The long-term success of a book on Amazon hinges on a strong book launch. This boils down to a large amount of people purchasing and reviewing your book to make it as visible as possible to the ideal readers. This can be tough to do, especially if you don’t have an established audience to draw on.
I want to share how I was able to take The Story Engine from book launch to bestseller, without starting a huge list or social media following.
I needed to get creative on how I was going to get the critical mass of attention I needed to succeed.
Even without a list, it was easy to brainstorm a small army of people who would be interested in the book, and/or would be willing to help me promote it. I wrote down all my colleagues, past customers, people I collaborated with, past coworkers, and friends. I wrote as many of these names as I could think of onto a spreadsheet. Some were people that would be happy to support me no matter what. Others would have busy schedules and receive dozens of requests like this on a daily basis.
I needed a tool that could capture their attention and create an emotional connection quickly.
I had heard about BombBomb from speakers who were using it as a tool to reach out to meeting planners and get on more stages. Video email could bring a “human touch” to email and cut through the noise in the inbox.
It seemed like the ideal tool to let people know the book was coming and to invite them to join the launch team.
What Makes a Successful Book Launch?
I need to give credit where credit is due. I learned fundamentals about how to write, launch and market my book from Self-Publishing School. They have an amazing array of resources and information on the topic and it’s a great resource for anyone who wants to self-publish a book.
Here are the 3 basic ingredients to a winning book launch:
* Lots of downloads – Your book’s visibility depends on how many downloads it receives. An early wave of downloads can propel your book to the top of certain categories on Amazon. Which will get Amazon promoting your book for you in the right column (pictured below) of similar categories.
* Reviews – Reviews also have a big impact on how visible your book is in the store. They’re also long-term social proof for your book.
* Good category and keyword research – You need to be strategic in what categories and keywords you target. You’ll want to rank in categories that are relevant to your book, that you’re able to rise to the top of without too much trouble, but still get a good stream of sales. This can be a careful balancing act that requires some good research beforehand. I followed Tom Morkes’ “Complete Guide to Amazon Kindle SEO for Self-Publishers“ to help strategize my keywords.
Everything listed above depends heavily on having a good launch team. A launch team is a group of people who are ready to download, review and promote your book during the first crucial week of the book’s life on Amazon. The early downloads and reviews will come from your launch team, and the stronger your team is, the more competitive keywords and categories you’ll be able to target.
Send Personal BombBomb Video Emails to Build a Launch Team
I have seen and participated in a lot of book launches before but they were often impersonal. Usually I would get a generic email blast or randomly added to a Facebook group without being asked. This was never a good experience for me, and I wanted to avoid making the same mistakes.
For the launch of my first book The College Entrepreneur, I sent handwritten postcards to those who wrote a review during the launch week. This helped bring a human touch to the launch and gave me a unique way to show my gratitude. This time, I wanted to create this same feeling for the invitation to my launch team. BombBomb helped me create that human touch though video email.
I decided the best approach was to send individual emails to invite people to my launch team. Below the video in the email, I would use a text template with all of the necessary information and links so I did not have to repeat the basic information in the video every time.
Even with a short video and a text template, this was a time-consuming process. It took time to decide what to say to each person, do some research on them, and get my message perfect in one take. I found I could send about 5-8 emails like this in an hour.
For the subject of the email I used “Video Email – Can I ask a small favor?”. Video email is still a very novel tool, and mentioning “video email” in your subject is enough to spark curiosity to open the message.
Though a video email is enough to get them to open up the message, I knew I needed to create a connection to get people to take action. The video would mention the person by name, ask about something in their lives, recall something a good memory between us or show gratitude for how this person has helped me before. This was key to creating that “just for you” experience I was hoping for. Once I had reinforced the human connection, I introduced the book, explained what it meant to be on a launch team, and mentioned a link they needed to click to join the team (I would actually point downward in the video).
The video does not automatically play when the email opened. You see an automatic, animated preview of the video for a thumbnail, but need to click it to watch the video. I wanted to encourage people to watch the video first, so they knew the message was tailored to them, not a big email blast. After the salutation I would open the text with “Be sure to watch the video above first, it’s just for your and there’s a lot I mention that I don’t cover in the text below”.
I offered a free copy of the book and early access to all the resources included in the book to anyone who signed up to join the launch team.
Improving My Video Quality
With each video email I sent I became a little more comfortable and got new ideas on how I could improve them. Along with getting better at using story to share my message, I slowly improved the quality of the equipment I used to make the videos.
A friend reached out and suggested I get some lights to make my videos look better. He does a lot of video himself and offered to let me borrow his lighting kit. This was a big kit with lights that needed tripods to stand up. Though it would get the job done, it seemed like overkill for what I was doing, so I opted to search for a different solution.
