What’s the Best Launch Strategy? Part 1

The answer to “What’s the best book launch strategy?” is that a successful launch strategy depends on you. The only thing that won’t work is to have no launch plan. And, yet, that’s the situation most writers find themselves in. Tongue hanging out, they can’t wait to “get the book up on Amazon,” and then they cross their fingers and pray that readers will discover it and leave reviews. Folks, that is not going to happen. I know. I’ve been there.

Save back some of your creativity and put it into a launch plan. Think strategically. You’re not just launching THIS book. You’re learning how to launch this one and the books yet to come.

Plan to Get Steady Sales

The key time you must get sales is during the first and second weeks of your launch. That is, if you want Amazon to take note and vault you into the “best sellers” or “movers and shakers” categories. What you need to do is put your whole heart and soul into doing three things:

  • Figure out which categories are “winnable,” meaning which have the least competition and are most appropriate for your book;
  • Figure out how you are going to reach potential readers;
  • Put a big effort into making your first week yield steady and rising sales.

Solicit Pre-orders

Before you launch, you should definitely be building excitement through social media. Do a cover reveal. Put an excerpt of your book on your author page. Enlist your “street team” to spread the word that your book is coming out.

Reduce the price of your book during the pre-order stage to motivate people to buy it right now.

Advertise on Facebook, Twitter, etc, that the book will only be at that price until launch day.

Send emails to your subscribers’ list, telling them about this one-time good deal. Most people won’t act until they’ve received 7 reminders to take action, so in each pre-order email, make sure there’s a clear call to action. Buy my book now!

The good thing about pre-orders is that Amazon will take note of them. If the book appears to be one that’s drawing interest, that will help you. But don’t slack off now! You’re just getting started.

Bar Chart Illustrates Rising Interest

The key time to get Amazon to take an interest in your book is during the first week or two. If you have pre-orders, that’s good. But, even better is if you can find and persuade a large number of readers to order your book during the crucial launch week.

How will you do that?

One way is to sell to your list–your email list. If you can segment your email list, sending out an email every day to a different group of people, then you can keep sales steadily going up. This assumes that people will actually open your email. If they don’t, well, email overload is a problem we all face, and you can’t do anything about that. However, most email service providers do show who has opened the email and who hasn’t. You can try resending, or sending a different message, such as, “Hey, I sent out a pretty important announcement yesterday, and it looks like you didn’t open it. Here it is again, and I’d really like your help with this.”

A second way is to create momentum through running Facebook ads or Bookbub ads. These can be expensive, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing and haven’t targeted your audience well, but Bookbub ads–as opposed to getting a slot on a Bookbub Deal–can potentially be a way for you to get a lot of downloads, and, hence, eyes on your book. However, if you’re in a niche genre (as I am with literary fiction), you may find that you’re shelling out a lot of money for very little return. Even though Bookbub ads can target certain segments of the market, not every reader on that targeted list is going to spring for your book. If you’ve written a romance, however, that’s a popular genre, and romance readers are among the most avid readers out there.

Combining Launch Strategies

Timing is everything, in book marketing as well as in the stock market. Ideally, one would want the numbers to have a slow and steady rise.

Let’s consider one launch scenario. Below, I’m assuming that the author doesn’t have a huge email list, but is able to get some sales. Sales are starting to die down at the end of the week, but they increase when the author runs a Bookbub ad. The key thing to think about is that this ad won’t do you any good if you run it three months from now. It will have a positive effect if you run it during launch week. As I said, timing is everything.

You need a PLAN so that you can take immediate action during the launch phase. And you may need help from some of the big players in the online book-marketing world–BookBub, BookRiot, BookBuzz, or BookishFirst. (More on these resources in my next post.)

This bar chart illustrates a launch where lukewarm sales get a boost from a Bookbub ad.

When the Almighty “Zon” Takes Note

In an ideal world, you would aim for getting steady sales during the first two weeks. If you succeed, your book will appear on Amazon’s “Movers and Shakers” page. As you will note in the fine print below, this page comes from the number of books sold in a 24-hour period.

book ranking page

If you can manage to get on the “Movers and Shakers” page, Amazon will take over the advertising for you.

How Do You Know How Many Books You Need to Sell Per Day?

Tom Corson Knowles has a very handy free calculator. It will tell you exactly how many books you need to sell to achieve a particular sales rank. https://www.tckpublishing.com/amazon-book-sales-calculator/

bestseller ranking calculator


Here’s how to use this tool. Find a book on the “Top 20” bestselling books’ page. Look at the author ranking, and type in the numbers. See how many you need to sell to reach the Number 1 ranking. Then check the sales rank for book that’s ranked 20th. That’s the spread, and you need to figure out how to lob your ball into this ballpark.

Daunting, isn’t it? But, don’t lose hope. I have more on this subject, including a Book Launch Tracker that breaks down specific launch strategies and tasks into bite-sized pieces. Here’s what the planner looks like. In my next post I’m going to explain its features and how it works. Essentially, it’s a Google Sheet that you can customize for your own launch.

Book launch tracker

Here’s my book launch tracker. I’ll be talking about it in my next post.

Meanwhile, in case you missed a previous post about how to rank in Amazon, go here and read it now. Also, I used this Book Launch Tracker to manage my own 2020 book release. As a favor to me (and to yourself, I hope), you can take a look at the book I’m featuring right now. Here’s a preview of the book.


  • Marylee MacDonald

    Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, BODY LANGUAGE, and THE BIG BOOK OF SMALL PRESSES AND INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS. 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, a Wishing Shelf Book Award, 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.

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2 Responses to “What’s the Best Launch Strategy? Part 1”

  1. Leslie Rush says:

    Dear Marylee,
    This is PERFECT TIMING, since my debut novel DREAMWALKERS will launch October 6. I can’t wait for the tracker!