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Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Now displaying: November, 2017
Nov 20, 2017

This week's blog post and podcast shares how to throw a book launch party. I'm sharing experiences from my own recent party and giving you tips and questions to help you decide if throwing a book launch party is right for YOU!

When my latest book, Creative Collaborations, was nearing completion, I decided to throw a local book launch party. For myself. I've NEVER done anything like this before and typically am not the party-throwing (or going) type. Hellooooooo, introvert!

Still, this party seemed perfect for the launch of this book and I'm so glad that I did this! Keep reading or listen using the player below (or on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app) to find out what I learned and if a book launch party is right for you!

Listen to Episode 120: How to Throw a Book Launch Party

It would be amazing if you'd subscribe on Apple Podcasts! Even if you listen through an app, this is what determines my discoverability in the search rankings on Apple Podcasts and in iTunes.

Disclosure: This posts contains affiliate links! That means if you purchase something after clicking through a link, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you!

How to Throw a Book Launch Party

Why I Threw Myself a Book Launch Party

There are a lot of reasons you could consider having a book launch party. For me? It started when I saw a really amazing space on Airbnb while researching for a retreat that I am considering in 2018.

When I saw it, I thought: I WANT TO DO SOMETHING THERE.

My book release date was approaching and happened to fall on the same week as my 40th birthday. Why not rent the space and have a book launch/birthday party? It simply sounded fun!

There were other more intentional reasons as well. The book is all about networking and working with others. It seemed fitting to have a party where I could invite friends, family, and the local social media and blogging community.

In a recent interview with Joanna Penn on the Creative Penn Podcast, Ryan Holiday (author of Perennial Seller) said that the marketing plan should fit the message or content. When I heard that, I KNEW that this was the right plan for this particular book.


WHAT TO CONSIDER IF YOU ARE THROWING YOURSELF A BOOK LAUNCH PARTY

1/ Consider your WHY

There are a lot of reasons you may want to throw a book launch party. Before you get to ANY planning, you'll want to think about the goals. I love talking about WHY. My whole course, the Foundation Series (now a part of my bigger course, Blog Growth Boost), is all about applying your WHY to everything. It brings clarity and makes all the other details more clear.

Here are some reasons you might want to throw a book launch party:

  • Sell books
  • Gain authority & influence
  • Discoverability
  • Have fun
  • Celebrate with your people

To shed some light on these, don't have high expectations on many of these! A book launch party isn't necessarily going to sell tons of books (unless you have a big group that's interested and a lot of copies to sell). It can help people to see you as an authority, especially if you can do some PR outreach and get the event covered in local papers or magazines.

If you list the event publicly, like on Meetup or another site, this might increase discoverability. It also opens the door to people you don't know showing up, which might pose challenges like upping the cost if you have a lot of people simply show up.

You can definitely have fun (even if you're an extreme introvert like me!) and it's something special to celebrate with your audience.

2/ Consider the ROI

As I touched on before, you may not make tons of money throwing a book launch party. You're more likely to lose it. Depending on the sales price for your book (mine was $.99), you may not make tons of money. You COULD find that it helps you reach bestseller in some categories, which mine did.

Selling print copies could make more money, but if you're buying author copies from something like CreateSpace or Kindle Print on Demand, you won't see that affect your rankings.

Before you toss a lot of money at something, consider what you get back.

3/ Consider your finances

Throwing a book launch party may not be a smart financial choice. My party ran about $1000 for 40-50 people. You could absolutely do it cheaper than that, but I made a few choices (like location) that made the price jump. You can totally use a room in a restaurant or a free space for your party and make other cuts to do this on a budget.

But I was also able to secure sponsors (more on that in a sec) to completely cover the costs of the book launch party. Before you toss a bunch of money at a party, consider whether you'd make more money running Facebook ads or investing in another kind of marketing.


TIPS FOR THROWING AN AMAZING BOOK LAUNCH PARTY

Still want to throw a book launch party? I feel you. Clearly. I won't hold you back! Here are some tips to get the best results for the least amount of work and money.

