Launch your book to five-star reviews

How do you launch your book to five-star reviews? The answer is easy but the implementation can be a bit time-consuming. So don’t jump the gun by publishing too early. Get these six foundational items checked off, first. You'll be glad you did!

  • Know where your book belongs on the virtual shelves
  • Build a marketing street team with enthusiastic beta readers
  • Develop relationships with bloggers and other influencers
  • Create a high-converting website and mailing list
  • Set up preorders
  • Get great book editing and design

Let's go over each step.

1. Place your book on the right shelf

Market research and competitive analysis is an essential step in positioning your book to make sure it sells. Use Amazon’s Amazon Advanced Search to identify books like yours. Use keywords and the date field to narrow your search. You may also want to specify format such as “paperback,” and “bestselling” to display the best of the best books, and “latest” to display the latest published books. Here’s what to look for:

  • Category: Are the books in the category you’ve chosen similar to your book? Will readers looking on that virtual shelf find yours as compelling as the other titles? You may have written a great book but if it’s shelved in the wrong category readers are likely to give it bad reviews.
  • Cover: Is your cover similar to the others in that category with similar fonts and colors, photography, and graphics? Remember, it’s better to fit in than to stand out. Otherwise, your reader might subconsciously skip over your book.
  • Description: Does your book description tell a similar story to the ones in the category you've targeted?
  • Pricing: Is your book priced competitively?
  • Other authors: How are authors like you marketing their books?
  • Keywords: What keywords are they using to get found in the search engines? 

Do the research. Become a best seller.

Research your way to a best seller! For a step-by-step how-to with a spreadsheet template, check out my course on the topic.

Research Your Way to a Best Seller Course

Video tutorial, spreadsheet to make your own, how to connect with authors like you, copywriting tips, and so much more! Check out the course!

2. Build a marketing street team with early readers

Beta readers are early readers who will give you feedback on your book. When scouting beta readers, try to find people who love to read, who are in your target audience, and are not afraid to give you honest feedback. You can find beta readers in your personal, professional, and social connections, forums, and among friends and family.

What is the incentive for someone to read and comment on your book? Many people are avid readers and hungry for free books. If you write nonfiction, you’ll find people who are eager to learn what you know. Recruit experts in your field to help crosscheck your facts or help with scenes. They may be thrilled to be mentioned in the acknowledgments.

Keep in touch with your early readers, friends, and family. Tell them when you plan to publish so they can get your book reviews ready to post on launch day.

Cultivate critique partners and early readers

Start connecting now to cultivate relationships with people involved in your writing process. They'll give you five-star reviews on launch day!

3. Develop relationships with bloggers and other influencers

Start now to cultivate relationships with bloggers and start planning a blog tour at launch time. If you’re don’t know any influencers in your genre, search for them on Google, on social media sites, and in forums. Follow them, comment on their posts, start conversations and become “friends.” Don’t forget to follow the social media rule of thirds when you’re posting:

  • 1/3 of the time or more curating others’ work and ideas, providing commentary, encouragement, and enthusiasm
  • 1/3 or more on personal interests to cast a wider net and connect on both personal and professional levels
  • 1/3 of the time about your book or brand and area of expertise, mostly to answer questions and be helpful to others

Your goal is to start conversations so that when it’s time to send Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) the influencers already know, like, and trust you.

4. Create a high-converting website

Your website is you-central with links to all your activities on the web. A “high-converting” website compels visitors to sign up for your email list. This converts your website visitors into email subscribers.

Don't worry. Your website doesn’t ‘have to be complicated or even that pretty. It might even be a landing page - that is, a one-page site that offers a giveaway in exchange for an email address. [Here's a beginner's guide to landing pages by my favorite WordPress premium themes, Thrive Themes.]

Create a giveaway that you know your readers want: A collection of stories, the first book in a series, worksheets, cheat sheets, lists, or whatever you can think of that will compel your site visitors to give you their email address.

Create an auto-responder series of emails that will be triggered immediately upon signup to thank them and deliver the goodies. Set other emails to send, asking them if they enjoyed the giveaway, inviting them to like your Facebook page, review your book, give you feedback on the worksheet… whatever is right for your audience.

Place the email signup widget on your site and start collecting email addresses.

Don't forget to re-visit your auto-responder series regularly and update it to make your emails more compelling. 

5. Set up preorders

Statistics show that books listed for preorder (listed for purchase as much as a year before publication) are much more likely to succeed. Smashwords founder Mark Coker, in a Publishers Weekly post, lists five reasons for this phenomenon.

  • More effective advance marketing of your book
  • Preorders signal commitment
  • Simultaneous release at multiple retailers
  • Preorders help your superfans review first
  • Fast track to bestseller lists

Some retailers let you set up “assetless” preorders so you only have to upload your cover and your metadata (keywords, book description, etc.). You can upload your final, edited manuscript a few days before launch, so this gives you lots of time for beta publishing, editing, and formatting.

6. Get great editing and design

Most experts agree that editing and design are the numbers one and two items you should spend your money on if you want your book to succeed, with editing taking the lions share of your budget.

Even if you’ve had your beta readers and your second-cousin-the-English-teacher comb through your manuscript you still need professional copyediting. Don't be that author who suffers the loss of stars in reviews citing copyediting errors.

When it comes time to choose a designer, make sure you choose one who works in your genre and who keeps up-to-date with market trends. You should be able to tell from their portfolio whether they're good or not. Especially after you've done the market research to see what kinds of covers are trending.

Start now

Begin these five steps early, even before you’ve finished your first draft, so that you have plenty of time to cultivate readers, perfect your story, and make friends with influencers. You’ll be glad you did come launch time.

Get step-by-step instruction on each of these processes in the Publishing Freedom Course. You don't have to decide whether to self-publish or find an agent and a publishing deal right now. Make sure you have a platform, a quality manuscript, and you own your book data so you're free to make that decision when you're ready.

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Carla King

Carla King is a travel and technology writer turned author and self-publishing expert. She started self-publishing in 1995 and founded the Self-Pub Boot Camp series of educational books, workshops, and online courses in 2010. She runs the self-publishing and technology track at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a series of online courses at www.selfpubbootcampcourses.com.