Last week, I published a super-detailed post sharing everything that was involved in getting my book Will It Fly? ready for liftoff. The post covered a wide range of topics, from how I validated the idea for the book and how I wrote it, to how I found people to help edit it and how much money I spent along the way.
Today, in part two, I’ll be sharing how Will It Fly? was released into the wild with the goal of producing optimal results. In other words, all of the behind-the-scenes stuff that went into the marketing and distribution of the book.
I’m going into so much detail because I hope this will help you plan your own next book, course, or product launch. Will It Fly? was written to help you get started building the business of your dreams, and I want this post to be one more tool to help you get that business off the ground.
As I mentioned in part one, the book has performed well so far. In the month of February, it sold 15,674 copies, and generated a total of $45,083.14. It climbed to the number one position on Amazon in the Entrepreneurship, Startup, and Motivational categories. It shot up to number twenty-two overall in the entire Kindle store, and it earned a Wall Street Journal bestseller standing.
There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s start at the beginning when the idea for Will It Fly? surfaced, because that’s actually when the marketing started too—even before I knew what the book was about or what the title would be.
Marketing Starts at the Beginning
Marketing shouldn’t begin when your book or product is available for sale, and it doesn’t start as soon as it’s finished either. It really starts the moment you begin talking about it, and my advice would be to build buzz and start talking about it as soon as possible.
Session 138 of the SPI Podcast, which went live in December 2014, featured the first public mention of a new book that I wanted to write. It was clear that I didn’t know what it was going to be about, but I was brainstorming and getting people to be a part of that process already. After that initial public mention, I discussed the book over and over again in different ways.
In February 2015, I showed the start of my brainstorming process in SPI TV Episode 1, which was about how to write a quick first draft. This planted the seed, once again, that I was writing a book, and that I was serious about it. As the book topic became more defined, I mentioned it here and there on podcast episodes and on social media.
Periscope was particularly helpful in sharing the process and receiving direct feedback from my audience. In one Periscope session, I shared my word count and the tools I was using to write my draft. In another, I talked about writer’s block and how I was overcoming it.
It wasn’t until three months prior to the launch, however, that I started to nail down some book marketing ideas that would be used specifically to help launch with a bang.
Brainstorming Marketing Ideas
It’s important to conduct a marketing related brainstorming exercise before your launch date. After getting together with my team, here’s what we came up with:
- Podcast interviews and guest post tour (ideal publication is a week before or week of launch)
- Behind the scenes: book cover options, interviews with other team members involved
- Launch team to get early access to book, leave feedback, build excitement
- Launch with goals of sharing and reviews in mind
- Give book away for free
- Pat’s “Under My Wing” promotion: have a contest and take one person publicly under my wing through the exercises and strategies in the book
- Paid advertising (Facebook)
- Goodreads promotion
- Pre-sale and book bundle promotion
- Social media campaign
- Email list
- Launch day virtual party
- Teaser video
- Trailer video
Most of this is pretty standard stuff, except maybe for the “Under My Wing” promotion. Unfortunately, after diving further into the details (which would have included an application process, application review, and a flight out to someone’s house to help walk them through the validation process), it became apparent that we just didn’t have the time or resources to execute it the way we wanted. We’ve put that idea in our back pocket for now, potentially as a way to launch a second edition later on.
The next step was to look at our list of marketing ideas and determine which items required work right away. At three months out from the February 1 launch date, these were top three priorities:
- Reaching out for podcast interviews and guest post opportunities
- Figuring out if we could pre-sell the book on Amazon as a self-published author printing through Amazon’s CreateSpace
- The Book Launch team (which you can hear about in Session 198 of the SPI Podcast with Daniel Decker, the SPI Launch Team manager for Will It Fly?)
Let’s talk about each of these, because they were very important to the Will It Fly? marketing strategy.
Podcast Interviews and Guest Posts
The first step was to make a list of anyone who could potentially help promote the book. My team and I created a spreadsheet and filled it in with as many people as possible. We ended up with a list of about 100 people. It was a great list, but since I could only schedule podcast recordings for a couple of hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays leading up to the launch, we narrowed the list to about fifty.
