Planning a successful book launch starts with getting organized, setting up a blog tour, and thinking about a party, but there are more factors to consider in your plans.

Tool #4: Speaking of prizes, set up a few additional giveaways and then promote them. We’ve already talked about how to set up a Goodreads giveaway, but this is especially important in the launch window. Whether you offer one copy or ten, the beauty of this simple contest is the ability to schedule it well in advance and the fact it can last for up to six weeks prior to your actual launch date. If entrants are super-excited about your book, they may go buy it (or pre-order it) as well as add it to their virtual want-to-read shelves which their friends can see.

Another easy place to give away a copy of your book is in conjunction with those guest blog posts you set up. However, depending on the size of your blog tour, not only can that get expensive once you factor in postage costs, but it might not be a smart investment of your resources if the blog gets low traffic or few commenters. You could offer an ebook instead, but that might limit the number of interested readers since not everyone likes to read from a screen. Depending on the blog host’s preference, you might not have a choice of what to offer, or you might choose to decline that blog tour stop based on their traffic and usual number of commenters.

A better option is to create a single larger giveaway—perhaps even with multiple levels of winners—that is promoted in all of your guests blogs and even at your party. In addition to pooling your prize budget into a single place (and therefore being able to offer “better” prizes), by using a service like Rafflecopter you can also get more email subscribers, new Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and extra promotion as the entrants “earn” extra entries by sharing with their friends. Outside of book launch events, I have also seen groups of similar authors promote a “Summer Beach Reads” or “Fall in Love With Reading” collective giveaway where, since the cost of the prize package is divided among them, they are able to put some money into Facebook ads.

No matter what contests or giveaways you have planned, make sure to keep good records of the end date and the promised prize along with a place to add the winner’s name and delivery information plus a box to check when the prize is sent. This way you don’t overlook a happy winner who could soon turn into a grumpy grouch. As an aside, some of the best prizes I have received from a contest were not just signed books, but those that included a personalized handwritten note from the author on a piece of nice stationary. Taking a few minutes to include something extra while you’re packaging up the prizes can win a fan for life.

[Tweet “Add giveaways, viral messages, and swag to your plans. #BuildACareer via @CandeeFick”]

Tool #5: Since word-of-mouth is so important, set up a group promotion blast. ThunderClap is an excellent—and FREE!—option that blend the power of social media sharing with the crowd-sourcing buzz of a Kickstarter campaign. Except instead of donating money toward a project they believe in, people donate a tweet or Facebook post (or both) to go out at the same time as everyone else. It’s an easy way to multiply the reach of your platform for something important—like announcing your book launch.

ThunderClap requires that you raise the support of at least 100 people before they will send out the posts…unless you upgrade to one of their different paid plans that guarantees delivery. (A different site with the same service, HeadTalker, also had a free option but with a significantly lower threshold of participation required before delivery…except they were recently purchased by NewsWire and it is not clear what changes will result.)

Either way, make sure you put a lot of thought into the post itself and designing the graphic since this will be your opportunity to make the biggest splash possible. Perhaps you can test various elements like the wording or picture within your launch team or on other social media channels in advance to see what captures people’s attention and makes them click. You can also be on the lookout for eye-catching ads that you’ve seen other successful authors use and copy their style.

Once you have the campaign set up, you’ll need to start recruiting help from within your launch team and also ask your email subscribers to lend their aid. If your campaign gets a lot of activity all at once, often the host company will promote it as a “trending” campaign on their front page which helps boost your support numbers. Depending on how many people respond in the initial request for help, you may need to also post it on Facebook and ask your other friends to participate and/or share the campaign with others.

Tool #6: Consider ordering swag or promotional items to complement your book launch. There was a day when bookmarks were the rage and were given away at book signings, in book clubs, and even left guerrilla-style inside other books at stores. While there is still a place for a sturdy reminder about your book, many authors transitioned to postcards or some even let the cost involved shrink their promotion down to a strategically planned business card with contact information on one side and book information on the other. I once ordered a stack of “invitations” that promoted my new book on one side and the previous book on the other. I have seen others promoting a single book or series on one side with the rest of the series or other series on the reverse.

When it comes to printing, I personally use VistaPrint because of the cost, fast shipping, customizable designs, wide variety of potential products, and the fact they are always offering coupons for my next order. You can check out eCommerce ERP Integration for the best shipping services.  Since they keep a record of my designs, I can easily order more business cards, postcards, or even personalized thank you notes or notepads whenever I run low. However, they do not (at least at the time of this writing) offer bookmark sized products. For those, I have tried other places, but ended up designing a postcard sized product that I could personally cut in half lengthwise to create two bookmarks. It wasn’t ideal, but the price was right when I just had to have bookmarks. Your local office supply or print shop may be a better option for a similar cut-your-own bookmark design.

In addition to paper cardstock products, many authors order special stickers to be used as book plates. Book plates are a creative way to autograph a reader’s book from afar and let the recipient attach the sticker onto the title page where the author would have normally signed the book. (Rather than pay to ship the signed book, a single stamp mails the book plate.) While a plain white label could achieve the same result, the best book plates I have seen incorporated some of the author’s personal branding with a border color and font selection for the inclusion of their website address. I saw one author whose publisher created a customized book plate with the faces of each heroine in the series pulled from the cover images in order to line the border.

Some authors also create or order “autographed by author” stickers to attach to the front of book covers after signing a book. Not everyone likes a sticker on the front of their book, but if this appeals to you, the investment in a roll of stickers now would last for a long time. Just search online and you’ll find a multitude of styles to pick from, or you could create your own.

In today’s crafty-culture and abundance of Etsy shops, I was able to find several people who make charms for bracelets or necklaces that feature popular or classic book covers. Most were open to creating a custom order with my book cover. Some created just the charms while others attached chains to turn them into necklaces. While they were too expensive to give out at random, I bought them as a token gift of appreciation for my editors, endorsers, and first reviewer.

The options for swag items are as broad as your creativity. From a book cover plastered on the side of a canvas tote to insulated coffee mugs to screen-printed shirts for a launch team to more, if you can dream it up, someone will make it. However, if you’re looking for items as part of your marketing plan rather than as gifts, try to weigh the cost against your return on investment in terms of reach. If you spend more on the item than you would earn in royalties from the resulting book sales, well, maybe you need to re-think that approach.

Next up? Let’s pull all the plans together into a comprehensive book launch timeline.

(NOTE: If you found this post helpful, pass it on! The entire blog series is now available in a single book here.)

The Author Toolbox: Planning a Successful Book Launch (Part 2)
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