Load The Gun First: Indie Book Launching Like Grownups


If there’s anything I regret most about all the screw-ups I made launching my first indie book, it’s that I didn’t do anything before the launch other than write the book. Is that weird to say? Anyway, I got an interesting case study sent to me recently by Goodreads that I thought did a nice job of outlining how the big press houses work the system for book launches now, that make a real joke of the approach I took (or the lack of an approach, which is a little more accurate).

I wrote recently about what I view as the key success factors for book marketing in the modern age, centering on:

  1. Mainstream name recognition
  2. The cover
  3. The genre
  4. Reviews
  5. Awards
  6. Word of mouth

Have a look at the case study using the link in my first paragraph to see these in action. The emphasis for St. Martins Press in this launch was predominantly up-front and prior to publication. Who knew that was when the real marketing work should have been done? I was busy just trying to get the plot points to tie off without seeming forced and trying to decide what a typical book length in word count should be.

They strategically ran paperback giveaways, larger that normal (about 200 in this case) with good follow-through for reviews and word of mouth. Then they tied this in with focused advertising. I have been more impressed with Facebook’s approach to targeting ads versus anyone else, certainly more impressive than Twitter. Zuckerburg really seems to have done a nice job painting us all into neat little demographic corners. When St. Martins got the buzz building, nurturing it like a desperate fire on a desert island and watching the ‘to-read’ listings on goodreads as a measure of that, they launched a personalized mailer to readers who’d expressed an interest in the author.This was all prior to publication date.


When word of mouth and buzz built to the point that nominations happened for listings and awards, St. Martins Press doubled down again with giveaways and ads to further fan the flames. Very strategic, this approach. Not surprisingly, it was a momentum thing no different from a football game or a successful startup company. Maybe everything that’s good in life is a momentum thing. Who knows?

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