September 18, 2018

Setting Up a Book Launch for Success — Guest: Christina Delay

Balloon-launch-filled sky with text: Launching Our Book with Success in Mind

As authors, our focus is usually on our stories. We love thinking about our characters, writing craft, and storytelling. However, there’s more to being a successful author than just writing. *cue groans*

If any of our measures of success include growing our readership, we also have to figure out how to best find and market our book to readers who will love our story. And that means we have to think like entrepreneurs a bit.

(Believe me, I understand the groans—I’m terrible with the marketing aspect too. *smile* That’s why I bring in expert guest posters like Christina Delay to help us all.)

Over the past few months, Christina has shared her advice on reaching our readers on Facebook, using Google AdWords, and how to have fun with our marketing. (But if you really hate marketing stuff or need more assistance, read past Christina’s bio at the bottom of this post for a special offer of help! *grin*)

While we might not enjoy the marketing aspect of bringing our story to the world, we can benefit from thinking like a business person by taking cues from the business world rather than reinventing the wheel. For example, the launching of a new book has many similarities to how businesses launch a new product.

Today, Christina is back to share her marketing insights. What can we learn about how to set up successful book launches by looking at what businesses do for successful product launches?

Please welcome Christina Delay! *smile*


Planning for Success:
Launching a Book Like a Business Product

by Christina Delay

When a business launches a new product or service, typically there is a detailed launch plan in place, informed by data and making full use of either past strategies or well-documented and researched approaches that are meant to effectively reach the target audience.

Sometimes the launch is a raging success.

Apple iPod marketing image

(The Apple iPod changed the course of how music is experienced.)

Sometimes the launch is a total flop.

Image of HP Touchpad

(HP Touchpad was pulled from the shelves 1.5 months after launch.)

But rarely does a business launch a product or service by throwing marketing techniques at the wall to see which ones stick.

Close up of noodles stuck to glass

So why do most authors take “the noodle approach” instead of approaching their book launches like a business approaches a product launch?

Yes, Authors Can Learn from Business Practices

Sure, we don’t have corporate marketing budgets or analytical gurus or teams of marketing professionals…but neither does the small business in your community. Truth is, most small businesses operate on a marketing budget very similar to most authors’ marketing budgets.

What can we learn about book launches from the business world? by @christinadelay Click To TweetHow do I know? I specialize in helping small businesses market their services or products, rebrand their business, and launch new services and products in my day job. What I’ve discovered over the past 14 years is most small businesses have the tools to succeed in rebranding or launching their services, but they must learn how to use those tools and rely on real data rather than gut instinct.

Does that mean they can’t be creative? No. Does that mean they can’t try new things? Certainly not. But relying on the data gives them a solid foundation from which to grow their products and services and allows them to more successfully try new approaches.

Foundations of a Successful Launch

There are some core foundations of a successful launch to consider when launching your books.

Understand Your Goals

When I work with my clients, my first question is always, “What is your goal with this launch?” You’d be surprised at how many blank stares I get. Or their answer is, “To make money.” (By the way, that’s not a specific enough goal to do you any good.)

If you do not have a set, measurable goal in place for your launch, you have nothing to work toward.

Let’s say you’re a debut author who has a release in three months. You have a goal of making back your investment or earning out your advance. But what does that really mean in practical terms?

A better goal to set would be: Increase your newsletter subscribers by X% within 75 days.

Why is this a better goal to set? Because it is an actionable item that leads to your overall goal of making back your investment or earning out your advance.

Newsletters have, time and again, proven to be an author’s most effective marketing tool. Increasing your newsletter subscribers with high-value subscribers (not bought and paid for subscribers) is your best strategy to meeting your overall goal.

And the good news is you can design a marketing campaign that leads to a larger newsletter list.

Follow The Data Trail

I know most of you hate the data. But Data loves you! He wants to be your friend! (Does it help that I’ve named the data, Data?)

Image of the Star Trek character Data

Understanding Data allows you to understand where you should spend your time:

  • How do most people find you?
  • Where do you get your best engagement?
  • Does social media really lead to sales for you?
  • Does guest blogging really increase your exposure in a way that impacts your sales or newsletter list?

Other important factors to consider when talking to your best friend, Data:

  • What keywords impact sales?
  • What ads have been effective? And why?
  • What platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, AMS, etc.) have been effective for you in the past?

If looking at Data makes you shut down, this is one area that you should hire out. Understanding your data is key to your success.

If you don’t understand what is working for you and what isn’t, you’re spending time on items not worthy of your time and you are, in essence, wasting your writing time and devaluing your future worth.

Reach Out to Your Core Audience

Every successful product in the history of successful launches has had a core fan base to help the product launch. In the industry, we call these people “brand advocates.”

A brand advocate is the reader who will tell ten other people about your book…and probably buy them a copy or force them to buy a copy…and look over their shoulder to confirm they did so. We all want these brand advocates.

