3 Secrets to a Successful Book Launch

My new book, FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies, has only been out for a couple of weeks now but it’s already looking like a great success.  It’s gotten nearly 50 reviews with a 4.9 rating and been the #1 new release in a couple of categories on Amazon.  And people have already started asking me for tips on successfully marketing a book.  So I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned about book launches from this and my first bestselling book, What Great Brands Do, and provide a few of the secrets to a successful book launch that I’ve discovered.

Please keep in mind these are book marketing approaches that have worked for business books published by traditional publishers (FUSION is published by Nicholas Brealey, an imprint of Hachette Books.)  Your experience will be different if you have written a fiction or other type of non-fiction book and if you self-publish or go with a non-traditional publisher (here is an explanation of why I went with a traditional publisher as well as other insights on writing a book.)  Also I don’t claim to be an expert at this (Tim Grahl, Jeff Goins, and Penny Sansevieri are some of the true experts from whom I’ve learned a lot.)

Having set that context, here are 3 secrets to a successful book launch.

1. Drive pre-orders. If you wait to start promoting your book until it becomes is available for sale, it’s too late.

To increase the likelihood of becoming a bestseller and/or dominating search results, you must sell a ton of books in a short period of time (some experts say bestsellers require moving 5,000 copies in a 24 hour period).  The best way to do that is to line up pre-orders, so that all of the sales are registered on your publication date.

So start promoting your book and encouraging pre-orders months before your publication date.  My pub date was March 13th and I started on January 2nd — I would have started in December but I knew it would be difficult to get attention for my book during the holiday season.  So beginning January 2nd, I started driving pre-orders by:

  • announcing the launch and promoting pre-ordering on social media
  • writing blog posts and bylined articles on topics related to the book and, where appropriate, including a pre-order call-to-action
  • including mentions of FUSION in my newsletter and encouraging subscribers to pre-order
  • participating in a book giveaway promotion with some fellow authors, which not only gave FUSION exposure to their networks but also I was given access to thousands more potential newsletter subscribers
  • writing the FUSION manifesto that could be shared by me and others on social media
  • creating social media tiles of quotes from the book and endorsements blurbs, also for social media sharing
  • recruiting members to the Great Brand Society (see #3 below)
  • creating bonus materials and offering a webinar exclusively available to those who placed a pre-order (through a form on my website, pre-orderers could send me proof of purchase to get access to the materials and offers.)

And I probably could have done even more!  But at least this gives you an idea of the level and range of promotion that you need to do before launch day.

2. Reach for the “stars” (and then bask in their glow.) I was blessed to secure some fabulous endorsement blurbs for FUSION from Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals, Give And Take, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg; Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The New One Minute Manager; and Marshall Goldsmith, The Thinkers 50 #1 Leadership Thinker in the World, among others.

Having such well-known and well-respected leaders recommend my book raised its profile and credibility and I’m deeply grateful for their endorsements.  But I don’t know these folks personally and I only met Ken Blanchard once several years ago, so it’s unlikely he would recognize me if we ran into each other.  All three of these people were “long shots” as book endorsers — but I decided to swing for the fences.

So how did I get their endorsements?  I asked.  Yep, I simply asked.

Well, perhaps it’s not so simple.  For Adam, I was able to contact him through an introduction by a mutual connection — someone with whom I have cultivated a relationship for many years.  For Marshall, I follow him on social media and share his content frequently.  He may not know that because people at his level usually have someone(s) to help manage their social media presence, but at least I could reference that connection in my ask.  And Ken had been kind enough to provide an endorsement for my first book (back then, I had interviewed him for some work I did on TEDxSanDiego, so I had access to his assistant at the time who put me in touch with his editorial director).

So for each one, I had laid the foundation through years of networking and social media activity.  Then, I crafted an endorsement request for each person, referencing specific points about their work and writings to which FUSION related.  I asked for a response in 4-6 weeks, thereby giving them plenty of time to review the book.  And since I know they have many demands on their time and attention, I made writing a blurb as easy as possible by providing sample blurbs that they could adapt to their own thoughts and style.

And then, I waited for responses.

Fortunately all three, and several other thought leaders, agreed to endorse FUSION.  So the secret to getting great book endorsements and a successful book launch in general is really not a secret — you just have to ask.

3. Enroll a group of “insiders” to help. I initiated the Great Brand Society with my first book and have counted on this exclusive group of friends and colleagues for all my book launches.

In exchange for an “advanced reader copy” of the book and other benefits, Great Brand Society members agreed to provide their honest assessment of it immediately following publication and to help in getting the word out about it. One GBS member ran a book giveaway on his site; another sent to her email list an invitation to the book launch event; and yet another purchased copies to give to her clients. Plus their reviews of FUSION were so helpful.

Although many other people have stepped in to support the launch, it has been incredibly valuable to have this core group of folks who agreed in advance to do so and who were committed to giving it their best effort.

I have been so blown away by the support of the Great Brand Society and know that I wouldn’t have experienced a successful book launch without them.  So I’m closing this post by listing each member and including links to contact or follow them.  Definitely check these folks out — it’s a long list but it includes a former NFL player, an airline pilot, and experts from around the world in brand-building, leadership, culture, and employee and customer experience:

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