I took some reflective time over the last few days to get a little clearer on what I want to do regarding the book launches I have coming up, and also what I can realistically accomplish.
As a refresher, I’m trying to leverage my more established Prose on Fire brand to raise my author rank for my unestablished fiction brand.
Unfortunately, this means that I’m launching almost a book a week until the end of the year… and while it may be doable, I’m not sure how realistic it is to get the books ready + market the shit out of them at the same time (both are a little more than full-time jobs).
So I wrote out a marketing plan for my young adult urban fantasy series, Waters Dark and Deep, with that in mind. Below, I’ve broken it down into three parts, but actually it’s a condensed version of my 10-step Get Your Book Selling framework.
Before we go any further, I want to be clear that everything I talk about below is experimental, rather than advice. I have no clue what the results will be!
Goals for the Waters Dark and Deep Launch
The most important thing about this plan is the first decision—which is to do a soft launch on the first 3-4 books, and start doing typical pre-launch “stuff” when I launch the 5th book. My hope is that I can do enough to get the word out about the first few books, and with the rapid releasing, I can gain enough momentum in Amazon’s algorithm to do the rest.
Since I’m “all-in” on Amazon for this series and my Prose on Fire series, I’m really focused on specific things that I know they care about:
- Sales velocity
- Having a fully-filled out sales page (descriptions, note from author, editorial reviews, video, etc.)
- Amazon ads
- Kindle Countdown Deals
- Page reads
I have a completely different list of marketing tasks for a wide release, which maybe I’ll share at a later date! For now, here’s my plan:
Visibility (Top of Funnel):
Amazon is a great tool for finding readers, but unfortunately you have to give yourself a MASSIVE push during the first thirty days your book is live to get those long-tail sales. That means I need to throw whatever marketing means I have at the book to get as many sales as possible through the month of November.
As with most things, success breeds success. If I can show Amazon that my book is successful, its algorithm will make it more successful.
Of course! I’m making the covers for this series myself, but before you roll your eyes, I studied about a dozen successful book covers and got a ton of feedback on it and made tweaks as suggested. What I’ve created looks really good for my genre, so I’m confident it will do well, especially when all the covers are lined up side-by-side in the Also-Boughts.
A “Sideways Storytelling Letter” to All Current Audiences
I have access to about a 12-16k email list if I combine every audience I have. Most of these audiences are outside of my target audience, and would usually be considered no good. But, thanks to a push from my accountability group, I’m finding ways to reach out to each audience group in a way that’s relevant to them and still exposes them to my book.
For example, this blog post series is a way for me to help you AND let you know about my upcoming book series. Some of you may be YA authors or YA readers, or Urban Fantasy authors or readers. Some of you will buy just to support me, and some of you will buy to get my bonus behind-the-scenes content (see below).
I’ve prepared a storytelling sequence of emails for all my different brands with the simple hope that some people may cross over. As long as it’s relevant and not too annoying, it probably won’t hurt (though there are little things that I am concerned about, which I’ll write more about as I go along).
Promotional Images on Social
I’ll be honest—this will probably do very little for actual sales besides let my current audience know that I’m doing something new and interesting. I really enjoying creating little character looks and snippets from the books, and I hope that I’ll be able to get some interest from my current network and eventually move into pre-launch content that fans are excited to see and share.
I also have reviews from the original version of the series that I can use to get things started. (Probably one of the only upsides to re-releasing a newly edited version of a book series for the third time.)
These images will be good for Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and probably a few other places that YA readers hang out.
Paperbacks to My GFs
I have a lot of friends with pretty Instagram and Pinterest accounts. I’m going to send them signed copies of the books a little later down the road (maybe mid-December) and ask them to take one or a few “in-context” images to post on their social media. I may try to get them to use a special hashtag that I also ask my readers to use. This sounds small, but I think it will be cool to have dozens of original pics of my books under the same hashtag. Plus, you never want to start a hashtag and have no one post to it, haha (been there).
