It’s one of the most important dates you’re working towards as an author: the date of the book launch. But a book launch is not just throwing a party with drinks and little bites on sticks. It’s actually a period of related activities rather than a single event. Author Tanya Hackney shares how she planned her book launch and how it helped get her book onto the bestseller lists.
Tanya is the author of Leaving the Safe Harbor: The Risks and Rewards of Raising a Family on a Boat. As the title implies, Tanya and her husband are raising five kids while sailing around the world. In between keeping things afloat on their 48-foot catamaran–and in the literal sense too–and homeschooling five children, Tanya found the time to write: often in a coffee shop where they docked in Florida.
Don’t miss our podcast conversation with Tanya, where we dove deep into her book launch! Listen below to the episode of The Empowered Author podcast, and don’t forget to review, rate and share.
How to put together a launch team
A launch team comprises the people who will spread the word and create a buzz around your book before the official launch of the book. They’re the people who will read advance copies and leave reviews. They can also go to their local brick-and-mortar bookstore and request a print copy of the book. This can help get your book onto the shelves and into the store windows.
The first thing Tanya did to build her launch team was to start a private Facebook group and invite around ten of her closest friends. She encouraged these friends to invite other people they thought would be interested in the book and, by launch date, the group had over eighty members. This group helped Tanya to get a better idea of different potential audiences and geographical locations to target.
Next, she set a launch date. This was carefully timed so that she could enter the book for awards and get a paid review on Kirkus Reviews ahead of the launch.
Tanya then set a date about a month before the book’s planned release date. From that month-before-release date, she started posting daily, as a countdown to launch. These posts included questions and requests–asking her followers to share posts, for example, or to talk to their local bookstore owners about the book–and to share information about podcasts on which she was a guest. This helped to get her book into small bookstores in places she wouldn’t have thought of.
Tanya made sure that the book was available for presale and that the cover design was ready and posted on various bookseller sites and on the Ingenium Books website. She then asked her launch team to order digital copies of the book: this way, they could be “verified purchasers.” She also asked them to read an advance reader copy, write a review–more Amazon reviews help the book move up the rankings faster and get promoted as a “Customers also search”, which leads to more sales–and share it with friends.
When the advance print copies of the book arrived, Tanya roped in her ten-year-old daughter to help take a picture and record an unboxing video, which she shared in the Facebook group. She then offered these advance copies at a discount to her launch team as a way of thanking them for their help.
What about other launch activities?
Pitching herself for podcasts turned out to be an invaluable marketing tool. Tanya got the word out about her book and the podcast host would get interesting content, so this was mutually beneficial. However, Tanya was choosy about the podcasts she pitched: she wanted to be sure that the podcasts she was on would be right for the markets she was trying to tap into. This didn’t mean that she only went for podcasts to do with sailing: in fact, she did only one podcast with a fellow sailor. She did podcasts focusing on other areas related to her book: parenting, adventure, family travel, life transformation. This helped Tanya reach potential readers she wouldn’t have found otherwise.
She also found a great way to use social media by appealing to people’s love of the visual: she dug through her old photographs and combed through her book for quotes that matched these pictures. She then posted pictures with matching quotes on Facebook and on more visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, including a link to the book in each post. The number of likes and shares she got this way helped her to monitor interest in the book. Once the book started winning awards and got a starred review on Kirkus, she had more reasons to post and keep the exposure going.
As someone who feels more comfortable with face-to-face interactions, Tanya hit the pavement too. Her publisher (that’s us, Ingenium Books) created a sell sheet for Leaving the Safe Harbor, which includes a brief synopsis, image of the cover, audience and category information, along with pricing, purchasing, and ordering details.
She shared that sell sheet along with advance copies of her book to the Key West bookstores and her hometown library, asking if they would be interested in doing events like book signings. She had impromptu book signings too, for instance, at her homeschool group, Bible study group, and a Halloween party. She even went to the coffee shop where she’d spent so many hours writing: the owner was very excited to host a book signing and even sell copies of the book in his shop.
What was the result of all these activities?
Tanya’s efforts during the period leading up to the day the book would be available for sale–the launch day–paid off. Because of presales and reviews, Leaving the Safe Harbor made it to the number one spot for biographies by educators.
Both the digital and print editions were among the top ten new releases, too. She also grew her audience and connected with new readers!