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Marylee MacDonald’s Book Launch Tracker can help you plan effective book launches. Essentially, a tracker functions like a runway. If you want your book to have liftoff, you need a three- to six-month lead time, but if you don’t you lay out the tasks in advance, the day of your book launch will arrive, and you won’t have mechanisms set up to ensure that readers will find your book and then buy it. As Ross Perot used to say, “It’s not rocket science.” But, actually, it is rocket science. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot to learn about how to pull off an effective launch.
In my last post, I said that the kind of launch you design depends on you. I really meant it. For some authors, in-person events provide a payoff for all those months or years in isolation. For shy authors with a bit of social media savvy, it’s easier to launch a book through the internet. Since most books are sold via the internet, learning how to effectively market on social media is critical. And, I’m glad I put the effort into learning this, because Covid-19 is caused me to cancel three in-person events.
How to Stay Sane in an Online World
I spent much of this spring and summer putting this book launch tracker together so that I could keep from going nuts during a book launch. I want to share it with you because every writer I know experiences the same bemusement at the prospect of getting out there and hawking books. But, we want readers, don’t we, and how else will we get them if we don’t get out there and advocate for ourselves?
How My Book Launch Tracker Works
In this Book Launch Tracker, I’ve grouped resources to make it easy for you to find strategies that fit your personality. The important thing to note is that you can’t “do it all.” My recommendation is that you start with two or three tools, those that fit your personality and your time parameters. As you get more comfortable with marketing, you can try other tools.
Here’s a breakdown of the Tools at your disposal:
Tool 1-Your Website or Landing Page
Tool 2–Review Campaign
Tool 3-Media Kit
Tool 4-Marketing Materials
Tool 5-Book Trailer
Tool 6-Email Campaign
Tool 7-Social Media Campaign
Tool 8-Book Pre-orders
Tool 9-Interview/Media Campaign
Tool 10-Targeted Guest Posting/Hosting
Tool 11-Speaking Engagements
Tool 12-Amazon Bestseller Campaign
Tool 13-Book Launch Incentives or Bonuses
Tool 14-Bundled Promotions, Special Sales, and Bulk Purchases
Tool 15-Targeted Blog Tour
Tool 16-Contests, Giveaways, Raffles, & Free Days
Tool 17-Paid Advertising
Tool 18-Telesummits, Webinars, and Podcasts
Tool 19-Influencer Outreach
One thing to note is that each Tool is broken down into specific tasks. See the little black triangle in the corner of some of the tasks? Hover your mouse over that triangle, and an explanation will appear. The explanation will give you more detail on the task, or it will point you to a website.
To download the Book Launch Tracker, click on this link. Save the file and rename it. After you’ve renamed it, you can customize it for your own needs.
Make Sure to Look at Each Sheet
In addition to the main sheet, which you’ll see when you open the file, there are detailed sheets that can help you expand your marketing efforts.
If you plan to send ARC (Advance Reviewer Copies), look at the ARCs’ sheet for tools that can automate the process of sending out electronic files.
If you plan to do a campaign based on Bloggers, look on the Bloggers‘ sheet. I have listed some bloggers, but there are many more. (A word of caution, here. If you’re going to contact a blogger and ask to be featured on that person’s site, follow their blog and comment in a friendly way several times before you approach them. They’re likely to be more receptive if they recognize your name.)
If you need book reviews, check out the listings on the BkRevws‘ sheet.
The sheet named Form Responses 1 contains listings of Influencers for Facebook and Twitter as well as a more complete listing of bloggers. (Some children’s authors have had a lot of success using Influencers on Instagram. I’m not very active on that platform, but it might be pure gold for you.)
A Bit of Advice Vis a Vis Bloggers
I hired a firm to do a blog tour a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I was naive and didn’t ask whether the blogs that were going to be part of the tour had readers who would enjoy literary fiction. When I looked at the sites I was aghast. They were all sites that featured bodice rippers, mysteries, or sci fi. Most of the blogs only had 20 to 30 followers, so that wasn’t doing me any good.
At that point I decided I needed to organize my own blog tour. I started with a website I really like called The Book Blogger List. By typing in some keywords, I was able to come up with a preliminary list of bloggers. I then looked on Alexa.com to see which blogs had an actual following and whose tastes ran to literary fiction. (You can also use Ahrefs.com or Similarweb.com to find kindred spirits.) Not all bloggers are willing to read books by small press or self-published authors, and some bloggers are wide open.
I made a list of blogs. I began following and commenting on their posts. At that point I had a vetted list, but, more important, I enjoyed getting to know the bloggers. I was genuinely interested in expanding my horizons, and I think it showed. By that time my book launch was approaching, I had a better sense of who might be receptive.
If you’re going to try this strategy, it’s important to look at both the blog’s genre, the blogger’s willingness to host an author’s book, the number of their followers, and the needed lead time for one of their slots. I figured that if I narrowed my list to 10 bloggers, that would be better than the scattershot approach of hiring someone to just send the book to the “usual suspects”.
Now, here’s a confession. I am now in the middle of a launch and realizing that there are two things I need to do better. One is that I need to segment my email list, dividing those who signed up because they like my writing from those who signed up to get advice and help with their own writing. I haven’t done that because I haven’t had time to watch the videos on ConvertKit that tell me how to segment a list. But, I will because I know I must.
The second thing I wish I’d done is to put together a “street team,” those folks who are so enthralled by my fiction that they can’t wait for a new book to come out. I will do that just as soon as I get past these two back-to-back book launches. As you all surely know, you can’t do everything. And, I’ll report back on my successes and ways to improve.
Meanwhile, here’s another article about simple tools that will help you out during a book launch.
And just in case you missed the link to the Google Sheets’ version of the Book Launch Tracker, here it is again.
For those of you who’d rather open the Tracker in Microsoft Excel, click here for the download.
And, meanwhile, I’ll just add that having a launch plan is essential, even if you’re hoping to publish your book with one of the small presses or independent publishers I list in my book. You can get the Kindle version here. Alternately, you can order a paperback for $20.99. For those of you who don’t want to self-publish, this book could be a lifesaver. It’s a compendium of 350+ non-fee-charging publishers. There are some back-door ways to get your manuscript considered by the likes of Knopf and Avon.
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.