It’s been several years since I began writing my contemporary novel, Green Bay Outsiders, from the “Maddox Men” series. I finally launched it about a week and a half ago!
My journey toward becoming an independent author began more than four years ago when I signed on to Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers course. At the time, my life was a shambles. Newly divorced and facing financial hardship while on the verge of also facing some tough professional headwinds at work, it was one of the worst times of my life. I didn’t have much to spare financially or emotionally. As a result, it was really time to invest in doing something I loved since pretty much the rest of my world had collapsed around me. And that was writing. Writing had been my passion throughout my 20s and early 30s. As I advanced in my career and took on the roles of husband and father, though, the amount of time I had to devote to it kept shrinking and shrinking.
I stumbled upon Nick’s course by accident but could tell pretty quickly he was the real thing. I have a pretty good b.s. detector when it comes to snake oil salesmen, and he definitely didn’t seem like one. Now, several years later, having learned a lot from his course–and with plenty of learning still to do–I have launched a new novel, Green Bay Outsiders.
Below is my launch report. It’s not too long and doesn’t go into too many details. But it does touch on some of the high and low points, as well as a significant course correction that needs to be made as I prepare for my next work of fiction. I call it “Green Bay Outsiders – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”. Enjoy!
A lot of learning in just a few days. You realize as you get closer and closer to your launch just how prepared you are–and how organized. I found for the most part that, given the knowledge I’d acquired to date, that a lot pretty much went as planned. At least on the tactical side. At the same time, the gaps in my author’s platform also became quickly apparent as I realized what I hoped to achieve and recognized nearly as quickly the resources I did NOT yet have at my disposal. These were resources I knew about, mostly in the abstract (such as Facebook and Amazon advertising capabilities), but now, on the verge of launch, I realized how much having these tools at my disposal could have made a difference in terms of exposure. The biggest learning lesson, however, was about my series–and how absolutely complicated I had made things for myself during launch. More about that below.
I was organized. With the limited resources I had in hand for my launch, I was nevertheless incredibly organized, with a spreadsheet listing every communication tactic I had planned (e-blasts to my readers, social posts, website and Amazon updates) laid out well in advance, so as I approached launch, rather than freezing up wondering if I would forget anything, it was all right there in my planning document and all that was required was for me to execute. I organized my advance and follow-up communications with my launch team, with supporting authors and other stakeholders in the launch. My organizational skills have always been pretty good and they really came into play during the launch.
Author support. Earlier this year, I had to take some time off from my writing business simply due to other life commitments. Last year, and in the years before that, I had collaborated with other authors. I was concerned that the time I had taken off (when I simply disappeared) might have negatively impacted those relationships. But as I drew closer to launch and reached out to those authors, many remained available to help promote my novel, which I appreciated.
Ongoing brand awareness. Despite the launch now being officially over, I’m still getting a decent read-through on Kindle Unlimited. So readers are continuing to engage my brand through the new book, and I hope to pick up some new readers on my subscriber list.
I was finished! I had finally gone through an entire life cycle of my author’s journey–starting with writing a book, building up an author’s platform, marketing the book and then launching it. All that was (and is) left is to start the cycle again with all my learning intact, pick up some new tools, resources and strategies along the way, and make the next launch stronger.
Weak launch team response. I mentioned a moment ago that I’d taken some time off due to life events. It also took a few years to write and launch Green Bay Outsiders. Both these factors may have contributed to a weak response from my launch team. As a result, despite advance outreach, the number of reviews I received on Amazon was pretty low. Strangely, despite not really paying attention to Goodreads during the launch, I ended up with a few additional reviews there. But I need to rethink my launch team strategy – ongoing engagement, doing everything I can not to break touch and, finally, writing my next book and bringing it to launch much quicker than I did with the last novel so my launch team members remain interested.
Poor advance research of promotional channels. While I did invest in promotions with BookSends, Fussy Librarian and FreeBooksy, I did not plan out in advance how they could support my launch. As a result, I WASN’T as organized in this arena as I could have been. During the launch of Green Bay Outsiders, I kept a detailed journal of everything I was doing and everything I need to do post-launch. In-depth research of different promotional channels is close to the top of my list along with an investment in learning about Facebook and Amazon advertising, boosting my subscriber list through KingSumo giveaways and more author partnerships, and writing the next book a lot quicker.
Poor sales. I honestly had no idea what to expect in terms of sales. I wasn’t overly ambitious–I knew my limits–but I also had a pretty decent giveaway offer and with all the e-mails I was sending to the 1,300 readers on my list, I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of unsubscribes. That meant either they were tolerating my launch process or were eagerly awaiting the novel. It turned out it might have been more the former. Oh well. It doesn’t matter. There’s always another book to write and launch in addition to all the learning I’ve gone through over the past month or so.
An effective series. Nick Stephenson writes about the compelling aspect of having a series that readers can dig into–following one book into the next and then the next, following–at the same time–one character’s journey along, earning loyal readers along the way. When I first started Nick’s course, I was aware of the power of a series but I was also absorbing a million other details and, given my history as an English major and a fan of literary fiction, I had been more inclined–at the beginning–to concentrate on books and stories I wanted to write. I didn’t want to be limited by the need to write “a series”. As a result, however, my launch suffered from significant clumsiness. With Green Bay Outsiders, I ended up launching Volume 5 of the “Maddox Men” series while giving away Volume 7 as part of the promotion. Volume 6 was a permafree short story. It was complicated and difficult to explain to readers and other authors, and now I know I need to revamp how I write my books and market them.
I did end up working with Amazon to get a series page for my novels, and I will need a new strategy for determining the next story to write, which I’m in the process of doing now. And as a literary writer, that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to throw out what makes me, me. I do need to invest that passion, however, in developing an effective series of books that the RIGHT readers will want to explore on an ongoing basis.
That’s it! The launch of Green Bay Outsiders is complete and it’s time to begin working on some post-launch projects while starting the whole writing cycle again. I’ve gone through a lot of learning but not a lot of sales. I have, however, developed a sense of empowerment that, having done this once now, I can do it again and make each launch better as I go along.