5 Tips for A Successful Book Launch

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Signing copies of the revised edition of Will Write for Food, at Omnivore Books in San Francisco, last July. (Photo by Heather Lunan)

Your food-based book’s coming out, and it’s time to line up all the events that lead to good sales. What are the most important events to plan for a book launch?

Australian Blogger Katrina Meynink emailed me with this question. Her book, Kitchen Coquette, is coming out later this year. Here’s my list:

1. Target bloggers who are likely to review your book. Your publisher has put aside copies to be sent to media, which includes bloggers. So target the authors of food-focused blogs in your home town, bloggers who like to review cookbooks like yours, and others who might qualify. Come up with a long list to hand to your publicist.

It helps if you know many of these people and they’ve already expressed interest in reviewing your book. It helps even more if any of them are friends.

Be creative. Tara Mataraza Desmond got a group of bloggers to review her book, Almost Meatless, on the same day, to push up Amazon sales. Or try something unconventional. Seth Godin offered his blog readers a chance to get an early review copy of his book in exchange for a review.

2. Write guest posts and feature articles that appear when the book comes out. If possible, write guest posts on blogs or websites frequented by your target readers, and have them appear right when the book comes out, with a link to your website.

For print articles, this means planning ahead to have feature stories appear in publications where your bio says your book just came out. National magazines are already planning issues in early 2012, so you have no time to lose.

3. Create web pages ready to go on your blog, for customers and media. In addition to information about the book, many authors have sections where media can download a high resolution copy of the cover, a press release and a headshot. That way they don’t have to email you and wait for you to respond.

4. Make a promotional video. Get a professional or a student to film you talking about your book, preparing dishes from it, working in your kitchen, or whatever seems appropriate where you’re more than a talking head. Put the book trailer on your web page, your Amazon page, and on YouTube. These days the web is leaning more towards video than reading text, so you’ll want to be prepared.

5. Build on social media. Are you building your followers on Facebook and Twitter? You’ll need them when the book comes out, to tell them about your schedule, or when articles or reviews appear.

Plan to establish a Facebook page for your book. Add value by posting on it regularly, not just about the book, but about cooking tips, techniques, your schedule, or any other relevant details.

If you have a blog, write about the process of writing your book to build anticipation and interest.

Now it’s your turn. If your book has debuted recently, what other advice do you have for Katrina, ? Let’s help her get her book out with a bang.

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  1. says

    Hi Dianne & Katrina,

    Sometimes timing a book release can maximize sales. This all depends on what your cook book is about, here is a scenario.

    Your book is about healthy cooking and you know there will tons of new years resolutions to begin living & eating better. So why not release your book before some time before new years beating out the competition. So by time new years comes around you will have an advantage over the competition, you will have social proof.

    If you need me to clarify anything just ask, it is almost 3am here and I am writing tired :)

    Best of luck Katrina!

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Chris. That’s definitely true for some books that are released around Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, or at the beginning of summer if it’s barbecue season.

  2. says

    Hi again :)
    What I wanted to get across is that you will set yourself up as a category leader, that is the advantage you will have over the competition.

  3. Lori says

    Another idea for connecting with bloggers is to host a potluck or have your publisher host–the bloggers can each bring a dish from your book. Norton did this for the NY Times Cookbook when they were touring Amanda Hesser and I think it was fairly successful, plus it sounds like a fun, engaging way to connect with bloggers in cities where you might not already have a built-in fan base.

    • diannejacob says

      That’s right, I forgot about those events. Since Katrina is a blogger she might have the advantage of interest from fellow bloggers.

  4. sally says

    I am taking lots of notes on this post Dianne, for future reference. All excellent points. Thanks, and BTW, really cute photo of you!

    • diannejacob says

      Oh good. Thanks, Sally, and thanks re the photo. I confess I recycled it from an earlier post. That was a fun event at Omivore. Blogger Sean Timberlake interviewed me and the place was packed.

  5. says

    Packed with good advice, DJ, wouldn’t expect anything less. Will share with my book-writing brethren.

    As for #4: I really liked the video that Vanessa Barrington did for D.I.Y. Delicious, set to jazzy music and fun, also Kim O’Donnel did a nice one too, if memory serves me correctly, for her meatless cookbook. I mention in case your readers are looking for examples in the genre.

