How I’m Marketing My Self-Published Book
I haven’t put it up for sale yet, but it will be released once it makes it through this final pass. And then the marketing begins…
In this post, I’m going to reveal my entire plan for launching my self-published book. I’m doing this for a few reasons:
(1) It holds me accountable,
(2) It’s a nice way to organize my plan into a checklist,
(3) I like being transparent and helping people.
There are ZERO secrets or innovative gems in my plan; all of this stuff has been done before. I’m mostly just copying techniques that I know will work. My strategy is based on lessons I’ve learned directly from bestselling authors whom I’ve worked with and studied under. Specifically:
Laying The Foundation
- How to Self-Publish a Bestseller by James Altucher
- How to Make $1,000,000 Selling E-books by Tim Ferriss
- 12 Lessons Learned While Marketing The 4-Hour Body by Charlie Hoehn
- Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl
- How I Sold 1 Million E-Books in 5 Months by John Locke
- List: My Favorite Marketing Books
- List: My Favorite Self-Publishing Bookmarks on Delicious
Dealing with Doubt
Alright, so that covers where I am right now, PRE-launch. I have a lot working in my favor, but that doesn’t mean I’m kissing my biceps and high-fiving strangers. There are plenty of things I’m still worried about…
For one, I’m afraid I won’t be able to help my most desperate readers. The thing I’ve learned from my anxiety post is that there are a ton of people out there who have crippling anxiety because of extremely difficult pasts (victims of rape, incest, physical abuse). They’ve unquestionably gone through far worse than I have, and a lot of them will come to me with their wallets out, asking to take the pain away. I have serious doubts that my solution will be theirs. Still, I hope it helps, and for anyone who’s unhappy, I’ll provide a full refund. Just know that my book is primarily for workaholics and people with General Anxiety Disorder.
Two, I occasionally feel weird talking about my anxiety. I love talking about play and what helped me get better, but it’s strange for me to talk about the emotional pain I went through. That part of my life wasn’t exactly rainbows and sunshine, and talking about it occasionally evokes a twinge of residual pain. I have a lot of sympathy for people dealing with these issues, and I hope my story will make them feel less alone AND give them a clear plan to heal themselves. Still, I feel strange admitting I went through that whole ordeal.
Three, I’m afraid I’m overextending myself big time in this launch (see below). I can already see there’s A LOT for me to handle, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull all of this stuff off the way I’ve planned it. I’m still trying to figure out which tasks I can successfully delegate. That’s always been an issue for me; swallowing my pride and giving ownership to someone else. It’s foolish and it wastes time for me to tackle everything. I wish I had a team of smart people working together in the same room as me, but alas, I do not.
Finally, I’m walking in the footsteps of some pretty big giants. I want to pay tribute to all of the people who helped me get my foothold in this world. I don’t want to screw this up, because I really don’t have many excuses. There’s so much in my favor.
Preparation for the Launch
There are a number of things I’ve been doing to prepare for a successful book launch. Here they are:
- Beta readers. Instead of having a publisher edit my book, I had 30 beta readers edit my book for free (you can read how I pulled this off here). The group consisted of professional authors, world-class journalists, freelance copywriters and editors, ghostwriters, teachers, and grad students. These people now have a vested interest in seeing the book succeed, and I’ll encourage them to leave a thoughtful Amazon review when it’s up for sale.
- Finished the product. So many pieces to this, but here are a few important ones that I spent a lot of time on… Tucker Max helped me come up with a great title (haven’t announced yet, but it’s critical to have something people can comfortably recommend to their friends). I just finished the back cover copy the other day (super important for converting Amazon browsers to buyers). The amazingly talented Erin Tyler designed my cover, and Ryan Case did the photography. I can’t wait to do a post on the cover alone, because the book looks incredible. [Sidenote: I bought my ISBN and barcode through Bowker, NOT Createspace — the latter prevents you from listing your book on other online retailers.]
