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Book Launch Case Study: Heather Day Gilbert

Today I am interviewing Heather Day Gilbert, who is talking about the release of her first novel, God’s Daughter, which I recently reviewed on Iola’s Christian Reads. Heather’s second novel, Miranda Warning, will release on 20 June 2014.

Welcome, Heather!

What platform did you have prior to the launch of God’s Daughter?

I’m so thankful I had an agent who encouraged me to build my platform while my book was out on submission (it was out for almost a year and a half!). In that time, I joined Pinterest, Twitter, and started a Facebook Author Page. I changed my email, website, and twitter handle to reflect my author name (not an idea, like @vikingwritergal). I joined with two other authors, Becky Doughty and Jennifer Major, in a group website dedicated to the love of fiction and the need to nurture marriages (Married…with Fiction, which is no longer an active blog).

So by the time I realized God wanted me to self-publish my Viking novel, I had a firm platform in place. I would say I had at least 1,000 twitter followers and 200 Facebook fans at that time. I truly feel Facebook is where I connect most easily–it doesn’t require long posts so I can get relevant info out fast and regularly touch base with readers. Pinterest is also a wonderful way to connect with other Viking-lovers all over the world.

Since my launch, I’ve added more outlets–a newsletter email list, a Goodreads/Amazon author page, and a Soundcloud account (for my audiobook).

What was the strategy/planning behind your book launch? Where did you get your information and ideas?

I got my ideas two ways:

  • Reading self-publishing blogs, such as The Creative Penn.
  • Watching traditionally published authors’ marketing strategies very carefully and emulating what I could afford to.

What activities did you undertake to launch your book?

I’ve actually run a 4-part series on this topic on my blog, titled “So You’ve Decided to Self-Publish“.

The first and most critical step is to have a great blurb and cover art in place (not to mention a well-edited book!).

The second step was to lock in early readers, so the early reviews on Goodreads/Amazon were well-thought. Then I gave them 2-3 months to read and/or endorse the book.

The third step was building buzz for my book (I pulled quotes from my book and created pinnables, did vlogs, lined up blog tour, etc).

The final step involved the actual launch–sticking to a firm launch date, getting the CreateSpace softcovers loaded, and giving myself a little wiggle room while formatting for different uploads (Smashwords is different than Kindle, etc). This stage also involves book giveaways on blogs, Goodreads, etc. And the marketing at this stage goes on endlessly.

How long did that take? How difficult was it?

My novel, God’s Daughter, released November 1, 2013. I was marketing for at least 2 months ahead of that to build buzz, then I did about 39 guest posts for the blog tour over the course of 2-3 months, and I honestly haven’t stopped marketing since.
I knew I had to give over 100% to get the word out on my debut novel, or I’d be invisible in a sea of Amazon books. I tried not to cross the line into spamming territory (scheduled tweets, etc), but I was an aggressive marketer. I actually enjoy marketing.

I think the key to marketing is believing, at your core, that your novel is worth reading and sharing. I was passionate about this novel because I believed people don’t know enough about this period of Viking exploration and they like to ignore the fact that some Vikings were documented Christians. Also, women played a huge and undeniable role in Viking society, as my main character historically sailed with all three husbands…and with one to North America, no less! I also strongly believe we need more CBA books with married main characters readers can relate to, not just dating characters.

How successful was the launch (and how do you define success)?

In my mind, it was quite successful, because it exceeded my expectations (though I try to keep my expectations low!). God’s Daughterhit three bestselling lists on launch day, as well as the Hot New Release lists. It stayed on those for about a week or two. It has stayed on the Amazon Norse/Icelandic Bestseller list for seven months now. I think creating buzz around release day had a lot to do with it. Not to mention God’s blessing!

The book continues to reach people and garner reviews, and was recently picked up to be sold at the Royal BC Museum Vikings exhibit. There is now an audiobook version of God’s Daughter on Audible.com (narrated by my crit partner, Becky Doughty, of Bravehearts Audio). So I feel the book will continue to expand its reach.

But the real definition of success is finding readers who are hungry for this novel and find it unforgettable. That just revives my little author heart and makes me want to keep bringing books to them.

