How Many Followers Do You Need Before Doing a Book Launch?By
Spirit Authors is well-known for its ‘bestseller’ book launches. So why is book marketer Lynn Serafinn advising an alternative plan for marketing your book?
A couple of weeks ago, a new client sent me an email asking, ‘How many social media followers would you consider “enough” for me to move onto planning a full book launch?’
My reply to her was that there was no simple answer to this, as there were so many variables. As I was explaining these variables in some detail in my email, it occurred to me that my readers here on Spirit Authors would probably also like to know the answer to this question. So today, I’ll be looking at the factors that I believe contribute to a successful book launch, as well as an alternative to the big ‘bestseller launch’, which I believe is a viable, economical and more sustainable book marketing option for many new authors.
The Golden Era of Launches
My first exposure to ‘bestseller book launches’ (also called ‘Amazon launches’) was in 2008 when I attended a seminar in London with Janet Switzer, one of the marketing brains behind the book Chicken Soup for the Soul. That was the first time I had ever heard of ‘joint venture partners’ and the idea of collaborative Internet marketing campaigns. It was clear that the key to success was in the strength of your network. One person even naively asked Janet if she would share her partner mailing list with us (!). Of course, she gracefully declined, explaining that this was not only a breach of confidentiality, but that she had spent years cultivating and nurturing the relationships with these partners. The people on that list would have no relationship with the new person. Thus, without relationships, the list would be of no value whatsoever – even though, for Janet, it was THE most valuable asset she had.
(As an aside, in hindsight I realise that what Janet did NOT talk about was the fact that the ‘Chicken Soup’ books themselves are collaborative projects, as they are comprised of dozens of different authors. That’s a whole different subject I won’t delve into here, but it is a major defining factor in the success of these books.)
I had attended the seminar because I was just about to self-publish my book The Garden of the Soul, and wanted to get ideas for how to give it a good ‘birth’. While the seminar opened my eyes, it also raised more questions than it answered, and I embarked on a quest to research everything I could find on the subject. I incorporated ideas I liked, and discarded those I didn’t. But the one thing I could see would be the biggest determining factor in my success would be my network. I started a radio show. I created free Garden of the Soul audio meditations. I made Garden of the Soul video poems for YouTube. I started blogging on a special site just for the book. But the most effective thing I did was set up a Garden of the Soul network on Ning. Sadly, no longer a very popular social media platform, many of my closest network partners today originally came from my Ning network. It was a lovely ‘micro-universe’ where I made close connections with a few hundred people who were 100% committed to helping me when my book came out a few months later. As a result, I was able to get the book to #18 in the spirituality category on Amazon, which wasn’t bad for a one-person act who had never done a book launch before. I was able to return the favour by having many of these people as guests on my radio show. Dozens of them continue to be my book launch partners today, and a few even became book marketing clients.
Since then, I’ve coordinated dozens of book launches for clients. I have a superb team who know exactly what to do and when. It’s become ‘systematised’ to such a degree that I can pretty much guarantee a client will hit #1 (or at least #2) in one or more category on Amazon. With each launch, my network of partners grows, and our relationships become stronger. Now my own circle of partners (along with my team) has become my most valuable business asset.
To Launch or Not to Launch?
So far, you might be thinking, ‘Great. All I need to do is find a person like Lynn or Janet who has a strong partner list and I can do a bestseller book launch.’
Well, when I was just starting out doing these launches as a business, I also made that assumption, thinking my clients could ‘ride on my coat-tails’ so to speak. But let me tell you from experience, this assumption is completely WRONG.
After a year or so of doing book launches, I started to see some patterns:
- CLIENT A: Those clients who depended primarily upon my partner network might get to #1, but it was harder to get them there and it didn’t necessarily result in big sales. Furthermore, once the launch was over, it was sort of like, ‘Ok, I’ve spent all this time and money. Now what do I do with myself and my book?’
