Why I Sell Direct as a Soft Launch (Right Now) (#13)

Posted by in Prose on Fire

Because books are a creative endeavor, it is not easy to hit a book deadline. Publishers struggle to hit them, authors struggle to hit them, and service providers struggle to hit them.

The best way to combat this is to make the finished book due way before the launch date. This means holding the book back from release for either a strategic marketing period or a pre-order period, or both. This is awesome in many ways, but most importantly, because it gives you time to build marketing momentum for the book, which gives the book a larger launch.

What is not awesome about pre-order periods is the waiting. Often, when I hit publish, I want to see sales right away. I want to receive that check two months from now (instead of four or five). I want to hear what readers think and get reviews and see word-of-mouth and… yeah, holding the book is just not always the most ideal situation.

One of the ways I’m trying to bridge that gap is by launching and selling direct almost immediately when the book is ready, and scheduling out the launch 3-6 weeks after it is available.

This approach has several upsides:

  1. It helps me hit dates by providing a buffer period if I’m running a little late. I don’t know why, but I’m the type of person who is always running a little late. I’ve tried to change my nature and found that it’s easier to just manage it.
  2. It allows me to plan a true launch. Before, I basically launched right when the book was available. I didn’t want to keep fans waiting for my own “selfish” marketing reasons (not necessarily true, just how I felt). Now, they can buy direct if they really don’t want to wait, or pre-order if they are fine with the wait. By launching direct ONLY to my email list, I have time to build suspense through the rest of my networks.
  3. It brings in a little money right away. My email list is small, but is mostly there because they really want the next book in the series. They are all customers. This is good, because I can make several hundred bucks immediately with a new book launch. Not a lot of money—YET. As a proof-of-concept, this model is promising and also makes me feel secure. Because if I really needed money in a pinch, I could release a new book and have that money in my bank account in a week.
  4. It allows me to get initial feedback from a small group before launching huge. This is a very, very good thing and gives me more confidence when the book launches, that the reception will be strong.

There are also a lot of downsides to this approach. The most important one has to do with Amazon rankings. By splitting sales across different platforms are marketplaces, I’m hurting my potential for both launch visibility and long-term discoverability in the recommendation algorithms. A lot of successful authors depend on this to build their audiences.

Still, I feel for me that this setup of doing a soft launch direct, followed shortly by a larger launch on marketplaces helps me get through the daunting process of publishing a book. The largest threat to my business at the moment is not keeping my fans happy. Using direct sales helps me set regular release dates that I can stick to. This means my books are on time and my fans can get them on any platform they want, when they want them.

I’m curious how other authors do launches and more importantly, WHY they do what they do. Let me know in the comments!

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