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Book Release Strategies – Tips and Tricks to Maximize Success

So you’ve built your audience, you’ve established your presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more. You’ve been building your newsletter and your media kit is built. Most importantly, your manuscript has been reviewed by beta readers or a content editor, a line editor, and has a professional cover. Now, it’s time to talk about actually releasing that book! The book release strategies outlined in this post aren’t a one-size-fits-all, and some have worked with one book and haven’t with others. At a minimum, they’ll help you put together your own plan for success.

Six Months Out

Yes, really.

Right about when you finish that first draft, you should look half a year out and pick a publish date. This will give you plenty of time to go through the editing process outlined above, plus enough time to get everything ready. Keep in mind this is purely for planning a book release; you should be building your platform long before this.

When building your book release strategies, start with taking an inventory of all your assets. This includes your number of social media followers, street team, and other advertising revenues. Why? Because it will help inform the rest of your plan.

Your next step is to establish a budget. Take a realistic look at what you can spend to promote the book, recognizing that you’re investing in a product, versus just spending money. Include everything in this number–cover design, editing, and advertising. If you’re giving away books, count on shipping (international can run you up to $30). If you’re doing a street team competition, make a budget for prizes and shipping.

Then, put together your vision, objectives, and goals for the book. This planning method is one part thought exercise, and one part schedule-building. By starting at the 10,000-foot-view, you understand what you really want out of your release. And intention is key.

The book release vision can be something general (I want to release Book X on X date) or it can be specific (I want to increase sales/reviews/reach from the previous book).

Your objectives are the big rocks:

  • Have finished book ready for upload by X date
  • Obtain additional preorders by doing X
  • Continue to grow social media presence by doing X
  • Test (particular advertising service or marketing ideas)

Your goals are the specific achievements. There may be a little overlap for the objectives, but it’s better to keep them separated. Generally, we like to add actual numbers to the goals to have something to shoot for:

  • Book X will be released to editor on X date
  • Write 12 blog posts about the book
  • Grow reviews on Goodreads to 50
  • Increase Twitter to 2,000
  • Grow Facebook to 1,000
  • Preorder Goals: 100 on Kindle, 15 on paperback, (etc.)

Finally, put together a list of tasks for each goal. This is where your asset inventory and budget come in handy, because you’ll have a list of tools readily available. For increasing preorders, you can create a task to seek out 10 book bloggers for a cover reveal tour, using your Twitter or Facebook followers to ask for help. To increase Twitter following, set a task to find and strike up a conversation with five people per day, etc. Make sure you’ve got space for contacting people, especially if you’re setting up a blog tour or asking for guest posts.

Use a GTD system like ToodleDo to put your tasks in order and add a completion date to them. And now you’ve created a project plan!

So go execute that plan.

Three Months Out

As we chatted about a while ago, Amazon will only let you upload a book 90 days away from your publication date. Therefore, we like using that as our official “marketing kick-off” date. Here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate this milestone:

  • Conduct a cover reveal blog tour: Include:
    • The cover (obviously) but also a short snippet of the book
    • Your own social media and author photo
    • A giveaway on Rafflecopter with entrants signing up for your newsletter and following you on social media
    • Links to preorder the book. We recommend sending users back to your website, as you may not get access to Amazon’s link until a day before the blog tour goes live.
  • If you’re doing physical books, you can get early copies from Ingram. Find a few Instagram bloggers and see if they want to feature your book for a cover reveal.
  • Start your weekly blog posts. We’ve found the sweet spot for daily blog posts is about 6 weeks, but at 12 weeks, you can start sharing one day per week. Ideally, you should have all this content written and scheduled ahead of time.
    • Start soliciting guest blog posts from authors in your genre
  • Encourage your street team to spread the word, as well as your followers. People will be more willing to share new information than older information
  • Create a light schedule of social media posts with links to buy your books. It’s better to have secondary content (blog posts or Instagram photos), but the occasional tweet about the book is fine.
  • Start a Goodreads Giveaway
  • Announce the cover to your newsletter subscribers
    • If your book is 100% ready to go, you can grow subscribers by offering a sneak peek at the first chapter by signing up. Recommend that you align this sign up form to a new list so existing subscribers can get access, too.
  • If you’ve got a little money to spend, or you’ve got some know-how, put together a book trailer and post it to YouTube
  • Make your book available on NetGalley or send it to reviewers and your street team

