ebook launchIt’s quite a while since I did a ‘how to’ guide of sorts. In fact, I think the last one might have been before I launched my debut novel, What We Saw. Wow, that is a long time ago. Okay, okay — only two months. But still, in blogging terms, that’s practically a lifetime ago. Anyway, now we’re into 2013 and I have an actual book launch behind me, I feel like I’m in a position to talk about the best ways to launch an ebook in 2013.

One of the biggest questions I’m emailed/messaged about is how to actually get a finished novel out there. Will it sell? Will it be worth it?

To the first question — probably, but only if you give it time. Nobody gets rich off writing overnight. Nobody. The sooner you get that myth out of your head, the sooner you can move on to becoming a more professional and disciplined writer. It sucks, I know, but if it were as simple as writing a good book and rolling in it, then there’d be more people doing it.

That said, to the second question, I think it will be worth it in the long run. Imagine yourself in ten years time. Imagine you’re putting two to three books out per year. Every one of those books is a brick, if you will, and the more quality books you get out there, the higher your brick wall will rise. Sure, your first book might be crushed in the long run, but everybody has to write and launch that first book before they can write and launch a tenth. That’s just mathematics, I’m afraid.

Before you launch your ebook

Anyway, before I digress, I want to get a few assumptions out of the way before we start this ‘guide’ to the ebook launch.

1.) I’m going to assume your book has been professionally edited. I’ve seen countless rants about how self-publishing just isn’t worth it because someone knocked up a first draft and dumped it on Amazon. Listen — if your book is shit, readers will tell you it’s shit. Readers don’t care whether it’s your first effort, or whether you studied English Language at college or not — they want a good book. That’s what they’ve paid for, so they are damn well entitled to it. So, make sure you read a few how-to guides on writing; steal your kid’s textbooks — whatever.

Then, send the book to a professional editor. Read this post. Find an editor who clicks with you, and treat them well. Make sure your book is as tidy as it can be before you send it to them, and you’ll get a better book out of it. Simple.

2.) I’m going to assume your book has had a cover designed professionally. None of this Microsoft Paint (or, dare I say it, Microsoft Word) bullshit — I’m talking a proper, professional cover. Carl Graves has some amazing stuff . My designer, Lloyd Lelina, created an unbelievable cover for What We Saw

Put a bit of cash to one side and have a professional handle your cover. Otherwise, you have no excuses for why your book isn’t selling. You want to write for a living, right? Then respect your readers. Give yourself the best shot of success by thinking professionally. If this is a hobby to you, then expect it to remain a hobby, and nothing more. However, if you want to sell books and make a living, you need to go toe to toe with the aesthetic delights of the traditionally published books. Make yourself indistinguishable and you’ll go far.

Launching your ebook

Mark Coker from Smashwords argues that authors need to learn to become better publishers before better marketers. I agree with him. Before your book launch, get to know the ins and outs of the platforms you are publishing with. Royalty rates? Book pricing? KDP Se-what?

My best advice would be to check out David Gaughran’s excellent guide to publishing, Let’s Get Digital (or pick up a copy here
). It’s one of my all-time favourite resources. He has a sequel out soon, and I for one cannot wait.

When you’ve got to grips with the basics of publishing, upload your book files. Before your ebook launch, check, check and check again that everything is spot on.

Done? Okay.

Check again. Seriously. The last thing you want is a dodgy formatted book. You’ve put your life into this, so don’t be naive at the last hurdle of ebook launch — remain professional. Quality control don’t lapse in judgement at the last stage of food testing, or any horsey behaviour like that, so don’t slip into the trap. Ney.

What now?

I’d highly recommend you enrol your book in the KDP Select programme. (2014 update: Lots has changed in the last year. I’d recommend skipping the Select step and distributing everywhere at 99c for your mailing list).

I’ve been telling fellow authors for months that the thing still works. ‘It works!’ I cried, back at the end of 2012. ‘IT REALLY WORKS!’ I cried again, at the start of 2013.