We then expanded on these names in our spreadsheet, knowing it would become the tool we would use internally to keep track of our progress as we reached out to the hosts and blog authors. You can see that spreadsheet here:
Note: I blurred out the names because this isn’t about who I reached out to, or who said yes or no. If you’d like to get a list of the blogs and podcasts that hosted me during the launch, you can see that here.
This spreadsheet was massively important. It helped us stay on the same page in regards to who had been contacted, who had yet to reply, and when those shows were scheduled to record and go live. You’ll see on the spreadsheet that there are green, yellow, and red highlights. The green means that they said yes, the yellow was a maybe, and the red was a no. Some I never heard back from. Don’t let the fear of hearing “no” keep you from reaching out.
I’m super thankful that a majority of the people I reached out to replied with an excited yes! Ninety percent of those I reached out to I had once helped in one way or another over the years, and because of that I felt more comfortable asking for help. In fact, many of the names were drawn from a list that I’ve been keeping track of over time, which comprised of people who had once said to me, “If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know.” I always sure to keep a running list of people who have said that, because you never know when you might need the help. And I’m definitely thankful for being able to redeem some of those offers!
As more and more people heard about the book, I started to receive additional requests for interviews or guest blog posts, which is why you’ll see more than fifty entries on the spreadsheet. As it turns out, I decided to focus on podcast interviews as opposed to guest posts, because I didn’t have the time to write that many unique posts, and recording an interview was a more efficient way for me to connect with an audience.
To help with the scheduling, the best tool we used beyond this spreadsheet was Calendly. [Full Disclosure: I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
Calendly syncs with your calendar and makes it easy to schedule appointments by sharing a link. When I’d get a reply from someone, we’d send them the Calendly link specifically for the Will It Fly? interviews on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As spots get filled in, those times become unavailable on the Calendly link, so it makes sure everything is organized and people, including myself, receive appointment reminders by email. It also asks for the Skype ID when people schedule a time.
Seriously, Calendly is one of my top ten apps of all time. Gotta love it!
Reaching Out with Video
One other thing I wanted to test was whether there was any difference in response time and promotion quality from those I reached out to via email, versus those I reached out to with a video. Video took a little longer than email so I wasn’t able to do a complete fifty-fifty split experiment, but I did notice that those I reached out to with video had a lot more energy for the promotion. I’m not sure if this is a direct correlation to the video, or to the fact that I sent videos to people I already had a strong connection with, so the experiment isn’t necessarily conclusive.
With that said, all but one person I reached out to with a video said yes, and I definitely feel like I got a stronger push from those people. The videos were not highly produced, just shot with my iPhone in my home office and uploaded as an unlisted video on YouTube. Here’s one sample that I sent to Jess Lively, someone I connected with earlier in 2015 and whose audience was perfect for Will It Fly?:
If I were to go through this process again, I’d definitely do a video for each of the individuals I reached out to. Email is great, but videos are more personal, and with such a big ask, you want to give it the best chance to be received, listened to, and answered.
Pre-Orders Through Amazon with CreateSpace
In part one I mentioned that the book was self-published and printed on-demand through CreateSpace, an Amazon affiliate. If there’s a self-published paperback book for sale on Amazon, it’s likely due to CreateSpace.
The challenge was that I wanted to collect pre-orders as I see many authors do this on Amazon, but it’s not something that seemed possible when self-publishing and printing on demand with CreateSpace. That is, until Azul, my accountability coach for this project, found out that it was possible by going through a completely wonky process that involved adding another arm of the Amazon branch, Amazon Advantage.
Amazon Advantage is a “self-service consignment program” that enables you to promote and sell media products directly on Amazon. It’s for publishers, music labels, studios, and authors. It gives you the tools you need to take advantage of the Amazon marketplace and help you with distribution and order fulfillment.
To share with you how wonky this process is, here’s the basic breakdown:
- Sign up with Amazon Advantage.
- Create a new item for your book and set the release date to your future publication date.
- Upload the cover image for your book. By now, you’ll have an Amazon page with the product displaying the future publication date. Pre-orders can now be placed.
