've watched the scene in so many films and TV shows we know it by heart: the newly minted author is feted at a gala event at some posh restaurant or upmarket bookstore (preferably in Manhattan, of course.) Readers line up around the block to buy a signed copy of the fabulous soon-to-be-bestseller.

Rich and famous literati raise glasses of champagne in the author's honor. The author basks in all that well-earned attention. And maybe gets to gloat when the ex-spouse shows up, looking unprosperous, with the illiterate new significant other in tow.

Screenwriter David Congalton did a great send-up of this writer fantasy in his film Authors Anonymous, staging the book launch of Dennis Farina's hapless vanity-published character in the crowded hardware store where his girlfriend works (and sweetly buys up all his books when nobody shows up.)

So when your book debuts, are you going to get one of those parties? (Not the one in the hardware store—the glittery one.) Should you be planning your perfect Carrie Bradshaw or Richard Castle outfit to prepare yourself for this all-important event?

Sorry. Probably not.

Unfortunately, the era of the splashy book launch is pretty much over. Even big-name authors are lucky if they get a congratulatory phone call from their agents on launch day.

And as for successful self-publishers, the day their book goes live on Amazon, they're probably at home in their sweats, pounding out the next novel.


This is the age of infinite online shelf space: a book no longer has to be launched like a rocket that explodes in a blaze of glory and soon falls to earth.

Before the age of the ebook, launches were all-important because print books are given only a few months on valuable book store shelves before they are sent back to the publisher to be remaindered and/or pulped. All print books are in stores "on consignment" and can be returned at any time for lack of sales. So with the old print/warehouse/bookstore paradigm, you have a very small window in which to get your book noticed. (Even smaller if you're not one of the lucky few who get "co-op" space at the front of the store purchased by your publisher.)

But ebooks are forever. An ebook is just as valuable five years down the road as it is the day you launch it. Retailers don't have to return it in order to make room for new merchandise.

Most Amazon bestsellers I know launched their first ebooks quietly (what's called a "soft launch"), then waited for buzz to build. Many bestselling indies didn't sell at all for the first few months—or even years.

These days, it's very unusual for newbie authors to see real sales with their first book.  Most authors don't see money coming in until they have at least three titles for sale.

So what's the best way to launch a book in this new publishing world?

Get to work on the next one.

Becoming a successful writer these days is a slow, ongoing process that begins when you start establishing your platform—usually long before you publish—and builds with each book.

Bu-but, sez you, what about book launches online? Can't I at least have an online launch party?

Yes. You can. The institution of the splashy launch is strong enough that the industry has found ways of marking the debut of a new title with online events. Some are effective, some not so much, but they all can have a cumulative effect.

But 99% of the effort will probably have to come from you.

Big publishers may send you on a blog tour, although you shouldn't expect any major festivities unless you're a politician with a Super-PAC, a Rolling Stone, or a regular on Duck Dynasty. A long-time bestselling author I know who's recently signed with an Amazon imprint was amazed to get flowers on launch day of her new title with the Zon. She'd never got a thing when she was with the Big Five.

Small presses usually make an announcement—with maybe a sale on their website—to spark interest in a new title. But don't expect much more.

Self-publishers sometimes turn to publicists and professional social media marketers for innovative ways to launch ebooks online. Some work and some don't, but most authors find the promotions they do themselves are as effective as the ones they pay big bucks for.

There's no "wrong" way to launch a book. Almost any of these methods will be effective, at least in a small way. The point of a launch is to get your name and your book cover/title in front of as many eyeballs as you can (without annoying the heck out of people.) Your method should be based on the strengths of your own personal platform, your promotion budget, and the time you have to devote to the launch. Go where your readers are, either online or in person.

Book Launch Pages and "Parties" on Facebook

Here's a great post from author Lynne Hinkey from the blog Where Writers Win on how to host a "virtual book party" on Facebook.

You don't have to be a tech-whiz to put one on. Just go to your FB page and click "events", then "create event". You'll get a pop-up screen and you just have to fill in the blanks.

There are even services that will do these for you, but they're easy enough to do on your own.

Some authors do an individual Facebook page for every book.

But note: they also sometimes add all their "friends" and followers to the group and everybody gets daily "only 13 days till launch" messages in their notification feeds for weeks.

You don't want to do this. It will lead to mass unfriending.

Ditto sending personal messages to random "friends" who aren't likely to read your genre. (My rule is never send a DM to somebody you haven't had at least one public online conversation with, and never, ever put your promo on somebody's FB wall.)

It's probably best to do a countdown to launch from your personal Facebook page, which will get many more views than your author page, due to Facebook's newly stingy ways. Or, if you do have a good, engaged readership for your author page, this might be the time to "boost" your post with a $30 ad. (Although the general buzz is that paying for Facebook "boosts" isn't cost-effective.)

