Are you gearing up for a book launch?

Are you afraid that your online platform isn’t big enough to make an impact?

Before you launch your book, be sure to read these valuable lessons, advice, and encouragement from Shauna Letellier, author of Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People.

***

The odds were against it. The more I read about traditional publishing, the more it seemed like a long shot. As in, to-the-moon-and-back long shot.

Platform, followers, tribe, email list…

I had none of it.

Armed with one book idea the Lord had pieced together for me, I wrote a book proposal with a “Marketing and Platform” section that looked something like this:

Personal blog: 24 posts and 36 subscribers
Facebook: 400 personal profile friends
Instagram: 40 followers
Twitter: Beg your pardon?

I’m sure you already know we serve a God who laughs at poor odds and long shots. So when He taps an unlikely conspirator and invites her into His work, He sees the project to completion on His timeline.

 

book launchThis summer, three years after attending a Christian writer’s conference with that proposal, I launched my first book, Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People. I wrote it for people who fear their faith is a disappointment to God. It’s a collection of biblical vignettes based on eight unlikely examples of faith in the gospels. These were folks who learned that the kind of faith Jesus remarked about—even marveled at—is based on dependence rather than performance.

Publishing and launching it was a terrifying thrill, but I learned what worked for me and what didn’t. I hope these notes from my first book launch will be helpful for you in launching yours.

 

 

Time is Your Friend

I’ve rolled my eyes at the ridiculously slow pace of traditional publishing. But with more than a year between contract and publication (and with the help of Hope*Writers and Lindsey Hartz Creative) I was able to grow my email list 700%.

 

Plan to Spend Some Money

I love DIY and thrifting, but I’ve learned that when the web experts say “anyone can do it,” it’s true that anyone can, but not everyone wants to or should. I was constantly assessing whether or not I had more time or money for certain tasks.

For example, I paid a local company to set up a self-hosted WordPress site for me, but I have learned to manage it myself…mostly.

I also reinvested a portion of my book advance by hiring Lindsey Hartz Creative to guide me through the entire book launch process. I paid for NoiseTrade advertising and MailChimp Automation. Since design is not my strong suit, I also hired a professional designer to create shareable images, social media headers, and a book discussion guide.

 

Social Media Changes Constantly

book launchIn the beginning, I posted links to blog posts on my Facebook page and reached several hundred people. Now, if I post a link Facebook shows it to approximately 30 people. Since Instagram and Facebook now give preference to video content, I tried to leverage that with a little app called Ripl which can turn your photos into an animation that Facebook recognizes as a video.

Lumen5 is another great tool for creating videos that point to your content. I had watched several compelling book trailers—one that led me to purchase a book immediately after viewing it! I knew first hand that a good book trailer could be a powerful tool, but paying a videographer was not in the budget for me. I was on my own. Since I was starting with zero knowledge of video editing, I scheduled a week to learn, try, fail, work out the kinks, and try again.

Thankfully a fellow writer tipped me off to Lumen5, and I created a book trailer in one afternoon. For free! Yep. You read that right. It might have been the most pleasant surprise of the year. After posting it on my author Facebook page, it’s been shown to 11,000 people and had 7,200 views. Yay for video content!

 

Facebook Live

Speaking of video content, I was positively allergic to Facebook Live, and still get hives thinking about it. But I discovered that if there’s something important I want all my Facebook friends and followers to see, Facebook Live is the only way to go.

When I received my first copy of Remarkable Faith from my publisher, I opened the package in a Facebook Live. I almost cried…LIVE. At the time I had 270-ish Facebook followers (or likes) and yet 3,300 people viewed the video. There was a ton of engagement.

When it was time to invite personal friends to my launch team I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated, but I also didn’t want to leave anyone out. Facebook Live (on my personal profile) was the best way to make sure everyone was invited but felt no pressure. Of my 700 personal Facebook friends and family, 697 watched the Facebook live video, and I added 30 more people to my launch team!

Book Launch Team

The first and best thing I did was hire Lindsey Hartz. Through the book launch process she was a guide, a prayer warrior, a cheerleader, a kick-in-the-pants, a sounding board, and an encyclopedia all in one. Because of her experience and knowledge, she saved me hours of researching social media/email nuances, helpful articles, tutorials, websites, and free software. Rather than researching all that, she could email me a link. *sound the magical chimes!*

Lindsey also provided a launch timeline of when and where to post what. She helped me discover themes that pointed to the content of Remarkable Faith. I wrote six weeks of pre-launch blog posts, newsletters, and Facebook posts based on those themes.