- Youtube video trailers. This is a HUGE part of my marketing I put a lot of effort into. I made not one, but seven trailers. It’s a standalone series on healing anxiety that’s intended to be useful to Youtube viewers for years to come (rather than just doing a single promotional trailer for the book). I currently have the #1 result on Google for “cure anxiety,” so I’ll be aiming to have some of the top results on Youtube as well (the #2 search engine on the internet). All of the videos in the series will link to each other, so if one takes off, the others hopefully will too. Tim Stiefler and Mitchell Shotts are making the videos (they’re based in Austin, you can see some of their work here). We still need to make a video summary for the book, which I’ll post on the Amazon book page.
- Set up email drip sequence for book. I want people who are on the fence to have free access to most of the book’s content, including the video trailers. One way I’m going to do this is by having them sign up for a “10 Day Anxiety Healer Course” (or some name like that). Each day, they’ll get an email from me with a quick lesson and a simple assignment. After a few days, I’ll start gently reminding them that they can buy the book to get all the content. (FYI — Tim Grahl specializes in helping authors create email platforms and sequences for their books.)
- Set up book’s website. I actually still need to get this taken care of. Scroll to the bottom of this post if you think you can help me.
- Optimize PDF for sharing / conversion, publish to Bittorrent Bundles. I’m going to split the book up into a series of PDF’s that people can pirate. It will be optimized for (A) sharing on social media, and (B) buying the book on Amazon. I have ZERO issues with people pirating my content. For me, it’s free advertising. I know it’s going to happen anyway, so might as well plan for it. Plus, I pirated a lot of media in my high school and college years, so it’s sort of the least I can do :) I might include a few handwritten notes in the PDF, saying something like “Hey Pirate Buddy- For the same price as a burrito, you can own the real deal. But if you don’t want to buy the book, would you send this PDF to someone you think it could help? Arrrr (Love), Charlie.”
- Over-deliver for readers. Hopefully this comes through when you go through the book — I’ve got bonus materials and helpful content out the wazoo. I focused heavily on giving the reader an incredible, personal experience (more on that in #11).
- Bonus gifts for people who buy multiple copies. Tim did this in the Land Rush promotion for The 4-Hour Body, and it worked really well (15K copies sold in three days). I’ll going to offer bonus gifts for people who buy 1, 3, 30, 300, and 1000 copies. I’ll have a clear picture on the blog for each package, showing what you’ll be getting in an image AND brief video trailer (with a prominent “BUY NOW” button). I’ll also have a system set up to automatically distribute bonus gifts for purchases of 1-30 copies.
- Repackage content and optimize for social media. I have a lot of great quotes in my book from hugely successful people who made their living by playing. I took those and made them into shareable visuals for a variety of platforms (Slideshare, Pinterest, Youtube). Not sure how well they’ll do, but we’ll see.
- Schedule guest posts and podcasts. I’m aiming to have all of my guest content appear on sites within 48 hours (Monday and Tuesday). The goal of my content is that it will be USEFUL and ACTIONABLE, which means the reader will be able to immediately change their life, in some way, for the better. It’s important to ensure the headline and content for each article is brag-worthy (i.e. the reader feels like they’re elevating their status by sharing it with their friends). For top sites, I’ll aim to do multiple guest posts. When I have data on my best performing guest posts (# of shares, # of click-thrus to Amazon), I’ll send those articles to influencers I know to share with their audience.
- Video trailer for support group, and post-purchase “Thank You” video. I’m going to offer a 6-week support group for readers who buy the book. The book will be enough by itself for healing anxiety, especially if you’re a Do-It-Yourselfer. But if you want personal attention, better understanding of the material, and accountability, you will probably want to be in the support group too. It will contain 6 hour-long workshops where I’ll go over that week’s content and any reader questions. Readers will have to apply to ensure the quality of the group is really high. In the application, I’m going to ask what the reader’s biggest obstacle is for overcoming their anxiety, so I can focus on overcoming those obstacles in each lesson. I’ll also need to gather contact info (email, phone, mailing address). After they’ve filled out the application, they’ll see what place they are “in line” and how many are “behind them.” People who apply but don’t get in will still walk away happy — they’ll get a bonus of some sort. It will cost at least 10X more than the book to be a part of the group. You can sign up to get notified when the support group’s application is open here.