  • Set Your Goals

Yep, circling back to this. It will REALLY help with the next few decisions if you know your goals and are clear!

  • Set the Location, Date, and Budget.

You'll want these set up before you hit the next one, which is about sponsors. Keeping the goals of the event in mind, pick a location that fits what you want to accomplish. That will likely help set the date, because of availability, or if you want a specific date, that will cut out some locations. I would highly recommend looking at Airbnb and VRBO for some cheaper, out of the box options! Knowing the spot will help you plan for your budget.

  • Reach Out to Sponsors. 

This was huge in making my party possible! Start with the brands you use and love. I reached out to Convertkit and Mediavine, which are two companies I love and use. It helps if you already have a relationship and contact there and can actually get a person's email rather than the straight up info @ company name email. I also connected with the local rum distillery, Grateful Dane, and they were able to come out to the event. Kroger, a national brand, sponsored the food for the party. I had worked with them before as well and attended local blogging events, so had an actual contact.

Put together a sponsorship package, being very clear about what you can offer. This doesn't have to be in person! Grateful Dane came out to the party, but the other sponsors were digital. I linked to them in posts, talked about them on the podcast and social media, made cards with their logos for the party itself, and sent emails to my list talking about the sponsors. Give them the dates and your social numbers and be as specific as possible about the benefit to THEM.

If you want to learn more about sponsorships, you can read a lot more about this and pitching and follow up in Creative Collaborations

  • Hire Help.

You may want to pay a coordinator or ask a friend to help. I did EVERYTHING from the buying of supplies and food to the cleaning up and sweeping the floor after the party. It was hard. I knew it would be. Realize that if you don't hire someone, this will all be YOU.

  • Make It Valuable to Your Online Community. 

I streamed the event live to my Facebook page and group. Well, not the WHOLE event, but the part where I had Madalyn Sklar from Twitter Smarter give my intro and then when I read from the book. That way the people who couldn't be there live could still take part. 

IS A BOOK LAUNCH PARTY THE BEST WAY TO LAUNCH A BOOK?

In short, a book launch party is probably not the best way to launch in terms of ROI. It can be super fun and a great way to meet your fans and present your book, but if you want straight up ROI and sales, you'll want to follow more tried and true methods for making sales. (I'll have a few links below.)

I love innovation, so if you want to be creative and try something that may not work, just count the cost first! Can you afford it to fail? What can you gain and how can you leverage the event even if it doesn't result in tons of book sales?

I would not change a THING about my party (other than having the printed books arrive on time) and felt like it was the perfect thing to launch this particular book. Will I have another for my next book? Doubtful. But I would totally go back in time and do this one again.

I hope this has help you learn how to throw a book launch party AND if you actually should. Tips or ideas?? Leave them in the comments!!

Helpful Links for Making Book Sales:

Nov 14, 2017
In this interview with Kevin Tumlinson, we are talking about what will help you increase your sales rank on Amazon. In other words, sell more ebooks on Kindle. If you are interested in self publishing your books, this is a MUST listen (or read) to see how you can boost your Amazon sales!

See the show notes on Create if Writing for images and more!

Why isn't my book selling?

I've spent the time to write it. I got a great cover. I told my launch team. And...barely a blip on the radar. This is all too common! You're not alone if you have experience this!

Today author and podcaster Kevin Tumlinson joined me to give feedback on three of my community members' books on Amazon. We talk about what they're doing right and what they could improve to better their sales rank on Amazon.

Connect with Kevin Tumlinson on his site, listen to the Wordslinger Podcast, or check out Draft2Digital! (<- this is my affiliate link, which gives me a commission if you move past the free tools into paying for distribution)

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which will give me a commission for referring you if you make any purchases after clicking. 


INCREASE YOUR SALES RANK AND SELL MORE BOOKS ON AMAZON

Keep reading because at the end of the post I'll share the common threads that we saw in all three of the books and some takeaways for you as you are writing and publishing your ebook.

