Authors and startups — two clients we frequently work with at Geben — often find themselves in a similar situation: Scrambling to generate PR to maximize their upcoming launch.
Because the emphasis is on shipping product (code or content, as the case may be) , PR is often an afterthought. For example, a startup puts all its resources into building a product, but doesn’t allocate enough time or dollars to promote the product. Then, right before the launch, they get nervous that no one’s going to know about it and frantically call a PR person, hoping to find someone who can make magic happen. Sometimes, the startup comes to their senses with enough time for a PR person to make an impact; other times, they’re forced to delay the launch or just cross their fingers that post-launch PR builds enough momentum to recover from the missed opportunity (always a risky option).
The same holds true for authors. I get it. All your attention is devoted to writing the book; it’s hard to find time or energy to focus on anything else. But suddenly, the book is about to hit the shelves and authors realize Launch Day is just around the corner. Panic sets in as they fear no one will know about – or read – their book. (Cue the frantic call to their PR friends.)
Why is pre-planning so important? Because that’s the secret to making the system work for you. Here’s the deal: Pre-sales and the first week are critically important for a book’s success. Pre-sale totals are included in the Week 1 tally and can give your launch a major boost.
So, now that we’re in agreement about the importance of maximizing Launch Day and that first week, let’s talk about a pre-launch PR strategy.
Laying The Foundation for a Successful Launch
- Show your intent. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. If you’re writing a book in a crowded space – such as social media – you need to give readers are reason to pick your book over the hundreds of competing titles. Start with why. (But, don’t make up a why. People will be turned off if your stated intention doesn’t align with your words and actions. Intention should be transparent.)
- Build community around the concept. Even in the earliest stages of a book, start to reveal concepts or themes. Sarah Evans mastered this while working on her book, [Re]Frame. Each chapter is based on a simple piece of textography (and text-based graphic). During the writing stages, she shared those images on Instagram. Her Instagram community grew because people appreciated those simple words of wisdom. They wanted more. Little did her followers realize, but they had embraced the concept of the book before they even knew she was working on a book.
- Crowdsource it. Not the whole book of course, but elements of it. For example, ask for feedback on proposed titles or an aspect of the cover design, or solicit anecdotes and case studies to share within the book. Take people on the journey with you. Create a “we’re in this together” sense of community. You have to build a community before you can activate it. Giving people a voice in the process can help you develop a stronger community — an invaluable asset.
- Share the writing journey. Writing a book is a hard, but rewarding process. Give your readers behind-the-scenes access. Whether your go-to writing location is a coffee shop, your home, a park or some other random location, help us feel like we’re there with you. Find yourself surrounded by pages and pages or paper? Snap a pic so people can see the progress being made. When we advise brands on social media, we talk about the value of lifting the curtain and giving deeper levels of access to influence opinions, change behaviors and acquire new users/customers/clients. Same concept holds true for authors.
- Reward advance bulk orders. Pre-sale orders count toward your first week goals, the all-important number for best-seller lists. So, develop a strategy to incentivize bulk pre-sales. For example, if a conference orders 500 books, you’ll wave your speaking fee. Or, if an organization orders 100 books, you’ll deliver a one-hour presentation via Skype for no additional charge. Provide extra incentives to encourage bulk pre-orders.
- Nail the timing. Work with your publisher to hone in on the launch date. It’s virtually impossible to know the exact date books will start shipping from Amazon, but your publisher can help you get pretty close. Once you clarify L-Day, you can begin implementing your PR strategy to drive first-week sales, the number important for best-sellers’ lists.
These ideas will help you lay a solid foundation, and should be implemented well ahead of the actual launch. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about blogger outreach, activating your personal network and piquing media interest – ideas that will build on this foundation to create momentum around the actual launch itself.