I saw you used NetGalley to get book reviews. What made you decide to use NetGalley?

How NetGalley work for you? Would you use it again? Did it represent value for money? Would you recommend it to other indie authors?

I would not do it again the same way I did. I paid for a monthly slot, but it was with a publishing house that primarily sells romance. Therefore, I think the readers came into it thinking my book was romance (it is not categorized that way, since the main character is married, although I would call it a love story). Not onlydid I receive very few reviews from that, the reviews I received weren’t stellar, as I think it hit the entirely wrong demographic.

I found the most effective strategies for garnering reviews were:

  • Tracking down every book reviewer I could find who reviewed historicals and offering an ebook in exchange for honest review (time consuming!).
  • Doing a Kindle Freebie of the book, which necessitated pulling it from Barnes and Noble (Smashwords) and going with Kindle Select. This garnered some reviews from non-demographic readers, but it also reached many soon-to-be-loyal readers I couldn’t reach otherwise.

Miranda Warning

What will you repeat for your upcoming book launch? What will you change?

Great question! This time around, I’m not focusing so heavily on author endorsements. For my debut novel, I wanted as many as possible to prove I wasn’t a complete unknown quantity. But I’ve asked my Facebook fans about this, and most say they rarely, if ever, read endorsements, unless it’s an unknown author. I do have a couple so far, which I’m so thankful for, but that is not my focus this time.

I’m also not lining up such a strenuous blog tour. I’m pretty wiped out, having gone basically nonstop from about June 2013. When my mystery, Miranda Warning, releases June 20th this year, I am hoping I can pull back from marketing somewhat. That said, I don’t truly believe books will just sell themselves. As an author, you need to stay on top of your sales (which is sadly impossible for traditionally published authors), and tweak your marketing strategies to fit your numbers. This is a true benefit of being an indie author. I can implement marketing ideas and see immediately if they’re working or not. I’ve definitely had some hits and misses!

And I’m starting out with only a softcover version and Kindle version of this book, so I’m going with Kindle Select, versus trying to upload to Smashwords (Barnes & Noble) as well. I love having control over my freebie/discount dates.

What advice would you give to other authors about to launch their book?

My best advice (primarily for indie authors) is don’t rush the launch process. I love having a firm launch date, but I try to set it late enough so that I give my early readers time to read and so I can make sure my cover art/formatting is in place.

For traditionally published authors, I would say be as involved in the marketing process as you can be. I know your hands are tied on scheduling freebies/discounts on your books, but you can build your Facebook page, pin pics of your book topic, etc. I know many traditionally published authors are doing marketing work, outside the publicity firms.

To be perfectly honest, I think one author, 100% dedicated to getting the word out on his/her book, can be as effective as a publicity firm. We might not be able to afford expensive electronic gadgets as giveaway gifts, but we can keep the pedal to the metal and be relentless in our marketing. And I believe that’s what it takes. A publicity firm only works on one book a limited amount of time. As an author, you can promote your book at any time. This is something I’ve definitely learned from being an independent author.

Thank you so much for having me, Iola! What wonderful questions, and I hope this interview encourages many authors out there!

About HeatherHeather Day Gilbert

HEATHER DAY GILBERT enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Seventeen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling. Heather regularly posts on Novel Rocket about self-publishing.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Audible.com. Her Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, will release June 20th.

 

Book Launch Case Study: Paula Vince

Today I have a guest post from Paula Vince, an award-winning Australian author, about her new release, Imogen’s Chance. This was recently reviewed on Iola’s Christian Reads as part of Paula’s book launch.

About Paula Vince

Paula Vince’s youth was brightened by great fiction and she’s on a mission to pay it forward. A wife and homeschooling mother, she loves to highlight the beauty of her own country in her stories. Most of them are set in the lovely Adelaide Hills, where she lives. Paula’s books are a skillful blend of drama and romance. Together with elements of mystery and suspense, you will keep turning pages.

Welcome, Paula!

What platform did you have prior to the launch of Imogen’s Chance? How did the book launch improve your platform?

I’ve been published since 2000 and Imogen’s Chance is my ninth novel. In that time, I’ve seen many changes to internet marketing opportunities. I hate to admit it, but fourteen years ago, many of us were still getting used to sending emails to each other. I’d never heard of blogs, Facebook and Twitter were still several years in the future, so the platform for my first few books consisted mostly of paper mail-outs and word-of-mouth.