BOOK 1: ALL ABOUT DOGS by R.V. Bowman

 

The author noted that the cover is different from others in the category. This shows that Bowman has done her research! You should know what other covers in your genre look like. Use a tool like Yasiv to see visuals on this. You may not always WANT the cover to look the same, but you also set the reader expectations with the cover, so this choice matters.

We both liked how the cover stood out, but (and this is a hilarious thing to say!) the dog kind of looks SAD. Which, just from the cover, made this look like one of those memoirs where the dog died. This is a little thing and not necessarily something to fix, but just something we both noticed.

The book says it's an "interactive" book, but without looking inside, it was hard to know what that meant. For me, I wouldn't buy because I'm not sure. The Look Inside! feature on Amazon is important here, but the author said the formatting looked weird on Kindle.  Kevin suggested creating an introduction that would be fitting for the Look Inside! features so people could look inside and read a bit more to give them more of an idea. I wondered if a quiz book might not be the best fit for a Kindle format, especially for people like me who have the pretty simple Kindle with no bells and whistles. Without getting a sample, it's hard to know!

Chances are that the author may not want to do a huge overhaul, but considering the problems an interactive book may cause on different devices, the author COULD consider creating a more basic book for Kindle and a free companion course that would work on a website AND get email addresses.

Kevin suggested that this book might not be the best choice for KDP Select, because interactive works well on iBooks, so going wide might be a better choice. Part of KDP Select is the inclusion in Kindle Unlimited, which pays by page read and this might

Done right: 

  • Readable title
  • Striking image
  • Description starts with testimonials

Tips to increase sales rank:

  • Change the main font to be sans serifs (this one called sports to mind)
  • Have something people can see with Look Inside! and maybe even put a note in the description about what Kindle this would work best with if it's interactive
  • Consider going wide (iBooks, Nook, etc) rather than just KDP, since this book might look better on other devices
  • Write more for the description with formatting and also focus on the benefits

 

BOOK 2: HOMESTEAD COOKING WITH CAROL by Carol J. Alexander

 

Kevin loved the cover right off the bat and felt like it struck just the right note paired with the subject matter and the title. (Well done!) I suggested taking out the "Cooking with Carol" part because I personally wasn't familiar with just-first-name-Carol the way I am with Martha. Or Ree. Or the Food Network Stars.

I didn't research how powerful Carol's platform is, but for me, I'd take that part off the title and then put the author name in bigger letters. I would also expect more Carol in terms of stories and more from Carol specifically with her name in the title. It seems more how-to inside, where it could be anyone writing, not just Carol.

Kevin said that the flip side is that keeping the first name on there would give a sort of social proof, where people thing Carol must have a platform deserving of having a single first name. He also said that it also helps humanize and make connections.

If you're trying to build a brand around a name, this can be a great strategy. Kevin agreed that this makes it feel more personal and home-town, so Carol would want to amp up the CAROL in the description and in the book as well. That way we see the reason for her first name.

Done Right:

  • Beautiful cover that does just what it should
  • Title is great
  • Description is a great length
  • "Busy, homemade homesteader" in the beginning of the description is perfect

Tips to increase sales rank: 

  • Make the author's name larger so it's looks more like a book, not catalogue cover
  • Work on formatting in description- big bold tagline and bullet points
  • Add bio in the description

 

BOOK 3: FORTY DAYS OF FAITH AND FITNESS by Marsha Apsley

 

The book sales (based on the info we have from the author) are great, so well done!

Kevin loved the title, thinking it was a sort of Christian alternative to yoga-- a book about physical fitness and health. The tagline about the devotional journal stopped him because it was different from the expectation the title set. Then he's not sure what to expect and what this means. His recommendation: take out the tagline. Maybe beef up the description to fully explain the book and what gets taken away from the tagline.