Discover Young Adult Giveaway
I have the website domain name, so I’m starting a simple website/email list and hosting a pretty big and exciting giveaway for YA books there. The reason: although I want to throw my own audience behind this series, I still only want them to be a small fraction of the people I reach! The giveaway will be a great chance to build a new list of readers, plus I have some virality tricks up my sleeve that have worked exceedingly well in the past. Through the giveaway, I’ll likely offer the entrants my first book for review, and then try to recruit them to my review team, my Facebook group, and so on.
I’m bullish on video at the moment, mainly because only a handful do it and only a fraction of that handful do it well. I imagine having series-level videos (rather than an individual book trailer for book 1, book 2, etc.) that go deeper into specific characters and relationships.
Stock footage is cheap, music is often free. Video is the cheapest type of Facebook ad right now, and YouTube ads are ripe for the YA market.
Advertising is getting more expensive every day, AND I have a lot of books coming out in this series. So although this will be a ton of work, I’m hoping to dig in and really figure out how to make several ad platforms work over the next few months. The ones I think will be most useful to me are Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
I’ll also likely use advertising sites and build a week of coverage during the second or third week after the launch begins. Why wait until then? I’d like to keep sales very steady and (if possible) increasing. I don’t want to shoot up and flop back down. I’m hoping my first push will move the needle, then an advertising burst can be a big part of my second push.
An Alliance of Young Adult Authors
This group has been insanely helpful to me; my hope is that they are willing to help promote my giveaway and I can promote some of their books on my giveaway list too! The crossover there would be fantastic. I feel so grateful to have such a large and active group of authors in my genre, right there on Facebook!
Outreach to Friends
I have a few friends that I’m going to outreach to and just ask them to share it with their audiences. Some are YA authors and some are fantasy authors. These are the types of favors that you can only call in about once a year, but this series is the right one to call them in on.
Discoverability on Amazon (Middle of Funnel):
Amazon is a huge part of my strategy, and although I’ve never played the algorithm game before, I think I have enough experience to figure it out. The most important things IMO (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong):
- Releasing frequently
- High sales trajectory of individual books
- High author rank
- Consistent new reviews until the book gets to about 100; Amazon’s algorithm does start to kick in
With that said, my strategy is to hit these things + use all the tools that Amazon makes available to authors.
Writing Community Bonus
I’m putting the first book in the Waters Dark and Deep series at $0.99 and asking my current POF list to help me out by buying it. In exchange, I’m going to do a special bonus for people who purchase it in the first week—something way more valuable that a buck! It will likely be some data or results report of all my marketing efforts on this series, deliverable sometime in early 2017 (so I can collect data for the rest of the year).
The Monica Leonelle Author Page
It sucks right now. I need to level up on and make it shiny and converting.
One of my top goals is to get a lot of reviews quickly on the first Waters Dark and Deep book. I have a few ideas on how to do this, including using a few blog tours and some advertising sites that allow you to blast your review copy request to their list.
I’ll also potentially do a review outreach and use my free days so reviewers can download the book and then post verified reviews. The review outreach worked really well for a friend as recently as 6 months ago, so it may be a good way to boost my numbers. I’ve also had great success with blog tour organizers in the past!
I also want to reach out to YouTube vloggers, since so many teenagers watch their favorite YouTubers and buy the things they like.
Lastly, I’ll tap into my network as much as possible to find reviewers. For example, I have a HUGE list of romance readers who may be interested in YA (there’s often some crossover in readership). I’ll definitely send them the giveaway, then try to get them on the review list, and upgrade them from there.
I learned a fantastic way to do these recently, so I’m going to test it out. I’ll likely lose money, but again, I’m looking at the long-term sales arc and expecting to make most of the money on the backend.
Author Ranking Boost
I described this strategy here.
Freebies and Kindle Countdown Deals
I have no shame in pulsing each book in the series when I stall out. This is true for the Prose on Fire books too (though I likely wouldn’t do it on any new ones).
Amazon is probably the third most popular search engine at the moment (following Google and YouTube, which are sort of the same thing). Because Amazon is such a credible site, Google often shows results from it on the front page too!
Books definitely get a boost on the site when they include words that people search for. For example, “write faster” is a hot phrase on Amazon, and Chris Fox and I own it! The same is true for “writing habit(s).”
