Yesterday I participated in a webinar with Tim Grahl, founder of Out:think, and author Michael Bunker called, Indie Book Launch Secrets. Despite the catchy webinar title, Michael made it clear right from the beginning that there are no secrets to marketing your book, only well-laid plans and hard work.
Michael Bunker knows what he’s doing. After selling thousands of copies of his Amish science fiction novel PENNSYLVANIA and studying the changing world of book marketing, Bunker has developed a 3-stage, multi-month book launch process. With his permission, I thought it might be instructive to summarize some of the key points and then grade how I’ve marketed my own books over the past six months.
The Name of the Game is Value
With so much content out there in digital land, there is no room for poorly edited and produced books. (OK, there never was room for it, but it seemed like it for awhile.) But the perception of value doesn’t just happen, you need to nurture it. Bunker advocates spending time in the months before your launch date shaping the public perception of your work. By telling your story in your own way, you help solidify in the minds of your readers that you are doing everything possible to put out a quality product that they will want to read.
Launch at your full price and keep it there. This was a face-palm moment for me (you’ll see why when I grade my performance). It turns out that Amazon and large promotional outlets like BookBub reward pricing stability. A 99 cent promo a few weeks after launch for a few incremental sales is the marketing equivalent of a sugar rush–it feels good until the inevitable crash.
Instead of focusing your initial launch on moving as many copies as possible at any price, put your energy into securing honest reviews of your book. I can say from personal experience this is a long and arduous process. Most book bloggers/reviewers have 4 month queues! Co-host Tim Grahl did a post a few weeks ago called “How to launch your book with at least 25+ Amazon reviews” that is a great place to start. The goal of this stage is to get enough reviews to qualify for a BookBub ad.
The Big Promo
After a few months of established, stable pricing and a good number of reviews, do your first sale. The granddaddy of book promo sites is BookBub, so apply there first and build other promotions around your BookBub date. The goal of this step is to move as many copies as possible and drive your rankings up as high as you can get them.
Applying Bunker’s Advice to My Own Work
I’m the author of The Dream Guild Chronicles, a sci-fi/fantasy series. IRRADIANCE, Book 1, was released in March; SIGHT, Book 2, in June; and SACRIFICE, Book 3, comes out next week. I thought it might be instructive to grade myself against my key takeaways from The Indie Book Launch Secrets, so here goes:
Quality – My Grade: A When I started creating The Dream Guild Chronicles series, it was very important to me to make this work the very best I could make it. I spent a lot of time and effort interviewing editors until I found the right one. I found a new cover artist as well. (I’m still working with both of them today.) I think this effort shows in the quality of the final product and in the reviews.
Establishing Value – My Grade: C- Although I put a ton of time, money and effort into making the best book possible, I didn’t really talk about it. I can see now that was a mistake. I also didn’t produce a print version right away, which Bunker touts as a way to further establish value.
Reviews – My Grade: A I have racked up 47 hard-earned reviews over the past six months, the majority of them really positive. It took a lot of time and organization to search out reviewers, get them copies and follow up, but it’s worth it. As any author knows, reviews don’t just happen, you need to make them happen and I’m pretty proud of that accomplishment.
Price Stability – My Grade: F This was probably my biggest mistake. In the past six months, I’ve moved the pricing for IRRADIANCE (Book 1) all over the map from $2.99 down to $0.99.
The Big Promo – My Grade: Incomplete The third book in my series comes out next week, so last month, I applied for a BookBub ad on Book 1. The plan was to run the BookBub promotion on the first book and then reap the sales on Books 2 & 3. The ad was rejected because…wait for it…lack of pricing stability.
I’m giving myself a C. Good effort, poor execution, and one big honking mistake on pricing manipulation. The good news is that the situation is fixable. I’ve stopped messing with the book pricing (IRRADIANCE is a steal at $2.99) and after another month or so, I’ll re-apply to BookBub.
I’m in the middle of co-writing a military-political thriller and blogging about it weekly via the blog series Two Navy Guys and a Novel, so I’ve come around to the idea of talking about my writing while I’m working on it.
The Bunker-Grahl Indie Book Launch Secrets webinar was well worth the price of admission. Michael laid out clear marketing strategies that are sensible and scalable, and his results speak for themselves.
Do yourself a favor: if they do this seminar again, sign up for it.
David Bruns is the creator of the sci-fi series The Dream Guild Chronicles, and one half of the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series about co-writing the military thriller, Weapons of Mass Deception. Check out his website for a free sample of his work.