We all know that if you're launching a book, you'll want to put together a launch team to help you out. As Nick Loper said in his article with the details of his latest book launch, he "searched high and low for a detailed launch team 'how to' or case study, but didn't really find one", so that's why I've created this epic guide.
- What is a Launch Team & Why Do You Want One?
- How Do You Manage Your Launch Team
- When Do You Recruit Your Launch Team?
- How Do You Recruit Your Launch Team?
- Getting Influencers to Promote Your Launch
- What Do You Offer People In Return?
- When and How Do You Send Our Your ARCs?
- When Do You Ask For A Review?
- What Tools Do You Give Your Launch Team?
- When Do You Ask Them to Promote?
- How Do You Keep Them Motivated?
- What Do You Do Next?
- Join a Launch Team to Experience It
Just so we're all on the same page here... a launch team is a group of people who get your book for free, in advance, so they can read it and leave a review for you when you launch. They also often do some form of promotion for you when you launch too to help get the word out about your fabulous new book.
You want to aim for at least 20 people to really make it effective, but if you have a huge email list, this number can be anywhere up to 500 people.
The only consideration, when it comes to the size of your launch team, is how many people you can manage and keep motivated so you get that all important review from them when you launch.
The reason you want a launch team is to get those early reviews in on day 1 of your launch.
People like social proof, so if you have a number of reviews already they will be more likely to download your book. Especially if they're positive reviews. If you're doing some form of paid promotion too, several places require you have to a certain number of reviews before they'll agree to let you buy the promotion.
The other reason you want to get at least 10 reviews, is that, according to Kristin Lajeunesse, once you reach that magic number your book has the chance to appear in the "also bought" listings and the "you might like" recommendations from Amazon. I can't find anything to back that up, or contradict it, but it's another good reason to get at least 10 reviews from your launch team if it is true.
You need to have a way of managing your launch team. You need to communicate with them, so they know when you're launching, how you want them to promote and so they can find out what you're doing 'behind the scenes' for your launch. You also obviously, need a way to get them an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of your book. So how do you keep track of all these people? Especially if you have 500 of them.
One way is to set up a list in your autoresponder service. If your autoresponder service has tags (like Active Campaign, ConvertKit or Infusionsoft), you can simply tag them on your list as being part of the launch of this book.
This is a great way to do it because you don't have to pay twice to have them on two separate lists like you do for the software that doesn't have a tagging feature. You can then simply mail them as you would any other list you have. However, the downside is, this way they can't communicate with each other, and share their excitement and what they've done and learned.
To get that community feeling going you want to create a private or secret Facebook group specifically for your launch team. Obviously not everyone is going to spend time in Facebook, and you don't want to be distributing your book through the group, so you need to use this together with emailing them.
Some people will want to be contacted via email, but others won't, and if you're delivering the ARC to their Kindle, you might not actually know their email address. So what I'd recommend you do is keep track of everyone on your launch team in one document. I use a google spreadsheet for this, with a column for their name, a column for their email (or whether you've got their email address), a column for whether you've sent the ARC, a column for whether they've left a review and a column for whether they've promoted.
Obviously when you're starting out you can't tell who is going to come through for you with a review and some promotion and who isn't.
It's an unfortunate thing but just because someone is on your launch team doesn't mean they're going to leave you a review or promote your book. Maybe they didn't like the book and they don't like leaving a negative review, so they don't leave any review, or maybe they just got busy. Either way, once you get going and write more and more books, you want to track the people who aren't coming through for you, so you don't invite them to another launch team. This way your launches will get stronger and stronger because you know who consistently comes through.
There is a definite sweet spot for how far in advance you want to recruit people. If you start too early people get burned out or get busy doing other things, but if you start too late you won't have time to organize everything, for them to read the book and you generally won't make the most of your launch team.
Another couple of factors that will affect how long you need to have to set up your launch team are the size of your team and how engaged your platform is. If you're only going for a small launch team (around 20 people or less) and you know them well or have worked with them before, then in reality you only need a few days to set up your launch team and you need to start early enough so they have time to read your book. So essentially you only need 3-4 weeks.
If, however, you want to set up a very large launch team, like several 100 people, then you're going to have to start much further in advance, so you have time to recruit everyone, get them pumped up and meeting each other and then give them book with enough time to read it. Realistically for this you're going to need around 2 months (60 days).
Looking around for other people's recommendations the range varies a huge amount. Nikki Wood suggests starting 2-3 months before your launch date, Michael Hyatt went for 3 weeks, but would do 4 weeks another time and Cheri Cowell recommends 6 months. Just remember to leave at least 2 weeks for people to read the book.
