How to Launch a #1 Best-Selling Book — The 5-Day Plan That Works
Book launches can be frustrating.
You dedicate a few weeks—even months—to writing the book. Then you spend a week or so promoting it. Finally, when the dust settles, you’re “rewarded” with a handful of daily sales.
But here’s the interesting thing…
Book launches aren’t that complicated
In fact, here at Authority.pub, we use a minimalist approach to launch our books. This is a strategy that adheres to the “80/20 rule” where we focus on the strategies that get results and ignore everything else.
With that in mind, in this post, I will detail the exact, day-by-day launch plan that generated 2,000 sales for our latest book in five days and was firmly positioned on the #1 spot in two top-level categories on Amazon.
But I have to warn you — it’s a strategy that requires long-term thinking and a dedication to building an actual business.
The good news? It’s also a strategy that can be easily repeated by any author who is dedicated to writing good books and building a loyal group of readers.
Let’s get to it!
A Little Background…
Before we dive into the content, let me introduce myself.
My name is Steve Scott.
I’m one of the three co-owners of Authority.pub (with Barrie Davenport and Ron Clendenin.) We are also the hosts of the Authority Self-Publishing show.
One of the strategies we strongly recommend is the “$0.99 Book Launch Plan.”
It works like this:
- You focus on building a large audience of readers interested in your niche or genre.
- You get these readers on an email list and strengthen this relationship.
- You launch the book for a low price (usually for $0.99), promoting it heavily for five to seven days.
- You increase the book price to $2.99 or higher after the launch.
While you need a solid foundation to pull off this plan, it’s far superior to the “free launch” strategy that you see recommended by lots of other people.
To show you what I mean, here are a few numbers (and assorted vanity metrics) from the recent launch of 10-Minute Digital Declutter which I co-authored with Barrie:
- 2,082 sales during the launch
- #1 Spot in both the top-level Self-Help and the Business & Investing categories
- #163 overall ranking
Not bad for a brand new book, right?
(If you like what you see so far, please share this post on Facebook and/or Twitter.)
To show proof of these results, here is a screenshot I just grabbed:
(Click to Enlarge)
Now, I believe these results are repeatable by any author who focuses on producing quality books.
You don’t need to waste your time on hundreds of free book promotion sites.
Or do a “review swap” with dozens of other authors.
Or beg your friends and family to buy your book.
If you look at the top book promotion sites (like BookBub), you see that their entire business is based on a massive list, full of targeted readers.
The interesting thing?
You don’t need a massive list to be successful as an author.
Really, all you need is a few hundred subscribers who are willing to buy, read, and review your books. That is enough to gain traction on any book platform.
Email marketing is a lengthy topic, which we plan to extensively cover on this blog and in future podcast episodes. Until then, I recommend a few free resources and an article that has a great idea you should implement immediately:
- Email Marketing Blueprint (This an old book that I wrote. I have to warn you that some of the information is a little dated. But the overall plan is very similar to the one I’m using to build to my book-based list.)
- Best Email Marketing Practices as an Author (An episode from my “Self-Publishing Questions” )
- What Messages Do You Send to an Email List? (Another episode from the podcast.)
- Chapter Upgrades: Can You Get Half Your Readers To Join Your Newsletter? (An article by Kevin Kruse where details a strategy to turn readers into subscribers.)
Now, let’s talk about the numbers.
Specifically, I’d like to go over what we spent on producing the book and why it’s important to track these numbers.
How Much Does It Cost to Produce a Book?
The costs of producing a book can quickly add up. But this money is a worthwhile investment. If you want to sell lots of copies, then you need to treat each book like a long-term asset.
For instance, here’s what we spent on the production of 10-Minute Digital Declutter:
- Copyediting: $206.85
- Proof Reading: $183
- eBook Formatting: $183
- Stock Image (for Cover): $33
- Cover Design: $175
- Print Book Formatting: $213
- Audiobook Production: $813
I use three different services to help with post-production:
- An editor
- A cover designer
- Archangel Ink for everything else (You can get more information about their service here: http://archangelink.com/ )
So why is it important to track these costs?
Because they tell you how much you can afford to pay for the production of your books.
When you do this enough times, you’ll have a crystal clear understanding of where you can spend a little extra money in order to “level up” the quality of your books.
As an example, using the above numbers, I know that it costs: $780.85 to produce an eBook, $213 for the print book and $813 for the audiobook.