The second best thing I did was recruit writers and bloggers for my launch team. Writers and bloggers are well acquainted with (and not fearful of!) basic social media tasks. Since I was an unknown, first-time author with a relatively small platform, I needed to offer these writers something really good in exchange for their help. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a writer who does not know, like, or trust me…yet. What does she want or need? What would make participation in my book launch team valuable to these writers?

 

book launchIn addition to an e-copy of the book, we offered a “mini writer’s conference call”—as my agent dubbed it. I hosted a Q & A call with my agent and a second call with a veteran publishing strategist. Both calls were hosted for members of my launch team only. These writers and bloggers were the most engaged and most helpful members of my launch team! {You can sign up to receive the transcript of this call here.}

Our closed Facebook group of launch team members was my favorite part of the book launch. I posted a suggested (but not mandatory) reading schedule, recorded a Facebook Live for each chapter, and we discussed the chapter in the comments of each live video. The entire group was enriched by one another’s questions, answers, and insights. What a joy!

 

The launch wasn’t without hiccups, though. My personal hang-ups contributed to a lot of second-guessing, hesitation, and some missed opportunities.

Besides working on these insecurities, there are a few things I will do differently next time:

 

Have Fewer Sign-up Locations

Over the months leading to release day, I had too many places where people could “sign-up” to be on my launch team. It was confusing for me and cumbersome for those who stuck with it from the beginning.

  1. Mailchimp list where people could get info regarding book and launch team
  2. GoogleDoc form for interested people to actually sign up for launch team
  3. Facebook group that actual interested people needed to join
  4. Author Ambassador software sign up (which Lindsey uses and which more than DOUBLED the number of launch team members!! Thankful for this tool, but it was another sign-up.)

In hindsight I would have condensed a couple of these into one and eliminated steps. At each step, we lost people.

 

Pre-write the POST-Launch Content

Book launch was wonderfully exhausting. I’m so glad I wrote and scheduled blog content for those six weeks before release! Next time I will pre-write and schedule post-launch content. My brain felt fried for weeks after release day (still does a little). While I doubt my subscribers are pining for an email from me, I do worry that they might be forgetting me.

 

Hard Copies of Book for Launch Team

This decision wasn’t up to me. But in the future, if I ever feel I have any influence to leverage, I will ask the publisher to provide print copies to my launch team. To me, a print copy feels like a gift. An electronic copy feels like a to-do item. With that being said, I understand the cost of the book plus postage adds up to be quite an expense for the publisher. It would also require the author to be selective in inviting members to participate in the launch team. I now understand why some launch teams have an application process.

 

Freebies and Pre-Order Bonuses

Next time I will spend more time and thought on the content and design of the discussion guide as it has been the most useful and requested bonus. (Also electronic, so no postage!) I offered two phone lock-screens which were pretty, but I think I’m the only one who downloaded the image. I also ordered decals with elements of the book cover made into a logo. They are awesome! I applied decals to stainless steel mugs and brown paper journals. They are so cute. But postage is a budget killer, and I’ve only sent a few.

 

Collect Email Addresses More Aggressively (see also, Lose the Shame Over Asking for Emails)

This will make some of you cringe, so consider yourself warned. I spent around $150 on super cute giveaway baskets for my book signing at my local independent book store. I offered the giveaway/drawing to incentivize customers to buy from the store at the signing: buy a book, drop your name in the bowl to be entered to win. In hindsight, I should have asked for name and email address. The store sold out of their copies…twice. But I did not collect one email address.

In the end it boils down to a few things: Learn a little continually, collaborate with writers as though you are coworkers (because you are! 1 Corinthians 3:9), take notes, and trust God to complete the work He began in you … on His timeline and by His methods.

 

 

What have you learned from launching your book, website, product, or course?

 

book launchShauna Letellier is the author of Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People. She blogs about finding rest and relief in Christ at www.shaunaletellier.com. With her husband Kurt, she has the wild and hilarious privilege of raising three boys along the banks of the Missouri River where they fish, swim, and rush off to ballgames.

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