And then the excellent Joe Konrath came along a few days back and cried, ‘IT WORKS,’ and everyone listened.

I’m not going to cover old ground again, but if you enrol in KDP Select, remember two things: 1.) your free days should be treated as a major advertising opportunity on prime time TV. Don’t fluff them. 2.) Promotion doesn’t stop at the end of the free days. It goes on for (at least) a week afterwards. Otherwise, you might as well just pull from KDP Select and not bother.

Enrolled with KDP Select and checked your book files? Good.

Now, make your book free for two days.

What?! Free, already?

If this is your first book, then yes. You see, Amazon is one of the best retailers for gaining visibility. The three biggest keys to visibility are the ‘Customer Also Bought…’ sections, reviews, and bestseller/popularity charts. You get into the latter by obtaining the former.

The best way to get ‘Also Boughts’? By giving away a few hundred free books from the off. The best way to get reviews right away? You guessed it.

Several indie publishers have already been testing this book launch method, and while I’m not so sure about promoting this very first free day, it’s a good way to get your book into the hands of a few right away. Then, when it goes back to paid, you can announce the launch of your book and combine post-free sales with launch sales.

I gave away a few hundred ebooks when I sneakily followed this book launch method with What We Saw, and my launch figures were alright. They didn’t make me rich overnight, but they gained me some positive early visibility.

And I think that’s the key to it — launch isn’t necessarily about sales, but more about gaining visibility in those all-important avenues to success. That way, you’ll sell more in the long run.

What else can I do to help my ebook launch?

To be honest: whatever you enjoy. If you’ve spent months building a mailing list, let them know. If you have loads of Facebook friends, give them a shout. Tweet about it a couple of times if you want. Write an awesome blog post.

Or, do none of these. It’s really up to you. If you’re going to spend any money on promotional opportunities, I’d recommend an Orangeberry book tour. I got some great reviews/feedback on What We Saw by taking this route, and they’re a great bunch of people. Assess your costs and see whether or not it’ll work for you.

But mainly, just enjoy yourself. The best thing you can do on a ebook’s launch date is begin building those visibility routes. Ebooks aren’t like print books — once they’re out, they’re out forever. Use the launch month to assess which price works for you, to post to a few review sites. Gear up for your first big promotional opportunity and subsequent promotions, which I’ll talk about more in-depth next week.

So, a recap of the key points of ebook launch:

  • Make sure your book looks and reads professionally
  • Check, check, and check your ebook files
  • Enrol your book in KDP Select and go free from the off
  • Let your friends/family/neighbours’ cats know about your book (they will be forever the best promoters. Friends/fam, not cats.)
  • Get to work on your next project and spend launch month experimenting with what works/doesn’t work for you

What about after launch month? How do I start actually selling books?

I would tell you, but this post is at 1,400 words as it is and I really need some of that delicious pasta bake I popped in the oven. However, I will say that little promotional opportunities every now and then are beneficial. I’ll go into that in more depth next week, but for now…

What We Saw is 99c/77p this weekend!What We-Saw Cover Thumbnail

Not so subtle transition, I realise. But anyway, What We Sawmy debut novel which has been described as ‘a mystery novel for the new generation’ and ‘A triumph’ (thanks!) as well as ‘forcing me to question the author’s attachment to the real world’ (thanks even more!) is a mind-bogglingly, recession-beating 99c/77p for this weekend only.

It’s Kindle exclusive, and you can grab it from Amazon by clicking here.

Remember — you don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books. Have an iPhone? How about a Blackberry? No? How about a computer? Yeah? Thought that’d get you. Well, you can download all the Kindle reading software you’d ever need over here.

Cheers, and as usual, any questions in the comments. Have a brilliant weekend! I’ve just written what I believe is the best chapter I’ve ever written in my third WIP, so I’m pretty buzzing. To be notified as soon as the book (as well as any other new books of mine) are available, please do sign up to my mailing list. It’s free, easy, and 100% spam-free.


Have you launched a book? What would you do differently now you’ve had some time to reflect?

Image courtesy of goXunuReviews via Flickr