If you’ve ever wondered how book launching strategies apply to your specific book launch, I’ve got two pieces of great news for you.
First, back by popular demand, The Launch Your Book Blueprint course is open for registration. We only offer this course once each year. If a book launch is in your future, you’ll want to join us.
You’ll receive video instruction, worksheets to help customize your strategy, and personal, specific feedback from James L. Rubart, your fellow classmates, and me. So be sure to register.
Second, I recently coached an indie author who is a podcaster launching a book about podcasting. We recorded our coaching conversation, which first aired on The Proffitt Podcast with Krystal Proffitt.
Listen in to find out how book marketing principles apply specifically to Krystal’s book and how you can apply them to yours.
Krystal Proffitt: Thomas, what’s your podcasting background?
Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: I started my first podcast in 2007, but in 2013 we began Novel Marketing to help authors become published authors and ultimately to help them sell more books. At first, we targeted mostly traditionally published novelists, but now our audience is mostly indie authors. The nonfiction authors started listening, too, so we created episodes for them as well. For all those authors, we explore innovative ways to sell more books.
Krystal: How many podcast episodes have you done? Do you know the number?
Thomas: Not counting my radio show, I think it’s over 400 episodes across my various podcasts.
Krystal: That is so crazy and awesome. You’ve been doing this for so long, what have you seen change in the podcasting landscape over the last five years?
Thomas: I gave my first podcasting talk at a writers conference in 2010 or 2011. For seven years, I offered to speak on podcasting at conferences, but I couldn’t get a single conference to pick that topic. They would invite me to speak, but they would choose my other topics. In the last year or two, podcasting has gained enough notoriety that conference directors see the need to talk about it.
I always had full rooms when I did podcasting workshops because people were interested to learn about podcasting. But only recently have the conference directors embraced it.
I gave my podcast talk at an industry event with the CEOs, presidents, and vice presidents of top publishing companies in attendance. After I spoke, they began to realize they need to get into podcasting. The industry is finally embracing it, and it only took 15 years for them to get there.
Krystal: That’s so interesting.
And now I’m launching a book about podcasting, so the two worlds have collided for me too. You’ve offered to coach me through launching this book because it is your specialty, and I need a bit of help.
I’m a planner by nature. I like to have something to start with, but I could really use your guidance here. For anyone launching a book, where do you suggest we start?
Thomas: The Novel Marketing podcast has a bunch of free episodes on exactly how to do this. We also have a course coming out in May called The Launch Your Book Blueprint. It’s a real-time course where class members do daily challenges together.
Let’s put together a plan for you right now.
Step 1: Determine Your Marketing Assets
Thomas: The first step is to determine your assets, and specifically your marketing assets.
Your first asset is this podcast and your listeners. What other assets do you have that you can use to get the word out about your book?
Krystal: I have an email list, social media, and a YouTube channel.
Thomas: Let’s put some numbers on those. How many people do you have on your email list currently?
Krystal: Right around 1,000.
Thomas: How many social media followers do you have on your biggest platform?
Krystal: Instagram is probably my biggest, and it’s about 1,200.
Thomas: We can assume most of the people following you on Instagram are the same people following you on the other platforms. There is some overlap, but not everyone will see your posts on each platform.
How many YouTube subscribers do you have?
Krystal: Not many. I’m just getting started there.
Thomas: Thirty days after you release a new podcast episode, what is your typical number of downloads for an episode?
Krystal: It’s around 250 or 300.
Thomas: If you have 300 downloads, that means you have more total listeners because not everyone listens to every episode. Your email list of a thousand is your crown. Email is the key and the engine of a book launch.
Your social media followers are worth about one or two readers because social media doesn’t drive book sale numbers. I used to be the marketing director for a publishing company, and after tons of experiments, we could not demonstrate that social media sold books at all.
Thomas: It doesn’t drive that kind of engagement because it’s such an ephemeral place. It’s hard to take people from short, vapid conversation to ask them to buy your 300-page book. It’s a big shift.