My suggested fix would be to change the title to something like 40 Days of Faith: A Companion Devotional for Your Fitness Journey. The current title leads you to think that the book may include devotionals and fitness suggestions, rather than being a sort of journal that goes along with whatever fitness you are currently doing outside of the book.

The image on the cover is fantastic, but the font might need a little play. As it comes across, it looks a little more self-made instead of professional. Not always a bad thing and readers in the christian sphere are a bit more forgiving.

Because this is a journal, but is on Kindle (which doesn't work for journaling), a great idea might be to not just mention the print version, but to have a free workbook or journal pages that people can get in exchange for their email. This is how I have my non-fiction books optimized and it's been really helpful for list growth!

Pro tip: Use a bitly or pretty link so that if you ever change the destination for where the signup will be, so if you change it, you don't have to reformat and upload a new book to Amazon.

Done right: 

  • alliteration in the title
  • great cover
  • good category
  • great job with the question at the beginning of the description

Tips to increase sales rank: 

  • change tagline to be more clear or be more clear in the description
  • consider changing the font for the title
  • make author name larger
  • work on the formatting description

 

BOOK 4: CREATING SUCCESS AT HOME by Sharon Hines

 

Kevin suggested working on the title and the subtitle right off the bat. Because I know the author and follow her blog, the title made sense to me, but without that context, I can see how the title might need clarity. A good suggestion might be Creating a Sense of Home or A Sense of Home. You want the title to capture the feel of the book and the current title doesn't quite give a clear picture.

As far as the subtitle, it should be trimmed. Not only does this help with clarity, but it also pushes all the info down on the sales page so you don't see a description. He suggested using most of the subtitle right in the description because they are what the book helps you learn.

The cover felt a little brochure-like with the white blocks of space, the color treatment, and even the image. Kevin suggested softening the cover a lot, looking at the Homestead Cooking or even 40 Days of Faith and Fitness covers for inspiration. Both are more warm and welcoming. Consider a full-cover image without the bars of white. Shortening the subtitle takes away the need for so much space.

Done right: 

  • The opener of the description is GREAT
  • The description and bio are both hitting all the right notes

Tips to increase sales rank: 

  • Change the title of the book
  • Shorten the subtitle & use the current one in the description as bullet points somewhere
  • Change the cover to have a warmer, more inviting feel in line with the book
  • Work on the formatting parts of the description
  • Consider changing the categories

 


BIG TAKEAWAYS TO HELP YOU INCREASE SALES RANK

The tips and suggestions for these covers fell mostly into two areas: covers and descriptions.

PROFESSIONAL COVER

  • Fonts go a long way. Consider serifs and sans serif and how they affect readability and play with each other. Make sure the words are clear. Don't use too many fonts. Be sure they work well together.
  • Use a quality image. If you are purchasing a cover, my favorite is Go On Write. But if you are set on designing your own, think about the rule of thirds to add dynamic energy.
  • Connect with emotion. Marketing is all about emotion and experience. Connect with those readers through your image, tagline, title, or description.
  • Large author name. Humans react to humans and we need to see that human name to connect and you don't need "by" with the author name.

OPTIMIZING YOUR DESCRIPTION

  • Make the top six lines to their fullest. You want them to click the Read More to see the State the adventure that the reader is going to go on and use a heading or bold text to catch the eye.
  • Formatting matters. Use a tool like the free description generator on Kindlepreneur to use bold and headings and more. The break tag can cause issues, so make sure you don't have big spaces between paragraphs. Check after you upload!
  • Give an experience. You want the reader to understand the experience and what they will leave the book feeling or being able to do. It's more than just what the book is about. Consider the readers and what the readers will get out of the book.
  • Use uneven numbers of bullet points. Bullet points help stop the eye to give quick information. Psychology says that we like things in uneven numbers like 3-5.
  • Consider speed bumps. Particularly with the formatting, think about ways to stop the eye and get people to quit scrolling. White space, bold, and headings all help with this.
  • Include a bio. Your author bio WILL appear on the page, but way down. Consider including a brief bio in the description as well.
  • Have a CTA. Give a call to action at the end of the description (before an author bio) that tells the reader what to do. This has an impact!

