April 18, 2017

my book launch marketing plan and results

Now to talk about something that has become an even bigger part of author life: marketing.

Though I've always been interested in book marketing, I've paid even more attention to it since my previous publisher unexpectedly closed last fall and I became my own publisher. Through my reading and research, I particularly appreciated posts from other authors that offered real talk on what they did and their results. After a lot of consideration, I decided to put this post together looking at my recent book launch. This is not intended to be a pity party and it is definitely not meant to call out anyone. I'm specifically not including names in places, because I do not want this to feel like I am targeting anyone. Especially because this was my experience and it is not necessarily indicative of what others might face. I am sharing this information in case it can offer insight or guidance to other authors out there.

With those disclaimers, let's get into it.

My Book Launch Marketing Plan

For my launch, I decided to use a combination of marketing approaches that included social media, newsletters, advertisements, and blogs. This included:

  • Blog Tour (self-organized using a Google Doc sign-up promoted in my newsletter and shared with bloggers I have worked with previously) featuring a Rafflecopter giveaway with entries for social sharing
  • Release Blast organized by a tour company featuring a Rafflecopter giveaway with entries for social sharing
  • Newsletters (mine as well as ads in a couple of industry newsletters)
  • Facebook Ads
  • Amazon Marketing Services Ads
  • Social Media Posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

In addition, I submitted my book for review with a couple of review sites separate from the tour. I also was fortunate to be interviewed on USA TODAY's Happy Ever After blog, which was a nice bonus and fun experience.

Marketing Expenses

  • Facebook Pre-order Ad: $11.19 
  • Facebook Release Week Ad: $28.29 
  • Amazon Marketing Services Sponsored Product Ad: $11.11 
  • Pre-Order, Release Day, and Bonus Day Ad in a Romance-Focused Daily Newsletter: $15
  • Release Day Ad in a Women's Fiction-Focused Newsletter: $5 (Note: This was a somewhat unexpected expense. I didn't actually know this was a go until I saw my book in the newsletter and received an invoice shortly after. But, it was 5 bucks, so not a major hardship.)
  • Release Blast: $100
  • Prizes: $40 (This included two $10 Amazon gift cards and physical prizes. I am not including the expense of audiobooks gifted, because I had a set available at no cost to me.)
  • Shipping: $9 (all sent First-Class)

Target budget: $200
Total spent: $219 (I went a little over, because I impulsively added a few days to my Facebook and AMS ads, and I had the unconfirmed newsletter ad run.)

Comparatively, I imagine this is not a large promotional budget, but it is the biggest one I have had for a book launch. I set this amount as my target, because I felt this is what I could afford to lose if I did not generate major sales.

Blog Tour

I had about 20 bloggers sign-up to participate in a blog tour that I hosted. I spread out the sign-ups over three weeks. The first week ran one week prior to release day and included pre-order links. The second two weeks ran after the book was already out. Posts included a combination of reviews, excerpts, guest posts, and interviews. These were quite time consuming to produce, particularly the interview answers and guest posts. I also struggled some with coming up with unique guest posts when the host did not provide prompts, which most did not.

Of the bloggers who committed to dates on the tour:

  • Two had to cancel their posts at last-minute because of unexpected life events, which is totally understandable and unavoidable.
  • Two did not post content without explanation or response to prompt emails.
  • I received six four- or five-star reviews on blogs, of which five were cross-posted on Amazon. One person who received an ARC posted a review exclusively on Amazon. This was out of 11 possible reviews signed up for on the Google form I created to enlist participation.
  • Most bloggers shared the new posts on their Twitter and Facebook pages, while a couple did not. Of those who shared, a majority tagged either my Twitter handle or my Facebook page. About half did both.
  • I did not see any pre-order sales from the blog tour spots posted in the week before the book's release.
  • I did not see new sales during the final days of the blog tour, when I did not have other advertising running.
  • I did not see social interaction from these blog posts beyond readers sharing a tweet to enter the tour's Rafflecopter for prizes. 
  • With that same Rafflecopter, I did garner some new subscribers for my monthly newsletter. A number of those who said they signed up for my newsletter unfortunately did not. (I removed those names from the drawing.)

My Takeaway: I will hesitate to do a blog tour that includes guest posts in the future. Creating this content was time consuming (and sometimes challenging), and it did not appear to create significant results in sales or platform-building. I will put more focus on providing ARCs to book bloggers in exchange for honest reviews. In terms of doing prizes, I will also reconsider what I do for entries. Though there were a number of tweets sent throughout the tour, I do not believe many--if any--resulted in sales. Still, book bloggers are wonderful and do a great job. Building a great list of bloggers, and looking for additional ones to join your promotional team, is an important part in helping you build an audience.