- You’ll begin to get invoices for your book from Amazon. They’ll begin ordering copies from you and ask you to ship them in bulk to specific locations. Since you’re publishing through CreateSpace on-demand, you don’t have books to send anywhere, so you simply mark the items as backordered until that specific launch date.
- Meanwhile, you create your book on CreateSpace and fill in all of the necessary details (title, description, ISBN, categories, etc.) and upload the necessary files (book cover and manuscript). Don’t release it to the wild just yet though. Here’s where it gets weird.
- The evening before your launch, contact Amazon Advantage’s customer service team and tell them specifically to remove the item and transfer all of the pre-orders that came to CreateSpace. They will then fulfill the orders that came in during the pre-sale.
- And then, magically on the backend, the Amazon page for your book switches from Amazon Advantage to CreateSpace fulfillment, and your book is live for customers to buy.
Here’s a link to a more detailed step-by-step CreateSpace thread where Azul and I first learned about the process. Eric, the main guy who shared this information with the community, also has a handy video that walks you through the entire process.
It’s wonky but it worked. By following all of the steps, we were able to pre-sell 3,110 copies of Will It Fly?, and those sales all dropped on February 1.
So Why Would You Want to Pre-sell Your Book in the First Place?
Pre-sales for books are beneficial for a number of reasons:
- They help you build buzz before the book comes out
- Leading up to the release date is a great time to offer bonuses for a limited time that help drive sales
- It allows you to collect sales early for social proof
- If done correctly, books will be reported as sold on launch day, which provides a massive bump in any potential bestseller list rankings
The tricky part is the coordination of all of the moving pieces, especially when you’re self-publishing. When you work with a traditional publisher, they have relationships with the right people to make this all happen in a painless manner, and you likely won’t have to lift a finger to get it all set up.
The other cool thing about the pre-sale process in Amazon is that you can climb the rankings of your book category during this time. Will It Fly? went up for pre-sale after putting it up on Amazon Advantage on January 23, and within a day after a few shares on social media and sharing it in the launch group, it jumped to number 637 overall.
On January 26, it shot up to number 163, and on January 27 it cracked the top 100 list, which was amazing. Also, because of its velocity, it was also featured on the “Movers and Shakers” list, all before it even went live.
Was this important? Absolutely. Each milestone became another moment of excitement for me to share, which exposed the book even more. As people began to see it climb, more people began to purchase it.
Now, you maybe asking, what about the Kindle book?
Ah, the Kindle book. That’s a whole different story.
Kindle Pre-Orders Through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Kindle books are sold through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program. It is definitely possible to set up a pre-order for your Kindle book (as stated here), but we were unable to do so because of one primary reason:
We didn’t have time.
Part of the requirement for putting a Kindle book up for pre-sale is that you must upload the final draft of the manuscript at least ten days before the launch of your book. The reason is that they don’t want people to collect pre-orders for an e-book that doesn’t exist. This meant that we would have had to have it completed, edited, and designed by January 21, which was impossible since the manuscript was still being designed at that time.
I personally wanted to make sure that the book looked and read nicely on any Kindle device or reader, and that was more important to me than an extra pre-sale. I figured it made sense despite having pre-order bonuses available for the paperback version, because the bonuses were for those who purchased bundles of books, and you can only purchase a single copy of a Kindle book.
Furthermore, as I learned through many conversations with authors leading up to the launch, pre-selling your Kindle book can actually hurt you more than it can help. You get all of the benefits of pre-selling a product, except for the one about all sales being reported as happening on launch day, specifically related to getting on the bestseller lists.
With paperback books, pre-sold copies all report as being sold on the day that it’s published (again, specifically to the non-Amazon bestseller rankings). With Kindle, this is apparently not true. I tried to do some more research on this, but I couldn’t find any concrete information, so just take this as my word for now. As soon as I find out more I’ll definitely update this information.
Turns out, I hopped over a potential roadblock to run smack into another one: the Kindle version of the book wasn’t even available on February 1 until later in the afternoon.