- CLIENT B: Those clients who had strong partner networks of their own (which were then combined with my network) would rise to the top of the charts more quickly, and stay there longer, resulting in more book sales overall. However, as books are cheap, it was only on rare occasions that their profits from these sales would cover the expenses they had laid out to do the launch. Thus, they’d write it off as a business expense, and just return to ‘business as usual’ after the launch, meaning the launch made no significant change to their business.
- CLIENT C: Those clients who had strong partner networks AND who had ‘spin off’ products and follow-up offers for their customers not only made better book sales, but they also made residual income after the launch. This was the only group who actually profited financially from doing a book launch.
As I saw these patterns emerging, I decided I would no longer offer book launches as an option to clients in the ‘A’ category. I felt it was unethical to ask them to commit so much time and money for something that would give them ’15 minutes of fame’ and then a big crash and burn (if not a credit card debt) at the end of the tunnel. Instead, I worked with them to build their marketing platforms and their networks – sometimes for as long as a year. Some would go on to do a book launch, but many didn’t feel the need, seeing the platform building as a steady and sustainable alternative to business growth and book sales.
Clients in Category C, obviously, had the greatest potential to benefit from doing a book launch, and I am happy to do a launch project with them.
Clients in Category B are ‘borderline’. What I tend to do with these clients is work with them for a while to create their follow-up offers so they can ‘ascend’ to Category C before their launch.
Back to the Question of the Day
OK. Now, taking all that context into consideration, let’s get back to my client’s question: ‘How many social media followers would you consider “enough” for me to move onto planning a full book launch?’
What you might notice is that, so far, I haven’t even MENTIONED social media followers. When I referred earlier to ‘strong partner networks’, I was NOT talking about big mailing lists or large numbers of followers on Twitter or Facebook.
That’s not to say that large social networks are not important. The fact is that your partners will appear from these networks. Of course, it’s up to you to recognise potential partners and cultivate your relationship with them (I talk a lot about this in my Twitter book Tweep-e-licious).
Numbers have to be looked at in context. For one thing, the number of ‘followers’ that is considered substantial will vary from one social media network to another. While 2,000 Facebook friends is a lot, it’s not particularly exceptional on Twitter. Also, low numbers in one network can be offset by exceptionally high numbers elsewhere. For example, one of my clients has a minimal presence on Twitter, but has over 60,000 fans on his Facebook fan page.
But most of all, it’s not just about quantity, but about quality. Things I would assess before considering someone for a book launch are:
- The level of engagement they have in their social networks (quantity and quality)
- The amount and quality of informational content they have created and shared online
- The degree to which that content reinforces their overall brand message
- The amount and consistency of traffic they are driving to their website every day
- Their mailing list size AND the consistency/relevance of their communication with that list
- And, as already mentioned, the level of connection they have to potential PARTNERS who have equally solid platforms as them
I hope you can see that making the decision to embark on a book launch cannot be reduced to a numeric equation. The decision comes from looking at a combination of factors, including your marketing platform, your partner network and your business/brand development. Think of a finely crafted watch. The only way it works is: 1) for all the parts to be of good quality; 2) for them to be assembled and working together as a unit correctly and; 3) for them to be maintained regularly.
Frankly, I think the ‘golden era of book launches’ is dying out. I believe building a solid platform and making a plan for how your book marketing will support your business growth is far more important that the ephemeral ‘rush’ you’ll get from being #1 for a day. It’s like winning the X-Factor and then not being able to make a career out of singing.
This is why we at Spirit Authors (now a branch of the 7 Graces Project CIC) have been focusing more and more deeply on developing a range of platform-building packages for our clients. We feel, for the majority of clients, these options give greater long-term value and are more sustainable than a book launch.
If you’re writing a value-rich book, you run an independent ethical business, or you’re planning to launch a new product in 2014, have a look at our platform-building packages and then drop us a line via the contact form on this site to set up a free 30 minute consultation to discuss your needs.
11th December 2013
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.