Do these events boost book sales? Depends on who you ask. Some authors think they're a waste of time. Others have huge successes with Facebook parties. Especially if they're done with a group of other authors in the same genre. Generally, it seems to be Romance genres that do best with FB, but we'd love to hear from writers in other genres who have used them.

Hangouts on Google Plus

Google Plus hangouts can be more interactive than the FB pages, because they're more like a group Skype call. Some tech-savvy authors love them. Personally, I'm a cybermoron, and I have no camera on my computer (not by accident—I am not of an age where video is my friend.) So I don't do hangouts.

But don't let that stop you. Depending on your genre, these may work great for you.

For more on how to host author hangouts on Google Plus, Joel Friedlander at the Book Designer has a great step-by-step guide.

Do hangouts sell books? I haven't heard from anybody who's done it and had significant results. Any readers who have, please let us know! I know some people really love those hangouts.

Blog Tours

Blog tours used to be de rigeur a few years ago, when they were new. Some Big Five publishers provide them to launch new titles. There are also lots of independent blog tour companies out there.

A blog tour can cost from $20 to $1000, depending on the company and the number of blogs involved. Here's an excellent overview of a number of blog tour companies with info on what they charge from Greg Strandberg on Joel Friedlander's blog, and another from blogger Danielle Forrest with a handy spreadsheet.

Or if you're already in the blogosphere, you can plan your own. BookBaby offers a collection of links showing how you can set up your own book blog tour.

A blog tour involves visiting many blogs in your genre over a short time period. You provide guest posts, interviews (sometimes interviews with your lead character), plus free review and contest copies, then you visit each site to answer questions and get to know the blogger's audience.

They can be kind of exhausting, but compared to the old fashioned in-real-life book tour, they are a lazy day in the park.

On the other hand, a lot of authors have questioned how well they work, as in this piece by Lev Raphael in the HuffPo last year.

Cover Reveal Tours

Cover reveals are like a blog tour, but all you have to do when you "visit" is show a photo of your new cover. No iffy reviews, complicated contests, or cranking out 30 blogposts in two weeks.

It needs to be a brand new cover, not yet available for sale. The idea is to create buzz in anticipation of your launch.

Many review blogs will spotlight books with a cover reveal even though they're overbooked for reviews. (Most reviewers are these days. Reviewer burnout can be a big problem with the paid blog tours. The blog tour company gets paid, but the reviewer doesn't.)

Cover reveal tours seem to help create buzz. Do they lead to big sales? I'm not sure. I'd love to hear from somebody who's used them.

Give-aways and Contests on Your Own Blog

A fairly painless way to launch your new title is to announce it on your own blog. Offering free copies or a contest for free copies of the new book makes it more of an event.

The simplest way is to enter anybody who leaves a comment, assign each person a number, then go to Random.org to choose a winner or winners with their random number generator, which will also give you a time stamp to authenticate the win.

Do give-aways from your blog sell books? Not in a major way, in my experience. But they can be good for building your mailing list.

Amazon Freebies and Countdown Deals

You can choose to launch your book in KDP Select, which gives Amazon exclusive rights to sell your book for a period of 90 days.

If you do that, you can start with a "soft launch" and work on getting reviews. Then after a month or so, stage your big launch and make the book free or very cheap with Amazon's special countdown deals.

With a countdown, you can sell the book for as little as 99c, but still get a 70% royalty, instead of the 35% royalty you get if you normally price below $2.99 on the Zon. Countdowns are only available in the US and the UK, which is annoying for those of us with a lot of Canadian and Aussie readers, but it's still a great way to give your book a jumpstart.

And note: A $2.99 book (£1.43 GBP) is eligible for a countdown in the US, but it must be priced at £1.93 GBP to be eligible for a UK countdown, so my Lady of the Lakewood Diner countdown this week is only going to be available in the US, which is dumb. Sorry everybody.

If you have got enough reviews to qualify, then advertise your freebie or countdown in one of the book bargain newsletters.

With the big newsletters, you can often hit the jackpot. I know authors who have run a countdown and advertised on Bookbub and got into the top 100 on Amazon.

Those ads, especially on Bookbub, are pricey. But if you compare them to the price of a launch party with rental of the facility and a wine bill, you might look at them in a different light.

For more on the ebook newsletters—probably the most reliable way to make your book visible—here's Ruth Harris's post on the book bargain newsletters.

Multi-Author Online Events 

Sales and promotions done jointly with other authors can give your book a nice push out into the marketplace. These have the advantage of putting your book in front of the fans of all the participating authors. 

 These can be done with a temporary landing page that features a book from each of the members (you'll need a tech-savvy member to build it for you.) Or they can be done with a blog hop—every author visits each other's blogs—or with Facebook or Google Plus.