I submitted the final files to Amazon KDP about twenty-four hours before I wanted the Kindle to go live. My goal was to have it ready by the virtual launch day party at 9:00 a.m. PST on Friday, February 1.
I stayed up the entire night beforehand finishing the content in the Will It Fly? Companion Course (a free course offered with the book that includes supplemental materials for an enhanced reading experience), and throughout the entire night and early morning, I constantly checked KDP to see if it had finally gone through.
By the time 9:00 a.m. rolled around, it still had not been approved, and I had not slept a wink. I was delirious, which you could definitely tell if you watched live on the Google Hangout and Periscope feeds. We had a good time though!
The big lesson is that I would have given myself more time for Amazon to approve the KDP file. They say that they usually approve books within twenty-four hours, but it can sometimes take up to seventy-two hours. Most of the chatter in KDP communities online at the time said people were having their books approved sometimes within twelve hours, so I don’t really know what happened.
Because of this, I had to delay a book launch-related email I had ready to go out to my list because I wanted to make sure I gave people both options (Kindle or paperback) so they could purchase the book in the format they liked best.
Then, finally, at the tail end of the live stream, after refreshing KDP several times, the book was approved and the status switched from “under review” to “publishing!” It happened live in front of everyone and my reaction says it all!
The reaction is cued up in the video below, which is a replay of the launch party:
But there’s more. When the Kindle book was finally available on Amazon, I noticed that it was a completely separate page from the paperback book.
Yes, that’s right—the paperback and the Kindle book were on two separate Amazon pages. This was not what I expected. But remember, I’m a rookie at this, and after a panic text message to Azul and a search through a bunch of discussion forums, I gathered that after a certain amount of time the two formats magically find each other and connect the pages. Phew!
Based on the titles, the author and the description (which should be written the same on both CreateSpace and KDP), Amazon eventually connects the two pages. I was also told that you can contact KDP customer service to send a message and make it happen sooner.
For me, the two Will It Fly? book pages for paperback and Kindle connected into one universal page about three hours later, and after 5:00 p.m. the book was finally the way I had imagined on Amazon. I was ready to shoot out the email to my list. But I decided to wait until February 2 to send it, and I included a little promo that helped the book skyrocket to the top.
The Email I Sent to My List that Helped Get it to the Top
The number one thing that gave me the biggest boost in sales and rankings on Amazon was sending an email to my list. Here’s that email, word for word, which was sent on February 2:
Subject: Book Launch Results! (+Special Kindle Deal!)
Hi [FIRST NAME GOES HERE]!
Yesterday was launch day for my new book, Will It Fly, and I was completely out of it! I had not slept a wink the night before since I was getting things ready for the launch. It was my first all-nighter since college!
There’s so much involved with the launch of a book – especially one that you self-publish – and I made sure to keep track of everything I did so I can report back to you on everything that happened in an upcoming blog post. That includes numbers, marketing strategies, how it was all put together, everything that went well, and everything that didn’t go according to plan.
Despite some hiccups (like the Kindle version going live much later than expected), the book launch did very well! We quickly flew to #1 Hot New Release for Entrepreneurship, #80 Overall Best Seller, and apparently overnight it hit #1 in Entrepreneurship, but I was sleeping so I didn’t catch a screenshot in time.
I just wanted to thank you all for of the incredible support. Yesterday was truly a dream come true, and to see everyone rush to get their hands on Will It Fly made me super proud of the SPI community and how amazing you all are, and I know this book is going to help you in your entrepreneurial journey.
If you have the book and have read it already, please post a review on Amazon when you get a chance!
Special Kindle Deal! ($2.99 until Feb. 3rd)
For the next two days only (until the end of February 3rd), the Kindle version of Will It Fly will be available for only $2.99 USD.
The price will at least double around midnight the morning of the 4th.
Additionally, I’ve enabled a setting called Kindle MatchBook, which means that if you purchase the physical book, you will be able to also get the Kindle version for a discounted price (and at the current sales price, that means for free).
Click the link below to grab your copy now before the price goes up:
Thanks so much once again, and I look forward to your thoughts and reviews!
