3 Steps to Building Your Book Launch Team

I had the most pleasant surprise this morning when I opened my email to find a copy of my upcoming novel’s book cover by Jessica Bell, publisher of Vine Leaves Press and a top-notch book designer, as well as author and singer/song-writer.

Due out Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press

Now I have the task of building a Book Launch Team. If you’re interested, email me at martha@engber.com.

Though I’ve had two previous books published, I’ve never done this particular task.

Free Book + Review = Happy Reader and Writer

A Book Launch Team consists of people who volunteer to read a free copy of your book ahead of the book’s publication and then help generate excitement by posting reviews and otherwise promoting the book on social media.

Communicate

Send out the word via all of your social media avenues and your newsletter subscribers that you’re looking for people interested in reading a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC).

If you’re self-publishing, wait until you have the copyedited and formatted digital version. If you’re with a traditional publisher, talk to the staff about when the ARC will be created and disseminated.

Once you have the contact information for your volunteers, be sure to send them directions. Specifically:

  • Let them know the approximate date they’ll receive the ARC: Suggestions of when to distribute the copies range from from 2 – 6 weeks ahead of publication. I’ll send out copies as soon as the publisher makes them available, which will be at least 6 weeks in advance. That will give readers time to read the book and post a review on GoodReads, which can be done in advance of the pub date as soon as the cover and book information are loaded by the publisher.
  • When the correct ordering links are in place, ask your team members to pre-order the book, which stimulates future sales and a higher Amazon ranking. Since ARC readers are already getting a free copy, they may not feel incentivized to purchase the book. Consider suggesting they buy the book as a gift for a friend. Or let them know the Amazon Kindle prices are often so inexpensive as to be very inviting. I’ve purchased my fellow authors’ books for $2.99!
  • Suggest the review be 1 – 3 paragraphs: longer than a sentence and less than a treatise.
  • Provide a short, clear and detailed list of places to post the reviews (more on that below).
  • Give a few clear deadlines for placing the reviews.
  • Send them a personal thank you, and maybe a simple gift, in appreciation for their support. A truly personal touch would be to host a short Zoom meeting to thank everyone, or offer to talk with their book clubs if/when they read the book.

Some team members will request a print copy, at which point you’ll have to decide if you can accommodate them.

Where to Place Reviews

Be precise in telling your team members where you’d like them to post and the details, such as website URLs and instructions, about how to do so.

Make sure to put the most important venues at the top of the list. For example, I’m going to ask my team members to post on GoodReads, because that reaches a huge number of readers and the site allows people to post reviews well in advance of publication, typically as soon as the book cover and publishing information are uploaded (1-2 months before publication). Such an early review will encourage readers to click the to-read option that places the book on their “shelf” to buy and read once the story is published.

Be sure to tell your team members they need to have a GoodReads account. The process is simple, but be ready to help your team with the process.

The next place to post will be Amazon:

  • People can’t post unless they have an Amazon account AND they’ve spent at least $25 on Amazon in the last year. Sorry, but that’s the state of things! If people don’t want to open an account, provide them with other review options.
  • Let your member know they can’t post until the day of publication. The week before, send them a reminder of the pub date and ask them to have the review ready. Send another reminder on the pub date, because people are busy and will be likely to forget.
  • Warn your readers that when they post, the review won’t show up until 24-48 hours later. So don’t panic if you don’t see any reviews on the first day.

Once those main venues are covered, you can suggest a variety of other places team members can post if they have a little extra time. For example:

  • They can post a review on their blog.
  • They can send a simple message of “I loved this book!” on whatever social media platforms they use.
  • They can show a photo of themselves reading on their tablet.
  • They can suggest the book to their book clubs or others they know of.

Update

At every step, make people feel they’re truly part of your team by reiterating their importance and your thanks. If you don’t know some of the readers, take the time to find out where they live and why they love to read. If they’re fellow writers, be willing to return the favor when their books are publications. We humans work together so much better when we feel connected!

Keep everyone updated about the next step and send friendly (non-pushy!) reminders about upcoming deadlines.

And if a member of your team doesn’t care for the book and asks to be excused from writing a review, that’s fair! If I don’t like a book, I don’t assume the book is bad, but instead that I’m not the right reader and that others may enjoy the story more. Besides, it’s better to have a team member withdraw than to have them write a bad or mediocre review.

Lastly, there will be people who, despite your best attempts, simply take the free copy without offering a review. That happens. At least more person in the world has read, and hopefully enjoyed, your story.

Appreciate

In terms of thanks, send one the day of publication. Afterward you can send a simple gift, such as a hand-made card, or even a gift card for coffee/tea.

Again, if you’re interested in being part of the Winter Light Book Launch Team, email me: martha@engber.com.

Happy book launching!

The Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry

As I read this book, the writing became “gorgouser and gorgeouser,” the very term the main character uses to describe — with full-on melancholy — the love of his life that he slid away from. Rather than lyrical in the way harp music or a serene river flowing by, the book’s language is akin to an Irish beach where you’re likely to cut your feet on the sharp rock not yet ground into fine sand, despite centuries of pummeling.

The story begins with lifelong Irish mates Maurice and Charlie Redmond sitting in a humid, dirty fairy building in Algeciras, Spain, hoping to intercept Maurice’s 23-year-old daughter, Dilly, who disappeared herself. While most of the story is told through dialogue and flashbacks, of which I’m not a fan, Kevin Barry’s writing is so marvelously shard-like in its poetry, and the revelations so simple and shocking, that the story sails. The mystery of why the daughter felt the need to lose herself from these men’s lives is apparent when the duo strong-arm a young dreadlocked man for news of Dilly and the vagabond says, “Why’d she take off? You ask yourself that ever?”

And there provides the entrance to the back-in-time tunnel that reveals the rough road taken by Moss and Charlie Redmond, and the heartbreak they’ll live with for the rest of their crooked lives.

Besides the Irish colloquialisms, Barry has filled the tale with sensory descriptions meant to be cloyingly rich as the various atmospheres both of Spain and Ireland, back when and now, like this scene of Maurice on a past night in Malaga:

“The city ran a swarm of fast anchovy faces. The surge of the night traffic ran. The harbour lights were festive and moved across the oily water. He walked as far as the beach of Malagueta to get his head right and let the fear settle. He recognized at once there was heroin in the vicinity of Malagueta by night. The heavy sea was constrained on tight lines. He sat in the dark on the sand and listened to the night, the traffic; the fast, sibilant hiss of the Andaluz voices.”

And back in Cork when Maurice has come undone, “He was more than possessed by his crimes and excesses — he was the gaunt accumulation of them. He wanted an out, but he could never be a suicide. He could not willingly deprive the world of himself. He was almost forty-six and if fate did not intervene, he would have to sit it the fuck out.”

Neither delicious nor beautiful, his scrappy prose is a fantastic addition to world literature.

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