For the book itself, if you really want to encourage preorders, set it at a special price of $0.99 until release day. You’ll have to determine if the lower profit is worth it, but we’ve seen three times as many preorders at that price, versus full.

Six Weeks Out

Now is when you kick your blogging from weekly to daily. We like to have a mix of content, including posts written by and about others:

  • Mondays – A topical blog post about something related to the book
  • Tuesdays – Sharing a snippet of the book for #TeaserTuesday, either on the blog or on Amazon
  • Wednesdays – Guest blogs from other authors in our genre
  • Thursdays – Character profiles
  • Friday – #FridayReads, sharing a short review (positive) about other books in the genre

For the blog posts focused on the book, make sure to end each blog post with the cover and how to buy. Use a program like CoSchedule or Buffer to promote the blog posts, and use all your assets in your inventory.

At this point, you should start seeing some reviews come in from your street team and book bloggers. Feel free to share these as appropriate. It goes without saying you will probably receive some lower ratings, although some bloggers don’t share these until after release. Don’t engage or respond to them. Just share the higher rated ones.

You can also use the six week mark to start a Street Team competition, encouraging your team to post their reviews and/or comment on your social media for points to win prizes.

Six weeks is also where you should be setting up all the channels you want to utilize on release day. If you’re doing a book blog blitz on release day, now is when you solicit bloggers. If you want your book included in new release lists, reach out now.

Week Of Release

At one week out, you can increase your social media advertising, both paid and unpaid. You also have six weeks (or more) worth of content to re-share at this point, so reuse the best-performing content.

The night before release, we like to do our Twitter Chats. If we’re promoting a series, this is the time when we do a cover reveal for the next book in the series. If we’ve got it available, we’ll also share the preorder links.

Release Day

This is where your asset inventory really comes in handy. On release day, make sure you’re utilizing every tool and channel in your arsenal, from YouTube to your street team to your personal Facebook page (be careful with this one; Facebook is persnickety about selling from your FB page).

  • Encourage your Street Team to share photos about the book on Instagram, and tweets with #bookbirthday on Twitter.
  • Release a newsletter with buy links and information about the next book (if applicable)
  • Use that same content on your blog, and set up a one-day release blitz with other bloggers
  • Re-share your best performing, non-blog content (Instagram photos, videos, reviews, other blog posts, etc)
  • Send an email to the bloggers who have left early reviews on Goodreads first thanking them for doing so, and then gently reminding them to cross-post their reviews to Amazon
  • Set up eBook advertising for sites that will accept new books
  • If you’ve set your eBook at $0.99, remind your followers that the price is increasing soon


First, congratulations! You’ve worked very hard up until this point and you deserve an adult beverage of your choosing.

The main difference between indie releases and traditionally published ones is the release curve. For Trad pubbed kids, your sales look more like a bell curve. There’s a big boost at the beginning, and then (for most), it dips significantly. For indies, the curve looks more exponential. Even with all this work, you may release your first book to lackluster sales. But that’s why you have ten more waiting in the wings, right?

Our experience is it takes a minimum of three books for a series to take off. So if the first book doesn’t sell well, don’t panic. The old adage goes: Your frontlist sells your backlist. Besides that, you’ve created a whole lot of content that you can use and reuse for the release of the next few books. You’ve built your network more by connecting with more reviewers and growing social media. All of this work you’ve done will pay off, but it make take two or three books to get there.