Now, you may be thinking, “Pat, you sold the Kindle book for $2.99? Are you mad?!”
At $2.99, that’s a huge discount, especially considering the value that’s packed into this book, but as I mentioned in part one, the purpose of this book isn’t to make a ton of money. It’s about getting the book into the hands of as many people as possible, who have not yet been exposed to me or the SPI brand, and that’s exactly what this promotion did.
With the price doubling in less than forty-eight hours, people were quick to get their hands on it. Here’s a graph of the Kindle book sales as a result of this promotion:
How crazy is that?
And remember, Will It Fly? became a Wall Street Journal bestseller because of the number of e-books sold within the first week, not because of how much it earned. All things considered, a WSJ standing is definitely worth giving up a few dollars upfront on each book sale.
At $2.99, the royalty isn’t all that much ($1.56 per unit), but to see thousands of people read it and glean value from it means the world to me. The WSJ standing was simply a cherry on top, and actually quite an unexpected one.
Now for some quick tips I learned while selling on Amazon.
First, Amazon encourages you to promote your book using your own affiliate link. On your website, you should absolutely give yourself extra commission by using your Amazon Associates affiliate link to promote your book. I did this on my website and podcast and earned an additional $2,500 during the month. And remember, it’s not just the one product you direct buyers to that will earn you a commission, it’s everything else that’s included in their cart too. Check out some of these random items that I got paid a commission for:
Second, although the above is true, you’re not supposed to share your affiliate link in any email promotions. Not all people obey this rule, and yes, many get away with it, but you put yourself and your Amazon Associates account at risk by doing this. In the email I sent out, I just made sure that the link I included was not an affiliate link.
Facebook Advertisements for the Book
The only paid advertising I experimented with was Facebook Ads. There are other opportunities, especially for authors, to pay for additional promotion such as on websites like Goodreads and BookBub, but I wasn’t quite ready to explore those options. With Facebook, I had the help of Mark Dawson. Mark has written several successful fiction books, as you can see here on Amazon.
He’s absolutely crushing it.
I was lucky to have started a conversation with him on Skype a while ago and since then I’ve been picking his brain on a number of self-publishing related tips and tricks, and he agreed to help me with my Facebook campaign.
Here’s an ad we ran related to the promotion:
I agreed to run a test for $1,000 over the course of three to four days to see what that could do. In the end, we spent a total of $1,150. Here’s how it broke down:
- Ads: $1,266
- E-books sold through the ads: 465
- Print books: 27
- Royalties: $1,162
- Commissions: $223
- Total: $1,385
Return on Investment: 9%
That’s minimum, and doesn’t take into account purchases outside of twenty-four-hour cookie life, organic sales through boosted rank, and general increase in awareness through the ads.
Overall, Facebook advertising was worth it, but it definitely wasn’t a game-changer, at least as far as the numbers are concerned. One thing to consider, however, is that even though some people see these ads in their Facebook feed and they do not purchase directly from that ad itself, it’s another touchpoint that puts the book in their mind for a potential sell or share later on, which isn’t something that can be measured, but still incredibly important.
How did we keep track of conversions?
Well, we used an Amazon Associates affiliate link! We created a special tracking ID just for those who picked up the book through the ads on Facebook, so we could see exactly how they were converting. From there, we calculated the ROI based on units sold and royalties.
The trouble was that we didn’t know for sure what the numbers were until twenty-four hours after each day, because the Amazon Associates reporting system updates after the day is over, and that cookie is enabled for twenty-four hours. But the numbers that Mark reported above were the final Facebook campaign numbers.
Will Facebook be something I’d use again in the next book launch or product promotion? Definitely, but it’s still new so I’m happy to have had help in my corner for this. Thanks, Mark!
What I Would Have Done Differently
I’m super happy with the results of the launch overall. To recap what I had mentioned in the last post:
During the first week of launch, the paperback itself generated a total of $22,154.72, and the Kindle version earned a total of $9,661.42.
In total, that’s $31,816.14 after seven days, which means that within a week we recouped the cost, which was $19,626.25 overall. It was nice to see it generate a profit, but remember, generating an income was not the primary goal here. The primary goal was to get it into as many hands as possible, and within seven days, a total of 12,720 copies were sold.