My advice would be to customize your lead time with each launch, depending on the size of the launch team you're aiming for and how engaged and responsive your platform is.
When it comes to recruiting a launch team you have one of three options. Firstly, you can go the application route, secondly you can do a random drawing of applicants and lastly you can accept (within reason) whoever says yes.
If you have a huge platform, you're going to want to go the application route. To do that, set up a form where they can apply. You'll probably want this to be an opt in form into your autoresponder system so you can use a list to deliver information about your launch, however, an alternative is just using a google form to collect the data.
You'll want to collect their name and email address, but if you're going to be choosing people like a true application, you have the option of putting other questions on the form as well. Basically you want to find out how they can help promote your book. So include questions, like, "Why should we pick you?", "How can you spread the word about this book?", or "Who are 3 major bloggers, or podcasters you know and how do you know them?".
These kinds of questions, while aggressive, can mean that people will do some of their research and commit to your launch before they even apply to be on your team. Plus once you launch, you can then reach out to those bloggers or podcasters and say, "so-and-so said I should reach out to you about my book launch".
Application with Random Drawing
Again you need a big platform for this method. It's where you do the application process, like above, but instead of asking them the extra questions, you simply do a random drawing of all the people that apply. I've seen this done to great effect by Michael Hyatt and Pat Flynn, to mention a few. It's a less aggressive method, which means you can have a number of true fans, who have no list or connections, still be part of your launch team.
This method is if you have little to no platform. If you're going to struggle getting 20 people on your launch team, you can't be fussy about who you get. You might still want a form for them to sign up with, so you can use the autoresponder software to manage them, however, more than likely you'll be emailing or connecting with individual people and asking them one on one to join your team.
Getting The Word Out There About Your Launch Team
If you have a platform, instead of emailing people one by one, you can get the word out about your launch by mailing your whole email list, mentioning it in a blog post or podcast episode or generally doing a mass announcement. To do this, you're going to want to create an email you can send out. Kevin Kruse shared the email he used to recruit people to his launch team for one of his books if you want some swipe copy. Plus he included some other authors' emails as well.
As Tom Morkes (the King of relationship building) says, "Create relationships before you need them." If you want influencers to promote your book launches, you need to set building relationships with them.
This doesn't mean saying, "Hi", then asking them to promote your book the next day. It takes time to build that relationship.
It's like dating, you wouldn't expect to get a 'yes' if you asked someone to marry you on the first or second date. So put the time in now by helping them achieve their goals. If they have a podcast, leave them a review. If they have a book, leave them a review. If they have a blog, share their posts. Build that relationship.
Then when it comes time for your book launch, ask. The worst that can happen, if you ask nicely, is that they'll say 'no'. However, if you don't ask, it's a guaranteed 'no'.
The ARC of Your Book
Obviously you need to give your launch team a free copy of the actual book or ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) as it's known.
Private Facebook Group
Another fairly common benefit is a private Facebook group. This is where your team have access to you and you can discuss what you're doing for the book launch, ask for votes on potential book covers, titles and subtitles, as well as brainstorm creative marketing ideas for the launch.
Exclusive Webinar / Group Q&A Call
Having an exclusive training just for your launch team is another great idea. Depending on your audience you can either have it around the topic of the book (for a nonfiction book) or around the actual launch itself if your audience are other authors.
For fiction authors, just having a launch party works really well. You can invite other fiction author friends to come on the call and giveaway a signed copy of their book to your launch team. You could do a short reading from your book, and give away any other swag you've created like a bookmark.
Another idea that works with both fiction and nonfiction is to make it an "Ask Me Anything" webinar. This way your launch team can ask you about your book, your topic, your characters or whatever they're interested in hearing. These people are your biggest fans, so they're going to have questions and want to know more and this gives them a chance to do that.
To give you some inspiration, here are some examples of amazing launch team benefit ideas:
One example is Michael Hyatt's launch of Platform, as you can see he put a detailed list of what people who joined the launch team would get. It included special bonuses like a 30-minute group phone session with him, a list of all the launch team members with a link to their blog, access to Michael again within a private Facebook group for the launch, as well as a 25% discount for his (then) upcoming audio course. Plus, of course, an ARC.
Another example is the Wild and Free launch. In addition to the ARC and a private Facebook group, they also included a weekend party with a beach bonfire in South Carolina.
