A Publisher's Conversations with Authors: Book Launches

(photo by Frank Perez)

It is Tuesday. Time to tall turkey. Monday's madness is over, and Wednesday will take us over the hump, so Tuesday it is--for some serious discussion with authors. Tuesday talks mean to address authors in waiting and self-published authors who would like to go a more traditional route or who would at least like to take their steps with a publisher by their side.

Today's topic is about book launches. A book launch, planned and carried out well, is a great opportunity to introduce and market your book to a large number of people. So, what are the ways books can be launched? What is the best way to launch a book? What are the benefits and risks of various kinds of book launches?

So, let's take each question separately.

What are the ways in which you can launch your book?

  • A typical launch for a high-powered author is a tour of bookstore signings; a typical launch for a low-powered author is a book signings at one, perhaps two, local bookstores. 
  • High-powered authors with good publicists can get featured on national television; low-powered authors with a good publicist or in-house publisher's marketing staff can get featured on national blogs, podcasts, and radio shows and without support on local television and radio and podcasts of friends and acquaintances.
  • Tim Grahl notes that most authors will agree that launching a book is more difficult than writing it. He identifies four types of launches; you can read more about them here:
    https://booklaunch.com/what-does-it-take-to-launch-a-bestselling-book/ (Note: the article is a bit of self-promotion and business-seeking in nature, but the information is helpful.)
    • Best-seller launch, using a large social media platform
    • Influencer launch, using influencers (bloggers, for example) you know
    • List launch, using an email list of fans
    • Long game launch, when an author must build a platform first or in the process of slowly, long-term launching the book
  • Book parties can be a fun way to launch a book. BookBaby, a vanity press that provides marketing information and support to its self-published authors, has some good suggestions on how to use this method successfully: https://blog.bookbaby.com/2018/10/10-tips-for-hosting-a-successful-book-launch-party/ 
  • You can also launch your book humbly and successfully by presenting it at a local library, coffee shop, book club, or other place of business--or even at the home of a friend. In these days of covid, some such launches are being done via ZOOM.
  • Some promotional activities that can be used at any time for promotion can also be used when the book first comes out: giveaways (Library Thing, Goodreads, the list goes on), newsletter announcement, press release to local media (should always be done anyway), social media announcements.
  • Virtual book tours were popular with some authors long before covid, but covid is making them more popular. There are a number of strategies for carrying out virtual tours. Leila Hirschfeld offers 14 strategies that have been used successfully by one or another author.

What is the best way to launch a book? Here is an analysis of the ways listed above:

  • The best way to launch your book is the one that takes advantage of your talents and does not ask you to do things you find uncomfortable. Introverts, for example, may prefer a simple sit down signing at a local business where an extrovert might find fun and reward in giving a reading from the book at a local club or other establishment. 
  • A book launch should be undertaken with a financial plan in mind. How much can you afford? Most book launches of the everyday author (i.e. not the person with the household name) will not pay for themselves, especially so if you take a multi-city tour. Typically, bookstores will order 25 books and sell 10. That leaves 15 books to be returned. (Rarely do bookstores keep and sell the leftover books.) There is an additional expense associated with the return of books. So, how much money can you invest if you get almost none of it back? What are the other rewards of spending this money--fun, getting to know people, building interest in your book, general promotion opportunities, getting your book into a range of bookstores (at least, for a while), and other non-financial benefits.
  • A book launch will depend upon circumstances at the time the book is released.
    • During covid, big gatherings for book launches are not going to happen, and book stores and other establishments may not even be open.
    • You may live in a small town without bookstores or other venues (or very limited venues). Make the best of what you have, such as the local library, even a presentation at local schools. 
    • You may or may not have local media. Take advantage of the media you do have, and be flexible on timing and activity. If a radio show is willing to interview you but wants a couple of books to give away to readers, provide them. It will usually be worth it.
    • What time do you have to put into the launch. If you are not a full-time author but a working dude, you will have to work around your work schedule.
  • Finally, the best way to have a successful book launch is to plan it well in advance, in both senses of that phrase. Plan it carefully, and plan it ahead of time. Here is a good set of guidelines from Writer's Edit to help you do that. If you have the means to launch a book and can afford a publicist, you can get professional help that will often make your launch more successful; at, least, it should. Next week, in our Tuesday conversation, we will talk about the pros and cons of hiring a publicist.

 What are the benefits and risks of the various book launch efforts?

  • Book launches offer a number of benefits when you have the means to do them.
    • They bring attention to your book. Attention is good!
    • They can create additional book sales.
    • They can be fun; if you go on a city tour of bookstores, you may have an experience unlike anything you have had before or will have again.
  • There can be some negatives to doing a formal book launch.
    • You can lose money on a book launch, a lot of it.
      • You will need to order books; you may not sell them all.
      • If bookstores order books for you, the unsold ones will be returned, representing a loss to the publisher; most publishers pass this loss along to authors in the form of lower royalties because net income is reduced for the book.
    • If you cannot afford it, don't do it. There are other ways to promote and market your book over time.
    • Book launches can take a lot of time; if this time will detract from your involvement in your regular sources of needed income, it probably is better to skip the launch.
    • If you do not have a number of strong book reviews, you can expect to have a weak launch. See our earlier Tuesday conversation on book reviews.
    • If you have not put in the advance preparation, your time can be wasted. Jericho Writers provides a list of what you need to have a good book launch; not having these things can  be a negative and might indicate that it would be better to avoid a formal launch. 
  • Balance the pros and cons and make your decision! Not launching a book does not mean not promoting a book; you will be promoting your book regularly in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

However you decide to launch your book, you will need to announce it. Francis Bogan suggests 11 ways to do that. You will likely need to pull in other people as well. Do you have a publicist? Do you need one? A publicist can help with planning and carrying out a book launch. 

Now, poke around the Internet and see what other authors are doing. You will probably get some good ideas that way. And keep in mind that the best launch is one that you can afford, that excites you, that works with your schedule/plans, and that you have the skills and time to plan for adequately.

Lesson for today's Tuesday talk: Be realistic about the potential of book launches!
In many cases, book launches as an activity are overrated. If you have a big name and famous publicist, by all means, go for it. It can get your baby off to a start that keeps it growing and growing. If you do not have either, you can waste a lot of money unless you have done considerable pre-launch work (highly recommended that you do). If you have done that work, then launches can be fun--and if you just want to have fun with your book and don't care about cost-effectiveness, go for the fun! We only live once, and if this might be your only book, reward yourself; focus on the achievement, not the dollar.

Read more posts about publishing HERE.

The Tuesday talks reflect real discussions between the management of MSI Press LLC and our own authors or those would-be authors who come through our doors but don't make the cut--yet. If you have a topic you would like addressed, leave the question in the comment section. Chances are, in our 17 years of publishing first-time and experiences authors, we have had a conversation with one of our authors that we can share with you.


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