In the past six months, I’ve been through two book launches and built an online creative writing course. Each time, I’ve given the best content I had away for free, both before, during, and after launch. And I’ve learned something from every one of those book launches.
I’ve done a GoodReads giveaway, I’ve done giveaways to subscribers of my mailing list, I’ve offered signed editions of my book, both in print and digital, as prizes at author events. Hell, you can read them free on Wattpad right now, if you want.
Before each of those launches, I had multiple conversations with other authors about book launches. They’ve said things like, “How did you do that?” or “My publisher would never go for that.”
No. Your publisher wouldn’t go for that. Why not? Because your publisher is risk-averse. Your publisher has people’s salaries to pay, they can only take a chance on a sure thing. They have to account to someone for little things like “money” and “time.”
But launching something isn’t about satisfying the status quo. It’s about getting out front and exceeding expectations. And most people refuse to do this because they’re afraid. Sadly, the fear leads to the very thing they’re trying to avoid.
If you’re going to get people to care about your book, your business, or even your blog, you’re going to have to do more than satisfy them. You’re going to have to surprise them. Which means you must make them sit up in their chairs and say, “Really?!”
Just the other week, another author did that when he broke the cardinal rule of book publishing and gave a free digital copy of his book to anyone who pre-ordered the hard copy.
This isn’t supposed to happen. Books come out on their publishing dates, not months before. But it did. And that author’s readers rushed to order the book so that they could start reading now. That’s the kind of thing that gets people talking.
Another example was when E.W. Sandlin announced that every penny spent on the book, No One Has Such a Dog, and No One Should, was given to charity (including the publisher’s cut). When did she announce this? On the very last page of the book. It was an added delight, not something you expected going into it.
How to Know You’re on Track
For my upcoming book launch, I’m once again doing something super crazy that almost feels too risky. In fact, I’m once again a little bit scared that it’ll blow up in my face.
But this, friends, is when you know you’re on to something.
When it feels like you’re about to be too generous, it’s time to lean in and give even more. Because nobody talks about normal. People talk about stuff that wows them. And the best way to stand out is to do something unexpected.
So what does that look like?
First, you have to realize that you don’t get to decide what remarkable looks like. Your audience does. They will tell you when you’ve really done something incredible.
How will they tell you? Try a free reader service like Wattpad. Publish your work, and then record analytics data over time. I did this recently, when Hedge King in Winter became a Featured Story on Wattpad.
The following chart breaks down the percentage of readers who completed each part (the orange line), compared to the word-count of each part in the story (blue columns). From this, I can look at structural elements, such as word-count and where I lost reader interest and consider what I might have done there to lose them. Was the word-count to high or to low? I can also see where I sustained the best readership compared to the least investment in words.
This is information I can put back into my work to improve it. I can improve my drafting and rewriting by listening to reader feedback in reviews, comments, and through analytics like these, and craft a new reader experience that is even more engaging than what you’ve already come to expect.
This is what I mean when I say, “your reader decides what remarkable looks like.” By tracking analytics, you can find trends, bumps, threats, opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses in your work and use that feedback to see what remarkable looks like from your reader’s eyes.
Second, you have to identify what normal looks like. In other words, what’s expected? You can’t hit “wow” until you know what people want.
This is a similar chart, but looks at the Wattpad readership of A Merchant’s Tale, which benefited from Hedge King in Winter’s Featured status boost during the opening days of A Merchant’s Tale’s commercial release.
Once more, this is without being a Featured title on Wattpad, or any other unusual boost. This is what “normal” looks like for A Merchant’s Tale on Wattpad.
By looking at performance patterns and relationships regularly, you can:
- Get a sense of how your readership is responding to your work over time,
- Understand how different factors (such as a big promotional lift from Wattpad themselves) can effect readership,
- Find weaknesses in your story-telling that can be corrected to make it more compelling, and
- Draw correlations between things like Wattpad Analytics and Amazon Analytics, to try and see if there are visible effects between events in the Wattpad environment and sales via Amazon.
Third, you’ve got to go for broke.
By understanding what reader’s expect, you can find opportunities to wow them.
Meet expectations, then do something that totally blows them away. And find ways to keep doing that as you go.
What have you done that feels too risky?
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