These can be very effective if the person in charge is good at organizing and has great tech skills.

But What if you Really, Really Want that IRL Book Party? 

You even have the outfit. You've been looking forward to it for decades. I can hear the whimpers out there:

"I want a book party in real life. With cake!"

Then give yourself one!

A book launch will never be cost-effective in terms of immediate book sales, but it's a great excuse for a party. If you've been holed up in your writing cave for a year, and you finally have that beautiful book in your hot little hands and you want to celebrate, DO IT!!

Some bookstores are equipped to host writer events and may even have a coordinator to assist you in setting things up.

These people are treasures, so be sure to show lots of gratitude and treat them like gold.

But some bookstores don't have the room or staff to put on book events. If they don't respond positively to your request, don't push them. I've worked in a lot of bookstores, so trust me on this. A signing in a small store can block the aisles and drive away regular customers and lose a lot of sales.

But you can also have the party at the local library or rent a public room at a restaurant or other banquet facility. You can even have it at your own home or get a friend with an entertainment-friendly house to host it for you.

The biggest sales benefit of an "In Real Life" launch is generating publicity, so be sure to send press releases to all the local papers and radio stations and publicize the event like mad. Even if not a lot of people come, they will have seen your name in the paper and heard it on the radio.

In my experience, a reading (especially with multiple readers) is a bigger draw than a simple signing.

Good food, coffee & tea and maybe some wine are a big plus, too. (One of our local bookstore owners makes some of the most decadent chocolate cookies you've ever tasted.)

Put out lots of advance publicity and round up all your friends by sending personal invitations. Here's more on how to put on a book event from small press editor Lynn Price. And here are some great tips on how to stage a successful reading from Judy Croome at Joel Friedlander's blog this week.

The most important part of a book launch party, no matter how you stage it, is to have fun. It's a way of marking a milestone for you and letting all your friends and fans know you've achieved your goal.

Then go write that next book.

What about you, Scriveners? Have you been planning your book launch party since forever? Have you had a book debut celebration, either virtual or In Real Life? Did you feel it was a success? Which events worked best for you? Do you have any tips for new authors planning a launch party? 


Amazon Countdown Deal

Today, June 1st, my new comedy The Lady of the Lakewood Diner is only 99c on Amazon! It will slowly go back up over the course of the week and on Saturday June 7th it will be back at its regular price. So grab it while it's cheap for your summer beach reading. Unfortunately, Amazon only lets us make this deal is available at Amazon US.  (International deals and epub files will come soon.)

 Who shot rock diva Morgan Le Fay? Only her childhood friend Dodie, owner of a seedy small-town diner, can find the culprit before the would-be assassin comes back to finish the job.

Boomers, this one's for you. And for younger people if you want to know what your parents and grandparents were really up to in the days of Woodstock and that old fashioned rock and roll. Plus there's a little Grail mythology for the literary fiction fans.

"A page turning, easily readable, arrestingly honest novel which will keep you laughing at yourself."...Kathleen Keena

"I borrowed this book free with my Amazon Prime membership, but I enjoyed it so much that I don't want to give it up. I'm buying a copy to keep."...Linda A. Lange

"In The Lady of the Lakewood Diner, nothing is sacred, nothing is profane. And yet, in the end, love does conquer all. If you're of an age to remember Woodstock and the Moonwalk, don't miss it. If you're not, well, you won't find a better introduction." ...Deborah Eve of the Later Bloomer

Coming up on the blog

June 8th: Nina Badzin: social media expert and freelance writer: regular contributor to Brain, ChildKveller, and the HuffPo. Nina will talk about what to do if you realize you like blogging more than working on your novel.

June 22: Nathan Bransford: Yes. That Nathan Bransford (squee!) Blog god, former Curtis Brown agent, children's author, and author of How to Write a Novel.

July 20th: Janice Hardy: host of Fiction University and bestselling YA author. Repped by uber-agent Kristen Nelson.

August 10th Jami Gold: editor, writing teacher, award-winning paranormal romance author, and awesome blogger.

September 14th Barbara Silkstone: bestselling indie author and owner of the Second Act Cafe.


Win $5000 for Fan Fiction! You read that right. This is a contest so innovative and different I couldn't resist posting it although you have to join Booktrack to find out all the details (membership is free, apparently). You to write a fan-fic story in the world of Hugh Howey's new book Halfway Home, add a soundtrack, post it on Wattpad, and you'll be eligible win the big cash prize, plus an edit by Mr. Howey himself. More info at Booktrack.com

BLUE EARTH REVIEW FLASH FICTION CONTEST  $2 ENTRY FEE. 750 words or less. Limit two stories per entry. First place $500. Second place $250. Third place $100. Winners will be published in the Blue Earth Review, the literary magazine of Minnesota State University. Deadline August 1.