I travel a lot, and I wanted a system that could provide reliable lighting and could fit into a carry on bag with me. I grabbed two Aputure LED lights and two Dinkum Systems Action Pods to light my face in my videos. These lights are lightweight, AA battery powered, and you can adjust both the warmth and intensity of the light. They’re perfect for the lightweight workstation I currently use.
The clips made it easy to place the lights and position them to light my face well. I wanted to place one light higher than my face so it would be more evenly lit, and avoid looking like that guy telling scary stories with a flashlight under his chin.
I also found the camera angle in my videos to be important. Recording a video with my laptop from a flat on a table meant I was looking down at the camera. This low angle view creates a subtle sense of power or dominance from the the subject (me). This is not the impression I wanted to make in my video emails.
I used the Roost laptop stand to bring my computer up to eye-level. Which is a more personable and neutral angle and created the conversational feel that I was aiming for.
All in all, these tools were a small investment that dramatically increased the quality of the videos I was sending in my messages.
Here’s what my setup looked like by the end of my launch.
Make the Most of Automation
Though the personalization was a crucial element of my invitation to join the launch team, it was too time intensive to do for every email at the scale I needed for my launch. I used the automations tool in BombBomb to create a string of emails to send in the days leading up to the launch that would keep the launch team updated and support them.
Linking Leadpages and BombBomb through Zapier
BombBomb does not directly integrate with Leadpages, the tool I use to create my landing pages and collect emails. When people signed up for the launch team, I would add their email to a list in MailChimp. I used Zapier as a bridge so when an email was added to the list in MailChimp it would then import the email into my launch anticipation series in BombBomb.
Pre-Launch Video Email Automation
My pre-launch automation was designed to send emails in the days leading up to the launch. Each email reminded the launch team how much time before the book was out, shared instructions on how they could invite others to join the launch team and get the book for free.
One of the most powerful assets I created was a promo video. This video helped to get the launch team excited about the upcoming launch and gave them something they could use to share and promote the book.
Along with some content for sharing, I also included links to a Facebook Event that made it easy for people to invite others to participate in the launch and get the book for free.
Resource Download Automation
Though I didn’t start out with a list, I wanted to use this book as a tool to build one. Since you can’t get customer information directly from Amazon, I needed a different way to generate emails from the book. For many of the chapters in the book, I created downloadable resources like a template for a style guide or a content strategy that would make it easy for a reader to take action on the ideas I outline in the book.
I also mention the resources in the inside cover of the book. This makes it easier to collect emails from the book. Anyone who uses the “look inside” feature on the book page will see this. They might feel like they’re getting a “steal” by finding access to these resources without buying the book. This helps capture leads from the store page. I don’t mind missing out on a little bit of profit from the book for the opportunity to get a customer.
I created a second automation in BombBomb for anyone who downloaded a resource. The series thanks them for downloading the resources, checks in to make sure they’re getting value from the templates, and asks if they would be interested in leaving a review on amazon for the book.
Maintaining Momentum During Book Launch Week
It’s unlikely you’ll get 100% of people who volunteered to be on your launch team to leave a review or promote the book in the first few days of your launch.
To keep the book at the top of their minds during the launch week I would share stories of how the book was progressing. I would send an email every few days with news like being on podcasts, if a blog post about the book was published, and of course when the bestseller tag appeared.
Lessons Learned in the Launch
Though the launch was a big success, I learned many lessons in the process and would do a few things differently if I could start again.
Start with “easier” people to practice your message – If you’re new to video email, you’ll learn a lot with every message you send, but you’re likely to make a few foibles along the way too. Get practice by sending emails to people who will be more forgiving and tolerant of any early mistakes you make. As you become more polished and experienced, you can move up to higher profile people.
Use a whiteboard for my video thumbnails – Videos are a crucial element of my emails, especially the personalized invitations to the launch team. But it’s not obvious that the video is personalized in the thumbnails of the emails I sent. For future outreach I’m going to follow Ethan from BombBomb’s lead and use a small whiteboard to write on to open my videos and make it clear in the thumbnails that the message is just for them.
Create a big value add for the launch – Though a free book is nice, the perceived value of a digital book is low for most people. I think I could have gotten even better results with another gift, such as a digital course, that I could offer to my launch team to make my launch more enticing and exciting.
Because of this early momentum in my launch I was able to climb to the top of several different categories in Amazon and maintain a consistent flow of sales after my launch. With the automations I have set up, I have a tool to convert those book purchases into qualified leads.
For more tips on good book launches I suggest checking out Self-Publishing School or Chandler Bolt’s Book Launch.
Kyle Gray is the author of The Story Engine, an entrepreneur’s guide to content strategy and brand storytelling without spending all day writing. His agency Conversion Cake helps startups and small businesses grow by telling their story and helping their audience through content marketing. Follow him on Twitter @kylethegray.
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