To break that down for you, that’s:
- 5,378 paperback copies
- 7,342 Kindle copies
That means for the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, since Will It Fly? was number six in nonfiction e-books, 7,342 copies were sold to make that happen.
Totals for the month of February: the book has sold 15,674 total copies, and generated a total of over $45,083.14 dollars.
Although the launch was completely successful, there are a few things I wish I had done differently:
1. I Would Give Myself (and My Team) More Time!
After setting a hard launch date of February 1, we were off to the races. It became our stake in the ground as we continued to make decisions and add new items into the mix. As a result, some things were rushed or never happened at all.
For example, all of the stuff with the Kindle launch wouldn’t have happened if we had given ourselves adequate time to get that uploaded. We were down to the last two days to receive final PDF files for the paperback, which was cutting it close. If there were any errors that had to be corrected, we wouldn’t have made our February 1 deadline.
Additionally, with all of the moving parts, including CreateSpace and Amazon Advantage, something could have broken or simply not worked, and it would have delayed the launch as well. Thankfully, everything seemed to work out.
2. I Would Have Hired a Coach Sooner
I hired a coach to help hold me accountable and really guide me through the process of getting my manuscript complete. But I ran into a few roadblocks. Looking back, there was a good three or four month period during the past year that I feel was wasted because I wasn’t in the right mindset at the start to write the book—a lot of it was not believing in myself. I hear from so many readers that this kind of doubt is a big struggle for them, and I want you to know that sometimes I struggle with it too. After Azul helped me over those hurdles and I started to gain momentum, the writing flowed.
3. I Would Get the Manuscript into the Hands of Select People Earlier
I didn’t have a full manuscript available until January 1 to give to the launch team and those who were potentially going to promote the book. Again, this is all related to the timeframe we gave ourselves, but if I could do it again I would have the manuscript ready at least two months before launch to give adequate time to allow people to read through it, provide better feedback, and build more buzz.
4. I Would Create a Share Page
One thing that was lacking in this campaign was a share page—a page full of assets like images, pull quotes, tweets, and email copy, etc., that anyone could use to help promote on their own platforms. We did have a share page for the launch team but it was very basic, and if I had the chance (and, again, more time), I would have had a much more robust page available for those who wanted to help promote the book.
5. I Would Collect Blurbs
Again, along the same lines, I wish I had the manuscript earlier so that I could’ve collected honest blurbs from folks who read the book before launch, which we we could then include in the final product. I was able to get some people to read the book and collect blurbs, which you can see on the Amazon page and the first couple pages of the book, but there were a lot more people I reached out to who said they didn’t have enough time to read it.
And finally, I want to thank you. Seriously, this has been one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, and it’s you and your support that make it special for me. Back when I was working at my job as an architect, I never would have guessed in a million years that I could publish a book, let alone one that gets into the hands of thousands of people and earns a spot on a bestseller list.
The biggest overall lesson that I learned is how much I often limit myself. This launch has pushed me to believe that I am someone who can make a huge difference in this world. I look forward to serving you more in the future with even bigger and better projects, and until then, I will keep pushing Will It Fly? because I’ve already seen the results it has had on multitudes of people who have read it.
More to come, but in case you haven’t picked it up already, please head on over to WillItFlyBook.com to get access to the book!
This Just In! The Audiobook is Now Available for Pre-Order!
I’m also happy to announce that the audio version of Will It Fly? is now available for pre-order! It goes live next week. I know a lot of you listen to the podcast and would prefer (and have been waiting for) the audio version to come out, and it’s now available for sale through Amazon and Audible.com!
I narrated it myself, which was a blast. I actually re-recorded some parts after listening to it initially because I wasn’t happy with it. All this to say, I put extra time and care into making the audio version as great as it can be, and it also includes some special off-script moments that aren’t included in the text version of the book, and a bonus AskPat question and answer session at the end with questions from you!
I hope you enjoy it! Just click here to pre-order and be one of the first to listen!
Cheers, and all the best!
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