“Build it and they will come” is advice that rarely works when trying to sell books. Amazon is full of self-published books that have barely made any sales, leaving many writers dejected. If you want your books to succeed, to get into the hands of your readers, to potentially achieve bestseller status…. you need a book launch plan.
After all, you’ve already spent months (or even years) crafting your manuscript. You’ve also spent a small fortune on a book cover, hiring an editor, proofreading, formatting, and other related expenses. The last thing you need after all you’ve invested is for your book to fail, to make exactly zero sales.
(Okay you might make a few, to friends and family. But that’s not why you wrote your book, right?)
If you have a book, or are looking to write a book, and are already thinking about promotion, then this article is for you. Contrary to what you might expect, launching a book isn’t hard, and it doesn’t need to break the bank (although you do need to invest some money). By focusing on the minimal book launch strategy I’ll outline here, you’ll avoid being overwhelmed and launch your book on Amazon like a pro.
In this post you’ll learn how to:
- Price your book during launch
- Set up your complete launch strategy during soft launch
- Collect reviews from your launch team
- Set your book up with the best promo sites for both paid and free
- Stick to a minimalist launch plan
Before You Go Any Further
Before you go any further, there are a few things you need to do in between finishing your manuscript and launching your book. I put together a 13-point checklist of these action items. You don’t need to carry them out with perfection since they can be tweaked later. But don’t launch your book without doing them.
Pre Book-Launch Checklist
- Book Description — Create your book description using the Book Description Generator at Kindlepreneur.com.
- Keywords — Select 7 keywords for your book. I use KDP Rocket and Kindlespy. There is also Merchant Words and Google AdWords.
- Categories — Choose 2 main categories for your book in the KDP dashboard. Once your book is live you can email Amazon and request to have your book put into eight additional categories.
- Landing Page — Create a landing page for your book. This can be used to collect email addresses and give away a chapter of your book before its release (optional).
- Upload Manuscript — Upload your manuscript to KDP. Proofread your book using the KDP online previewer.
- Upload Cover — Upload your Kindle cover to KDP.
- Launch Price — Set your launch price at 0.99.
- Lead Magnet — Insert a lead magnet into your book, both at the front and back. Connect this to your email list provider such as Mailchimp or ConvertKit.
- Audiobook (Optional) — Get your audiobook created. Plan to release your book through Audible or ACX.
- Paperback — Get your paperback version created. You can set up your paperback at CreateSpace. Optional: Your paperback can be launched after the Kindle release.
- Emails — Pre-write emails that you’ll send to your launch team.
- Goodreads — Goodreads account created and author profile setup. Your book will end up there either way, so it’s worth setting up an account to associate the book with.
- Launch Plan Model — Map out the specific action steps you are taking for each day of your launch. I have provided a model for this further down the post.
Just like there are a variety of business models to choose from when planning your venture, there are a variety of book launch strategies to choose from.
For example, you could follow Steve Scott’s 5-Day Launch Plan That Works which he used to effectively launch the bestselling book 10-Minute Digital Declutter that he co-authored with Barrie Davenport. Or you could emulate Nick Loper, of Side Hustle Nation fame, and his successful launch strategy which sold 2600+ copies of his book Buy Buttons. There’s even the detailed launch plan of Rob Cubbon, the author of The New Freedom.
These are all plans that work because of one thing: they are strategic in their planning and strategic in their execution. However, while there seems to be a lot of steps, an effective book launch plan isn’t complicated.
Your launch plan will depend largely on:
- Your objectives and purpose.
- Your platform. The bigger your platform and access to influencers, the bigger (and more diverse) your launch.
In the strategy I’ll show you, I keep things simple. It’s a 12-day launch, including a 3-day free promo through Amazon. Below you’ll find the step-by-step process for setting up your book launch, including your free promo, and the corresponding promo sites you can use to increase your category rankings and generate thousands of downloads.
If you’ve ticked everything on that checklist, then it’s time to hit publish on your book and to start your launch strategy.
But, before we dive into that, there are a few things you need to know about Amazon’s algorithm as it informs your book launch strategy.
The Amazon Algorithm: A Few Basics
Amazon uses an algorithm to measure and track book sales, and everything else on their platform. It’s worth remembering that Amazon wants you to succeed: if you make money, Amazon makes money. Knowing a few basics of it can help you to have a greater launch and to sustain the life of your book for months (and years) after the launch buzz wears off.
Here’s how it works in a nutshell: your book starts ranking as soon as someone buys a copy. Every purchase of your book pushes the ranking up the ladder. As a book moves up, it jumps ahead of the other books in your selected category. The rankings are based on recent sales and Amazon favors a book that is getting consistent, ongoing sales.
A book that runs a promo and gets 200 sales in one day, but then nothing else for the week, will not perform as well as a book that gets the same number of downloads over the course of a ten-day period.
Slow, steady traffic and a long-term plan is the way to succeed with your book. Steady, organic growth will always outperform a sudden burst of downloads.