You can use social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, to spread the word for free, but your reach is very limited. There’s not much you can do nowadays without spending some advertising money. Even on Twitter, it’s hard to be seen without spending money. In 2010 you could get free engagement, but that’s no longer the case.
Assess Non-Tangible Assets
Thomas: Let’s talk about your non-tangible assets like your relationships with influencers. If you could call or text a friend who has a popular podcast and ask to be on their show, that’s a non-tangible asset. Speaking events would also qualify as non-tangible assets.
What other ways could you get the word out about your book?
Krystal: I have several podcasts that I plan on pitching, but I don’t have a shoo-in on a big podcast. I do have a few mentors I will ask, but there’s no guarantee they’ll have me on.
Thomas: But you already have the relationship. How many relationships would you say you have with potential hosts?
Krystal: I have at least ten podcasts that I would pitch, and several others with big platforms.
Thomas: When you already have the relationship, it’s an asset, even if they’re not a sure thing. If you can send them an email, or call or text, you know how to get past the gatekeeper. That’s valuable.
You can pitch podcasts that have never heard of you, and they will potentially have you on. But you’re much more likely to get onto a show where the relationship is already there.
Let’s keep thinking outside of the box. What other kinds of influencers do you know or have relationships with? Pastors? CEOs? Is there anyone else who could help get the word out to a lot of people?
Krystal: I’ve slowly been building my network of podcasting experts and people who have businesses related to podcasting, marketing, or entrepreneurship. They don’t necessarily have a social media platform, but they have a broad network. There are 10 to 15 of those people that have a decent size audience.
Thomas: Great. Where could you potentially speak about this book around the launch date of your book? You’re a member of Houston Pod, and you’ve spoken there before, so we’ll add it.
What other podcast events have you spoken at that you could potentially speak at again?
Krystal: Depending on the event timelines, by the end of 2020, I probably have four to five opportunities where I could speak to a decent size audience.
Thomas: So, now we have a good idea of your assets if you were to launch right now. You want to start your book launch process long before the launch date, so you have time to build some of these assets. The primary asset I want you to build is your email list and your podcast listener base. Those will be your primary drivers.
The best way to grow your email list is to mix it up with the lead magnets. You’ve got a lead magnet right now that you promote at the beginning of every episode. You have listeners who’ve downloaded it. You also have listeners who’ve heard you pitch it a bunch of times, but they’re never going to download it.
To entice those people to sign up for your email list, you need to give them something else to download that’s interesting to them.
Let’s brainstorm other lead magnets you could offer that your listeners would find interesting.
Krystal: Would it be valuable to give away a chapter of the book? Or an audio chapter before it’s published?
Thomas: That’s what every author wishes, but people don’t get very excited about free chapters because they can always get that for free from Amazon. If they’re a Kindle reader, they get the free chapter, so that’s typically not enough. There’s nothing special about a free chapter of a book they’re going to buy.
Krystal: How about a PDF called “Top Ten Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Podcasting.” It would be detailed and not just ten bullet points. It could include a video of me talking about the points in addition to or instead of a PDF.
Thomas: Making a video could help. But there’s still no real reason to download a video or exchange an email address for a video. The best thing to do is to make it more appealing.
To make it more appealing to your listeners, we’re going to focus on the transformation they’ll get from those ten tips. Instead of saying “here are ten things I learned,” you want to say, “Ten Ways You Can Launch Your Podcast,” or “Ten Ways to Have Better Sounding Audio.”
You must be specific about what the benefit is. Instead of talking about the features, talk about the benefits. For example, if you’re selling a lawnmower, instead of talking about how many RPMs the motor is, you’d want to talk about the beautiful lawn they will have. Beyond the beautiful lawn, you want to talk about how envious their neighbors will be.
What is the benefit of your guide? What is the transformation that this new lead magnet would help listeners experience?
Krystal: I want to help them avoid the mistakes that I made. Much of my platform is based on helping listeners get results faster than I did.
Thomas: There you go. What kind of results are we talking about?