Lastly, Jeff Goins's launch for Wrecked, gave team members a digital ARC, plus a free paperback copy, the private Facebook group with access to him, a chance to see behind the scenes of the launch, a mention and link on his blog, plus other freebies...
Once again, there's a definite sweet spot of how far in advance you want to send out your ARCs. About 2-3 weeks before your launch date seems to be the ideal time frame.
Any earlier than that and people run the risk of have forgotten what the book is about, or what they liked about it, so they don't leave you a review. Any later than that and you run the risk of people not having finished reading the book, and so aren't ready to leave a review.
One tip to help if your book launch gets delayed for whatever reason, ask people to write their reviews into a doc either on their computer or into a google doc. That way when you're ready and asking for the reviews they can find them and post them into Amazon. I personally use this since I review a lot of books, some of which aren't being released for several months.
When it comes time to send out your ARC, it's usually a PDF copy of the book that gets emailed, however, there are other options. You can email a mobi file (for kindle) or an ePub file to your launch team, or if you want to take it to the next level, you can use a service like BookFunnel.com for as little as $20/year to send them out.
Another interesting way I've seen ARC's delivered is straight onto the reader's kindle, however, this can be a lot more time consuming for your launch team, so I don't recommend it.
This rather depends on your launch strategy... However, you want your launch team to leave verified reviews either before your launch, if you put it up a day or two early, or on day one of your launch.
Essentially by the time Joe Public sees your book, you want to have as many reviews as you can get because this shows the social proof that you book is worth buying or downloading.
One little trick to help you rank for your keywords, is that you want to give your launch team the keyword you most want to rank for. Ask them to search Amazon for that keyword, scroll down until they find your book, click on it and download / buy it. Doing that tells Amazon that your keyword is relevant to your book and people are searching that keyword and buying your book, so you move up the list for that keyword.
Once they downloaded or bought your book, they can then leave their review and that will make it be a verified review. Obviously, if you're doing a free launch, this is easy and doesn't cost anything. However, if your launch is a paid launch and you offered your launch team a free book, to get those verified reviews you're probably going to have to reimburse them for the book, but check with Amazon's terms and conditions beforehand to make sure you're not breaking any of them.
The reason you want your launch team to leave a verified review is that, according to Dave Chesson as he says in the comments for the article, "Verified reviews help push books higher up in the rankings (amazon's algo rules)". So you want to get as many of your reviews as possible to be "verified reviews".
You want to make is as easy as possible for your launch team to get the word out about your book.
Some people will only be able to do this via social media, so you need to provide them with social media posts that are ready to go. Yes these people are your super fans, however, everyone is busy! So make these posts shareable with one click.
Give them "click to tweet" links, "click to share" links, "pin it" buttons and so on. Make sure you put the post on your own account so they can simply share it that way. For the people who are willing to post it into various Facebook groups, give them the graphic and swipe copy that they can simply download and paste into the post.
If you have people on your team who have a list they want to share your book launch with, then give them email swipe copy and graphics so it's as easy as possible for them to help you.
One great site that I've used a lot to create shareable graphics, at least for Facebook and Twitter, is HrefShare.com.
Simply go to the site, fill in all the details like the URL of your graphic, the URL you want your post to link to, your title and your description, like so:
Then once you click the orange "generate link" button, you'll be given a link you can share. When one of your team clicks that link, it opens up Facebook for them with the post already there for them to add their own comments to and then share.
Essentially you want to give your launch team everything they could possibly need to promote your book with as little effort on their part as possible.
Just click the image to the left to Download your copy of the PDF Launch Team Swipe File.
Or you can simply click this Download Link.
Let us know in the comments if you found this helpful or if you have anything to share on what has worked for you.
So that everyone's expectations are met, you want to let your launch team know you'll be asking them to promote it before they join the team. However, once they're in, then you want to ask them to promote as much as they can from the day your book is announced to the general public.
Obviously exactly when you get them to promote is going to depend on your specific book launch strategy, but you want them to keep spreading the word for you during your entire launch process.
Have a variety of promotions your team can put out so the public doesn't get blind to the same promotions over and over. You'll want to have enough for at least a week while your book is at your launch price and going through all your paid promos.
Paid promos are services you pay for that advertise your book to their huge list of fans. Services like BuckBooks, ReadingDeals, eBooksHabit, BookHearts, BookSends, Bknights on Fiverr, Awesomegang, Bookzio, and Bookbub.
This will come down to knowing your audience, and by extension your launch team. What do they most want to get from being on your launch team?