Release Blast 

I worked with a tour company used by several authors I admire and respect. The prep work was pretty easy for me. I booked a date, paid my invoice, and filled out a form containing the information I wanted provided all within 48-72 hours of contacting the company's organizer. I provided unproofed ARCs, because I had to book this farther in advance, and agreed to provide a giveaway. Some notes:

  • This took relatively little work on my part with everything pretty well managed by the company.
  • I booked my blast (which would include dozens of promotional stops) for March 22, the day after my release, because March 21 was already booked.
  • My one area of concern was that I am not sure how many review copies of my book were sent out. I know at least six, because that's how many bloggers shared reviews. But I did also receive an Amazon review from someone who did not have a blog, but said she received a copy from the tour organizer. I also heard from a writer friend who said she requested, and received, an ARC of my book, but I did not send one to her. This isn't a huge point, but I wish I better understood how this worked.
  • I received a handful of Amazon reviews (five or six) as a result of this promotion.
  • The day of my blast also coincided with my interview on Happy Ever After and the second day of my ad with a promotional newsletter blast. That makes it a little more challenging to determine the point of origin for sales that day, and those to follow.
  • Sales for the day were 60 percent what they were the day before, which is not wholly unexpected. However, the number of sales that day--and in the days following--did not pay for the cost of this promotion.
  • Most of the participating sites--including the tour company--did not tag my social channels when sharing. This isn't a huge issue, either, but it would have been nice as I tagged them.

My Takeaway: While I appreciated the ease with working with this tour company and the professionalism, I am not sure if I can fiscally justify booking a release blast again at this point in my career. I would have liked to see more reviews and more platform building results. However, if later in my writing career I have more resources and I decide to do another tour company-run blast or tour, I would likely work with this team. I would also consider booking a general blog tour in the future, too.


In my February and March newsletters, I shared the pre-order links for the book. I use MailChimp, which provides useful analytics for tracking how subscribers interact with your newsletter.

  • In February, 11 percent of newsletter subscribers clicked on the Amazon pre-order link, 6 percent clicked on the Goodreads link, 2 percent clicked on the Kobo pre-order link, 2 percent clicked on the Apple pre-order link, and 2 percent clicked on the Barnes & Noble link.
  • In March, 6 percent of newsletter subscribers click on the Amazon pre-order link, 2 percent clicked on the Barnes & Noble pre-order link, and 2 percent clicked on the generic Books2Read link, which takes readers to all available channels for purchasing the book.

I sent a release day email with the sale links and information about the blog tour, release blast and prizes that would be available.

  • Outside of the two Rafflecopter giveaways, I had three prize packages up for grabs with this release. All three did not require purchasing and would give one entry for a chance to win. 
  • The first prize was exclusively for newsletter subscribers. To enter, subscribers just had to email me. I asked them to send me a note of good cheer or to tell me about one room they would like to renovate in their home. I had about 20 entries. 
  • For the second, I asked readers to share my Facebook post. I had 28 shares on this post. Of those, I believe eight came directly from the newsletter based on analytics.
  • On the third, I asked people to review the book on their blog or Amazon by March 31. This had the fewest entries with perhaps a handful.
  • As far as sales links, release day clicks consisted of 21 percent on Amazon and 3 percent on Books2Read

As mentioned earlier, I also had ads in two romance/women's fiction industry newsletters. One cost $15 and included prominent placement on the organizer's main website on March 21 and 22 as well as a participation in a pre-order event, which (on the day it launched) yielded a handful of pre-orders, but also during its run increased my Facebook page likes and Twitter followers. I also received a mention in their daily newsletters on March 21 and 22. 

The second ad, which was a surprise but inexpensive at $5, appeared in a brief newsletter message along with a couple of other new releases. 

My Takeaway: Everything I read says newsletters are the way of the future. At present, it is free for me to operate and takes me relatively little time to assemble (I do these for a living and have for almost nine years, five in a marketing capacity), so I will continue to do them. I might as well.

As for the two newsletters I purchased ads with . . . It's hard to tell what sales either of these directly generated, but I did notice an increase in purchases on both days after the first newsletter hit inboxes (or at least mine). The number of books sold at these times made back the money spent. The first newsletter scored bonus points with me, because it provided prompt response--and invoicing--when I inquired about placing an ad. The organizer also sent me an email with links and suggestions on how I could share the information myself on Facebook, Twitter and in newsletter, even providing copy I could use. That level of organization--without being over the top--scored major points with me. I've worked with this company before on sales announcements that also led to successful sales figures. Because of their professionalism, organization, and the good results, I will definitely work with them again in the future.