It’s worth noting also that while reviews and the price of your book do not affect your sales rank, they’re still worth having. the more quality reviews you have, the more credible your book will be to shoppers. This affects their decision-making power to buy, which translates into more downloads and an increase in sales rank. Focus on getting as many quality reviews as you can during this launch phase. Then, continue to work on getting reviews from organic traffic.
With that out of the way, let’s look at two necessary steps you need to do before you promote your book.
Setting Up Your Amazon Bestseller
The 0.99 Launch Strategy
I know what you’re thinking, “$0.99? Why would I essentially give my book away for free? I didn’t get into this business to fulfill the starving artist stereotype.”
I know how you feel, but trust me, there’s a good reason for launching it at this price. You may be selling it at a super-low point now, but the rewards are coming later. Remember: think long term. It’s better to have a book that has steady sales in the long term than to just have a burst of downloads now, then zero in the future.
Action Item: Go to the KDP dashboard and set your book at $0.99. With the exception of the free promo period (which we’ll get to shortly), your book will be at $0.99 for the duration of the launch.
The Free Book Launch Strategy
I mentioned that our strategy will have a 3-day free launch. Setting this up is easy. If you plan to run a free promo for your book, you can set this up as soon as your book is live on Amazon. To run a free promotion, your book has to be enrolled in the KDP Select program for 90 days. A book that is listed for free will be ranked in the free store and books set at a price are ranked in the paid store.
If you don’t have a following (email list) or you are just getting started, I suggest you do the free promo. The free promo gets your book into more hands (that will hopefully read it) and increases its visibility across more platforms.
Action Item: Go to the KDP dashboard, and under “Kindle eBook Actions,” enroll into the KDP Select program. While enrolled in the KDP select program your book has to be exclusive to the Kindle Store.
Book Promotion Sites: Free and Paid
When launching your book, especially during your free promo, you want to put it into the hands of as many readers as possible. Amazon ranks your book in the free store based on how many downloads it gets. The higher you rank, the more downloads you’ll get from Amazon browsers. Which means to maximize your launch, you need an initial surge of readers that don’t come from Amazon.
This is where book promotion sites come in. You can use them for both your paid and free launch. In the launch scenario later on in the post, I’ll show you how to batch these sites together to give your book the boost it needs.
An aside if you have a healthy email list: you won’t need to rely on these sites as much. This is especially beneficial for authors that are just starting out and don’t yet have a strong platform.
Keep in mind that results vary for each site and your performance will largely depend on your book’s quality. You still need the essentials: a great cover, a compelling book description, and an eye-catching book title.
Below is a list of my favorites that I have personally used, in combination with an email list to launch multiple bestsellers. You can also check out Dave Chesson’s blog on this as he covers the best sites to use for both free and paid.
The price for each promo site varies depending on the niche and category.
Top Recommended Promo Sites
- Buckbooks. If you can get onto any of these promo sites, Buckbooks is the one you want to try to get into. You need 10 reviews before they’ll schedule you. Note: You can promote the 2nd book on the same day for only 25% of the price. Great deal. But you can only promote once every 6 months for each book. If you use their Archangel Ink book production services you’ll get a guaranteed placement.
- Robin Reads — (need 10 reviews and a 4.9 rating) Takes a couple days to get approved ($55). Great results. I usually get anywhere from 60-100 downloads with this one. https://robinreads.com/author-signup/ Note: They have a calendar that is usually booked out weeks in advance. In this case, consider using Robin Reads for future promos of existing books already launched.
- BookSends — $40. If you can match this up with Robin Reads or Bucks on the same day it’s a great little boost. http://booksends.com/
- BKnights (Fiverr) You can’t go wrong for $5. I would also take the extra gig for $5 and get in on their daily newsletter. Downloads average 12-30 depending on the book.
- eReader News — Great gig but hard to get approved at times. takes several days for a response. Various prices. http://ereadernewstoday.com/
- Booksbutterfly. You are basically paying for downloads, one of the few (if only) sites that do that. They have various packages for everything. I recommend the Silver Eagle ($90) that gets you 50+ downloads + KU borrows. (https://www.booksbutterfly.com/bookpromo…/paidbookpromotion/)
- The Fussy Librarian (http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/). Great promo but very hard to book in advance. They are usually booked out 2-3 weeks ahead. Need 10 reviews to get accepted. Various price ranges. Strong results.
- Bargain Booksy. I love this one, no reviews needed and you can sign up right away and get approved. $25 for nonfiction. Lots of categories and good results. https://www.bargainbooksy.com/sell-more-books/
- eBooks Habit. Great little promo, I recommend the guaranteed placement for $10. http://ebookshabit.com/for-authors/
- Awesome Gang. This one is great for the price, $10. They have a free option but go with the paid. http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/
- Many Books. Great little gig, average returns, $29. You can also sign up to become a featured author. http://manybooks.net/promote
- Digital Book Today ($40). Good gig, average returns and works better with fiction than non-fiction. http://digitalbooktoday.com/
- eBook Stage. Another great little promo site, reasonably priced. $10. https://ebookstage.com/
- Book Runes (http://bookrunes.com/). Global reach with over 50k mailing list, $25. Average to very good results.
