Moonburner has been out for a little over a month now, and I thought it was time to do a round-up post summarizing a few of my book launch efforts. Over the last month, a lot of friends have asked me: “How do you get people to read your book?” That question makes me chuckle. Because you see, there’s the rub. It’s not easy!
There are a LOT of books out there. A lot of crappy ones, but a lot of great ones, too. People are busy. They may only have time to read one book in a month (many people don’t even have that much time). So how do you get your book to stand out from the crowd?
Well, I don’t have any magic answers, but I’ve done a lot of research, and it seems that a combination approach works best.
I based my launch off of the program Launch a Bestseller, by Tim Grahl, and the Book Launch Toolkit, by Joel Friedlander and Kimberly Grabas. Both of these were super helpful in giving me the lay of the land in what types of efforts I should even be making to launch my book!
Here’s what I focused on:
- Influencer outreach
Tim’s Launch a Bestseller course talked a lot about influencer outreach. Influencers are people within the publishing industry or blog-o-sphere who have an audience you want to reach. Tim recommended classifying these people into three tiers, which helps you allocate your time. Tier 1s individuals are the folks with the mailing list you would KILL for. While you might spend 10 hours on a guest course for a Tier 1 person, you might only be willing to write a 1 hour guest post for a Tier 2. For a Tier 3, all you’ll do is send them the book to review. Since your time is finite, this helps you spend your time on those influencers who have the best chance of selling a lot of books for you.
For me, I spent a lot of time identifying BookTubers, bloggers, and individuals with some minor celebrity that I know. I reached out especially to a LOT of book bloggers. And for the most part, because these were essentially cold calls, I didn’t hear much back.
My Number 1 goal for my next launch is to spend the interim time developing some relationship with well-respected book bloggers. Following them, commenting, being more engaged and supportive of their efforts. This is in the hope that when I approach them next time, they will recognize me and be more inclined to give my book a chance.
2. Reviewer outreach
I also did some direct reviewer outreach, based on a webinar that Tim Grahl did a few years back (Tim’s my go-to book launch guy, obviously)! The gist of it was: Reach out to 75 people to ask them if they’ll review your book and put up a review on the day it launches. 50 will say yes, and 25 will actually put up the review. This way, you can leap out of the gate with a respectable number of reviews. This was a great exercise and got some more friends and family invested in my launch. It didn’t all go to plan, because Amazon mysteriously decided to release my book 5 days before the launch date, screwing up the timing of things, but it was still effective in getting a good number of reviews up there early on.
My publisher also put my book up on Netgalley, which I would totally recommend. Netgalley is a site where book reviewers can download a free copy in exchange for a review. It was ridiculously easy to get almost 100 people to download it (rather than my time-consuming individual emails). If you have the money to spend on it, I would say Netgalley is 100% worth it.
3. Blog tour
I am doing a 20 stop blog tour through Chapter by Chapter, which starts July 18 and runs for two weeks. I will be doing a giveaway as part of the blog tour, as well as author interviews, guest posts, and reviews. This is another way to get in front of new audiences, and while I can’t speak to the results yet, I am optimistic that it will be very helpful. Again, I spent hours and hours trying to get bloggers to review my book with no success, and by paying $50 to a well-respected tour organizer, I ended up with 20 stops with no more trouble than signing up on their website. Again, my take-away from this (like Netgalley) is that some well-placed investments will save you a SIGNIFICANT amount of time and energy.
4. Email Campaign
This is another approach from the Launch a Bestseller course, and due to time constraints, I didn’t do much here. The idea is that you create a pre-order incentive, like some free chapters, or a free resource to accompany your book. You tell your email list that if they pre-order the book, they get the freebie. This way, people are incentivized to actually buy your book, instead of just putting it on the To Read shelf on Goodreads. And, your book will have a nice spike on its first day, and hopefully show up on some of the Amazon ranking lists and such.
I had been busy writing a prequel novella to give to my email list as an opt-in incentive, and my email list is still fairly new, so I wanted to build some loyalty before I started selling too hard to them. I ended up just giving away the novella for free to those on the list on the day of the launch. For my next book, I will create some deleted chapters or perhaps a map of the world to give away for free if you buy the book.
Anyway, I think this is a great approach, I just didn’t quite have my act together to take advantage of it this time around!
5. Social media
This is one of the more obvious launch strategies. Share, share, share on your social media sites! Build some buzz. And ask your followers and friends to share with their friends, too. Tim suggests in his course that you make it easy for people by creating up some preset Tweets, images that can be pinned, etc., so all your followers have to do to share is click a button.
