You probably thought completing your manuscript was the hardest part of becoming a self-published author, but you were wrong—the editing process was as difficult and draining as writing the book.
Then you had to actually publish. Cover design, interior layout, synopsis, ISBNs, printing, distribution… Ebook? Print book? Both? Marketing? Whew! You wonder who in their right mind would ever publish more than once. You need a vacation, or at the very least the opportunity to disengage from life. But as a book publicist, I beg you, please please—wait. Don’t hide yet; you’ll absolutely regret it if you do.
Don’t Take a Vacation, Mental or Otherwise
While your writing style and the finished product are extremely important to your book’s ability to succeed, the actual launch of your book is arguably more important. The launch is your best chance to get marketing momentum started, and it requires your full attention and effort.
After all your hard work, skipping out for a lux two weeks on the beach or hiding out binge-watching Netflix might sound like paradise to you, but it won’t sound that way to potential readers. Don’t abandon them when you should be enticing them.
Imagine that when your book’s listing on Amazon goes from pre-order to active (that’d be on your publication date), someone browsing new releases in your genre clicks over to your author website, expecting to see an enthusiastic blog post about your book’s birthday, but the blog section is empty, or last updated several months ago.
What are they to think? It must not be a very good book if you aren’t even talking about it. (You might be talking about it on the beach in Barbados, but they can’t hear you.) Consider that for a second. If you aren’t talking about your book launch, why would anyone else? The launch of a book is the one and only tangible event in the book’s life. It’s where the conversation about it begins, where there’s something about your book to shout about, so you better be shouting.
Act Like the Celebrity Author
Consider the author’s place in popular culture: The big ones are celebrities, and the smaller ones are adored and admired as semi-celebrities. And while there may be many paths and levels to that celebrity status, the final destination has general characteristics, at least surrounding book promotions.
The celebrity is available to promote their newest work to fans. If you hired a publicist to do a media campaign, and she can get you a spot on your local morning show tomorrow, you’d have to decline—you’re too busy getting sunburned or recovering from hives brought on by all the chocolate shakes that accompany binge-watching Game of Thrones.
Declining a media appearance—probably your first media appearance (if you don’t have a first, you can’t have a second)—when you’re hoping readers will discover your book? I don’t think so.
Ever hear the expression fake it ’til you make it? If you launch that book like the celebrity author you are deep inside, it’ll bring you one step closer. Set up a launch party. Celebrate your book’s official arrival by inviting everyone you know to a reading. And yes, you have to advertise the party.
Share on social media, post a flier or sell sheet in the coffee shops surrounding the book launch venue, or put an ad in the community newspaper. Adding that you’ll serve snacks or drinks, or give away bookmarks or pens helps too; it is a party, after all. If only a handful of people come, that’s okay. You have to start somewhere. If your book wows ten people, those people might each tell one or two more. And that’s the beginning of a marketing snowball effect.
Think Big, Act Local
If you have an independent bookstore in your neighborhood, go make friends. But you’re an introverted writer, not a social butterfly, you say. Well, several minutes of social anxiety could be worth getting your book featured on the shelf in the local section.
Going to book signings at your local indie book shop is also great way to build relationships with influential readers, who’ll also feel special when the author is their neighbor. People love to rub elbows with celebrities. Make sure you go to several readings before you plan your own to get some ideas and meet regulars. Schmoozing can be painful, but it’s about books, so you can always have something to say. (Psst: Talk about other writers too, not just yourself.)
If a local book club or a less organized social circle of local readers get fired up about your book, you can bet there’ll be trickledown effect. If more than one person in your life had the same passion (books) and they both told you about one you couldn’t miss, you would listen.
Oh, and after you have your launch party? Repeat. Yes, another signing at another venue, more advertising, more snacks, more schmoozing. And after that? Repeat. Again. Suddenly, you’re on a book tour, just like a celebrity author. See how that happened? Now you really deserve that vacation. And since you made sales from your efforts, you might not have to settle for the Netflix binge—you might get the hammock on the beach, after all.