The Saturday Evening Post "Celebrate America" Short fiction contest. $10 ENTRY FEE. The winning story will be published in the Jan/Feb 2015 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and the author will receive a $500 payment. Five runners-up will each receive a $100 cash payment and will also have their stories published online. Stories must be between 1,500 and 5,000 words in. All stories must be previously unpublished (excluding personal websites and blogs). Deadline July 1.

The Golden Quill Awards: Entry fee $15. Two categories: Short fiction/memoir (1000 words) and Poetry (40 lines max) $750 1st prize, $400 2nd prize in each category. Sponsored by the SLO Nightwriters and the Central Coast Writers Conference. Deadline June 30th.

Drue Heinz Literature Prize for a collection of short fiction and/or novellas. Prize of $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Author must have been previously published in print journals. Deadline June 30.

WRITERS VILLAGE SUMMER SHORT FICTION CONTEST $24 ENTRY FEE. $4,800 First prize. Second prize $800, third prize $400 and 15 runner up prizes of $80. The top 50 contestants also get a free critique of their stories. Judges include Lawrence Block, a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, and Jill Dawson, Orange and Whitbread-shortlisted author of eight novels. Winning stories showcased online. Any genre of fiction may be submitted up to 3,000 words, except playscripts and poetry. Entries are welcomed world-wide. Deadline June 30.

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Blogger Greg Strandberg said...

Wow, looks like you got all the bases covered!

I'd urge many newer authors to have low expectations upon a launch, especially if you're not doing any promotion. I've gotten to the point where I don't expect a whole lot of sales on a launch, and then I'm happily surprised when 1 or 2 come through.

Sometimes if you want to do a lot of promo work for a launch you have to be on top of it months before. Most blog tour sites, for instance, take 6 to 8 weeks notice before you're on a site. You might not even be finished with the book 8 weeks out yet, so it could take some planning.

June 1, 2014 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 1, 2014 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

One of the many changes wrought by the advent of e-publishing is that the launch is no longer a big deal. If your book doesn't perform as you'd hoped, you can change the cover, blurb, and title. You can even rewrite the darn thing and relaunch if you have second thoughts!

Flexibilty and author-control has replaced the iron-clad pub date of old.

June 1, 2014 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Greg--Thanks for your great overview of blog tours on Joel's blog. It's really helpful

I agree 100% that expectations should not be too high for that first launch. In fact, I think most new authors do best if they don't launch a book until they've got at least two in the hopper.

And yes, if you want to make a splash, you need to plan it a long time in advance.

June 1, 2014 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--Great point. Another reason for the "soft launch" is that you can fix things if need be. Launching first with Amazon not only gives you some extra Zon promos and a countdown or freebie window, but it also gives you a chance to iron out glitches and you'll only have one file to change.

It also gives you time to collect reviews before you apply to the email newsletters, which usually have a review number requirement. .

June 1, 2014 at 12:00 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Anne, some terrific resources here. I'm going to take another look at Ruth's post on the newsletter approach as well as some of the other links. When you mentioned: "Good food, coffee & tea and maybe some wine are a big plus, too. (One of our local bookstore owners makes some of the most decadent chocolate cookies you've ever tasted,) I knew from whence you speak. We do have a lot of fun at those multi-author bookstore parties and I sold more that day than I did using online methods. Great advice here. Paul

June 1, 2014 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger LK Watts said...

Hi Anne,

Great post! I launched my 4th book: 'Confessions of a Webcam Model' this week on the same day as I did a free promo for my chick lit book - A Step Too Far.

My chick lit did really well gaining almost 5,000 downloads in two days and I've had a flurry of sales as a result. So I think Select has worked for me on this occasion.

My new release is doing okay too. That's also in Select and I've had a borrow and a handful of sales so far.

All in all I'd say my results aren't too bad.

Thank you for this post.

June 1, 2014 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--If you're blessed to live in an area with author-friendly bookstores, a book launch can be a really successful sales tool (And it helps to be in a tourist town.) It's great to know you sell so well at IRL events. But the actual sales of the day are a small part of the launch party. As I said, they can get your name out there in local media, plus they allow us to network with readers and also with each other. Supporting other local authors by going to their launch parties and readings helps boost our own careers, too.

June 1, 2014 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

LK--Smart move. I think doing several promotions at once is a great idea. If you have a freebie and a new book at the same time, the freebie will definitely bring attention to the new book. A kind of "sideways" launch. I might try that with my next book :-) Thanks for the suggestion.

June 1, 2014 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger S B James said...