Links mentioned (or otherwise related):

Kevin's earlier interview on the Create If Writing podcast :Tips for Indie Writers

Best tools for writers publishing on Kindle

Pick fu - for split testing things

Kindlepreneur free description tool

Influence - book talking about how marketers sell to us

KD Spy Tool - a paid tool to find better categories for sales


WHY USE DRAFT2DIGITAL?

Free ebook conversion. Upload a word doc and transfer to an epub or mobi, for uploading on ebook platforms and Amazon.

Free ebook templates. I used these with my latest book, Creative Collaborations! (Read more about the tools I used here.) I love love love this tool. Seriously.

Free universal book links. Create one link you can send people to that will allow them to see all the different platforms where they can reach your book. So handy!

Distribution to all the major platforms. As of last week, you can now even distribute to Amazon! This means that you can upload your book in D2D and then push it out to iBooks and Kobo and Amazon and more places. This WILL give them a cut of your profits, but saves you a fat chunk of time and streamlines the process. You can still use all the free tools WITHOUT using Draft2Digital for distribution!

Create a free account at D2D get started NOW with their great tools!

 

Were there any surprises in this episode? I'd love to hear your takeaways in the comments!!

Nov 6, 2017

I self published my first book in 2012 and so much has changed! This post will share the best tools for Kindle Self Publishing, from the formatting to the cover. Plus some great tools for choosing categories and keywords on Amazon!

When I dove into Kindle publishing with my first book (Make Him Room, an advent devotional), the big thing I remember was staying up 'til 4am crying, cussing, and generally wanting to kill someone over...the TABLE OF CONTENTS.

I spent hours in formatting hell. No matter what I gleaned from Amazon's instructions or tried to do in Word, I could not get my Table of Contents to be clickable. (You know, where you can click on a chapter and immediately be taken to that part of the book.) I also had weird characters in between words that I couldn't see in Word, but appeared in the Kindle reader.

Now that I have five books for sale, I've got more of a streamlined writing and self publishing process for Kindle. (See them all here!) With Creative Collaborations, I feel like I finally got into a self-publishing groove and even put up another book on Amazon for sale that same week. (I had previously just sold it as a PDF on my site.) I want to share the tools that I used to streamline the process and make more sales with my self published books.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means at no extra cost to you, purchasing products will give me a commission for referring you!

The Best Tools for Kindle Self Publishing

FORMATTING

I love love LOVE to use Pages on Mac for creating PDFs and books. You can create beautiful graphic PDFs and also text-based books and export as .mobi or .epub or PDFs. I hate formatting, but Pages has really helped with a lot of projects.

For this one, I was actually able to use Word WITHOUT headaches because of Draft2Digital's total free book formatter. Draft2Digital is a company that works for authors (started BY authors) and can help you distribute your books across different sales platforms like iBooks, Kobo, etc. When you distribute with them, they will take a small percentage of the sales you make.

But if you don't want to distribute with them, you can still use their tools for formatting for free. Their new formatter lets you upload a Word doc and apply one of their templates. You can then export as a .mobi (for Kindle), .epub (for about everywhere else), or PDF.

My only beef is that right now their PDF option puts hyperlinks as footnotes right on that page. I don't want that when I self publish on CreateSpace or sell PDFs via my own site. I called and had a long talk with someone there about this and hope that it's something they'll change! But for the other files, they make your file look professional AND handle things like the Table of Contents. This is the top tool I'd recommend for formatting!

Check out Draft2Digital for free with my referral link!


COVERS

If you really want to be competitive with Kindle self publishing, you HAVE to have a great cover that fits in your category. I have found a cover designer that does custom covers AND has premade covers at great prices.

James from Go On Write has handled my last three covers, including the print versions. I LOVE them. I paid for a branding package, which means that when I order a premade book, he'll match fonts and colors that go with my other books. I love how they look TOGETHER.

