You have successfully self-published your book – congratulations! Despite the fact that writing a book and publishing it is such a milestone worth all celebrations, this only gets you to the door. There is so much more that is attached to the success of your book other than writing it well and publishing it professionally.
After being so diligent and investing heavily (on time and money) on the first two steps (writing and publishing), the last thing you need is for your book to fail to reach your readers and to make no sales. Sales to friends and family do not count because they are obligated to buy to support you anyway.
If you want your book to succeed, to get into the hands of ‘right’ readers, and to potentially achieve bestseller status, you need a book launch strategy. The word strategy sounds like such a complicated thing – no it’s just a simple plan you need to follow to ensure you achieve the set goals.
1. Right Venue Brings Half the Success
One venue could be right for one author and completely wrong for another author. However, the basic considerations include:
a. Is the venue accessible on public transportation? Not everyone will be driving to the venue and so you want to make it easier for readers to find their way to you.
b. Is there ample parking? It will be very frustrating for your readers to drive to a venue and spend hours looking for parking slots. Ensure you can accommodate the number of people you plan on hosting.
c. If you have not used the venue before, you should visit there several times prior to your launch to ensure you have all that’s needed to make your launch a success. Some institutions will require you to bring your own extra tables, decor, lighting, PA systems, toiletries, etc. Some of these items are petty details but will mean a lot to your launch if they are available or not. Know what you need and make plans in good time.
Examples of Book Launch Venues:
Bookshops, libraries, book fairs, book festivals, writing panels, literary & cultural organizations, museums, churches, schools and colleges, art galleries, restaurants, hair salons, movie theatres – whatever fits the theme of your book.
2. Right Date/Timing Contributes to The Numbers
It is important for you to decide on a date that will work for you and not against you. There are many holidays and important public dates in each country every year. You should not set your launch date to coincide with another bigger event as you will struggle with attendance.
Choose a date that gives you the best chances of getting as many people as possible to cut two or so hours out of their busy lives to attend your book launch. You can also work with your venue managers to get advice on what dates your event is likely to get more attendance based on their experience.
As a general rule, evening events should not start before 7 pm and are best held on Wednesdays or Thursdays. If you choose weekends, do Sunday afternoons. On Friday and Saturday, you’re competing with too many other events. In Kenya, Saturdays are the dates for weddings, birthday parties, family gatherings, etc. Find a date that will not make you work harder to get foot traffic to your event.
3. Right Pricing of Your Book
You have to price your book well to ensure it is competing favourably in the market with the other books in your category. If you charge so little, your readers might be skeptical of the worth or value of your content. On the other hand, if you charge too high, your readers might find it too expensive to purchase.
How do we determine the right pricing?
a. You should first consider the cost of producing your book. You should be able to recover this cost in every sale to avoid running your book project or ministry down.
b. After that, you should put a profit margin for yourself to ensure you have some income to fund your next book or ministry.
c. You should also factor in trade discounts if you wish to have your book retailed by other bookshops and eCommerce platforms.
d. If you charge Value Added Tax then factor that in as well.
This should lead you to a certain price. This should not be the final price. You should do some market research to find out the price of other similar books. Consider their sizes etc and compare with yours and increase or lower your price wisely.
4. Set Up Your Book on Selling Platforms
There will be many people who will connect with you and with your book. However, they might not be financially able to purchase the book on the spot. You have to ensure your book is available on the different selling platforms before your launch date. Include these details on your marketing campaigns.
Some of the easily accessible platforms for Kenyan authors include jumia.co.ke, www.amazon.com for paperback and ebook, Brick and Mortar bookshops across the country, facebook.com, Instagram.com, your personal website, etc.
5. Set Up Financial Structures for Your Book
It is important to treat your book project as a separate entity from your other projects and programs. This will enable you to manage, assess and evaluate how your book is doing away from your other activities.
One of the platforms that have worked very well for us is kopokopo.co.ke that offers market-appropriate solutions to enable and incentivize businesses to go digital. They partner with financial institutions, mobile operators and major retailers who are interested in marketing new payment services to small and medium enterprises. Kopo Kopo is dedicated to re-focusing the market on SMEs.
You will be able to get a mobile wallet in your book’s name or program name. This gives you more credibility on the seriousness of your book project. You should also explore other financial offerings in the market to see what works best for you.
6. Brand Yourself – Prepare Your Stationery
As an author, you are a brand and your book should be a tool to emphasize this. Days before the launch, ensure that you have the following stationery:
a. Business cards – you can use your everyday business cards and have the backside indicating details about your book. You can kill two birds with one stone.
b. Banners – invest in banners to emphasize your brand and give your readers more information about yourself, your book project and other programs that you run.
c. Bookmarks – Have additional information about your book or something to encourage or motivate your reader in the subject matter of your book.
d. Dummy book – This is a rough mock-up for a book, as visualized at this stage by the author.
e. Backdrop – This is a printed canvas hung at the back of your stage as part of the scenery. You should use this to take photos with your readers and do your book signing.
f. Guest book – For your readers to record their sentiments and comments concerning your book. You can use this information later to reach out to your readers and connect on a more personal level.
7. Utilize Other-Events Opportunities
One of the most successful forums we have held was to launch our Authors’ Collaboration program during one of the Annual Book Fairs in Nairobi. In as much as we had invited so many other people from our networks, we got an additional 50% attendance from the readers attending the book fair that week.
If you can find common ground with another event, whether yours or not, then do your book launch during that event. It will save you on expenses, attendance, and logistics.
8. Invite Influencers
If you have access to influencers in your subject matter, invite them to your book launch. It will add to the credibility of your book as well as widen your reach as the followers in your guests’ networks will easily accept your content because of the connection.
9. Free Media Coverage
Media coverage can be a blessing for a budding author – as your profile goes up, so will your sales. However, we all know that marketing campaigns can be costly. Free publicity is a great way to increase your profile for your book project.
You can try leverage on your connections for free coverage by traditional media. However, we are living in a world of “viral” marketing and social media, so make use of all the channels and platforms that host the majority of your target readers. There is no better platform, it all depends on what is your watering hole – this is the place where you can find most of your target market. When you identify that, go for it!
What’s your ideal book launch?
All the best in your book launch and may the good Lord multiply the wisdom herein and inspire you to a great event ahead!
“Book launches refer to any form of activity that is created to promote the release of a book. It’s a nifty marketing technique that is mainly done to create awareness for a book and help initiate sales of the book“