My "Launch Party" was taking Me, Myself and I out to lunch for sushi. With plum wine and the Bento Box lunch special, all I needed was my phone and the Twitter app to connect. I've sold a total of 5 copies of my new book and had 2 borrows and it will be two weeks tomorrow since launch. :-) My next book, which will be the possible "perma-free" book, is launching this coming week. I think that promotion idea LK Watts was talking about sounds like the kind of thing I could do too! Launch the 99 cent book, then lower it to free while using my KDP Select option to either do the Countdown Deal or the free for Book 1... I want to get some reviews and some names for the mailing list too!

June 1, 2014 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

SB--I love the idea of taking yourself out for a nice lunch to celebrate your launch. Maybe I'll do that! Sounds as if you're doing something similar to LK's idea already. Have two or more books ready to go, then launch them in quick succession, with a sale price (or free) for one. And yes, it's good to get some reviews first.

June 1, 2014 at 2:27 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Absolutely. And fun in the process!

June 1, 2014 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Thanks for another informative post. Some day I'll have to deal with how to do all this, but in the meantime, I say mazel tov to all those embroiled in such decisions.

June 1, 2014 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Juli Page Morgan said...

My daughters threw a launch party for me at a local restaurant when my first book was published in February 2013. Even though Mother Nature threw a complete hissy-fit that night with storms and multiple tornado warnings, we had a great time with lots and lots of family and friends and it was perfect. It wasn't designed to sell any books, but to celebrate my achievement. Since then I've done soft launches for my books, but I'll always appreciate the party for the first one. :)

June 1, 2014 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--These days, everything you do online is preparation for your launch, so your Wordmonger blog is paving the way!

June 1, 2014 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Timely post for me. I'm getting ready to self-publish my collection of vintage romantic ghost stories and I never thought of doing a google hangout or FB event! Love it! I am however going to do a book sighing at my local library. They are VERY supportive of local authors and yes, I WILL have cake!

Another launch idea is to do a book signing or reading at genre events. For example, my niche market target's vintage (clothing and accessories) collectors, swing dancers and lovers of Americana. I have already contacted swing dance venues and vintage and antique shops to carry by novel and have a reading/signing launch.

So, don't rule out historic societies (if you book is history related), museums, or try to find a connection with your characters. For example if you character rides a motorcycle or pilots small aircraft, there's a club out there who would LOVE to have you at a meeting?

Sure, you're not going to sell millions or thousands, but you reach a targeted audience who may recommend or talk about you book! Check back with me in a couple months and I'll let you know how mine went! :)

Thanks for the wonderful ideas Anne.

~ Tam Francis ~

June 1, 2014 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Juli--Your family got it right. (In spite of Mother Nature.) Authors who expect big sales at the launch of their first book will be disappointed, but if you go with the goal of having fun and celebrating your achievement, you it will be a big success even if nobody buys a book. You're right that you never forget your first time :-)

June 1, 2014 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--Brilliant ideas!! Yes, doing a signing at a related venue--vintage clothing shop for you, or maybe a fabric store for quilting mysteries or a craft supply store for craft cozies--is a great idea.

And a historical society for a history related book is genius. You might also try the chamber of commerce if your book has a local setting.

Lots of fabulous ideas here!! And they're great "hooks" for your press release.

June 1, 2014 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Deborah White said...

Loads of terrific advice in this post, Anne. I may not "pipe up" much in your comment section, but I read your Sunday post updates faithfully and find them invaluable. Know that silent readers like me are here, and grateful for you!

June 1, 2014 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Deborah--Thanks! And thanks so much for taking the time to comment. We write a lot of advice for people who are pretty new to the business, and I know not everybody feels up to commenting. But we sure appreciate it when you do!

June 1, 2014 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger florence cronin said...

Anne, this is a keeper for me. That is, I will use it when the "time" comes. I love most of the changes in this new writerly world. I have a good writer friend who is pub'd through William Morris with over twenty books done with them. She has already told me of the many changes in the way things are handled ... she also tells me that she spends more time working on deadlines for the next book so she can keep her name out there.

You and Ruth have been doing this long enough to know that the most successful tool for any writer is the next good book. Still, I do love your FB announcements when Camilla has a new book or when both of you are into a collaboration. Thanks as always for keeping all of us on the cutting edge :)

June 1, 2014 at 4:16 PM  
Blogger Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I think you have to do multiple things to promote you book. What works one time might not work the next. I've probably done most everything except the expensive BookBub. Blog tours have worked for me--and I enjoy doing them. My last one though had some weird glitches, someone who went out of town and the post never came up, which of course threw the tour off. Will I do another? Probably. I've had great in-person launches and others that weren't so great. Will I do another--sure, I always do them in places that don't cost any money except what I put out for refreshments. I make it an event where I talk about something in particular that I think will draw people to come. And yes, I do Facebook and a monthly newsletter. Do I make a lot of money? No, but I am going to keep writing so I do want people to read my books and they have to know about them to do that.