These are the main approaches I took for my launch. There are some other things I did, like hosting a book launch party (so fun), paying for a professional Kirkus Review, and doing a lot of guest posting and interviews on other blogs. My publisher also set up a press release and sent out ARCs for me to reviewers I identified. These are just a few of many types of efforts to take to launch your book.
So what will I do differently next time?
First, I will give myself a longer lead time. I gave myself two months for the launch, but it really wasn’t enough time. The ARC copies of Moonburner ended up going out only three weeks before launch, which wasn’t enough time for the reviewers who had said yes to read and post around the launch date.
Second, I will focus on building up my email list, and run a pre-order campaign with a pre-order incentive.
Third, I will focus this year on connecting with some popular book bloggers and other authors whose work is similar to mine. One thing Tim mentioned in one of the interviews I listened to illustrated why connecting with influencers, rather than individual readers, is so beneficial (of course, you still want to connect with readers!) You could spend the time it takes to connect with 100 readers, or you could connect with one influencer who could influence 100 of their followers to read your book. Clearly, the second option is vastly more efficient, and for a busy author, time is at a premium.
Finally, I’ll spend some well-placed dollars to save myself some time and effort, allowing me to spend those hours on more fruitful efforts (like writing my next book!)
Overall, I’m pleased with how the launch went, as a total newbie author with no experience launching a book. Becoming a published author is a learning process every step of the way, and the launch was no exception!
Featured photo by e.c. johnson, CC license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Moonburner is becoming an audiobook!
I’ve always loved audiobooks (check out an old post on it here), but my love has only deepened as my life has become more hectic. These days, a week may pass before I can find time to actually sit down with a book, but there are lots of stolen moments where I can listen to a book on my phone! Commuting, running, walking the dogs, making dinner, I can sneak a few minutes here, a few minutes there. Currently, I am listening to Siege and Storm, the second book in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. Lauren Fortgang is the narrator, and she is awesome.
For some reason though, I assumed the process of turning your book into an audiobook was expensive and difficult. So I didn’t even consider it until another author reached out to me and asked if I wanted a free listen to his book in exchange for a review. Curious, I asked him about the process. It turns out that it’s a lot easier than you would think, thanks to ACX, a division of Audible and Amazon (our kind and generous Seattle overlords).
Through ACX, authors can create audiobook versions of their novels and sell them on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. It’s shockingly easy! Here’s how to do it:
1. Confirm you hold the audiobook rights to your work.
If you are a self-published author, this is no problem. If you have a publisher, check your contract to see if you granted or retained audiobook rights. Luckily, I negotiated a change in my contract before signing it, so I retained audiobook rights for Moonburner!
2. Create a profile on ACX and post your Project.
ACX allows various narrators (called “producers”) to audition for your project. At this stage, you will decide between two separate choices: (1) royalty share, where you pay nothing up front, but split 50% of the royalties with your producer; or (2) up front payment, where you pay the narrator, but retain all the royalty rights yourself. If you pay up front, expect to pay about $200-500 per hour of final audio. My 95,000 word book was estimated to be 10.5 hours. So, it would have cost me about $2000-5000 to pay for production up front and retain all royalty rights myself. No thanks. I went for the royalty split option!
At this stage you list some information about yourself and your work. Potential narrators want to know that your audiobook has a shot at selling, so you answer some questions about your social media reach and fanbase. You upload a few pages of your book, which producers will use for auditions. Then, sit back and wait for the auditions to roll in! You can also pitch to specific narrators if you have someone in mind.
A side note about the section you choose for your audition section: its best to choose a section that has your primary narrator in it, or possibly some dialogue between key characters. It is important for you to be able to evaluate how the narrator reads your key characters; you don’t want to select them only to find out you hate how they read your protagonist’s voice!
3. Review auditions and make your offer.
Review your auditions! This part is fun. I had an awesome time listening to Moonburner read out loud for the first time. It was such a cool feeling. I selected Emma Lysy as my narrator, as I liked her tone and range. ACX’s system makes everything super simple. I made the offer through their automated form, and she accepted right away! Then, I uploaded a PDF of the whole manuscript.
