Whether you publish traditionally or independently, you will want to do as much as possible to help launch your book. Here are 18 things I found helpful in the launch of my debut picture book, A Morning With Grandpa, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books):
1-2 Years Out
About the time you sign your contract (or when writing your book) is the time to connect with others.
1. Join a writing community. Finding your tribe means having people in your corner supporting your launch. My peeps are my critique group, members of the 12x12 picture book challenge, and friends I’ve met through the SCBWI.
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2. Develop an author platform. Reaching a broad audience will help increase your book’s visibility. Two and a half years ago, my friend Elaine Kiely Kearns and I started a kid lit resource website, kidlit411.com. Named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers, its success has deepened my connections with the kid lit community. Also helpful are an author website, blog, and social media presence.
3. Join forces with others. Debut authors can join groups like The Sweet Sixteens (2016 YA/MG debuts). My picture book debut group, On the Scene in 2016, allows us to cross-promote each other’s books. (2017 debut authors, check out The Swanky Seventeens for YA/MG and Picture the Books for PB).
4-6 Months Out
4. Coordinate with your publisher. Talk with your publisher’s marketing people to find out what they do for authors. Lee and Low promoted the book through their usual channels and supported our blog tour by providing images and sending out review/giveaway copies.
5. Work with your illustrator (or author) if you have a picture book. Christina Forshay and I shared blog tour tasks; she made bookmarks, stickers, and coloring pages; and we created a book trailer together.
6. Build buzz. As you see evidence that your book is a real thing, share your excitement by sharing the cover, online listings, and early reviews.
7. Create author profiles. Once your book is listed online, create author profiles on Amazon’s Author Central and sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing to connect with readers.
8. Develop a media kit. Create a Dropbox folder with profile photos, bios, cover, fact sheet, and review excerpts to share with others. Contact local media.
9. Organize a blog tour. Contact bloggers and offer to write guest posts, answer interview questions, and give away signed copies. Keep track of requests, to dos, and deadlines. Our tour included 15 stops in a 3-week period.
10. Contact bookstores for a launch party. Contact your local indie store and/or the community relations manager at your local Barnes & Noble. I ended up planning a launch party at my indie bookstore, Prince Books, and a story-time at Barnes & Noble.
2 Months Out
11. Create a book trailer. The verdict is out whether a book trailer helps, but Christina and I thought one would be fun. The rough cut we commissioned was not what we envisioned, so we made a trailer ourselves. Christina learned to animate using Keynote and I put together the trailer in iMovie. We premiered our trailer on Scholastic Ambassador for Libraries Mr. Schu’s blog, Watch. Learn. Connect.
12. Write tour posts. Give yourself plenty of time to write blog content.
One Month Out
13. Plan the launch party. Think about activities tied to your book. For example, my tai chi class did a demo. Send invitations. Create a Facebook event.
14. Notify friends and family. Reach out to your extended list of contacts to share your book news. If sending an email, bcc the recipients and only send in the spirit of sharing good news to avoid running afoul of email spam laws.
15. Run Goodreads and LibraryThing giveaways. These develop awareness and buzz.
16. Arrange for signed copies. Arrange with your indie bookstore to stock and sell signed copies, or send signed bookplates to those who buy your books. Some authors send goodies or other giveaways to those who preorder books.
1-2 Weeks Prior
17. Nail down launch party details. Bring Sharpies for signing books. Plan activities and refreshments. Practice what you’ll say. Bring your author copies in case the store sells out.
18. Promote your tour. Once your blog tour is up, support participating bloggers by replying to commenters and sharing the posts widely.
This is your day. Enjoy it!
Marketing your book doesn’t end at the launch. Pursue guest blogs, school visits, or events. Take advantage of travel plans. For example, when I went to D.C., a good friend offered to host a D.C. launch party and another friend organized a school visit.
Do you have other suggestions for helping launch a book? Please share.
You're an author on a tight budget. Or, maybe you've got some money, but you're tired of wasting it on marketing that didn't work. You've poured everything into writing your book hoping to move thousands of readers with your words. You've dreamed, hoped, maybe even prayed, that your book sales would take off. But, that reality has yet to come true. It doesn't seem fair for your dream to die just because you don't have thousands of dollars to spend on marketing. Is selling a lot of books only reserved for the elite authors with big budgets? No.