- BookBub. This is by far the biggest and the best promo site. Very tough to get accepted and it is expensive, but worth every dime. At the very least you should set up an Author profile on BookBub and start to get people to follow you. They have a great blog too that gives powerful tips on how to get a BookBub feature. https://insights.bookbub.com
- Email your list (if you have one). if you don’t, BUILD one. This is by far better than all of the promo sites combined. If you don’t have a list yet, start building one with Mailchimp, Mailerlite or Convertkit.
The Book Launch Sequence and Set-Up
To keep things simple, I’m giving you an example of a book launch that covers 12 days. This is similar to the launch that I did for my book Relaunch Your Life, except that I didn’t run a free promo. However, for this post, I will look at how to include a free promo as well. Your launch will look and perform differently than this, but you can use this as a model and tweak as required. This launch assumes you are launching your book at $0.99 with a free promo set up through KDP for 2-3 days.
What is the difference between a soft launch and the actual launch?
I use the term soft launch below, which is different from your actual book launch. Your soft launch begins from the moment you hit publish.
As Amazon takes about 24 hours to set up your book, I recommend hitting the publish button at least 24 hours before you begin your actual launch. For example, if your launch plan beings on a Sunday, then publish your book on a Saturday.
In this launch model we use 3 days for our soft launch window, and then begin the actual launch on day 4.
The 12-Day Book Launch Model
Day 1: First Day of Soft Launch
The first day of your soft launch is critical. This is the day when you are going to set up your book to successfully launch over the next 11 days. The price point is set at $0.99.
Here is a brief checklist of what to do on day 1 of the soft launch:
- Create your Amazon Author Page. Set up your bio and upload an author pic.
- Claim your book by hitting the ‘add more books’ tab. This will appear on your author page within 24 hours.
- Email your launch team. Let them know the book is ready for verified reviews.
- Email Amazon customer support. Request that your book is placed in additional categories.
- Set up a few promo sites for days 2 or 3 while your book is at 0.99. This starts to build momentum. Recommended Awesome Gang, Bknights, and Booksbutterfly.
- As soon as you have ten reviews, set up the rest of your promo sites for the week. Not all of these promo sites require a set number of reviews. Check the list for links to the sites and submission requirements.
- Set up your Free promo in the KDP dashboard. Your free promo will be 2-3 days. This will start on day 4 (or however long you decide to run your soft launch). If you do a 5-day soft launch your free promo will start on day 6. Set up several paid promo sites to advertise your book for free. Although your book is free, the promos will cost you.
For your free promo on days 4-5 contact:
- James H Mayfield (Note: his calendar is very busy. You might not get on for the days you want with short notice. Consider using your remaining free days at a later date and arrange to have James promo your book.)
- Bknights (free promo)
- Awesome Gang
If you combine these promo sites with the organic traffic you’ll get from Amazon, you should do very well for free downloads.
Day 2-3: Soft Launch (Optional: You can extend this up to 5 days)
Social media burst to your FB page, mastermind groups, and other sources to spread the word.
Day 4-6: FREE Promo
The promotional sites you got in touch with on day 1 will be advertising your book. Send an email to your team to notify them that your book is now free. Promote to social media.
Day 7-10: Paid Promo Sites
Run paid promo sites recommended from the list above. You can cluster these a day apart or combine 2-3 promos a day.
Day 11-12: Winding Down the Launch
If you followed the plan you should have had a considerable number of downloads for both your free promo and your $0.99 promo. Remember that your numbers will vary depending on your platform, book quality, niche, and sometimes, luck.
Email your list and remind them the book will be 0.99 for only one more day. Contact your launch team and thank them for reviews and their support. This is the last call for reviews and downloads.
Day 13: Increase the Price to $2.99
Leave it there for one week and raise it to $3.99. You can test the pricing by going up to $4.99 and watching what happens. Monitor the sales and adjust accordingly.
I usually spend around $300-$400 per launch minimum on promo sites but how much you spend is up to you. Stagger them out over the course of 10-12 days.
Beyond the Book Launch
One of the biggest challenges authors have is where to go with the book after the initial launch is over.
How do you promote, market and keep bringing in traffic so that your book doesn’t drop off into oblivion? Here are two things you can focus on:
- Write another book. Multiple books create momentum. Look at the army of fans that Game of Thrones had before the TV Show launched. How did George R.R Martin build that? By setting up and writing the books as a series. Do you have a series of books you could write? A series is a great way to build your brand, a list, and to keep traffic growing with increased interest in your books.
- Build your business on the back end. Create a business around your book with coaching, a course, or an automated email course that gets readers engaged after they are finished your book. They want to know more about you and so, if you have a business set up to kick in for subscribers, this is the start of what could be a great author business.
Launching a book is a combination of strategy, imagination, and hard work. If you have a great book to promote and a team of people (a small team will do) backing you up, you can have a great launch that gets your book into the hands of your market.
With every book launch, there is more to learn. If you keep launching, you’ll get better. And as you get better, you’ll get more fans. Eventually, you can turn your launch into a massive movement with thousands of fans standing behind you pushing your book towards New York Times Bestseller status or get featured in The Wall Street Journal.