4. Listen to the first 15 minutes.
At the next stage, the producer records the first 15 minutes of the book, and you get to listen and make comments. This is the best time for you to convey specific and constructive criticism, as it is basically the last shot for you to provide feedback before your narrator records the whole book. You don’t want them to have to go back and make a change after recording that you could have addressed up front! After hearing the first 15 minutes, there were some changes I wanted Emma to make to how she was reading some key characters. I never realized I had imagined a particular voice for a character, but it turns out I did!
I also sent Emma a list of words and names I thought might be subject to mispronunciation and a list of key characters with details about age, personality, relationship to the protagonist, and what those characters should sound like. It was difficult for me to articulate in writing how some of the voices should sound. I read a tip from another author that a good way to make these recommendations is to find an actor or actress who has a voice similar to what you are going for, so the producer can hear exactly what you expect. I did this for several of them.
5. Approve your final product.
When you originally post your Project, you select a deadline for completion. The producer will record the rest of the audio and provide it to you for review in advance of your deadline. I haven’t gotten to this point yet, but according to ACX’s procedures, you can go through up to two rounds of corrections after this point.
Congrats, you’re almost done! Before you can officially distribute your audiobook, you have to convert your cover art into audiobook format (basically from a rectangle to a square). Luckily, my producer Emma offers this as one of her services, so I will have her do it.
If you choose to have exclusive distribution through ACX, you get 40% royalties on the audiobook, and you can distribute through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. If you choose a non-exclusive option, you get 25% royalties (and have to pay your producer up front), but can distribute through other channels. I chose the exclusive distribution option.
At this point (like with your print book), the hard work has only just begun! You’ll have to market your audiobook and try to generate sales for yourself and your producer. ACX does provide codes to you so you can provide free review copies to listeners, so that should get you started!
As authorpreneur extraordinaire Joanna Penn always says, the way authors make money is by turning one work into multiple streams of income. By creating an audiobook, you have generated one more way to earn potential royalties and reach fans. ACX makes it possible to do this without any outlay of cash up front. From what I can see, there’s no down side!
Featured image by Shinjih Akhirah, cc license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Check out my post on the Book Marketing Tools blog on How to Read and Negotiate Author Contracts! It was pretty fun combining my two areas of interest and expertise to write this article! Article reprinted below.
The opinions and information contained in this article do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.
The modern author wears many hats: writer, editor, task-master, networker, marketer, business-person, and even, sometimes, lawyer. Whether you traditionally publish or go the self-publishing route, you will have contracts to sign. And chances are, if you’re starting out, you won’t have an agent or lawyer to negotiate for you. So short of curling up in the fetal position and ignoring the problem, how do you navigate through that complex legal jargon and sign a contract you feel good about?
I faced the same question as I started out. I have the benefit of being a lawyer by day, and so this comes much more easily to me. But I don’t do copyright or media law in my daily practice, and I certainly didn’t take those classes in law school. So as far as the ins and outs of the types of contracts authors face, I know just as much as the Average Joe. What I do know, however, is how to read and understand the contract, where to look for information, and then how to ask for changes.
Here is how you do it.
Step one. Get over your jitters or feelings of being overwhelmed. You are most likely contracting for a service. You are the customer. You have the right to understand and educate yourself about the transaction you are entering into. Even if you are staring at a publishing contract from the hottest Big 5 publisher and you’d sign away your first-born child if they asked you to…there is no harm in reading the contract, understanding it, and asking questions. They are not going to pull their offer because you asked questions.
Step two. Print the contract out. This is not negotiable. There is no substitute for looking at a physical document with a pen in your hand.
Step three. Read the contract. There are some key parts of the contract, and then most of the rest will be what we lawyers call boilerplate. Stuff that their lawyers threw in at the end, but that isn’t necessarily specific to your contract. Your job is to identify the key terms, understand them, and make sure they are correct.
Key terms to keep an eye out for (highlight these when you find them in the contract):
-Who are the parties to the contract? It may seem simple, but are they correct? If you have set up a business entity, is it the entity signing the contract, or you personally?
-What is the term of the contract? In other words, how long does it last? Does it say? If not, it probably should.
-Pricing terms: If you are buying a service, how much are you paying? This should be specific. What does your money get you?
-Payment terms: When are you required to pay? How does the provider bill you? It they are required to pay you (like royalties), when and how often do you get paid?
-Your and their duties under the contract: What are you required to do? What is the time frame for you to perform? Are their obligations clear? Do they reflect your understanding of the deal?
-Default terms: A default under the contract is where one of the parties doesn’t perform their obligations. The default terms will usually say what the other party’s remedy is. If you fail to live up to your end of the bargain, what does the other side get to do? And vice versa.
