The very words make doom resonate through the universe like the implosion of a black hole. It sends perfectly sane writers running through the streets screaming and gibbering, while others huddle in the corner, under their desks, repeating in a zombie-like drone, “No, Lord, please, no.”
As someone who is getting ready to launch a zany romantic adventure called Lady Law and the Texas DeRangers, I’m familiar with both reactions.
Seriously, though. Authors are well known for their aversion to marketing their own work. Most of us are much more familiar with and enthusiastic about the process of writing itself. But in today’s world of eight hundred gazillion books, you have to step up and promote yourself if you want anyone to read what you’ve worked so hard to create.
It was this realization that led me to learn more about setting up my author platform and launching my books into the universe. Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book, knows a thing or two about book marketing, having launched numerous bestsellers. Enter Sue Campbell, author and Tim Grahl certified book launcher, who was kind enough to answer some of my questions.
Welcome, Sue. Please tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you came to work with author and book marketer Tim Grahl as a Book Launch coach.
I’m a recovering business systems analyst, turned freelance copywriter and content marketer, turned book marketer. I discovered Tim Grahl through the Story Grid. I’m an author myself, so I stumbled onto him when I was trying to fix a manuscript and found out his “day job” was book marketing. His marketing method was very familiar to me: content marketing, but specially adapted for writers. When he announced his certification training, I jumped on it. It was a natural pivot from what I was doing and the perfect niche for me. Now my whole life is about books. It’s fantastic. I’m super lucky.
What exactly is a book launch and why is it important?
First, let’s talk about what a launch isn’t. Lots of people publish books, whether through a traditional publisher or going the indie route. Simply having your book available for purchase does not mean you have “launched” your book. A book launch means you do the work necessary to find an audience. Sometimes that’s done in a tight window of time, sometimes it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. For most authors, I recommend the marathon version of a launch.
There are a few different types of book launches (list launches, influencer launches, bestseller launches, long-game launches), but all of them include trying to get yourself and your book in front of the right audience and putting out content so that audience can decide if they’ll like your book. If you’re not actively working to get your book in front of readers, you haven’t launched—merely published. And without a tremendous stroke of luck, you’re unlikely to sell many copies.
I tell my clients that, essentially, there are three simple things you need to do to market your books:
- Genuinely believe your book will benefit readers
- Meet as many readers as possible
- Tell them you wrote a book
I use a more formal system with my clients that Tim Grahl developed called the Connection System, but those three steps are really at the core of what we’re doing.
What are the biggest challenges you see in authors who are trying to market their work?
The absolute biggest challenge authors face in marketing is their own mindset. Our fears hold us back from putting ourselves and our books out there in a way that attracts an audience. We only do the bits of marketing that feel safe (how many hours have you spent tinkering with your website?). And we tell ourselves lies like, “I’m not good enough; I’m not well connected enough; I don’t have enough time.” If you can change your thoughts, you can improve your marketing and your book sales, by a lot. That’s a big part of the work I do with my clients. We look at their limiting beliefs and try to redefine their thinking about marketing. Once you see that most of your “challenges” are really excuses and resistance, you can get down to business and make some progress.
As an author yourself, what have been your biggest marketing successes?
I really proud that I’m approaching the marketing of my book as a long game. I’m using myself as a model for my clients. I’m not starting out with any huge advantages. I’m showing that drip by drip, you can get your book established and build an audience eager for this book and the next. My book has only been out for a few months, but not a week goes (and I try to do something daily) by that I don’t actively work to market my book. And I’m measuring my efforts so I can tell what works and what doesn’t. That helps me spend my time and resources more effectively. I’m walking my talk and making sure I’m addressing all parts of my author platform, building my email list, putting out great content and doing outreach activities to keep expanding my reach. As for specific successes, I’ve been having great luck with using Instagram for influencer outreach. I’m targeting influencers who are in my niche (middle grade fiction), sending them messages offering a free book, then following up once I’ve sent the book to see if they’d like to do a giveaway for their audience. I’ve increased by Instagram following about threefold and sold some books in the process. As a kidlit writer, I’m also concentrating heavily on setting up school visits, now that a new school year will be underway.
What services do you have available for authors now?
I offer a pretty wide range of services because I love working with both established writers and those just starting out and their needs and budgets are so different. For one-on-one work, I offer book launch services, helping you craft and execute a book launch plan, as well as private coaching where I just tell you what to do and you go do it. For beginning and mid-list authors, I have some group coaching programs to build your platform that are really popular and help authors break through their own resistance and make progress on building their audience. I’m also starting an accountability group that will help authors with mindset issues and goals, not just around marketing, but also with getting writing done.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Sue. Where can people contact you if they’re interested in learning more?
Email – Website – Twitter
I offer a free 45-minute book launch consultations for subscribers to my free newsletter, plus some other cool perks. Join me at: http://pagesandplatforms.com/subscribe.