June 1, 2014 at 4:55 PM  
OpenID fornow said...

Thanks, Anne. Great article.
I was also amused by it as last night I went to a free book launch party. It was in a large hotel meeting room. They had about a dozen tables for local product and services companies which may have helped pay for the venue. Most of the time though was booked with stage events.

It opened with a live musician, then several inspirational speakers who oddly were not in the book, then several speakers who were in the book, followed by 2 1/2 hours of live music - the first indo-folk-rock, the second a dance band. They also had a raffle with prizes from the table suppliers. (they did this too late after many had left)

They were offering the new book, an anthology of 21 writers who paid for help writing, getting edited, public speaking, etc (and the event) to get into the book. But they were also selling competing books by the other speakers and CD's of the musicians.

There were easily over 100 people there but I doubt got books sales from more than family and friends. People I know bought other stuff.

Really enjoyed myself but can't say how effective it was. Didn't inspire me to buy the book.

June 1, 2014 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger Rowena May O'Sullivan said...

Hi Anne - thank you so much for this post - it's really helpful. I'm planning on self publishing a book in August and wasn't really sure how to go about launching it. The cover is already out there, but you've helped with all the options you mentioned. Such a fantastic blog. Thank you.

June 1, 2014 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Anne, I'm soooo thankful to be a writer in the digital age! I tell ya, the idea of doing book signings makes my stomach rumble...and not in a good way. I'm going to link to this post on a guest post I'm doing for another blog. As always, thanks for the great info.

June 1, 2014 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Anne, you told me it was coming, but I still was surprised and pleased at how wonderful this one is. And so timely! I'm up July 4th with my next one, and am doing the blog tour for the first time. No budget but it's serving like a census of sorts, about my chronicling career- most of the tour stops are folks I've hosted over the years, a few new friends too. A lovely community and growing.
I live in a university town and the local bookstores are dominated by the textbook theme: plus my work is only e-pub, so I can't help thinking it would come off a bit silly, handing out paper coupons for an online book. But I did score a slot to talk to library patrons about writing and self-pub- not exactly launch related but it all helps.
I'm going to have to look at the rest of these links and have a think about what else I can do within my limits to boost it. But mostly, like you all are saying- don't get my hopes up too high! It's great just to have another book out there. Slow burn, yeah, that's the ticket...

June 1, 2014 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence--Thanks much. Your friend is right that the #1 sales tool is another book. But we do want to keep our readers informed when there's something new in the pipeline. I know that you personally have enough inventory that when you do hit publication, you'll be able to hit the ground running.

June 1, 2014 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Marilyn--Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I hear a lot about blog tour glitches. That's because, as I said , bloggers get burned out and since they aren't the ones getting paid, they often don't feel the need to fulfill their commitments.

Great idea to stage your launches in places that don't cost money. If you only have to pay for refreshments, you're not going to be out of pocket any big expense, and the local publicity is worth it.

June 1, 2014 at 8:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

fornow--LOL. I've been to a whole lot of those "book parties". Mostly the authors get ignored. I personally believe the money would be better spent on email newsletters and online promos, but in terms of personal satisfaction, sometimes the celebration trumps the bottom line. If the authors all had fun, it might have been worth the expense.

June 1, 2014 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 1, 2014 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rowena--If you're self-publishing a first book, I do recommend a soft launch. Then build slowly, gathering reviews and visiting blogs. Then run a promo a couple of months later. That's definitely the most cost-effective way to launch.

June 1, 2014 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--For introverts, the online launch is a godsend. I know writers who seriously would never send out their work for fear of that public signing and/or reading that used to be required. No more!

Thanks for the linkage! It's much appreciated.

June 1, 2014 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Wm--You bring up an important point I should have mentioned. Many of us publish ebook-only titles (I have some) and obviously those do not lend themselves to in-person signings. :-)

The launch is mostly for you as a writer, not for sales. It's a way to mark an event in your life. For sales, ongoing visits to blogs are always good, but they don't need to happen all at once. "Slow burn" is a good phrase to keep in mind.

Congrats on your upcoming launch!

June 1, 2014 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger Caroline Starr Rose said...

I had a launch party with my first book (and plan more with future titles). I sent postcards to friends all over town. I was also fortunate enough to be reviewed by the local paper, which mentioned the launch party at the end of the article. My local indie still says it's the best turn out they've ever had for an in-store event, and I'm just a regular no-name.

June 1, 2014 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Caroline--An In Real Life event works much better with some well-planned local publicity, and it sounds as if you you did it just right. A local paper review or interview, plus a great mailing list can make you a "hometown hero." That's not going to make you an international bestseller, but it can be a great ego boost and it's a nice start to your career.