Krystal: I’ll help them be consistent in producing content and avoid burnout. I want to make sure they create a plan they can stick with, so they won’t be half in and half out when it comes to their podcast.
Thomas: Why are those things important?
Krystal: I see so many podcasters burning out and quitting because they’re overwhelmed. They’re stressed, and they can’t keep up with the consistency that goes along with podcasting.
Thomas: How about this for the title of your new lead magnet? “How to Burnout Proof Your Podcast” or “How to Protect Your Podcasts from Burnout.”
Krystal: Hang on, I’ve got to write that down.
Thomas: Do you see how that is focused on the benefit? It’s focused on the transformation. Your listeners want a burnout-proof podcast. They don’t want to give up on their podcast after ten episodes because they’re in it for the long haul.
Maybe your subtitle can be “Ten Mistakes Podcasters Make that Make Podcasting More Painful, Difficult and Stressful.” Or maybe your subtitle says the pain and stress of podcasting can be reduced. You can wordsmith it.
Krystal: This is great.
Thomas: After you’ve created your new lead magnet, you’re going to promote that in addition to the one you already have. You need different lead magnets to reach different readers or listeners.
So, when you go fishing, you bring several types of bait because you need different bait for different fish.
We’re trying to catch email subscribers with different kinds of reader magnets (or lead magnets as they’re called in other industries). It’s something you’re giving away to attract readers. That’s how you’ll grow your email list.
To grow your podcast listener base, you’ll want to guest on other people’s podcasts as a way of growing yours. Your social media numbers will follow that. Social media is a way to engage the fans you already have. It does not get you new fans unless you’re willing to do very distasteful things, which is not in keeping with your brand. Social media is the cart, not the horse.
Step 2: Establish a Budget for Your Time and Money.
After we’ve determined your assets, the next step is to create a budget. And by budget, I don’t just mean a dollar amount. I also mean the amount of time you are willing to spend on this launch.
We’ll break these out in terms of the month you’ll launch your book and the two or three months leading up to it.
What is your time budget, and what is your money budget?
Krystal: Explain the time budget to me in more detail. I’m very conscious of how I spend every single hour of my day. What exactly do you mean?
Thomas: How many hours do you have available to put towards launch activities?
We’re not deciding what those activities are yet. We’re just determining how many hours are available to spend on your launch. If you only have ten hours total to launch this thing, you’re going to do very different activities than if you have 40 hours to spend on launching your book.
I think of it in terms of total blocks of time. When I budget my time, I plan to work on a project for one hour each week or five hours a week. Other people think of time in terms of their daily or weekly rhythm.
We’ll work with whatever kind of time budget you have, but you need to have some number of hours that you’re willing to allocate to your launch. If that number of hours is zero, you will fail because this all takes time.
Krystal: Leading up to the launch, I probably have at least five to seven hours each week. In the month prior and the month of the launch, I’ll have ten plus hours every single week.
Thomas: We can’t have “ten plus.” I want a specific number that we can work with.
Krystal: Okay. Let’s say 12 hours.
Thomas: So, we have 12 hours a week during the primary launch window.
Now, what’s your financial budget? How much money are you willing to spend to launch this book?
Krystal: I budgeted for my editor and book cover, but I have been trying to decide how I want to spend my marketing dollars. When I launched my first book, I spent nothing on marketing. It was basically word of mouth.
What’s your suggestion for someone who has my kind of platform, my kind of audience right now? What budget would you suggest?
Thomas: It depends on how much money you have. When people put together their launch plan, they often make the mistake of going shopping before they determine their budget. It’s like going car shopping before you’ve decided how much car you can afford.
When you do that, it’s easy to start spending money without a plan. If you have a grocery budget for the regular grocery store, but you end up shopping at Whole Foods. After a few minutes, you’ve only bought half your groceries, but you’ve spent all your budget. You still need to buy the rest of your groceries, but you’re out of money.
Either you’re out of luck, or it dictates like what kind of meal you can prepare. Maybe you bought a steak, but you have no budget left, so your meal is steak and water. It’s not a very good meal.