Then I take these numbers and compare them to what I generate in the first few weeks of a launch.
According to the super-slick Book Report app, the eBook version of 10MDD has generated $1,181.57 in earnings so far—a little more than $400 in profit so far—just in the first week. Woo hoo!
Obviously, these numbers don’t include the print and audiobook versions, which are my long-term “investments.” But the point here is I know exactly when I’ve reached a break-even point on a new book. After that, everything else is gravy.
I recommend tracking these numbers on a book-by-book basis. After doing this a few times, you’ll have a rough idea of what a typical book makes in the first few weeks. Then you can use this information to improve the quality of your next book. Like investing in better editing, formatting, cover design or even professionally written sales copy.
Okay, you now understand the importance of knowing your numbers, so let’s dive into the few pre-launch strategies we executed.
(Side Note: You might notice that I’ve included the metric of “time required.” The reason is that we want to show you it’s not necessary to spend a lot of time launching a book to a group of targeted readers. In fact, you could easily fit it into any busy schedule.)
Pre-Launch Strategies for 10-Minute Digital Declutter
10 Minute Digital Declutter was published on November 10th and officially launched on November 16th. This gave us less than a week to generate early buzz and get a few early reviews.
Here are three strategies we implemented:
Table of Contents
#1. Used Facebook to Get Initial Feedback
(Time Required: 20 minutes to post and respond to comments)
I wanted to generate a bit of initial interest for the book, but I was also a little unsure about the very clunky sub-title that I came up with: “The Simple Habit to Eliminate Overwhelm from Technology, Social Media, and Online Distractions.” (Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?)
So I posted this to my personal Facebook account:
There were a decent amount of likes and comments. But the most important piece of feedback was from Hung Pham who politely told me that the sub-title needed to be tweaked.
Honestly — after reviewing the sub-title, I realized Hung was right. It definitely needed some improvement.
Fortunately, Hung was nice enough to provide an alternative title, which we liked:
“The Simple Habit to Eliminate Technology Overload”
So a big public hat tip to Hung for this suggestion.
The point I want to make here is sometimes you won’t know if a title or cover will work until you start showing it to people!
#2. Use Amazon Marketing Services to Build Momentum
(Time Required: 5 minutes to set up the ad and targeting)
I hesitate to mention Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) because it’s easy to lose a lot of money in a short amount of time. To be honest, we’re still testing AMS. But we’re starting to get some good traction with it during book launch week.
During the pre-launch week, I paid for an ad where I spent $69.02 and generated 39 sales. At the 35% royalty rate on a $0.99 book, this works out to be a revenue of $13.51 or a loss of $55.51. Maybe not the best investment, but it’s useful for getting a few early sales.
#3. Leveraged My Street Team and Facebook Followers
(Time Required: 60 minutes to send out the emails that my VA queued up and to respond to Facebook requests.)
If you’ve already published a few books, then you have readers who know, like and trust you. These are the people you should contact when you need early reviews on your books.
One of the techniques I use to get early reviews is to leverage what’s known as a “street team,” which is basically a list of readers who like your books and are willing to leave early reviews.
Prior to launching 10-Minute Digital Declutter, I sent Advanced Reader’s Copies (ARC) to street team members and a few folks who expressed interest for the book on Facebook.
Building a street team is another lengthy topic, so I recommend these two posts:
Now…to be 100% transparent…I’m starting to see significant diminishing returns on the response from my street team.
It’s the biggest negative to publishing over 20 books.
Simply put—people get tired of being asked to review books.
So, now that the launch has completed, one of my top priorities is to do a major overhaul of my autoresponder sequence with the goal of turning casual fans into loyal readers who review books.
Well, as you can see, I didn’t do a whole lot to build pre-launch buzz, so let’s go over the five-day launch plan.
The 5-Day Launch Plan for 10-Minute Digital Declutter
Now let’s talk about the day-by-day launch strategy that we recommend. As you’re about to see, it doesn’t take too long to execute because the hard work goes into building the email list.
The following is a daily breakdown of the strategies we executed. Plus, I also included the amount of time we took to complete each action.
Day 1 (November 16th, 2015)
(Time Required: 60 minutes to write an email and reply back to subscribers)
The first day took a whole 60 minutes to complete.
