What to Do When Your Book Launch Fails

Tim says: Jeff Goins is a good friend of mine, an amazing writer, and has helped thousands of other writers reach their dreams. Last year he came out with a new book and it didn’t exactly go as planned. Traditionally in publishing if the book doesn’t launch big it’s quickly forgotten. But does it have to be the case? Jeff addresses this in today’s article.

I spent over $200,000 on a book launch in hopes of hitting the New York Times best sellers list and failed. Sometimes, the book launch does not go the way you plan.

Maybe you launched without knowing what you were doing. Maybe you wish you could go back and do it all over again. Maybe you—hypothetically speaking—spent money in all the wrong places only to be disappointed by the results.

What do you do when you fail?

The good news is there’s hope. Just because you didn’t launch well or wish you could have done better doesn’t mean the life of your book is over. In fact, it’s probably just beginning, so long as you know what to do next.

Here are three things to do when you have a less than impressive book launch.

1. Remember most people still haven’t heard about your book.

If you’re like me, by the time your book comes out, you’re tired. You’ve just gone through round after round of brutal edits. You’ve haggled with your publisher or designer on the “right” book cover. You may have even called in a bunch of favors with friends to help you promote it.

So when the big day comes, you’re all tuckered out. What more do you have left to go?

This is the point at which many authors go write the next book. And this is a mistake.

Creatively, it’s a good thing to work on your next book. To start the next project and remove your ego from your current book. That’s good. If you need to do that, go do it. But do it privately without any fanfare. Because as far as the public is concerned, all that exists right now is this new book. And your job is to hit the pavement and do everything you can to make sure everyone knows about it.

It’s easy to forget that after the first week, the first month, or even the first year that most people who need your book still haven’t heard about it.

So if you have a disappointing book launch, the first thing you must do is remember this…

  • Nobody is as tired of this book as you are.
  • Nobody is as bored with it as you are.
  • Nobody thinks it’s old like you do.

In fact many of your readers probably have no idea this book even exists. Recently, I learned this when I blogged about my book, The Art of Work, six months after it came out. One reader asked, “you wrote a book?” I couldn’t believe it.

But it’s true. What is old news to you is not old news to your very busy and often distracted readers.

2. Keep talking about the book.

This sounds super obvious but is actually hard to do. Like I said, we get bored with our latest release, and six months after the launch we mistakenly assume everyone who was going to buy the book already did.

The truth is quite the opposite, however. Most people have been waiting. Maybe they’ve been busy or don’t have the cash to drop $25 on a hardcover right now.

So they wait. And usually forget about the book.

Unless you remind them.

The job of any author is to write good books and try to not get too bored with talking about them. Because as Austin Kleon says, talking about the work is the work. Marketing is part of the job, and if you do it well, you get to write more books.

How do you do this? A few ways:

  • Mention your book once a week in your newsletter, blog, and/or podcast. It doesn’t always have to be a hard pitch. Just a reminder that this thing you spent a year of your life creating actually does exist. You’re just trying to raise awareness and remind people of the book.
  • Find new conversations that can happen around the book. This means writing guest posts and articles and appearing on podcasts in niches that you haven’t yet explored. Repurpose content from the book and share them in these channels. Again, the goal is awareness.
  • Bring up the book in conversation. Please don’t be that person who keeps name-dropping your book. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to talk about it. The trick to doing this well is to actually use your experience and maybe even the content in the book to try to be helpful. This can happen on stage at a speaking event or over coffee with a friend. Once again, you are trying to make people continually aware.

3. Relaunch the book.

Maybe you had the most horrendous launch ever and want a do-over. Or maybe it was great but you’ve lost momentum and you’re wondering if you can get it back again.

The truth is just because you launch a book once doesn’t mean you can’t keep relaunching it over and over again.

My book, The Art of Work, sold 15,000 preorders before the book was event released. It did around 20,000 in sales in the first month. These are great numbers. But then over time, sales gradually began to taper off. So in January, we did a special promotion and sold another 5000 copies—eight months after the book came out.

In fact, I’m doing this again, nearly six months after that. I’m discounting the ebook, guest posting on a bunch of friends’ sites, and doing some other promotional activities to get the book in front of new people.

How do I know this works? Because some of the best selling books of the past few decades have sold like this. The Five Love Languages, a mainstay of the The New York Times best sellers list, has become a cultural phenomenon and continues to sell more copies each year than the previous year. The author Gary Chapman told me that the book only sold a few thousand copies the first year. And then a few more the next year. And a few more after that. And so on and so on until they were selling millions of copies each year. Why did it sell so well? It was the idea, Dr. Chapman told me. He gave a name to something people were already struggling with. And the idea spread.

Yes, big launches work and gimmicks can help. But the real marketing power of the book is the message itself and how good of a job you do getting that message to spread.

But it’s not just enough to have a great idea and not shut up about it. It helps to occasionally have some big splashes. Whether that’s an online marketing and PR campaign or some kind of promotion, doing these one-off pushes can help you break into new markets and create momentum that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

Redefining a Bestseller

If you do this, if you focus not on just the big launch but on the long tail sales trajectory of your book, you will win.

You may not sell 10,000 copies in a week and hit the NYT bestsellers list only to never be heard from again.

But you will do something better. You will create a real best seller. A book that continues to sell a lot of copies for a long, long time. Which is all the title should have ever meant.

Isn’t that what you really want anyway?

If you follow this process and keep talking about your book, getting it in front of new people and even relaunching it on occasion, believing that many people who have yet to hear about it do need this book, then you won’t have to worry about spending $200,000 on a book launch.

You will have done something so much better.

Jeff Goins is the author of four books including the national best seller, The Art of Work, which you can get for $2.99 this week only. Jeff lives just outside Nashville, TN with his family. You can find him on Twitter @jeffgoins and follow his award-winning writing blog.

Tim says: What do you do if you release a book and it flops? This topic is an important one and I will be addressing more in the future.

By the way, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Art of Work. It is one of four books that I recommend constantly. I have three copies at my house right now because I keep them on hand to give away to people as much as possible. I rarely recommend books on my site, but this is one you don’t want to miss.

Jeff Goins

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