Your budget has to be an amount that you can afford to risk. If this launch doesn’t work or if the money doesn’t come back, you don’t want to feel like you need to sell a kidney to cover the loss.
Krystal: I feel comfortable spending $1,000 knowing that if it didn’t work, I could chalk it up to a lesson learned. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a larger budget until it was proven that people were excited about the book.
Thomas: That’s right, and that’s one of the advantages of indie publishing. A budget of $1,000 will be good to work with. As an indie, after the launch, you can continue spending money on advertising from what you’re earning from book sales.
With indie publishing, you earn higher royalties per copy sold. Traditionally published authors earn about one dollar per copy. Sometimes less. When you’re independently published, you’re making closer to $3.00 – $5.00 per copy, depending on how your book is priced. Sometimes you’ll make as much as $10 per copy if you have a premium-priced book.
When you’re earning that kind of money from selling your book, you have more to spend on customer acquisition, or in our case, reader acquisition. That’s how you’ll connect new readers with your book.
Your summarized time budget is five to seven hours a week right now, and 12 hours a week during the launch.
During the launch month, you have more than 40 hours to spend on the launch.
Step 3: Create a Launch Timeline
We have your assets and your budget. Now we’ll create your timeline.
I’ll get you started, but you will build a three-month timeline of activities to prepare for the launch. You want everyone ready for a big launch on the day it releases.
Launches are so important because your goal is to hit a bestseller list. Since you’re indie, your goal is to hit the Amazon bestseller list. The USA Today or New York Times bestseller lists are unlikely since you’re independently published. They have some biases and don’t like indie authors.
But you could become a category bestseller on Amazon. That’s feasible because there aren’t a lot of new podcasting books are coming out. You might even shoot for their “Number One New Release” banner because that will bring additional readers who previously didn’t know you. The “Number One New Release” banner makes them interested.
After you have your new reader magnet about how to burnout-proof your podcast, the first thing you schedule in your timeline is pitching podcasts. You’ll want to mention your reader magnet on those podcast episodes as it comes up in your conversation with the host.
This might mean you establish a six-month timeline, so you have time to develop your assets before you start pitching podcasts.
In those first three months, you’ll grow and develop the assets you already have. As you get closer to launch day, you’ll move away from platform-building and move toward promotion. As launch day approaches, it’s too late to grow your email list. You’ve got what you’ve got.
Krystal: I realize there’s so much overlap between launching a podcast and launching a book. Sometimes people throw together their podcast, hit publish, and then they can’t understand why nobody is listening.
Usually, it’s because they didn’t tell anybody about it.
Thomas: That’s right. One advantage of a podcast is that you can soft launch it because you’re improving the podcast as you go. The longer it takes somebody to discover your podcast, the better your podcast is when they find it.
Whereas, once you print a book, it’s out there for good. Indie authors can create subsequent versions, but most don’t. With KDP some nonfiction authors update their book every month with current stats or updated links. That’s a big-time commitment, but it’s one strategy that indie authors can take advantage of.
Krystal: It’s funny you said that because I have a section in the book about equipment. One of the microphones I recommended is being taken off the market, and there is a newer, different version. It used to be the ATR 2100, but now it’s the ATR 2100X for $30 more.
Thomas: They’re still similar microphones, but the microphone I like to recommend is the Samsung Q2U, which is cheaper and a little bit better. But we digress.
Initially, you want to develop your assets in the first three months. After that, start pitching podcasts for three to four months before your book comes out.
You need to pitch early because podcasts often record episodes long before they’re released. It takes time.
You email a host. They send you a Calendly link with a date that’s two weeks from now.
After you record the episode, it takes several weeks to edit and schedule. Plus, they may have already announced the next four weeks of episodes in their queue.
Pitching a podcast might be a two-month process from start to finish, so you need that lead time before your launch date to build anticipation for the book. It’s okay if those episodes air before your book launches, especially if you’re asking for preorders.