June 1, 2014 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post. I think we do have to do some of these things to spread the word about our book. But the important thing is to do what we're comfortable with, reach out to new readers in our tours, and to not overdo it so we enjoy the process.

June 2, 2014 at 4:24 AM  
Blogger b-doggie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 2, 2014 at 5:16 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Natalie--You say it well. Comfort zone should factor into your choices about how to launch. It's quite possible to do no specific launch activities at all: just keep an ongoing social media presence and use your regular outlets like your blog and personal Facebook Page to announce a launch. That's what I've done for my last two titles.

When I started working on re-launching my career, I did several blog tours that I planned myself. I think they did a lot to get things rolling. Now that I have an established audience and blog--and I've finally recovered from launching 5 books and 2 anthologies in 4 months in 2012--I feel that keeping up good content here and working on the next book are the best ways to keep things going. I've also learned that burning myself out is not the way to go :-)

June 2, 2014 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Great information. Luckily (?) I have lots of time to think about it. Ha!

June 3, 2014 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

This is very interesting to me because I still see some authors talking about launches, and some even midnight launches. They aren't J.K. Rowling either. I think in some respects the launch events might help them in some cases...even smaller genre authors with a small readership. But you're right about getting that next book out instead of going for the big launch. To be honest, I work with one publisher who actually informs me about a release date a day or two before the book is launched. I have never once had more than a week to prepare. At first that used to bother me, but to be honest I don't think it makes much of a difference anymore. It's far more productive to get that book out and promote it after it's released. And, write more books. I have a friend who used to be in retail and he always said, "You can't sell from an empty cart."

June 3, 2014 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Cindy Sample said...

When my first humorous mystery was released by a small publisher, I wanted a launch because my friends and co-workers had been waiting for 7 years for this event. A friend offered her house so we decorated the driveway with chalk body outlines and covered her trees and hedges with crime scene tape.(at that point we decided to invite her neighbors too). We offered dead body cookies, a chocolate fountain, and lots of cheap wine. My next two venues were stores that did not charge anything and were thrilled that I was promoting them. I had over 200 attendees each time. For DYING FOR A DAIQUIRI I wanted a tropical theme so I held it at California Backyard. I spent a total of $700 on a local hula dance troupe, a daiquiri machine, Costco cakes with my book cover on top (only $15). I've always sold well over 100 paperback copies and made more on my books than the party cost. And as you mentioned it provided the opportunity to get my data in the media. At the last party two local newspapers showed up so my event was not only posted in one issue, but the photos were displayed in a follow-up issue.

Great article, Anne, with lots of relevant information. Thanks for the tips.

June 3, 2014 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--The great thing is that in the digital age we have a choice. Big bashes are fun but soft launches may work just as well. WE get to decide.

June 3, 2014 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ryan--Great point! You're absolutely right that a lot of small publishers don't always give you a launch date until a day or two before it happens. I was furious when that first happened to me, because of course I wanted the BIG LAUNCH. But it turned out to work out fine in the long run.

So instead of planning that big event, we should be slowly building our platforms and then use them to promote the book slowly after it comes out.

Great quote about the empty cart. Also, it's tough to open a store with only one item to sell. Building inventory helps a lot.

June 3, 2014 at 10:41 AM  
OpenID amreade said...

Anne, I am going to have to re-read this post again and again (and assign it to my marketing file) to wrap my head around all the fantastic information you put out there! My first book launches in July, and I never gave much thought to an IRL book launch. I've got two blog tours scheduled around the launch date. I keep my fingers crossed that I can generate some name recognition that way. I also have a few other activities set up, including a library talk/book signing. I think libraries are one of the best places for authors to promote their works. I know I attend lots of them at my local libraries. I have also attended FB launch parties and they can really be fun when a group of authors gets together...they can set up games, contests, etc. and create a lot of buzz that way! I haven't decided whether I'll do a FB launch for my first book yet, though. Thanks for such an amazing marketing tool!

June 3, 2014 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Cindy--It sounds as if you're the hostess with the mostest! If you have a large circle of friends and know how to put on a bash like that, you can make your book launch a major event. That's a fabulous success story, and it's great to know that some authors do break even with launch parties. I had no idea Costco made those cakes with pictures on them for only $15. Wow. And you're right that if you can get a bash like that in the local papers, the publicity is worth a lot.

June 3, 2014 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

amreade--The decision whether to have an IRL launch party should be based on the size of your circle of friends and family, and whether you would find the party fun or a burden. They certainly aren't required. A lot of it depends on how your local reading community connects, too. If the library is where people gather for book events, that's where you want to be!