- Publish book through Createspace. The book will be available in the following formats: Paperback, Amazon Kindle Ebook, Apple iBooks, and PDF (DRM-free). I’ll release it in the top 4 English markets (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia). The two categories I’ve chosen for my book are not crazy competitive, which will increase my likelihood of hitting the #1 spot in both of them during marketing week. My categories are: (1) Health, Fitness & Dieting > Mental Health > Anxiety Disorders; (2) Business & Investing › Business Life › Health & Stress. I’m going to enroll in KDP Select so I can promote the book for free to Amazon Prime members at some point.
- Set up tracking. I’m going to use App Annie for Ebooks, and NovelRank.
- Ask for reviews from beta readers. All of my beta readers will be given a free copy of the final book, and I’ll ask them to leave an Amazon review. But I won’t just ask — I’m going to show them how to leave an honest, helpful, and thorough review. This is important for two reasons: (1) The best review you get in the early days will often be the best review forever (other people on Amazon vote for it and it stays in the top spot); (2) Most people won’t know what to do unless you tell them. To make it crystal clear what reviewers need to do, I’m going to show a few case studies of excellent book reviews. I won’t tell them to leave a 5-star review; I just need them to be honest. If they felt certain parts of the book were weak, they should let other potential readers know. One other thing I’ll do: Record video interviews with people who make great case studies, edit the videos, then ask those people to post them on Amazon.
- Announce book to my email list. This will be a soft launch. My main focus is to get a ton of Amazon reviews (ideally 100) so that the book’s sales page will convert well going forward.
- Bonus gifts for book buyers! Major incentives to buy the book. Different packages if you buy 1, 3, 30, 300, or 1000 — and one Golden Ticket. I won’t reveal those gifts now, but they will be very worthwhile.
- Live webinar. On the big day (either Monday or Tuesday), I’m going to do an extended live webinar where I talk about the book, discuss my marketing efforts, and connect with readers.
- Keep my email list informed. The 5,000 people subscribed to my newsletter will get updates on the book and special offers throughout the week.
- Guest posts. Assistants will help me monitor discussions about the book, keeping me posted on which comments I need to jump on.
- Reddit AMA. This will be a bit challenging (and might fall totally flat) but I’ve seen it work well for other authors. I’ll probably give away the book to Redditors through BitTorrent. Need to have assistants pre-loading common questions to kick off the discussion. I experimented with this awhile back and got slammed for coming across as too pitchy. Need to be careful and genuine with this audience.
- Ask readers to promote the book to friends. Asking readers to post on Facebook isn’t enough. I want people to email friends, or gift the book to them through Amazon. I want them to say exactly why they need to read the book, why it will change their life. Or best of all, I want them to tell their friend face-to-face while they’re playing. I’ll give readers a short checklist of ways they can give the book to people they care about.
- Book launch party. I’m not sure if this will work at all, and I’m pretty positive it won’t move any books. Still, I’d like to give it a shot… Instead of doing a traditional book launch party, where I invite a couple hundred people I barely know to a nice venue, I want to invite everyone to go out and play with their friends. I’ll make a public invitation on Facebook, with a compelling and honest description — something you’d say to your friend after a few drinks — and a call to unplug for a few hours. Then I’ll list all the best play activities they could do. If this gains any traction, I’ll link to the event in some of my guest posts. The picture(s), title, and description of the event are critical for this to take off, but I’m not sure if it will work. Worst case scenario: it doesn’t, and oh well.
- Announce support group and workshops. I’ll do a live webinar for people who bought the book, where I’ll announce details. Applications will open up, I’ll sort through them, collect payment, then commence the 6-week program.
