The publishing world floods with titles each year, followed by a rush of promotional efforts by publishers, authors, and organizations to try and stay afloat atop the currents competing for peoples' attention. As publisher watch their marketing budgets carefully, many authors have taken to forming book launch teams to promote their titles. Book launch teams were arguably first popularized by Michael Hyatt and his best-selling book, Platform (edited by my friend Jamie Chavez). The concept was then well-develop\ed by Jeff Goins as he shared his experiences. Book launch teams are an especially appealing strategy for self-published authors. In fact, they are now so popular that book launch guru Tim Grahl is able to make a living helping authors do them well.
Due to various factors, I knew that I was going to have two prominent books coming out within a five-month span. TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATIONS is a book designed for the Christian ministry resources community (and a finalist for Christian book of the year in 2016!). In its shadow cameTHE SELF-AWARE LEADER, a book that I had been working on for over five years and one that I knew would need to have a strong launch.
And it did. For its first two weeks, THE SELF-AWARE LEADER was the #1 New Release in THREE Amazon categories – Church Leadership, Pastoral Resources, and Christian Business and Professional Growth. That was such a delight to see and I owe so much to my book launch team for helping it get a strong start.
However, while we had a great team who worked very hard, I learned quite a few lessons in the process and will definitely do some things differently for my next book. Though some are specific to a launching a book, there are some embedded principles for all of us who lead other types of teams. So, here are 5 important lessons I learned about book launch teams:
- Book launch teams work. They take work, but they do work. The effort it requires of us is good for us. We have to think of “why” someone would want to help (and provide incentives) and we have to think about why someone would want to buy the book at all. If you get strong people on board, their creativity and drive will push us past our common excuses and try some things that are fresh and new. I had 2-3 graphics people whose skill set propelled us forward. We created a landing page for the book as well as an influencer page (thanks to the Growing Young book launch team for that idea) and a series of videos (forthcoming). I could never have created the many resources available now for people to interact with the book and help get the word out.
- Have a minimum of 50 people as part of your team. I admit that I was surprised how few people jumped in to be a part of the book launch team. I love being a part of helping others launch their books and rarely pass up an opportunity to do so. I don't know what happened, but we only had 28 people on our book launch team and that was a bit short of what you'll want to have. This is an area that I will work on for future launches and will work to try and sweeten the incentives a bit (freebies, etc.) so that it's non-ignorable.
- Make an Amazon review a requirement to be part of your team. One thing my first book launch process taught me was that Amazon reviews are of the utmost importance. In all of my conversations with publishers and authors, Amazon reviews are now the Holy Grail of promotion. This is why #2 (above) is super important so that you have a strong push on Amazon as people explore what your book is about. On the other hand, if you have 100 reviews three days after your book is published and all of them are 5 stars, those checking out your book will know what's up.
- You want A) honest reviews and B) reviews that say very specific things about the book's content. So, for instance, one of the aspects of THE SELF-AWARE LEADER that is getting attention is the chapter on conflict (chapter 7). A CEO read the book and said that chapter was particularly good, so he wrote a very helpful review on Amazon. You want reviews like that because they help push people to pick up the book if the benefits are clear.
- The 20/80 rule applies to book launch teams. Most of your work will likely come from 20% of your team. I had five folks who made graphics, wrote promo copy, and interacted with me on a regular basis. Others were quiet throughout the pre-launch season, but then jumped in with an Amazon review and more at launch time. That's great. But, you will also need to be prepared that about a quarter of your group will barely participate and may just fade away. It's not a big deal and you need to allow for a “life happens” reality or that they may not like the book. Which brings me to…….
- A book launch will ignite the author's insecurities. Or at least mine! It's a risk to put your work out there, even in front of friends who commit to helping you launch it. There will be a TON of silence in publishing. And it's always tempting to read into the silence thoughts like “they hate the book,” or even “they don't like me.” Publishing is slower and quieter than our egos (insecurity works to protect the ego) can handle. If a book is good, it will usually gain momentum over time as word of mouth recommendations, THE primary marketing tool, take off.
There are a lot of people making a living online talking about launches, but you can find all that you need about book launch teams via a little bit of research, participating on a book launch team to help another author, and talking with other authors.
And, remember, be sure you're posting Amazon and Goodreads reviews as often as you can to support the authors you care about.