I did two things on this day:
- Sent an email to my “habits” email list
- Replied back to anyone who responded to the email
As you can see below, the message wasn’t very sophisticated. It’s simply a quick blurb that describes the content, with links to the book on Amazon.
Subject Line: 10-Minute Habit to Declutter Your Digital Life
Do you struggle with your digital life?
For instance, do you spend too much time on social media? Or get frustrated with your disorganized devices? Or simply get tired of technology overwhelm?
If that sounds like you, then you should check out the latest book I’ve published with Barrie Davenport.
As always, this book will only be $0.99 (or the equivalent in your country) for a few days. So grab it now to learn the psychology and step-by-step strategies to simplify your digital life.
Here’s the link:
Steve “S.J.” Scott
Here are the results of this message:
- 26% Open Rate
- 21% Click-Thru Rate of Opens
These are okay numbers, but I’ve seen much better in the past. So this is yet another reminder that I need to overhaul my autoresponder sequence and do a better job of building connections with subscribers.
Here are the results for Day 1:
- 656 Units Sold
- 1,506 Kindle Pages Read
As part of our strategy, Barrie waited a day to send out a similar email to her list to spread out the number of sales over several days. She did write and publish a blog post on her blog, Live Bold and Bloom, letting her readers know that the book was available and on sale.
Day 2 (November 17th, 2015)
(Time Required: 90 minutes to write an email to my self-publishing list, create a Facebook Ad and write a blog post)
I spent most of the second day working on other projects. But I managed to write a quick blog post, mention the book in an email to my self-publishing list and create two Facebook ads (I targeted email subscribers and anyone who “liked” my author page.)
Facebook is another platform that I’m still trying to figure out. It’s not profitable for small-ticket items (like a $0.99 book), but it can be a great tool for building an email list or selling a book bundle.
We sometimes use Facebook ads during a book launch because it can generate a few extra sales. But I’ve never had a “profitable book launch campaign.” Instead, we run these ads knowing we’ll lose money in the short-term, but will eventually get it back when the book starts to gain traction.
Here is an example of the ad that I used:
And here is what this ad generated:
- $61.56 Ad Spend
- 128 Clicks
- $0.48 Cost-Per-Click
- 53 Sales
- $52.47 Gross Revenue
- $18.36 in Royalties
-$43.20 Loss in Net Revenue
Like I said…not profitable at all.
But we’re willing to lose a bit of money to help promote a brand new book.
Meanwhile on Day 2, Barrie sent out an email to her list, and because she has a high-traffic site, she put a banner ad promoting the book in the top right sidebar position of her blog. She also shared her blog post on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
Here are the results from the end of Day 2:
- 292 Units Sold
- 1,423 Kindle Pages Read
Day 3 (November 18th, 2015)
(Time Required: 5 minutes to send an email to Buck Books)
BuckBooks is one of my favorite book promotion websites. They have a pretty large email list that they’ve carefully built in the past two years. So whenever I launch a book, I always shoot off a quick email and see if they can fit it into the schedule.
Unfortunately getting a BuckBooks promotion isn’t guaranteed because they get solicitations from lots of authors. What I do know is they often give preference to anyone who uses their Archangel book production services. (Hint, hint.)
Now, if BuckBooks isn’t an option, there are many other paid ad sites where you can advertise a new book.
In fact, Dave Chesson has two blog posts that can help you find the best sites for your particular book. The first is a review of 79 book promotion sites available to authors. The second is a two-step process for analyzing each site to really know if it’s worth the price for a promotion.
Paid ads can definitely help with a book launch. The trick is to know where to spend your money.
(Side Note: This “Black Friday,” I’m holding a massive sale on five of my books. A big part of this event is are a dozen paid ads…including BookBub…which I will carefully track during the next week. So I’ll be sure to write a follow up post that details the results from this campaign.)
Anyway, here are the results from the end of Day 3:
- 291 Units Sold
- 1,550 Kindle Pages Read
Day 4 (November 19th, 2015)
(Time Required: 30 minutes to send a reminder email)
Thursday was a light day.
The only thing that I did was a send a “last-chance” email to subscribers that reminded them that launch price was ending on early Saturday. I also used the P.S. as an opportunity to lightly “introduce” the Black Friday sales event. Barrie also sent an email reminder to her list.
Here is this message:
Subject Line: Ends on Saturday, November the 21st
Early this week, I wrote you about my latest book co-authored with Barrie Davenport, which is called 10-Minute Digital Declutter: The Simple Habit to Eliminate Technology Overload.
