The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Going big with your book launch with John L. Monk

The thing I like most about book launches is they’re one letter away from the word “lunches.” Other than that, there’s nothing at all that’s likable about them. All they do is disappoint … or at least that had been my experience writing four other books and selling them on Amazon.

The pattern is familiar:

  1. Cool idea.
  2. Tell our patient/suffering friends/family all about it while they smile and nod and tell us to keep our day jobs.
  3. We write the book.
  4. We launch it, and…
  5. It doesn’t sell. We keep our day job, and our friends/family pretend to ignore our brooding looks and streams of vile profanity.

All that changed when I launched “Hell’s Children.” Thank goodness for Chris Fox’s book “Launch To Market,” which I’d read late in May before my June launch. After reading it, I was able to incorporate a number of tips and tactics to sell my book well for going on three months.
Here were some of the things I did:

  1. I picked a type of book that people are actually looking for, in a definable genre with lots of readers. In my case: post-apocalyptic. Additionally, it’s a YA book, which people are also looking for. People type “post-apocalyptic” and “young adult” into Amazon’s search bar all the time. When I run my Amazon “Sponsored Product” ads, these keywords get the most hits.
  2. I got a great cover from a top cover designer, and didn’t break the bank doing it. $150 bucks from Yocla Designs. She’s usually backed up 3-4 months, so be prepared to wait. I started writing the book last December, so I had plenty of time.
  3. Title … hmm … ok, to be honest, I’ve never been very happy with my title. After struggling for several months, that’s the best I could come up with. “Hell’s Children.” I wanted something more grand like, “Children Of A Lesser God” or “Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil” or “The Sun Also Rises.” That said, “Hell’s Children” is sort of provocative. People have been clicking it. It’s doing its job.
  4. I asked 50 people from my mailing list if they’d like an Advanced Reading/Review Copy. About fifteen replied that they would. I also asked folks on Facebook in a post on my timeline, which got me about 20 responses (if I remember correctly). By the second day of my launch, I had 14 or so reviews.
  5. Following Chris Fox’s advice, I did a pre-order. Unlike Chris, I did mine over two weeks, and not one. The point was to generate “also-boughts” under other people’s books. This was to assist in building up my organic discoverability. People would look at other people’s books, scroll down, and then see mine there as something people had also-bought. The idea being they’d click my book and buy it.
  6. Still following Chris’s advice, I launched at 99 cents — in Kindle Unlimited. Chris jumped to 2.99 after a week, but I waited two weeks in order to accommodate an author friend who wanted to hit his list for me late in the second week (see below).
  7. Over the years, I’ve cultivated a lot of great friendships with other authors. For the most part, I’ve never asked any of them for anything. We just like each other’s cat videos or share information on cool authory things—podcasts we’ve heard, writing articles, etc. So it was with some trepidation that I actually asked some of them to read my book. Then, wonder of wonders, they all said yes. On top of that, many of them notified their mailing lists about the book, for the most part unasked for. This was some kind of crazy good fortune I’d never expected or even hoped for when I first reached out to all these great people, and I’ll forever be grateful to them for what they did. Having steady sales every day is what Amazon looks for when they decide to make your book “sticky” — keeping it visible to shoppers who type keywords into the search bar.
  8. Special point: one of my author friends — a top-tier sort of fellow — offered to boost a Facebook post to all his fans for me over a two day period. I paid him $50, which he applied in its entirety to the boosted post.These two days resulted in very high sales for me. About 145 on the first day, and around 120 the next day (going from memory — I may be off a little). So if you have any author friends with lots of fans (and your author friend likes your work), perhaps suggest paying him/her to boost your book. It’s a much easier ask than having someone hit their mailing list.
  9. Once folks started telling me they were hitting their lists, I created a spreadsheet and plotted out the first two weeks of my launch. I then took the dates they were going to hit their lists and plotted them into the little boxes under each day. For those days that were empty, I tried to do something. For example, I got a “Bargain Booksy” in one day. In another box, a friend talking about my book on Youtube. In another, Bookbub telling 80 people who followed my author profile (on their site) that I’d just released a book. In another box, I asked a top-tier author buddy if I could move his help to a different day, because he was doubled up with someone.The whole point of all this was to cover each day. I think when I was done, I had every day but one (a Sunday) covered in that spreadsheet.
  10. During the pre-order, I ran Facebook ads, which resulted in about 40 sales. Not that many, sure, and I spent about 5-10 dollars a day on it. But hey, it got me some also-boughts. That’s what I wanted. Next time, I’ll spend more.
  11. After my launch, I killed the Facebook ads after about the 2nd day — because my Amazon “Sponsored Product” ad had been approved!These ads rock. They don’t waste your money, and they move books. Also, they’re a great way to see what people are searching for, clicking on, and then buying. If your stuff isn’t selling and you don’t know why, create an Amazon ad (available to Kindle Unlimited members only, sadly). If you see 50 clicks on your ad and no buys, either your ad doesn’t match the product description, or the product description needs work. If you change one or the other and you suddenly start getting purchases, then you learned something very valuable.Note: be careful of the other ads — the “Product Display” ads. They’re more expensive, and they use up your money quicker. That said, they also sell books more quickly. They have their place, but they’re pricy. I like the idea of using them to fill holes in a launch, and that’s about it. I still have to experiment with them.

The Results:

After doing all this, for the first time in my author career (3 years and 5 books), I was able to stay in the top 1000 for the first month and a half, and I’ve stayed between 3000-4000 at the lowest as of the time of this article. It’s been great. The money came in at a very fortunate time. About a week after my launch, my wife was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus and needed a hysterectomy. We were caught flat-footed. The money really saved us, because the insurance didn’t cover it all. More good news: my wife is now totally cured. The doctor thinks he got it all. We’ll be going back every three months for the next two years to ensure that’s the case.

I hope your next launch is as good or better than mine. If you’re curious about writing to market, pick up Chris’s other book “Write To Market.” I hadn’t read it when I decided to switch genres to post-apocalyptic, but I wish I had. It’s filled with great advice on finding and locating genres that are underserved—that have lots of readers and not a lot of writers. Hopefully you actually like these genres. I love reading post-apocalyptic books, so it was an easy and pleasant experience writing one. But you won’t be finding any John L. Monk romance books any time soon. At least none you’d like to read!

3 Comments

  1. Great post, John! Thanks for sharing all the glorious details.

  2. Fantastic post! Bookmarked and saved – and an email sent to Yocla already.

  3. Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad things turned out well for your wife.

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