But what to do when you’re a debut author or you haven’t yet identified who your brand advocates are?

Here’s where Data comes back in for a playdate:

  • Who are the newsletter subscribers who open every one of your newsletters?
  • Who are the followers on social media who always like, share, or comment on your posts?

These people are the beginnings of your brand advocate audience.

Once you’ve identified your brand advocates, treat them as the special individuals they are. Early access to books, special deals, giveaways, free chapters or short stories, even a reader trip. Take care of your brand advocates aka your superfans and they will take care of you…as long as you clearly and respectfully ask them to!

Don’t Forget Your Community

So often in our digital world, we forget about the community that exists right outside our window. Local communities love supporting artists and authors, and there are some exciting opportunities available to you that you can grasp with just a bit of creativity and gumption.

Can you do a book signing at a local business instead of a bookstore? How about a cross-promotion with a business that complements your books? Are there local radio stations, TV stations, community colleges or universities, community magazines, etc. that you could build a relationship with and appear in a monthly column or show?

What about your personal connections? Have you shared that you’re a published or about-to-be-published author? I recently did, and will now be a featured author during literacy month in one of the largest community magazines in Houston. It never hurts to ask, and the rewards, in this instance, are greater than the risk.

Don’t Fall Prey To Peer Pressure

Just because all your friends are doing a marketing thing, doesn’t mean you should do it, or that it’s even a good idea.

Talk to Mr. Data:

  • Did that last Facebook party really do anything for your brand or your book sales?
  • Did that last blog tour really refer anyone to your website or newsletter list?
  • Are those Facebook ads really giving you any sales?
  • Is Twitter really a good place to find readers?

Part of success is taking an honest look at the facts and making adjustments based on reality, instead of gut instinct. (Which is great to listen to while writing, but not so much while marketing.)

Leave Room for Strategic Excitement

Finally—have fun with your book launch. What are the things that excite you?

Make a big deal about your cover, your book trailer, your exciting blurb, your favorite line from the book, your first chapter. But do it strategically.

Scheduling out each of these “announcements of excitement” allow you to have an extended time-release of exciting news, keeping readers looking forward to the day they can click pre-order or buy.


Christina DelayAbout Christina Delay:

Christina Delay is the hostess of Cruising Writers and Creative Wellness Retreats and a multi-award-winning author represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. When she’s not cruising the Caribbean, she’s dreaming up new writing retreats to take talented authors on or giving into the demands of imaginary people to tell their stories.

Cruising Writers brings writers together with bestselling authors, an agent, an editor, and a world-renowned writing craft instructor writing retreats around the world. Get ready to Dive Deep and join us on a 7-day Immersion Cruise with Margie Lawson this December to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel! Only two spaces left! | Facebook | Twitter


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Thank you, Christina! As you said, we’re so used to relying on our instincts in writing, that we might fall back on that approach in our marketing, but that’s not necessarily the smartest path. Marketing costs us real money if we’re not being careful with the most effective strategies for us.

Also, can I just say that I love that Christina is offering these marketing services to authors now! *grin* Whether we struggle with learning the techniques or finding the time, sometimes we just want someone to hold our hand—or do it all for us.

But no matter our situation, it’s to our benefit to learn as much as we can about marketing. Just as we can’t judge the quality of an editor unless we know what to look for, we can’t know how much a marketing service or approach might help us unless we know the basics. *smile*

Do you ever try to “think like a business person” in your writing career? What aspects of writing have you applied a business perspective to? Have you ever tried launching a book like a product? Do you have any questions about Christina’s advice? Do you have any questions for Christina about marketing or her services?

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Comments — What do you think?

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Christina Delay

Thanks so much for having me on again, Jami!

Angela Ackerman

Great advice, Christina! And as someone who likes marketing, I love how you make marketing feel fun. 🙂 I think that’s a big key–to change our perspective about what we’re doing and instead get excited about understanding our audience well enough that we are providing them with EXACTLY what they want and need. I think that’s the coolest part of marketing. 🙂


Hi Angela! I love that you love marketing! And it most definitely CAN be fun, especially when we look at marketing as helping people meet their wants and needs :).

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Hi, thanks. Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound.
I don’t know why marketing types keep pushing platforms that are not to do with books. All the facebook owned sites you mention are considered pretty toxic.
I promote on Goodreads and Linked In, using relevant groups and not spamming. As for free book downloads and sign up to newsletters, that would be Instafreebie and Kindle giveaways. If you want to find readers go where readers are.


Hi Clare –

Thanks for your comment! I completely agree, which is why I went into the importance of taking a honest look at your data :). I’m glad you’ve found success on Goodreads and LinkedIn, as those are tough platforms for most authors to break into – especially on LinkedIn if you’re a fiction author! The key is finding your readers and approaching them when they are in the right mindset to be receptive to your books – so kudos to you for doing just that!

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