So today I want to remind you that the launch sales price of $0.99 (or the equivalent in your county) will end early Saturday, November 21st.
This book is perfect anyone who has a disorganized digital devices. Or feels overwhelmed by technology. Or simply wants to spend less time online.
What we show in 10-Minute Digital Declutter is how to simplify your technology and spend more time on the things that truly matter.
Here are the links again:
Steve “S.J.” Scott
P.S. If you like discounted books, then you’ll love what I’m putting together for next week. Once again, I’m dropping down the price of five books down to $0.99. Stay tuned for more details on this.
As you can see, this was another short email. It had a decent open rate, but the click-thru rate was lower because most subscribers either bought the book or simply weren’t interested.
- 29% Open Rate
- 12% Click Thru Rate from Opens
It doesn’t seem like much, but this “last chance” email always generates a decent number of sales in the final two days of a book launch. And here are the Day 4 results to prove it:
- 474 Units Sold
- 2,293 Kindle Pages Read
Day 5 (November 20th, 2015)
(Time Required: 60 minutes to send an email to self-publishing list and reply back to a few respondents)
On the final day of the launch, I wanted to give the book one last “push” to maintain the consistency of sales. I knew that some of the subscribers of my self-publishing list might be interested in the book, but I also didn’t want to push it too hard because we’re more concerned with building an audience for this blog and the podcast.
So instead of directly promoting 10-Minute Digital Declutter, I simply mentioned that the book is about to go up to the full-price, but I mostly asked subscribers if they were interested in seeing a case study about this launch. Then I directed them to a post in our Facebook Fan Page.
I didn’t think it would generate too many sales, but by the end of Day 5, the units sold weren’t that bad:
- 370 Daily Sales
- 3,387 Kindle Pages Read
The Final Tally
Before we move on to the “after-launch” actions, I’d like to detail the final tally for the promotion of 10-Minute Digital Declutter:
- Total Units Sold: 2,082
- Total Kindle Pages Read: 10,159
- Total Time Required: 5.5 hours
This doesn’t amount to a whole lot of money (or time invested), but it’s usually enough to get the ball rolling on a new book. And usually, the “magic” happens in the weeks after a good launch. So let’s talk about that next.
Days 6 to 8 (November 21st through November 23rd)
Early on the sixth day, I changed the price from $0.99 to $2.99. So far, the results have been pretty decent:
- 99 Units Sold
- 4,075 Kindle Pages Read
- 99 Units Sold
- 3,413 Kindle Pages Read
Day 8: (As I’m writing this blog post)
- 72 Units Sold
- 3,092 Kindle Pages Read
So far, the sales are pretty consistent. This often happens when you launch a book for $0.99. That’s because Amazon often gives “preference” to a book that gets a steady amount of sales instead of a sudden spike (and the drop) in a 48 hour period.
Once Amazon sees this consistency, they almost always give a little bit of extra exposure on their Top 100 lists, “Customer Also Boughts,” and in direct email campaigns. None of this is guaranteed, but it’s what typically happens when they see a lot of buzz around a specific book.
I have mixed feelings about this book launch. While it was better than the last two, it pales in comparison to what I’ve done in the past. I think part of the problem is I basically took a six-month hiatus for my wedding, honeymoon and other random personal projects. But excuses aside, there are a few things I’d like to work on for the next launch:
#1. Improve my autoresponder sequence and strengthen the relationship that I have with subscribers.
#2. Scrub this email list, deleting people who haven’t opened emails in the past six months. Not only will this improve my open rates, it will positively impact the overall deliverability of this list.
#3. Remember the “small things.” In past launches, I ran ads through Hello Bar, and my “thank you” page. These ads only amounted to a few dozen sales, but every little bit counts, right? Honestly… I simply forgot to do these two actions.
Moving forward, I’m going to revamp the 46 part checklist I use for my books and include more of the small tasks that could snowball into a lot of sales.
In my opinion, every book launch provides an opportunity to:
- Test new things.
- See what works.
- Improve on your overall marketing plan.
It doesn’t matter how many book launches you’ve completed, there is always something new you can learn and add to your book marketing toolbox.
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Well, thanks for taking the time to read this post.
At almost 4,000 words, it was one of the longest blog articles that I’ve ever written.