When I choose titles for my non-fiction, I usually don’t optimize for keywords exactly, but rather for what I’d call “stupid simple outcomes.” Dictate Your Book is an example of this. I’m lucky in that this strategy often includes the best keywords too, but not always—Nail Your Story is a great example of an outcome-based title that needs a keyword boost!
Anyway, I’m not going to lie—I looked up lots of “paranormal” words and phrases used in television, movies, books. I specifically looked for “angelic” words (my series is about angels and demons), but I also threw in a few words that came up frequently in vampire and shapeshifter books.
I made sure that my book titles included a bunch of these keywords (while still remaining relevant to the storyline, of course!) I also purposely put “angel” in my first book title because I want to be crystal clear on what to expect inside. A book title is unfortunately not a great place to get clever unless you intend to sell based on brand alone.
Converting Readers To Fans (Bottom of Funnel):
I decided to go all in for this section on one main strategy: Easter Eggs.
For those who don’t know, an Easter Egg is a joke, hint, red herring, spoiler, or hidden message inside of something, usually media. I’m basically going to send my most curious readers on an Easter Egg Hunt across my series, so that they can get happily obsessed with my series. I was one of the Potter nerds back in the day, who obsessed over JK Rowling’s website, who poured over all the books multiple times looking for clues, and who read a super fan site called Mugglenet on a near-daily basis.
So while I’m doing a lot of things, I’m really just doing one thing in a lot of places.
I’m doing an unprecedented amount of bonus content—if I get my way, basically one item per chapter. I’m also doing something interesting inside each book to get readers to that content. My goal is to be a little controversial and do things I’m “not supposed to do in a book.” To me, controversy is all about two things: remarkability and polarization.
I’ve learned a lot about doing controversial things in books (like putting my 50,000 words of diary entries in the back of a 40,000 word book). It’s important to have a few things that some people will love and others will hate. It’s important for people to have an opinion, any opinion on your book. To like it a lot, except for X. This always spurs reviews, and it often spurs conversation on social, too!
Free Novella Lead Magnet
In my story, there’s a murder mystery surrounding the protagonist’s mother. I’m creating a story about the mother called “Milena’s Last Hours” to give curious readers a lot more insight and information that may not get revealed in the series until much later.
This one may take me awhile to get put together, plus I’ll probably want to sneak in a twist of some sort for it. This is fun stuff, though!
New Release Notifications Leadpage
To me this is one of the most underrated but effective ways to get readers on your list. Look, if you’re writing a series, they want the next book! And since readers are voracious, you likely haven’t written it yet. So direct them here!
I’m doing something in my author’s note that I’ve not heard of anyone else doing. Basically, I’m lacing each book’s Author Note with an Easter Egg hint for the next book in the series. I got inspired by something Taylor Swift does—you can laugh, but she is a marketing genius if I ever saw one!
I started a Facebook group called “Hallows and Nephilim Easter Egg Hunt (WARNING: Spoilers).” The goal is… even more Easter Eggs scattered on my social profiles. I only expect a small portion of my readers to be into this, but I want them to become True Fans and Evangelists.
Write an Amazing Story
I spoke to a few mega-successful authors about this quite a bit when I was visiting Austin, Texas recently. They gave me their best tips about writing mysteries, emotions, killer characters, and cliffhangers. I’ve learned so much since I wrote the first drafts of these books, and I think I’m close—but I want to tweak the stories with these things in mind in the hopes that I can get bigger results with this series.
I’m also practicing what I preach in my upcoming book, Supercharge Your Story. It will be fun stuff when that comes out 🙂
This is my larger plan for marketing, and again, it will roll out pretty slowly over the next few months. I think because the series is so long, and because I’ll have a perpetual stream of books that haven’t hit the 30-day cliff on Amazon, I have so much time to get it going. I don’t feel in a huge rush to get it all done for the first or second or even third book drop, and I will probably go back and evaluate in early January, shortly after the holidays die down.
Who knows what the results will be—it’s all a fun experiment 🙂
My next post will be all about promoting my $0.99 Prose on Fire books this week, and everything I’m doing to boost them (and my author rank) in Amazon’s algorithms.
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