Soft Launches, Street Teams, and Why Indie Books are Startup Businesses
Rock Gods & Messy Monsters soft launches
I'm pleased (and excitedly nervous!) to announce that today is the soft launch of my book "Rock Gods & Messy Monsters." The novel is an exploration of self-discovery and learning to love oneself, all while set within the blood-soaked walls, dangling body parts, and alien-hatched explosions inside Acht Records in the 1990s.
The official launch and the ebook release are scheduled for September 7th, 2022.
What is a soft launch?
What is a soft launch, and why have I done one? As an indie author, I've written the book and overseen editing and all aspects of producing it, like printing and design. I'm also in charge of marketing and promoting the novel. Doing the work - and doing it effectively - takes a lot of time, patience, and perseverance.
A soft launch is simply putting your book online without the general public knowing.
This is done before your official release date. You have time to work out any kinks, get your friends and family to buy the book, and encourage them to leave reviews on or near the official launch date.
And do I have some kinks! The company I'm printing through, Lulu, didn't mention that the project date (the day you start uploading your book) is the release date that appears on Amazon (or at least it was for me).
I started uploading my book on May 26th, so that date is on Amazon as my launch. The earliest date I wanted, and my soft launch date, is July 6th. (I would have preferred the official launch date of September 7th but couldn't figure out a way to both pre-launch and have a release date after the fact.)
This might not seem a big deal, but I worry it might affect reviews and awards and make the book seem old earlier than it should. That might affect interviews and getting media.
In addition, my book description on Amazon appeared in one hugely long paragraph, without line breaks like on my original document. And you can't go directly into Amazon to edit. In short, it's a mess.
After days of agonizing and a few more tears shed than I want to admit, I've decided to delete the project in Lulu and start all over again. So, currently, the book is offline under the messed-up listing, and I'll re-upload it today (July 6th) as a whole new book listing.
Unfortunately, it won't be on sale then because Lulu requires a proof copy if using the global distribution option - but I'd rather have the listing correct and adjust my launch strategy. This hiccup could have been much worse if I'd waited until the official release!
I'm now looking at my soft launch as a goal post toward the finish line of September 7th. It's the day I start sending books out for reviews and blurbs, and it's the day I'll activate my street team.
What is a street team?
A street team is a group of people who agree to help you launch your book. In the 1990s, when I was working in music, street teams plastered band posters around their town, called radio stations to request songs, and were a way to create buzz around a new album.
Book street teams are the same concept. They're a group of people (most likely your friends and family) who agree to read and review the book. They also often help with decisions around your marketing campaigns.
As part of my soft launch, I'm sending my street team an ARC (advanced reading copy, or, in other words, a pdf version of the book). They'll have a couple of months to read Rock Gods and write a review. When the book officially launches, they'll purchase a copy and leave a review at the online retailer where it was bought.
Warning: Be ethical
You must be honest about your tactics if you choose to do this. Make sure any reviewer you ask states that they were given an advanced copy and are leaving an honest review. And make sure you tell your team to provide an honest review!
Also, Amazon's algorithm doesn't like too many reviews posted on the day of launch. If it thinks you're trying to scam the system, you'll lose any ranking you might have had on their lists.
So be ethical and transparent in what you're doing and how you're doing it.
Indie publishing is a business startup
As I was out for a walk yesterday, I realized that publishing your own book is no different than starting a company - though you probably won't get money from investors, so it’s more challenging.
I mentored startups in the food space for several years and not too long ago took part in a couple business accelerators for creative startups. And I just realized there's no real difference between indie publishing and selling widgets. I'm not demeaning the creativity involved in writing a book, but you're selling a product in both cases.
Indie authors, be proud to publish your own work - you're an entrepreneur with your own startup!
There's no one set way to do a soft launch. Some writers don't tell anyone their book is online and use the pre-launch time to work through issues like I'm having. Others choose to have the book for sale online for friends, family, and possibly even their newsletter list.
Soft launching isn't mandatory, but I think it's advisable, especially if this is your first indie book. Also, indie publishing is not for the faint of heart - there is a ton of work, but if you're like me and find marketing itself creative, it's an enjoyable ride.
Quick note: I've been focusing on the technical part of publishing over the past couple of months because I'm 100% focused on getting the book out. I'm shortly going to start mixing articles around topics and themes from my writing and continue to discuss the nitty-gritty of indie publishing.
And a final note: If you'd like to be part of my street team, simply drop me a line.
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