-Termination: Can you terminate the contract at any time? Can the other party terminate? If so, when and how? Is that something you can live with?
Side Note: If I only looked for two items of the boilerplate language, it would be to find whether there is an attorney’s fee provision and venue/arbitration provision. In the United States, generally each party pays their own attorneys fees. But some contracts say that that if you breach the contract and the other side has to sue, you have to pay your fees andtheirs. Ouch. The venue and/or arbitration clauses will tell you whether you are agreeing to submit any dispute to arbitration (and where), and what court will get to hear the dispute if you go to court. If the contract says you have to arbitrate in Florida and you live in Oregon, that is important to know.
Step four: Figure out what the heck it says. Maybe you don’t totally understand those key terms you have highlighted. Even I often have to read contract terms several times to truly understand what the legalese is saying. This is a great time to do some research. Google it. Often someone out there has struggled with the same question or term, and you can get a better sense of what the contract is saying based on the resources available.
There is one more important exercise at this stage. Think about your worst-case scenario. If you entered into this contract, and the other side totally failed to live up to their end of the bargain, what would it look like? Let’s say your cover designer creates a design that is so terrible it makes you want to cry. What would your remedy be under the contract? Can you withhold payment? Can you demand they fix it? Or did you agree to pay no matter what? Running through your worst-case scenario can help you see the gaps that need filling.
Now that you’ve highlighted the key terms, maybe the terms look great. If so, congratulations! Sign that contract and pat yourself on the back for understanding it and educating yourself about your rights and how the relationship will work.
Maybe the terms don’t look great. If that’s the case, move on to…
Step Five: Prepare for your negotiation. A key element of this stage is understanding the respective bargaining power between you and the other party. The bigger they are, and the more you need them, the less power you have. Amazon? Not much bargaining power, if any. Indie publisher? Some. Freelance editor? More. Based on this evaluation, I would pick your most important changes to present. The more bargaining power you have, the more changes you can ask for. But only ask for changes that matter. What do you really care about?
I would also do some more googling about what is common in the industry. Lots of authors have shared their contracts online. If you are asking the other party to change something that every publisher/editor/publicist since the dawn of time has had in their contracts, it is unlikely you’ll get it. If they are out of line with the industry, that is a strong point in your favor.
Step Six: Negotiate. Send the other party an email, and ask if they have time to have a quick phone call discuss some changes you would like to the contract. Ask them if they would like to see a summary list (or redlined version if you feel comfortable suggesting alternate language) of your suggested changes in advance of this call, so they are prepared to have a meaningful discussion. Be prepared to explain why each change matters to you and present any information you’ve gathered about industry standards.
Please don’t worry that the other party will refuse to contract with you at all just because you suggested some changes. If someone does that, then he or she is not a person you want to be in business with.
But maybe the other side won’t agree to make the change. It is at that point that you decide how important that change is to you. Either it is so important that you don’t want to be in business with them, or you agree to sign the contract as it was originally proposed. Either way, you have done your due diligence, become fully informed, and impressed them with your dedication and conscientiousness.
I hope this has helped pull back the curtain and reveal some of the mysteries of contract interpretation and negotiation. With a few tools in your toolkit, it is something that every author can tackle.
Check out my guest post on the Book Marketing Tools blog: Five Ways to Market your Book Daily (that Don’t feel like Marketing)! These are some of the small things I do on a weekly basis to feel like I’m making positive efforts on my book marketing efforts, while still working full time!
Here is the full article, reprinted below:
For a lucky few, writing is a full time gig. But for the rest of us, Monday through Friday is taken up by our day job and our writing side-hustle is squeezed into the remaining few moments not taken up by family, social activities, volunteer obligations, and maybe (if we’re lucky,) a little down time.
When it comes time to market your book, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of time it takes to just learn how to market, let alone actually do the marketing. Marketing your book could easily be a full time job, so how do you fit it in when you already work full time? I know in my case, despite my best laid intentions to be up at 5 am to devote some much needed time to marketing efforts, Monday through Friday become a whirlwind and the weekend arrives with the guilt of knowing I haven’t gotten anything writing-related accomplished all week.
To tackle this vicious cycle, I started finding little ways to market and feel productive that could fit into the nooks and crannies of my work day—my commute, my lunch break, my 20 minutes on the elliptical machine. The easiest way to build a habit is to start small. Below are some easy ways to move the needle on your author efforts without a total a life overhaul.