- Contact Amazon KDP newsletter, GalleyCat, Publishers Weekly, and GoodReads. I’m going to give them my sales data, and the results of my launch efforts. If they decide to write about my book and share my results, it will help other self-pub authors, validate the book, and give me another round of marketing.
- Make video trailers public on Youtube. After the launch dies down, I’m going to switch my video series on healing anxiety from “Unlisted” to “Public” so everyone can access them.
- Set up Wikipedia page. For me, and my book.
- Record the audiobook. I’ll record this at my friend’s podcast studio (though these guys are supposedly the best audiobook producers in the business). Then I’ll publish it through Audible by going through ACX. Once again, I’ll get a bunch of reviews up before promoting this.
- Focus on selling in bulk to businesses, organizations, and schools. This is going to be a HUGE part of my ongoing marketing. I’m far more interested in selling a ton of copies with one transaction then having to continually convince thousands of individuals to buy a single copy. For any company that buys 300+ books, I’ll speak at their venue (in the beginning, at least).
- Answer Quora questions related to anxiety. Just like guest posts, I’ll write evergreen answers that people can continually refer to, with a soft sell on my book.
- Make Udemy course on curing anxiety. I’ll take the best lessons I learn from running my support group, and package them and the book into a video course people can take.
- Secure international rights. Only if the book does well and there’s demand overseas. James Altucher recommends this service.
After all of this is done, and assuming the book is a success, I will talk to traditional publishers. The book needs to do really well through online sales for several months. If that’s the case, I will approach traditional publishers, show them my sales numbers, tell them I need help getting my book in stores, and offer a proposal.
Bookstores still sell books, and it’d be a dream to see mine prominently displayed in a Hudson’s or B&N or Tattered Cover. But after the launch, I don’t need a publisher’s help with anything but physical distribution. All of their other responsibilities have been covered.
“But Why Aren’t You…?”
There are a lot of things I’m NOT doing to launch my book. Here’s what’s missing, and here’s why I’m not doing it:
- Why Every Entrepreneur Should Self-Publish a Book by James Altucher
- Self-Publishing by the Numbers (infographic)
- 21 Book Publishing Predictions for 2013: Indie Ebook Authors Take Charge by Mark Coker
- Déjà Vu All Over Again by Shawn Coyne
- Everything I Know About Self-Publishing (collaborative document)
- My Amazon Best-Seller Made Me Nothing (this is the financial reality for most authors, self-pub or not)
What I Really Need Help With…
I’ve received a lot of emails from friendly people. They usually sign off with this:
“If you need help with anything, just let me know.”
I appreciate what these people are offering (which is “anything”). The problem is that I’m never going to take them up on this offer. Ever. I have no idea what they can do for my book, so that gesture — while it makes them feel good to include — doesn’t compute for me.
You want to help with the book? Well, you’ve read the post and you know what I’m planning. If it’s not obvious, here are some of my biggest pain points:
- Making the book’s website. My designer friend doesn’t have time to put this together, so I need help making a basic website for the book. This is a relatively easy task BUT I don’t want to hand it off to someone who hasn’t done great / similar work in the past. If you’re interested, send me your portfolio.
- Figuring out how the upsell for the support group will flow. The last thing I want is to leave the book buyer with a feeling of “Really? Already trying to f-ing upsell me?” I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to pull this off with the video I’m going to shoot, but it’s the actual sales page I’m worried about. I want to put something together that will make them feel confident that they’re making the right decision, and gently nudge people away who don’t need the upsell. If you’ve worked on sales funnels, send me a description of what you’ve worked on (and the results you got).
- Converting blog visitors to buyers. I’m getting roughly 1,000 people per day reading the article. I have a sign up form at the bottom to collect email addresses, but I’ll really need to be able to convert these people to buy the book. If you have any expertise in conversion, tell me your story.
If you have questions for me on the content in this post, please leave a comment below.
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