Facebook Ads/Amazon Marketing Services Ads

I'm lumping these together, because they kind of work in similar ways. You set dates and parameters as well as a budget of how much you are willing to spend on clicks. Some things of note:

  • After seeing no pre-orders come in with the first week of my blog tour, it was gratifying to have what amounted to about 1/3 of my pre-orders come in after the Facebook and Amazon ads went live the weekend before release day.
  • On Facebook, I spent $11.19 for 21 clicks (53.3 cents per click) during the pre-order promo, and $28.29 for 48 clicks (58.9 cents per click) during the release week. On the pre-orders, I was intrigued to find that 57 percent of the pre-order clicks and 47.9 percent of the release week clicks came from the 55-64 and 65+ age groups. These are often ignored in ad targeting, and I am glad I included them.
  • Through AMS, I spent $11.11 on 76 clicks (15 cents per click) and generated an estimated $24.95 sales from those ads.

My Takeaway: I was particularly impressed with the results on Amazon. While these weren't huge, making back the money--and then more than twice what I spent--convinced me that this is a worthwhile venture. I'm not quite as sold on the Facebook ads. While you can see the number of clicks, I am not sure whether or not these resulted in sales. The Facebook ads were also quite a bit more money than the Amazon ads, without being able to provide me with quite as much information. I'll definitely use Amazon ads again in the future and will likely increase my budget there. I will continue to tinker with Facebook ads to see if they end up being worth my while.

Social Media Posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

On my launch sign-up, I invited people to participate in the launch via social media. The majority of the people who clicked on this box also wanted to participate in the blog tour. I did have a couple of additional people sign-up just to share these posts. So, at the time I created my blogger media kit and interviews/guest posts, I also created a small social sharing kit. This included two posts that could run on Facebook or Instagram and a few tweets that could be scheduled. I sent these out about a month before the launch.

Interestingly, none of the individuals who signed up exclusively to participate in the social media blast on my form used the content I sent them. They did share a post from my Facebook page, which was appreciated. I did also have a few author friends contact me to see if they could receive information to share on their pages.

My Takeaway: While these weren't too hard to put together, I'm not sure it is worth the time and effort put into creating this content for anyone not signed up for the blog tour. In the future, if I do promotional sign-ups, this will probably not be an option. While I may provide a couple of suggested tweets or posts to bloggers, this will not be a focus.

Overall Results

Based on the amount of money spent on advertising and royalties generated, this book launch was not fiscally successful. During the time frame I ran the marketing, my sales equaled 75.6 percent of what I spent. Of course, I could still see results from these labors in the future. That said, based on how quickly sales dropped after the newsletter, Facebook, and Amazon ads concluded, I am not sure how fast I will recoup those expenses, as well as the direct costs of production (editing, cover design, etc.).

Though I was somewhat disappointed by this figure, I did see my best release week sales to date with these combined efforts.

This experience taught me quite a few lessons. The biggest was that strategic ad placement with Amazon, Facebook, and the right industry newsletters seems to be the best way to go. I also learned that, unfortunately, blog tours do not seem to carry the weight they once did in resulting sales. (Though, I still say book bloggers are amazing and their reviews are helpful, particularly on Amazon and Goodreads.)

Probably the biggest result I saw: Amazon remains king. Playing House is available on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. In eBook sales, Amazon Kindle sales accounted for 12.5 percent of pre-orders and 9.6 percent of sales after release (March 21-31). During that same time period, all of my print sales were from Amazon.

Final Thoughts

What does all this mean? In short: I don't know. I am naturally disappointed to see that the time and money invested did not pay off as I'd hoped. I also recognize that my book has only been out a month, and the groundwork laid out before could lead to better results in the future. And--in full disclosure--I'll admit looking at the figures and my bank account makes me a little sick to my stomach. Fortunately, I have a good full-time job that helps me pay the bills--and, right now, finances my publishing venture. That means I don't have to make any hard and fast decisions at present.

Here's my advice to you, which you are free to take or leave, appreciate or scoff at, however you like:
  • Set and follow a budget.
  • Track your results to find what does and does not work best for your platform.
  • Spend only what you can afford. You may recover your costs instantly, or you may not ever recover them, or it may take some time. Regardless, you do not want to put yourself in debt.
  • Provide ARCs to book reviewers one month in advance. I know of some people who are able to get reviews with fast turn-around (like one or two weeks), but in general, it is a kindness to the blogger to give as much time as possible. 
  • Create professional and attention-grabbing content that is easy for others to use.
  • Have a newsletter.
  • Be gracious and grateful. Your results may not be what you hope they will be, but that doesn't mean you should let disappointment taint the way you treat others. But . . .
  • Keep track of people who fulfill their commitments to you and those who don't. It will help you in the future when determining who you should reach out to for reviews and features.

That will pretty much do it for me. I hope this has been helpful or interesting. If you have any of your own results, suggestions, or tips that you would like to share, please feel free to leave a comment. If you are an author and would like specific recommendations on tour companies and promoters, please feel free to send me a private message on Facebook, and I would be glad to offer any testimonials I can.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

1 comment:

  1. Very insightful post. I appreciate your candor, and your willingness to "give back" to the writing community in this way. Good advice - not to be scoffed at!