Launching a print book? Think local.
With the advent of e-books and social media book launches, I wondered if print book launches even happened any more. But I’ve seen several indie authors question how to launch a print version, so I’m sharing my book launch experience and hope those of you reading will add our ideas.
Product, Price, Placement, Promotion – These are the starting point for any product launch. A book is no different. Whether it’s an ebook or a print book.
For the sake of this discussion, we’ll assume the book is written, the content professionally edited, the cover professionally designed, and the book priced so readers see a price/value correlation. That leaves placement and promotion. For a print launch, Think Local for both placement and promotion.
Placement – People have to be able to find your book. Seems obvious, but there are many considerations.
- When I launched, I sold my book off my website. The plus? I made the most money. The negatives? I had to do all the packing and shipping. Plus, if people didn’t know my name and couldn’t remember the name of the book, they couldn’t find my website.
- I walked my book into all local bookstores and gift stores. Indie bookstores like Beaverdale Books were super. The reception I received from them reinforced this lesson: You need to ask. Many authors are shy about this, but it’s time to put on your big girl panties and get out there. Ask if they’ll stock your book. Ask if you can hold an event. And keep asking. It took me four trips into one gift store to connect with someone who had the power to decide. Remember, the worst thing they can say is, no.
- Though indie book stores were wonderful and website sales kept me busy, I quickly learned this reality: Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the default book sources for most people. If you aren’t there, people jump to the conclusion that you don’t exist.
- Amazon is easy to get on through Amazon Advantage. I chose not to sign with Amazon at first because the economics (they keep 55% and I had to pay shipping) didn’t work with my book price and cost of production. With my second printing the economics worked. For me, worldwide visibility is worth some expense but not if it means losing money on each sale. For my next book, I’ll get production costs low enough to be on Amazon from day one.
- Getting books into Barnes & Noble is more difficult because you usually need a distributor, but it can be worth the effort. It’s a matter of scale. Indie bookstores took my book in lots of five or six. B&N took them by the case. When enough people requested my book at their stores, B&N contacted me and walked me through their process.
- When you think distribution, think broadly about where your book could go. Gift stores in airports, hotels, restaurants, and pharmacies are a better option than I originally realized, particularly when it comes to smaller towns that don’t have bookstores.
- Don’t underestimate libraries. Even though I held my hometown launch event at the library, I didn’t extend that thinking to future events. (Here is where you see me hitting my forehead and screaming, Doh!) Libraries are in the business of meeting the needs of readers so they may buy your book. Libraries like to have authors do readings. Generally they’ll let you sell books afterwards. Double bonus. Since the launch, I’ve done dozens of library readings, connecting with readers and selling books. Next book launch, I’ll do a postcard announcement to all libraries in the state.
Promotion – No promotion. No sales.
Here is where a print launch generally varies the most from an ebook launch. A few ideas:
- Write a news release that has a hook specific to your book and can be personalized to each event/town/date. For me the hook was Iowa girl writes book about growing up in Iowa. Email the release to local media along with .jpg images of the book cover and your author photo. Maximize the local angle, i.e. Iowa girl (Preston girl, Jackson County girl, Eastern Iowa girl – ‘local’ can be anywhere, get it?) writes book.
- Schedule as many book signing and reading events as you can. Media cover events. Media coverage equals more events and more sales.
- Call local radio and TV stations and let them know you’re available for interviews. Again, the local angle: You’re a local person who’s written a book. You’re holding events their listeners/viewers will be interested in knowing about. (I know it’s scary, but ask. They want news. You, your book, your events can be news.)
- Hold multiple launch events.
- I held a reading/book signing event in my hometown library, arranging to have the local pharmacy stock books on consignment in advance of the event, and sending the local newspaper a release and photos touting new (local) author, new book, local event, where to buy books.
- In the town where I live now, I teamed up with two other authors who also had new books and we held a reception/book signing for our friends, family and business associates.
- I arranged book signings at three local indie bookstores and a restaurant gift store. I let the newspaper know about all four events, which caused them to see this as news and run an article. The article was read by bookstore owners around the state who contacted me to carry my book and arrange signing events.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
This is a bare bones outline of what my launch included. And I know it’s only one approach. If you’ve done a hard copy book launch, please share your experiences. If this triggers thoughts, let me know. We’ll share and all hold better launches in the future.