Mondays are hard, but hopefully you are a little bit refreshed from the weekend. Use some of those creative juices and write a little. Maybe it’s 250 words or maybe it’s 15 minutes. Maybe you’ll just brainstorm about your plot or characters. Driving to work? Use your phone’s dictate feature to record ideas to explore later. Author after author will tell you that the best way to market your book and find ultimate success is to write more books. Having a lot of products in the market makes it more likely that someone will find you and fall in love with your writing. So keep at it!
Engage on social media. This is probably what you think of when someone mentions “author marketing,” and it is certainly critical. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I try to connect with one new person on each of my social media sites each week. It’s not too tough to find one person that shares your interests and like or comment on one of their posts. Bonus: Look to connect with folks who have a following that would be interested in your book. Start developing the relationship so you can ask for their support down the road.
You’ve made it to hump day. Give yourself a break. Maybe you’re worn out from all of that social media engagement yesterday. Read a little bit (or listen to an audiobook if your commute is your only free time). Something fun. Something you’d want to write. Reading is a critical part of your continued author education! If you find yourself liking something (or not), ask yourself why? Make a mental note for your next work. Bonus: When you’ve finished the book, write a review and share it on your blog. Now you’ve generated content that is of interest to your potential readers. Share the review with the author, who will likely share it with their followers, and get some nice links back to your own page.
Work on a blog post. Notice I didn’t say: complete or post a blog post. We have all heard how important author blogs are, but it can be hard to find the time to actively maintain your blog. But just because you don’t have time to sit down and write a 1000 word post doesn’t mean you can’t make some progress. Even if you only have 15 minutes, you have time to brainstorm an idea for a future post, write a first paragraph, or find a featured image for that post that has been sitting in draft status for two weeks. With an idea or a start, you won’t be facing the blinking cursor of doom when you sit down to blog next time.
Learn something new (about marketing or writing, your choice). By subscribing to relevant blogs (like Book Marketing Tools) you can get great informative content delivered strait to your inbox. It’s so easy to click through your email and take 5 minutes to learn something you can apply down the road. No time to read? Subscribe to podcasts you can listen to on your commute or while you’re cooking dinner (like the Author Hangout). Bonus: Click the Twitter or Facebook share link on a post you find interesting, and voila, you’ve engaged in social media twice this week!
Featured image by chintermeyer, CC License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
I received the edited first half of Moonburner from my publisher this weekend. It’s starting to look like a real book!
Here it is all laid out on my computer screen!
Now it’s my turn to spend some quality time with my Chicago Manual of Style and make sure the text is perfect.
In the meantime, the cover design and marketing efforts are moving forward. Today before I dove into editing, I spent some time thinking about my Back Cover Blurb.
If a book’s cover design is the first chance to snag a reader’s attention, the back blurb is the second (and last) shot. But what makes a blurb great? According to Jane Friedman’s blog, for fiction, the blurb should succinctly present the high-level narrative of the story. It should start with your compelling hook, include the most engaging plot points, and preferably leave a teaser to pique the reader’s interest. See some examples here.
To come up with my blurb, I pared down some marketing copy I had already created, with a special eye for the most important plot points of the story. (1) The inciting incident: Kai being exposed as a moonburner and sentenced to death; (2) Journey from the known: Escaping from Kita to the moonburner citadel in Miina; (3) Midpoint or second crisis: learning that the citadel leadership is up to something fishy; (4) Vague reference to the climax (no spoilers here!): Kai battling the citadel forces with the help of her unexpected knowledge and allies.
Here is what I came up with for Moonburner:
When 17-year old Kai is exposed as a female sorceress—a moonburner, she knows the punishment is death. Despite the odds against her, Kai escapes her fate and undertakes a harrowing journey to a land where moonburners are revered and trained as warriors.
But the moonburner citadel is not the place of refuge and learning that Kai imagined. The ongoing war against the male sorcerers has led the citadel leadership down a dark path that could spell the end of all magic. Armed with a secret from her past and a treasonous ally, Kai may be the only person able to prevent the destruction of her people.
I can’t quite get the last sentence right, but overall, I like it. What do you think?
Featured image by Lorenzo Scheda, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Imagine my surprise when I opened my email this morning to find out that I one of the publishers I queried wants to publish Moonburner!!! I am seriously on cloud nine. How am I supposed to get any work done today?
More details soon to come…