You can also get some good ideas for how books look in your category by using Yasiv. This is a tool that creates a kind of cloud of covers in a category so you can see them all at once. It helps with things like color, seeing trends, and just getting an idea of what covers look like in your category. It's free and really fun to use!


KEYWORD RESEARCH

One of the biggest changes this time around was the research I did on keywords and categories. These are important because they help you sell books on autopilot with Kindle publishing. It's similar to SEO research because Amazon is a huge search engine. If you can hone in on the words that people use to search for books, you can help your book's discoverability and sales.

For keyword research, I use a paid tool called KDP Rocket from Dave over at Kindlepreneur. Rocket will let you do a few things that help with keyword choices in your description, the seven keywords in Amazon as you set up your book, and if you run Amazon AMS ads. (Check out Dave's free course on ads in my big list of free courses!)

I used the idea search to enter different keywords that might work for Creative Collaborations. I checked out words like collaborations, social media, influencer marketing, and blogging. What I found worked better than blogging was blogger. For whatever reason, THAT'S what people are searching for on Amazon. Social media strategy 2017 was a better search term than just social media.

Had I not done the research, my keywords would have looked different and may NOT have been related to what people are actually searching for. This can also help you when you write your description or blurb. 

If you don't want a paid tool, you can also go into incognito mode on your browser and search in Amazon. Pick a term like blogging, type it in the search for Kindle store, then hit space and type in A and see what populates in the search box. Then B. And so forth. You'll get an idea of popular search terms related to that one. You can check out this big post on Kindlepreneur for more tips on keywords.

Or...save time and use KDP Rocket for more data! 


CATEGORY RESEARCH

Another fun tool that I found incredibly useful is KD Spy. This is a browser extension that lets you get a breakdown of all the books and info. You'll get data like what the rank of each book in the top 20 is, what the price of each is, how much average it may be making per month, and more.

It will give you an idea of the competition (how hard it is to get to the #1 spot in the category), how profitable the category is (the average authors make in the category per month), and the popularity (how many people are searching for books in that category).

You may have different goals for different times with your book, but when you are launching, it can be great for visibility to pick categories with lower competition.

I picked my category without using KD Spy and then tested it IN Spy to see how I would do. I realized quickly that I would NEVER break into the top 10 of the category I thought of originally.

This doesn't mean you should pick weird categories that don't fit, but for any book, there are probably ten or so categories that it might fit into, so it's worth checking with Spy so you can try to get to a top spot and get that bestseller tag. Had I chosen the first category I thought of, I never would have gotten the bestseller tag, which can be a great incentive for people to buy!

Check out KD Spy here!


BOOK DELIVERY 

I have an ongoing launch team and also had fifteen contributors of the book that I wanted to send free books. Book Funnel is the best tool for this! If you aren't sending tons of books, you can get an account for $20 a year. 

This tool makes the delivery of ebooks so much smoother! Rather than just sending a PDF, you can let people choose the book format: an .epub, .mobi, or a PDF. That way they can read on the device of their choice.

This also means YOU don't have to explain how to get that .mobi file actually ON your Kindle. Book Funnel does all the heavy lifting!

Check out Book Funnel!


These are the best tools for Kindle self publishing I have used and recommend to get great results and save yourself from headaches. To summarize, here's what I use for Kindle publishing: 

  • Word or Pages to write
  • Draft2Digital to format
  • KDP Rocket for keyword research
  • KD Spy for category research
  • Go On Write for covers 
  • Yasiv for cover research
  • Book Funnel for free book delivery

I'd love to hear what tools you use for your Kindle publishing! I'm sure there are other great options out there that I don't use or haven't heard about yet. Leave those in the comments or let me know if you've tried any of these options for self publishing on Kindle. 

Nov 2, 2017

Snag my new book! http://createifwriting.com/cc

Hear the introduction from my newest book, Creative Collaborations: What I learned about collaborations from playing roller derby.

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