We talk to a lot of authors every day who have read a blog that says in order to be successful as a self-published author their book marketing strategy should center around the first two weeks their book goes live on Amazon. They’ve been told this timeframe is the most important when it comes to book marketing, so they do things like set up pre-order campaigns and invest all their time, money, and effort into the exact moment they launch their book.
We think in most cases this is a bad idea. Generally speaking, we find that the majority of authors who self-publish a book don’t really gain that much from focusing solely on their book launch date–and in fact they are taking some serious risks that everything will be correct the moment they “go live.” We prefer what we call a soft launch strategy, which is where we make the book live on Amazon but don’t promote it yet. That gives us time to troubleshoot any issues that might come up–and if you’re wondering what we mean by issues just keep reading.
What is a soft launch period?
A soft launch is when your book goes live, and is technically available for sale, but you don’t tell anyone about it yet (or, only a select few).
Why would anyone want do that? Lots of reasons. Let’s walk through them:
You can correct formatting errors.
After your book goes live, you are trusting that Amazon will take all the information you entered into the back end of Amazon KDP and display it correctly on the front end for buyers to see. This includes things like your cover, book description and the actual book itself. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. We recently helped an author launch a book and after the book had been live for about 24 hours a portion of the artwork on the cover of the paperback version suddenly vanished.
All of the information uploaded into Amazon KDP was entered correctly, and it took contacting customer service three different times and nearly 72 hours later to get the book cover fixed. Imagine if this had been during the hard launch phase when the author was sending thousands of people to his book page to purchase the book? That would have been devastating.
We also published a children’s book earlier this year and even though everything looked great in the digital proof, when the book printed there was this mysterious gray shading behind several of the illustrations. We’ve also seen books that went live and after someone ordered a copy they discovered several pages in the middle were randomly italicized.
More recently we published a book for someone through Amazon KDP and when the paperback version went live Amazon incorrectly linked it to a different book with a similar title and author name.
All of these issues were fixed by contacting Amazon KDP’s customer service and alerting them to the problem, but it doesn’t happen overnight. For the book that was incorrectly linked to another book Amazon was able to unlink it fairly quickly, but the customer reviews from the wrong book continued to show on their page for several more days.
This is the unpredictability of print-on-demand publishing and if you want a professional-looking product you need to give yourself time to find and correct errors.
You need time to create your Amazon Author Central Page.
You can’t create your Amazon Author Central Page until your book is live on Amazon. It can take up to a week for Amazon to connect your author page to your book (or books) and you want to make sure your author page and books are connected before your hard launch. If you have more than one author, or another contributor (like an illustrator) it can take even longer to get the second person added to the book. We’ve seen it take as long as 12 days. You will also have the ability to add editorial endorsements to your book page from your Author Central account, and clean up any formatting errors in the book description.
You will want to add more categories to your book.
When you first launch, Amazon allows you to pick two “categories”for your book. Once the book goes live you can add up to 8 more. The more categories your book is in the better its searchability. If part of your launch strategy is to try and hit a best seller list you want to have your categories added before you start driving people to buy the book so that you can capture those sales and achieve best seller ranking. Generally speaking Amazon is pretty fast to add categories once you submit them, but you’ll still want to verify (using a third party site like nerdybookgirl.com) that your categories have been added before you start your hard launch.
You can use this time to add reviews.
A soft launch is a great time to gather customer reviews from a limited number of people who you have asked to review the book before you start sending buckets of people to your page. You can let them know about this soft launch period and ask them to please leave a review. (Just know if your ebook is in the pre-order phase for a soft launch, they won’t be able to leave a review until it is live.)
You may want to consider A+ content.
Amazon has recently started allowing self-published authors to add A+ content to their book pages. A+ content allows you to add images, text and other details to your book page to help it stand out. The content is displayed in a “From the Publisher” section (see below). Your book will have to be live on Amazon before you can add A+ content and due to Amazon’s strict product guidelines they will need to approve your content before it goes live. It can take Amazon up to 8 days to verify your content.
Here is an example of A+ content:
You can set up your own expanded distribution.
We almost always publish books via Amazon and IngramSpark. The key is to make sure the book is published on Amazon first, so that when you publish on IngramSpark they don’t try to distribute your book to Amazon also. If your hard launch involves sending people to purchase your book outside of Amazon (because let’s face it, not everyone wants to support Amazon) you need to schedule a period of time for your book to be live on Amazon so that you can publish an additional copy on IngramSpark.
IngramSpark takes much longer to verify and publish your title, so plan accordingly. Once your book is enabled for distribution on IngramSpark it will start to populate on other websites like Barnes and Noble and Bookshop.org. It’s a good idea to check some of these other listings because if you see problems you will have to reach out to IngramSpark for support. For example, we helped an author publish a book through IngramSpark but noticed that none of the pricing data was pulling over to the Barnes and Noble’s website even though it was all entered correctly in IngramSpark.
To fix these kinds of issues you have to reach out directly to customer support at IngramSpark and can expect to wait several days before even hearing back. During your soft launch you will want to cross check several of the different places your book is for sale to make sure the data is displaying properly, and contact customer support to fix any issues you find.
We know that the launch period can be exciting and you are probably chomping at the bit to tell everyone that your book is finally available to order, but taking even two weeks to take all the steps we have outlined above can ensure that your hard launch period is successful.