Within the last three or four years, I have set up a Facebook author page, a Goodreads profile, a Twitter account and two blogs. I have also joined Pinterest and Google+, although I don’t visit or update them as often.

My book launch resulted in several extra likes and followers on my three main forums (blog, Facebook and Twitter). More importantly, it’s made me aware of several generous bloggers and their lovely blogs, which I wouldn’t have heard of if I hadn’t put the blog tour together. I have joined their blogs and pages as a follower, and now receive interesting updates. I’m hoping steady continued communication may result in even more opportunities for the future. That’s what I’m reminding myself to keep in mind. The results of any blog tour may be further reaching than just the month it runs for.

What activities did you undertake to launch your book?

For a few years, I have been involved in several on-line writers groups. For each of these of which I’m a member, I emailed a request asking whether others might like to support me by offering me a guest post to help promote my new release. I was delighted to discover that several people, who love to host guests on their blogs, considered that the favour was reciprocal.

I made a list of people who agreed to host me, running all the way from the tail end of March through April and into May. I tried to spread these all through the time period. Some offered interviews, some asked for guest posts, and some wrote book reviews. They all went into my blog tour and I’m pleased with the good combination.

I made up a blog page all about the tour, to make it easier for anybody interested in following along to tick each one off. And I decided to offer prizes. Several of the bloggers agreed to have a giveaway, and I plan to have several more prizes on the Grand Finale post, which will be May 31st.

How long did that take? How difficult was it?

I sent the request emails in January, three months before the tour was due to start. Getting the list finalised was ongoing job, and actually writing the guest posts and answering the interview questions was enjoyable but time-consuming.

I am not naturally the most organised person, so I took particular care to start working on the blog posts as soon as I’d finalised each date and had the questions sent. Even giving myself time, I found I had to work on it steadily. I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d left them all until the week before the tour. It’s definitely not the easiest venture I’ve attempted, but well worth it.

I can’t emphasise enough the importance of planning ahead. I’m typically scheduling posts two months in advance for my book review blog, Iola’s Christian Reads, so it’s vital to give bloggers plenty of advance notice. You don’t have to have the book ready to send them, but you do need to contact them to arrange to save the date. 

What support did you get from your publisher?

When my publisher found out what I was doing, she sent me an electronic copy of the book suitable for Kindles, so that I could offer it to some of the bloggers who requested a copy in return for a spot or a review. I really appreciated that, as it would have become a fairly costly venture if she hadn’t.

Paula Vince ICHow successful was the launch (and how do you define success?)

Although I’m still not sure about the overall number of sales, I do consider the launch a success. You’ve asked a good question, as I don’t think success can be defined solely by numbers of sales or positive reviews. Success is pretty personal when it comes to writing.

If you end up happy with the story you’ve told and the characters you’ve created, it’s a success no matter how many readers it reaches. As each of the guest posts helped highlight the interesting and unique qualities about this new book, every time anybody saw a post and maybe left a comment was a success.

I like your attitude about success! 

What will you repeat for your next book launch? What will you change?

At this stage, I think I would do pretty much the same. I’ve got that blog page with the list of every stop in my blog tour, and I’ve never had anything remotely similar for any of my previous books. It will be a great online keep-sake to look back upon. Having said that, I am open to taking on board other people’s good suggestions, things I haven’t considered yet.

What advice would you give to other authors about to launch their books?

Make an early start—at least three months before the blog tour, as I did. You’ll be working hard on it through all those weeks, believe me. And it takes this time gap to make sure your guest posts will coincide with the release date. If you leave it until just a week or two before asking, bloggers will be telling you they’re sorry but all their slots for that month are full.

Don’t forget to return to each post, once they are published, to reply to comments. It’s good to touch base for at least one working week after each one. You’ll find the connections with interested strangers and new friends well worth the time.

And I believe readers (and blog owners) like and appreciate the interaction with guest authors. Thank you for visiting, Paula.

