50 tips: Before the book launch

James Lewis
JAMES W. LEWIS is the award-winning bestselling author of three novels, TANGLED, SELLOUT, and A HARD MAN IS GOOD TO FIND. After spending twenty years in the Navy, James retired from active duty and is now a personal trainer and exercise physiologist in Northern California. James is also extremely passionate about health and fitness. You can often find him screaming at the top of his lungs while leading a fitness class, doing high-intensity exercises with college students; or teaching older adults the benefits of physical activity for disease management in a cardiac rehab facility. His first non-fiction book is called EXERCISES FOR OLDER VETERANS WITH PTSD.

Jan 21,2018

Part 1: Did you know the average indie-published book sells about 100 copies in its lifetime? That’s the hard truth—and it sucks. But I’m not the kind of author that likes to give up. Despite millions of books in circulation, and competing media like Netflix, TV, video games, and movies, I believe it’s possible for any novel to break out.

My first novel SELLOUT debuted in 2010. It has sold 12,000 copies so far, but for it to be a success, it took employing unique marketing tactics long before and after it launched. I wrote about my experiences “hustling” SELLOUT when it sold 10,000 copies. Although this blog is five years old, I believe the 50 tips still apply today.

Before Launch

1. LLC formation: I started an indie publishing company called The Pantheon Collective  (TPC) with two other authors, Omar Luqmaan-Harris and Stephanie Casher. TPC has an Employment Identification Number and pays taxes. In other words, this ain’t no hobby!

2. Merging skillsets with two other authors. Omar has extensive experience in marketing; Stephanie is the behind-the-scenes organizer, skilled in editing and bookkeeping; and I’m the “veteran” with multiple publishing credits and was once contracted with a literary agent. Our areas of expertise are tailor-made for a publishing company.

3. Marketing plan: Who will buy your book? What do they look like? What age group? Where can you find them? Not targeting a particular group is like throwing darts at a swarm of flies, hoping to stick one. Omar wrote the marketing plan. 

4. Blogging: How will people know about you and your upcoming debut novel? You blog about it! I blogged about SELLOUT for six months prior to its debut launch (frustrations, editing, book cover, etc).

5. Professional cover: A cover for an indie-published book should be the same quality as a traditionally published book. Point blank period. 

6. Professional editing: Note the word “professional,” not Aunt Pam because she’s good with grammar. I suggest a content edit, copyedit and proofreading.

7. Partner critique of book: Both partners critiqued SELLOUT. Based on their recommendations, I changed the plot a bit, which, I believe, strengthened the story.

8. Three times promotional power: Not only did I blog about the details of my novel and TPC, my partners did, too. We expressed how things were going with the book from our point-of-views, specifically from the author (me), editor (Stephanie), and marketing expert (Omar).

9. Book cover vote: We posted three covers of SELLOUT on the TPC website and made a Choose My Book cover announcement on social media and our individual mailing lists. The voting lasted for several days, which allowed hundreds of new visitors to our page.

10. Mailing list: We already had our individual list of emails, but when visitors would post comments on our blogs, we added more. We compiled emails into several distribution groups, later used mainly for announcing upcoming book signings and information on autographed copies. We now post most of our announcements on social media.

11. Video: What better way to know more about the person behind the book than video? We posted several author interviews and check-ins on YouTube, including one of me holding the hard copy proof of SELLOUT for the first time.

12. Networking: As TPC, we attended several writer-related conferences, which helped build more bridges with industry professionals.

13. Indie-publishing books: Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual and Aaron Shepard’s Aiming for Amazon helped ease the headache of learning about ISBNs, distributors, print book formatting, e-book formatting, printers, typesetting, etc.

14. Reputable printer: We use Lightning Source (LSI), a unit owned by Ingram Content Group. Traditional and small publishers use LSI, and since they distribute through Amazon, B&N, international retailers, and visible from brick-and-border bookstore databases, it was a no-brainer.

15. Websites: We had four websites already “revved up” (mine, Stephanie’s, Omar’s, and the TPC main website). SELLOUT sneaked its way into each of them. On the TPC page, we also added resources to assist other aspiring authors as we learned the process of indie publishing. Not only were we trying to build momentum for SELLOUT, we were telling the world about our author collective.

16. Well written: I’ve been soaking up the fundamentals for years, including the nuts and bolts of writing novels. Around 1999, I transitioned my hobby to a more business-like venture. I subscribed to writer-related newsletters and magazines like Writer’s Digest, attended umpteen conferences, and took college courses on writing. I’m far from an expert, but SELLOUT wouldn’t have been nearly as good if I hadn’t studied the craft and developed my scribe skills.

17. Online writers groups: I’d been an active member of several Yahoo writer groups for years until I transitioned to social media. http://Writers.net was probably the first online group that taught me the most about the business of writing. If not for online writer groups, I wouldn’t have known about Lightning Source, Smashwords, or BookBub.  

As you can see, it’s a good idea to promote a book long before its debut, but what about after you launch it?

Next week: After Launch (pocket-burning)

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