There is some debate as to whether preordering is a good idea or not. The advantage of preorders is that they allow you to build anticipation on podcast interviews and other media where you can’t necessarily control the release date.
The downside is that preorder sales dilute your launch day sales numbers because, at least on Amazon, the sale is counted on the day the book is made.
On the other hand, on platforms like iBooks, you get to count preorders twice—once when they’re ordered and again on launch day. Preorders are added together on launch day. If you’re going wide and you’re on iBook, then encouraging people to preorder is a better strategy.
Even if your books are not available to purchase when the podcast airs, you can still promote your reader magnet and send people to your website to get them on your email list.
In some ways, having them on your email list is better than having them buy your book. Once they’re on your list, you can tell them about other books that come out in the future. That email list is your engine.
Krystal: I love hearing all this.
Thomas: Next, you’ll start building a plan to promote the book organically in your assets. Find ways to naturally talk about it on your podcast, like we’re doing now.
You don’t want every episode to be a promotion for your book because that gets irritating. Your listeners want to feel like they’re getting value from you. But you also want to talk about it ahead of time because people don’t always listen to podcasts on the day it comes out.
Sometimes podcasts sit on a person’s phone for a month. When they go on vacation, they’ll binge and catch up.
You might also want to consider creating a prize or reward or bonus bundle for people who buy the book in the first two-week window.
Listeners of Novel Marketing will know why the bonus bundle is so magical. It creates urgency for people to act now. It creates scarcity because the bundle goes away after a certain amount of time. It also potentially triggers some social proof, especially if you limit the bundle.
But creating urgency is your priority. People can always put off buying your book later, but you want them to buy during the first week or two so you can hit those bestseller lists.
Three Strategies for Hitting the Bestseller List
Collaborative Bonus Bundle
When you’ve assembled your bonus bundle, ask your 10-15 podcasts influencers, as well as the organizations you mentioned, if they have anything they’d be willing to contribute to your bundle to give to people when they buy the book during those first two weeks.
It can’t be their lead magnets that people get for free on their websites. It must be something valuable. Then your bonus bundle includes valuable resources from you and from other influencers in your industry.
Personal Bonus Webinar
You can put together a special bundle that includes a Q&A webinar with you. The only way people can attend is to send you their receipt for purchasing the book. Their ticket is their receipt. The webinar must be something pretty special to create that urgency.
Ask People to Order on Release Day
Finally, just ask people. You can remind them they’ve been getting your podcast for free all these years, and then you can ask, “Would you help me hit the Amazon bestseller list and become a Number One New Release by buying my book on the date it comes out?”
Your core fans will be happy to do that to help you out.
Step 4: Create an Editorial Calendar
As you get closer to launch, you’ll start hearing back from some of those podcasts you pitched, so you’ll want to create an editorial calendar.
Your editorial calendar will include your podcast bookings and the emails you plan to send to your fans.
You’ll plan a sequence of emails leading up to launch day that to give a countdown. It will increase anticipation and act as a reminder to your readers to buy the book.
You want to have an email saying, “The book comes out in two weeks.” The next week you’ll say, “The book is coming out in one week,” and so forth.
Eventually, you’ll email to say, “The book releases tomorrow!” and then, “It’s here today!”
This is a situation where you can break your rule of email frequency. People won’t mind, especially if you have an excellent launch bundle, and you’re asking them to help you hit a bestseller list.
They know that increased frequency is not the new norm. They realize it’s a special event, and they give you a pass. Often the primary reason people are on an author’s list is to get emails that announce the next new book.
The day after your book releases, hopefully, you can email again to celebrate hitting Amazon’s bestseller list or being the Number One New Release. You can say, “Thank you so much for doing this, and for those who haven’t had a chance to order yet, here are the links.”
In that email, remind them of your bonus bundle for anyone who orders in the first two weeks. Everything culminates in this one email.