Obviously you can't bombard everyone with "interesting information" via email each day, however, for those who are genuinely interested, having it to read in your private Facebook group for your launch team can really motivate people and make them feel like they're part of your launch.
Chadwick Cannon recommends you're in touch with your launch team at least 4-5 days a week at the start and then more as you get closer to the launch date. Even as much as 4-5 times a day around the launch date. You want to get them talking to you and to each other so they're engaged in your launch.
So what kinds of information can you share?
For nonfiction, if your audience is other authors, then they'll want to hear the behind-the-scenes for your launch, because it will directly affect their future launches. However, if you audience isn't authors, then chances are they're not going to want to know the ins-and-outs of your launch strategy.
One thing that can work well is to discuss tips and case studies from your book. What worked for people in your launch team? What did they try out from your book?
For fiction, one thing I have seen work is getting people to talk about which actors and actresses would play your characters, along with sharing of photos for who the character look like the most.
For both fiction and nonfiction, once you've launched, share your progress. If you've hit #1 in your category, let people know. They are the ones helping you succeed, and I know from experience that great results get your launch teams to push even harder because they can see that their work is paying off.
Just remember, in between all the extra information and results, keep asking them to promote and remind them to leave their reviews if they haven't done so already.
Once your launch is over, you want to keep putting your book out there. That's what will bring in the long term sales and allow you to become a full-time writer.
Since your launch team has already loved your book and invested time and energy in helping promote it, why not ask them if they'd like to join your street team? This is your small team of die hard fans that helps promote your books throughout the year. Sure, it takes a fair amount of time and energy to manage one, but the results can be amazing if you engage your street team well.
I've been a part of one street team where we got 3 of the author's books into #1 on iBooks for YA Fiction, which is no small feat and this was a year after they'd been released.
Don't be afraid to ask your street team for marketing idea - you'll be amazed at what they come up with. I've been part of another one where the author wanted to get her books into libraries, so we all descended on our local library and made the introductions. Just make sure they check with you first before trying something completely new. It's your brand out there, so you don't want something that causes damage to your brand, however well meaning the person was.
If you're a fiction writer, then theme your street team to match your books. If your characters have to go through certain things in your books, like becoming an apprentice, then a master and finally an adept. Call the new fans in your street team "apprentices", then give them a path to progress through the ranks to adept. This is what will take your street team, and frankly your entire author brand, to a whole new level of engagement for your top fans.
The key is engagement. Keep them engaged, rewarded, and having fun, and they'll keep promoting your books for you.
One fun idea I've seen is having a monthly challenge. You give them a few tasks, like "like and share my post", "share the post on 2 other Facebook groups", "share on a further 2 other Facebook groups", or "change your profile pic to the book cover".
Then have points assigned to each task and every month add up the points for each person and keep a cumulative total.
You then have prizes for reaching a certain number of points. For instance, a bookmark and fridge magnet for reaching 20 points, a signed book for reaching 40 points etc. Then for your ultimate level on the points ladder you can even name a minor character in a future book after them.
Create Shareable Fun Content
If you have a physical book, get people to take a selfie of themselves holding your book and post it to social media. If you get 100 different people doing this, you'll get a huge amount of buzz and your book will pop back into everyone's awareness again.
Let Them See The Behind-the-Scenes
Your biggest fans are going to want to know more about you, your writing life, your upcoming books and anything else you're willing to share.
Show them pictures of you at book fairs, on writing retreats, at your desk (or wherever you write) and meeting the people you look up to. I love it when I get to see one of my favorite authors "fan-girl-ing" (as she calls it) over some of the people she gets to meet.
Share pictures of places that inspired places in your books. If you do a road trip, take a copy of your book, or something that represents one of your characters with you.
Do a photo tour of your trip, with your book in every picture. For instance, one fantasy author I follow, took a stuffed dragon with her on her last road trip.
If you're "on location" doing research for your next book. Take pictures of you writing in all these different locations. It can be fascinating to see. Your fans want to live vicariously through you. So help them do that.
Keep your street teams relatively small. You want them to be filled with your biggest fans, who love your books so much they love promoting them and sharing you with the rest of the world.
Want to experience a launch team yourself?
If you're a writer, our next book 47 Mind Hacks for Writers releases on the 4th Dec. If you'd like to be on the launch team just click the link shown below. We're putting a ton of time and energy into this launch, so please only apply if you have time to leave a review on Amazon on the 4th Dec and do ONE promotion. Thanks!
You've now know everything you need to know to create and manage your own book launch team for your next book.
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