 

Book Launch Case Study: Michelle Dennis Evans

Today I’d like to welcome Michelle Dennis Evans to Christian Editing Services, to talk about the launch of her debut YA novel, Spiralling Out of Control.

What platform did you have prior to the launch of Spiralling out of Control? How did the book launch improve your platform?

I spent 4 years creating a platform of sorts, mostly using Facebook, Twitter and Blogger. I am also an active member of the John 3:16 Marketing Network and there are a few other networks at which authors help authors that I’ve joined in with over that time.

I don’t feel my launch improved my platform, I believe the author platform is self driven (unless you make it bigtime or something goes viral).

What activities did you undertake to launch your book?

I went on tour.
I sent my book out to loads of people asking for reviews.
A couple of months before the launch, I contacted everyone I thought might host me on their blog. I wrote posts, was interviewed, shared excerpts and even I interviewed my main character. I advertised  – both paid and free on several sites that were recommended to me, and I tried to create a little excitement around the launch on my social media platforms.
Lots, then!

How long did that take? How difficult was it?

I spent a solid three months preparing and then the 16 day focused launch pretty much consumed me. It wasn’t so much difficult as it was time consuming.

What support did you get from your publisher?

Lilly Pilly press have supported me by sharing my posts, and posting about the books on social media. They have listed my books in their online shop.

How successful was the launch (and how do you define success)?

In particular, you did a launch through the John 3:16 Network which got you to #1 – but I later read a post from Lorilyn Roberts where she said only one author from that launch (you?) reached #1 in a subcategory, and they won’t be doing any more launches like that because they can no longer guarantee a #1.

Why do you think your book made #1 when the others didn’t? What did you do differently?

Yes, that was me. In the launch last December, there were more books included than usual and a few things didn’t work as well as previous launches. But the group has launched books a couple of times since. I had decided to end the launch on a high and put everything into it. I was on a fairly tight budget so I had to spend my paid advertising wisely. It was possibly a mixture of the two paid ads I’d scheduled for the last two days of the launch, the network helping to promote via Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc along with Lorilyn’s email to her ‘opt in’ list that bumped me up the ladder to achieve ‘best seller’ on the last day.

As for how successful it was? Achieving ‘best seller’ status on Amazon, gives your book social proof. Because I hit it once,  it will always be an Amazon Best Seller and I have the option to use the tag in my signature etc.

Financially, I spent more than I made that month, but I do believe I’m still reaping the harvest.

As for why some of the others didn’t make it to #1, I’m not sure if they put in the leg work beforehand. Some did, some didn’t. Part of the John 3:16 formula is to reduce the book to 99 cents while on launch—not everyone did that or had control of reducing their price. Lorilyn’s book didn’t do as well as she’d hoped, but maybe that was because it was a picture book.

What did you repeat for the launch of Spiralling out of the Shadow?  What did you change? Any ideas what you will do next time?

I haven’t officially launched Spiralling Out of the Shadow yet… I’ve done the same so far in that I’ve been requesting reviews from a broad range of people (because books with more reviews online sell more).

I found last time the blog tour was very time consuming and I didn’t see a conversion to sales, so this time I’ve asked people to be a guest on my blog, and I’m finding it more streamlined that way. And instead of just promoting myself, I’m promoting other authors.

I’m still undecided whether I’ll launch through the John 3:16 network again though I find their help and forum invaluable and would love to see something like that set up in Australia one day, or more Aussies/Kiwis join the network.

What advice would you give to other authors about to launch their books?

If you are traditionally published, check how much flexibility you have.
Don’t do it alone.
Find a network.
Launch with a friend or friends.
Promote others more than you promote yourself.
Seek God first before stepping into anything.
That’s a great final point, and one that perhaps isn’t mentioned enough. Thanks, Michelle!

Michelle Dennis Evans

Michelle Dennis Evans writes picture books, chapter books, young adult contemporary novels and enjoys dabbling in free verse poetry. Her debut novel Spiralling Out of Control and poetry collection Life Inspired both reached #1 in subcategories on Amazon in their first week of release.

Michelle lives with her husband and four children on the Gold Coast of Australia. She believes you can find healing and hope when you read someone else’s story, fiction or truth. Her life is full and at times overflowing but she wouldn’t have it any other way.