    • diannejacob says

      Thank you so much, Sarah. And I’m also grateful for more examples of videos. I’ve seen both of those and they’re terrific. I hope the publisher paid.

      • says

        Hey Dianne & Sarah, thanks for spreading the good word about the video trailer for Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook. Here’s where folks can check it out: http://kimodonnel.com/book.html

        Actually the pub did NOT pay for the video trailer. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from authors (from all genres) who have been asked/urged by their pub to produce a video trailer, yet must do it using their own funds. Hopefully the tide will turn on this front. All best.

        • diannejacob says

          Yes, it sounds familiar. My own publisher told me there were no funds for any kind of publicity when my revised edition came out last year. Thanks for the link.

  6. says

    Thanks for the shout-out Sarah. I do wish there was some way to measure how much a video contributes to the sale of the book. I will tell you all that once you do the video, if you want it on Amazon, you submit it and then wait for them to decide when and if to post it. Thankfully they did post mine, though I had to wait for awhile. In my case, I did not have to pay for the video but I don’t think that’s always the case.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes, waiting for Amazon to do what Amazon does can take an agonizingly long time. I have experienced this myself. Re cost, I’ve heard that videos can cost at least $5,000 if done professionally.

  7. says

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks so much for these comments and suggestions – they are really helpful. I will definitely look into the video idea as well.

  8. says

    Useful, yes, as always, Dianne.

    Those who want to produce a video trailer for their book — and who wouldn’t, really? — would be advised to negotiate a budget for thisat the time of the original contract signing. It’s not something I approached my publisher about until recently, and — unfortunately, in my case , since I do have a book on the way — my publisher simply hadn’t budgeted for it.

    But that doesn’t mean I won’t do it anyway. Stay tuned!

    • diannejacob says

      Thank you Keren. Congratulations on your new book! Hope the launch is going well.

  9. says

    Other thoughts/resources:

    . Theres a back-door entry point to Amazon via Author Central. I’ve posted changes to my book entries there, and they post in a matter of 1 to 2 days. I’m not sure what’s changed, but the posting situation on Amazon has (recently) vastly improved.
    . Promo videos need not be expensive. Just stumbled upon visualquill.com via Cynthia Nims. They specialize in author promo videos, and you can get them for under $500. Very slick work.
    . Booktour.com: If you’re scheduling events (see below), log them here. Booktour.com auto-feeds your events into Author Central and also mass-distributes them to the online calendars of local/regional media across the country. Great way to rapidly increase your online exposure.
    . GoToMeetings: Conduct online meet-the-author events via GoTo and promote them on your Facebook/Twitter pages; allows people to connect a voice with the name/book; you can also record these events and promote the recordings as long as you want.
    . HARO (Help a Reporter Out): Subscribe and you’ll get emails three times daily with listings of media (traditional to bloggers) seeking experts for stories. Pitch yourself/your book to all the listings that fit.
    . Don’t just focus online; find a sponsor and do a physical tour even if your publisher won’t pay for it. With my first book, my sales in markets I visited were consistently 10x higher than in markets I did not visit. This time, I found two sponsors, so I was able to completely cover the costs of a publicist and the tour.

    • diannejacob says

      This is an excellent list of tips, Julia. Thank you so much. I had not heard about visualquill.com and will check it out.

  10. says

    Hi Dianne: Just wanted to tell you THANK YOU for taking the countless thousands of hours to pen “Will Write For Food.” If I could liquify it into an IV bag, I’d quickly get over my needle fear to have a constant influx of its wisdom into my veins!

    I appreciate your work.

    Ginny D.
    Fledgling Food Blogger

    • diannejacob says

      Thank you so much for this lovely comment, Ginny. It made my day. And I went to look at your blog and left a comment.

  11. says

    Dear Dianne,
    This is what I meant when I said that “you change lives”….You have such wonderful information and are always so willing to share. I will revisit this post often as I get ready to launch my first cookbook! Just like I revisit your book when I write and when I teach. Thank you for being so generous and for inspiring others to give as well.

    • diannejacob says

      Thank you, Sandra. I’m so excited about your cookbook. I hope it’s the first of many to come, and I wish you much success.