Besides the series of emails, your editorial calendar will also include podcast interviews coming up after the launch date. If you have good relationships with podcasters, you can request that those interviews land during the launch week. You just have to ask. Even if you don’t know the host beforehand, it’s worth the ask. They may be willing to help you out by scheduling it on a date that correlates with your launch.
Part of the deal with podcast guesting is that you agree to promote their podcast to your audience. Since they’ll be talking about your book, it’s a great opportunity to email your readers and link to the podcasts where you’ve been interviewed.
That way, your podcast listeners will be happy, the other podcast hosts will be happy, and the people getting your emails will be happy.
As you’re looking for influencers, you may want to ask your email list. You might be surprised about who’s on your list. Podcasters from your email list may want to invite you on their show.
You should also create a form on your website where influencers can request a free copy of the book. On that form, you’ll ask how they’re influential and how they can promote your book.
Krystal: This isn’t a free copy for anyone, right?
Thomas: Right. But if a podcast conference director in Toledo is going to be speaking to 50 podcasters, you definitely want to provide her with a free book.
Krystal: Got it.
Thomas: Now, if someone wants a free book because they have 250 Facebook friends, you’re not going to give them a free book. But it’s entirely up to you to decide who gets a free book.
Thomas: In the publishing world, these are called “advanced reader copies.” You’ll preprint copies of the physical book so you can mail them to influencers, podcasts hosts, and even launch team members before the release date.
How many advanced reader copies do I need?
Krystal: How many copies do you recommend printing in advance?
Thomas: This is where we’re going to look at that budget because this will be your expense. Typically, you’ll need somewhere between 15 and 100 advanced reader copies.
Krystal: Good to know.
What’s the purpose of a launch team?
Thomas: One thing we haven’t talked about yet is creating a launch team of fans. You want to have 20 or 30 of your most passionate fans on your launch team. But they must understand that they’re not getting a free book as a reward for being in the launch team.
They’re getting access to you and all the fun in your Facebook group, but they must buy a book and leave a review.
Krystal: I love those clear expectations. Their job is to leave a review on Amazon.
Thomas: If they can’t commit to leaving a verified review on Amazon, then they can’t be on your launch team. That’s the deal.
We talk a lot about how to put together a launch team in my course, The Five Year Plan to Becoming a Bestselling Author, but the main goal of having a launch team is to get lots of verified reviews on the day it releases.
Customers and readers are nervous about buying a book with no reviews. If your launch team leaves reviews as soon as the book releases, those reviews will serve as social proof for future readers and customers browsing Amazon.
Krystal: Thomas, this is so awesome. I appreciate all your knowledge, and I feel like we could talk for hours and hours about publishing and podcasting.
Where can people find all your reader magnets and courses?
Many authors struggle to get a good book cover because they don’t know how to communicate with their cover designer. This design brief asks questions that will help you give good information to your designer. It will help you get a better design for the same money. Book cover designers love it when authors have this brief because it makes the process happier and less stressful.
We’re also offering a course called The Launch Your Book Blueprint in May.
We also offer mastermind groups, which is private coaching. So, if you want me to coach you like I’ve been coaching Krystal, we do that in a collective setting in the Novel Marketing Mastermind groups. You get my advice as well as the advice of the other masterminds.
Krystal: I have a trip coming up, and I’m going to binge listen to the Novel Marketing podcast to get all the little nuggets of wisdom.
You can take all my courses at any time except for this one. It is special because we all go through it together day by day. This small group of students will be coached by James L. Rubart and me.
We will help you create your own custom book launch plan for your book. If you want to learn how to put together a book launch plan that will help you hit the top of the charts, this is the course for you.
Patrons who purchase The Launch Your Book Blueprint also get a free copy of my course, How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest. If a patron already owns the course on guesting, they’ll receive a discount on The Book Launch Blueprint equal to the purchase price of the course on guesting.
Heresy is fatal in late Renaissance Italy, so only a suicidal zealot would so much as whisper the name Martin Luther. But after Luther’s ideas ignite the young girl’s faith, she must choose, abandon her beliefs or risk her life in the turbulent world of 16th century Italy.
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