It sounds as if you've got a lot planned, so I wouldn't push it. You can get burned out doing all that stuff, when the most effective tool is slow buzz and getting another book in the pipeline.

June 3, 2014 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Augie said...

Anne, thank you for the information. Very helpful. I'm going to keep a copy and refer back to it. augie

June 3, 2014 at 9:51 PM  
OpenID characterfulwriter said...

Anne, you have one of the fullest posts on your blog. It had a useful summary of relevant information and I'm sure it will be read internationally. I hope so. I'm just rejigging my second blog, so it would be great if you had a good blog techie post. I'm sure I'm not the only one to appreciate 'how-to's' logistic help with blog construction and improvement

June 4, 2014 at 2:37 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Augie--I'm glad you find it helpful. We sure do have more choices for book launches than we used to!

June 4, 2014 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

characterful-- Thanks. We get about 75,000 hits per month and about 10% are from outside the US. Tops are France and the UK. I'd like to have more.

I do indeed have many posts on how to blog. Just put "How to Blog" or "Blogging for Authors" in the search window (one is in the sidebar and one is up in the upper left corner.) I also have a five part step-by-step "how to blog" series in the book I wrote with Catherine Ryan Hyde HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE. Only $2.99 right now!

June 4, 2014 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Jan Ryder said...

I enjoy coming over to your blog each week, Anne, because you, Ruth, and your guest posters always dish out calm, sensible writing/publishing advice. Ah, if only I'd found this blog before I published my first novel. I might not then have spent a year bouncing around social media being very busy, and achieving very little! Thank you.

June 5, 2014 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jan--Thanks! It always makes me sad to see new authors desperately pushing a first novel all over social media instead of writing the next book. We get so much misinformation from marketers, who are really only trying to sell their services, and usually have no idea how book discovery happens. I hope you're back in your writing cave, having fun creating fiction. :-)

June 5, 2014 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Jan Ryder said...

Yes, thanks Anne, I'm back in my writing cave, and with new purpose! :)

June 5, 2014 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger AD Starrling said...

I did a real life book launch party for Book 1 and 2 in my current supernatural thriller series. Though fun, both were time and energy consuming. With the first book's launch, I recouped the cost in sales. Not so with number 2's. My advice? Have a book launch if you want to celebrate, not for the sales. Concentrate on having fun :) Oh, and rope in friends to help with manning the "sale" station and serving party nibbles and drinks. My friends got free signed paperbacks from me as a thank you.

I decided not to do a real life book launch for Book 3 this year. Then a few fans asked me whether I would do one as they wanted to attend and get signed copies of all the books (second editions of Book 1 & 2 were also released this year). Now I'm in a conundrum. Is it worth the stress of organizing one when my plate is currently overfull? I'm not sure.

June 7, 2014 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

AD--It sounds as if your experience backs my advice. Only have a launch party if you want a party for the fun of it. It's unlikely to pay for itself.

If people want signed copies, offer them from your blog as a promo for your mailing list or some other event online. Postage is expensive, but not as expensive as a party.

Or see if a local bookstore has any kind of joint author events, where a number of authors participate. That cuts down expenses and raises attendance rates.

June 7, 2014 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger AD Starrling said...

That's wonderful advice, thanks Anne :)

June 7, 2014 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Don Balboa said...

Glad to have found your site. Keep up the good work! DB Product Review

June 8, 2014 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Excellent resources in this post, and an important reminder to adjust our expectations. Though the Rick Castle experience would still be a great one! ;)

June 8, 2014 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, AD!

June 8, 2014 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nicole, It IS about adjusting expectations. If you expect to sell 200 books to a bunch of strangers, you're going to be sad. If you expect to have a great party with family and friends and maybe sell a few books, you can have a fabulous time!

June 8, 2014 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger Sasha A. Palmer said...

Thank you for the Hugh Howey/Booktrack opportunity alert, Anne - I did enter :-) Had a ton of fun writing and creating the soundtrack.

Check out BORN (a short fanfic story) by Sasha A. Palmer on Booktrack. It's tagged hughhoweyfanfic It's also on Wattpad.

Thank you.

June 19, 2014 at 10:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sasha. Congrats! I'll check it out. Rooting for you. I was just wondering if anybody used those "opportunity alerts"....thanks for letting me know.

June 19, 2014 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Absolutely - I always look at those alerts. Thanks again, Anne.
I'm going to miss a number of your posts: will be enjoying the Russian countryside and time with my family.
Will catch up when I get back.
Hope you're having a wonderful summer.

June 20, 2014 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sasha--I don't know why Blogger thinks you're "unknown". Have a fabulous visit back home. Enjoy your summer. We'll be here when you get back!

June 20, 2014 at 9:01 AM  

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