To keep up the momentum, set up a regular schedule of eBook advertising. We’re big fans of focusing on one book every three or four months, getting about $30 worth of eBook ads, and letting them do the work. Occasionally, if we have other books on sale (like the second book in the series), we’ll also share on our social media. The “tail” of sales lasts for about 90 days, and then it’s time to do it again.

But by then, you should be ready to release your next book, right?

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Book Reviewers – How to Get Started

Working with Book Reviewers

Last week, we talked a little about building an audience. Ideally, you should be building an audience months, if not years, before your publication date. But once you’ve got a book ready for publication, it’s now time to start finding book reviewers.

Who are book reviewers? Simply put: They’re readers who leave reviews on their blogs, Instagram posts, and store websites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Why Reviews are Important

Have you ever stumbled across a book you’ve never heard of and checked the reviews to see if it was something you’d want to read? Then you understand the importance of how feedback on websites can help sell books.

Now, book reviews don’t always have to be positive to sell books. Tastes are subjective. One person’s cliche is another person’s favorite trope. Of course, if there are ten reviews decrying the editing and formatting of a book, then that’s a different story. But a good mixture of reviews with an average rating above 4* generally bodes well for a book.

Reviews and the Amazon Algorithm

When contacting book reviewers, read their policies first!We spoke at length about the Amazon algorithm in an earlier post, so we won’t rehash that here. The more reviews a book has, the higher it will rank in the algorithm. Although not officially confirmed by Amazon, fifty reviews means a book is included in Amazon’s weekly newsletters, an added, free advertising avenue for authors.

Amazon does have some rules around reviewers. Unfortunately, your mom and brother and Great Aunt Sally can’t go to Amazon and say how great your book is. Our alter-ego’s own mother has tried to post a review (of her own volition), and she’s been denied every time.

Review Swaps

Some new authors engage in so-called “review swaps,” where they read a friend’s book and the friend reads theirs, and they both post a review. This is skirting around Amazon’s TOS, but it’s not a clear violation. However, it’s not a method we recommend.

In 80% of cases, you’ll encounter an author who is professional and honest, and will provide an honest review regardless of your rating for their book. But in 20% of cases, you might encounter someone who won’t read your book, or who’ll pan your book if you give theirs an honest review.

Paying for Reviews Just don’t.

It’s dishonest, it’s underhanded, and it’s against Amazon’s terms of service.

Where do I find Book Reviewers?

You can search for book bloggers who review books in your genre. We’ll have a long discussion about book bloggers in a future post, but please follow the golden rule: Read their Review Policies first! A lot of bloggers don’t accept self-pubbed books, so respect that.

Ideally, though, you should refer back to our tips in the Soft-selling post. Find bloggers and follow them. Engage, communicate, get to know them as people. Then, check their website for rules around self-published books, genre, etc. And then, if you’ve done all your homework, feel free to pop them an email using their contact information.

Don’t be upset if they say no. In the first place, bloggers get bombarded with book review requests from all over the place, big and small publishers. In the second place, they have jobs, lives, families, obligations that aren’t books. They aren’t getting paid for this, so make sure you respect their time. And finally, sometimes they just plain ol’ don’t like the premise around your book.

But that’s why you have a bunch of different bloggers to reach out to. And because you’ve been building relationships and talking about your book in non-sale terms, there’s a good chance your blogger friends will already be familiar with your book anyway, and you can ditch the formalities.

Other Ways: NetGalley and Blog Tour Sites

If all else fails, you can always use NetGalley to put your book up for reviewers to request. NetGalley is the service the big publishers use to upload galleys (advanced copies of books) and distribute to approved reviewers. There are several services you can use to gain access to this for cheaper than NetGalley itself. We’ve had great success with Broad Universe, but some blog tour companies also offer access.

