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Here are the responses to my questions about pre-selling books. Thank you to Joe Solari, Mace Horoff and Cheryl Mclaughlin for their responses. Their responses are mixed into each section, with additional ideas attributed to each at the end.
1. How soon before the launch should one begin?
- If you have an audience/mailing list you should start 3–6 months out and build an advance reader group to help review the book and provide reviews your first week of launch. I also run free early chapters or related lead magnets to build interest and names on a list.
- The informal, yet essential, audience-gathering and getting-to-know, build relationships with your Tribe.
- Should begin immediately (or ASAP) once you have the idea for the book, and test it to see if there’s a hungry audience for it that buys books.
Go to where your potential readers are, where they are gathering online to discuss your topic (LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, etc.) and be a contributor. Add something to the conversation. Be helpful. Learn about the people and build relationships with them. As you share things that are helpful, motivating, etc., they’ll click through to learn more about you.
- And for heaven’s sake, when they come to your site, have a place for people to sign up for your mailing list (like a wait list or an Updates about the book) for the book.
At 6 months out, mobilize your tribe:
- Start blogging some ideas from your book, back story, etc. Let your audience engage with you, read their comments. It will clarify your thinking, make your book better; people start to feel engaged with you and the topic, and they start feeling some ownership. Plus, you’ll see what really gets their attention.
- Expand your audience: Promote posts on social media to targeted audiences who you believe would like your book. Attract them to come to your site. Encourage them to sign up for your email list.
- Secure endorsements early. The more good endorsements you have up early, the more social proof you have for the pre-sell and launch.
About 6 weeks from launch date:
- Gather launch supporters/team (influencers who love your book who have good followers who would also like your book) to help you spread the word to targeted audiences and write reviews...and make it worth their time to help you (bonuses, access to you, advance access to book in PDF, etc.)
- Start putting those reviews on Amazon.
- Update/engage with your tribe with cool related content, encouragement to buy on launch day.
- Social Media promotion (FB ads, and organic promo)
2. What kind of response is typical?
- If you don’t have an audience built then you will get low turnout.
- I don’t think there is a typical response as success is dependent upon the size, quality and characteristics of your tribe, how well they know and like your work, their fit for the book and whether they take action to buy.
3. What are the advantages of preselling other than the actual sale that day?
- Pre-selling with a special discount gets you to build sales over time versus trying to coordinate a pop launch week. If you can coordinate your launch well and have a fan base that will come out, then shoot for launch week. I think there are bigger strategies to put in place to improve book sales.
- This depends upon your objectives.
If you want your pre-sell to help you hit the bestseller lists: you want the big sales of your book to occur on launch day or during launch week. So, you want very limited pre-order sales through Amazon. So your pre-sell is about getting people excited to buy on launch day/launch week.
If your primary objective is to have the pre-sell fund the book, then you’ll want to have those pre-sell commitments come in earlier and set it up either personally or through something like Kickstarter, Gumroad, etc. Credit cards are charged on release date.
4. What have you found to be the best giveaways?
- My opinion is giveaways can build a list but they are not going to be your audience. I have done Kindle giveaways and although I built a list I feel they were low quality.
- Put yourself in your reader’s/book buyer’s shoes. What would they find really valuable? If you’re doing a solution/how to book, what would take them one step further down that path to implement the steps/concepts in your book to solve their problem? An e-book checklist of steps? A video showing them how to implement? A video interview with someone who not only did it but shows you how and shares their tips and mistakes along the way and how to avoid them?
5. What have you found to be a waste of time?
- The biggest mistake authors make is not having an audience already built to sell that book to.
- Amazon is a search engine, not a store. It happens to be the #3 search engine. This means there needs to be keyword and category strategies used to assist in helping customers find your book.
- As a speaker, appropriate use of Amazon and the books you write can help you grow your audience, assert authority and nurture the audience, all while getting revenue.
- Pricing. What is your pricing strategy? Having a pricing strategy will impact sales more than a giveaway.
- Check out Guy Kawasaki’s book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. It’s on Amazon. He provides very helpful info about building a platform for pre-launching a book.
Mary LoVerde: I got this book and I agree with Mace. It is full of useful, implementable ideas. Guy (and other authors who are currently doing a pre-sale launch) said that you should expect fewer than 1% of your tribe to buy the book on a pre-launch.
Be clear about your objectives for the pre-sell. What do you want it to do for you? This will affect your plan, timing, implementation and whether a pre-sell plan even makes sense for you.
- Do you want to pre-sell the book to fund the printing and promotion of the book? Do you want the pre-sell to help you generate a large number of orders the first week of the launch to help you get on bestseller lists? Do you want your pre-sell to mobilize your existing tribe, to get them excited?
- Do you have a great book that either solves a problem or pain point, fills a need or provides an experience that people want?
People aren’t interested in buying a book. They want to buy the solution or experience you are providing.
If no: Not ready for a pre-sell. Focus on improving your book and testing to see if people actually want what you have to offer.
- Do you already have a mobilized “tribe” — an audience of fans who want the solution or experience you provide, who knows you are the person who can help them or provide it — and do they buy books online?
If no: A pre-sell will be a waste of time. Pre-sells will only work if you already have a tribe of fans who know you, who want the solution or experience you’re providing and they trust you, your expertise and your ability to deliver...and who buy books online!
Spend your time and build your tribe for you and the book, and make sure they are people who buy books!
If you think a pre-sell makes sense for you, begin developing your pre-sell and launch plan about a year ahead of launch date (or at least ASAP) and choose your objectives and strategy. Start with release day and work backwards, especially if you want to head into launch day with a sizable pre-order (advantageous).