Speaking of blog tour companies (which are companies that you can hire to leverage their large network of bloggers to promote your book), they sometimes offer review tours as well. But be careful here: Amazon’s ever-changing terms of service has indicated that *technically* falls under the guise of “paying for reviews,” even though it’s going through a third party, and there’s no guarantee of positive reviews.

In any case, your best bet is to build your own network of reviewers.

The do's and don'ts of working with book reviewers

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My Book Is Finished, Now What? Building an Audience

Building an audience: the art of the soft sell

Ideally, you should be thinking about building an audience months (or years) ahead of publication. Audiences grow based on trust–trust that you’re a real person, trust that you’re going to deliver on the promise of good storytelling. Once you’ve got a few folks to trust your work, they’ll work to build trust in their circles, and it snowballs from there.

The hardest part of building an audience is the very beginning. When you “break onto” the scene as an unknown, nobody pays attention to you. Some folks decide to go all-in by throwing their work in people’s faces through emails, tweets, and Facebook posts. We’ve all seen those folks. The ones who respond to an Instagram post with, “Hey, have you read this book by me? Readers are saying it’s amazing!”

ProTip: Nobody believes you.

For those at the very start of the ultra-marathon, we’ve put together some tips to help you get that all-important base. We’ll repeat that it’s much easier to build a following for a book once you have a following as an author, but if you’re like most self-pubbed authors, you’ll have book first.

The Art of the Soft Sell

When someone sends you an automated DM that says, “Hi, thanks for following, Buy my book!” that is called a hard sell. Don’t get us wrong, hard selling has its place. Like the vendor floor of a convention, where people are there to purchase. But in every day situations, you don’t walk up to a stranger and say, “Hey, I just met you, this is crazy, buy my book!”

Online, it’s about the same. Soft selling is the art of building relationships (trust) first, and then selling later. Many times, folks that follow our alter-ego online have never read her book, but they like what she’s putting out. Eventually, when there’s a sale, they’ll purchase and read. Then, they move from casual fan to involved fan and go on to purchase more.

Soft selling doesn’t happen overnight. Effective frequency is the number of times a consumer must be exposed to an advertising message for them to take the desired action. The average person is exposed to ads 362 times per day. There are also over one million books published every year.

But once you’ve got this relationship-building down, it’s easy to see how it transitions into audience-building

Start With Fellow Authors

Now that we know how to sell, it’s time to find people to build relationships with. A good place to start is with other authors. For some, this seems counter-intuitive. Why would you want to partner with your competition? But bookselling isn’t a zero-sum game. Partnering with others in your same genre will help find readers who are more willing to take a chance on an unknown author.

And that’s key to understand: Not everyone will read a self-published book, especially by someone without any brand recognition.

Where do you find fellow authors? Goodreads groups are where our alter-ego, S. Usher Evans began, followed by Facebook groups. You can follow successful authors in your genre, too, if only to see how they interact with their readers.

Building Relationships

When you start out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., the very first thing you do is follow a bunch of people, right? When you’re finding people’s content to consume, make sure you add a few bloggers and authors who read your genre. And then the difficult part…

Talk to them!

When they ask questions, answer. When they post something, reply with something real and constructive. Eventually, they’ll see you and remember who you are. Do that enough times and with enough real human interest, and they might even feel comfortable enough to give you a follow*. Once they start seeing your content more, they might be interested enough to buy, read, and there you go.

*Don’t pester people to follow you. Especially if someone is an author of some renown, keeping their following to those they like and trust is essential to their online safety.

Get Others to Soft Sell You

Once you’ve developed a nice contingent of folks who know you, trust you, and, even better, have read what you’ve put out, then the trick becomes having them soft sell for you. Ideally, this happens naturally. When people ask for a recommendation, your book is on the forefront of their mind, and they’ll tell their friends about it. It may take a few months or years to reach this point, however, so be patient.

The other, best way to have others sell your book for you is to garner reviews. Next week, we’ll talk about ways you can clear that hurdle.

 Why soft selling sells more books

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