Book Marketing the Old Way Versus the Way That Works Today—Part 3: Ignore the Expensive Launch

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

If your ebook doesn't have a huge launch, it can still become a bestseller.

If your ebook doesn’t have a huge launch, it can still become a best-seller.

Effective book marketing today is a different game than it used to be. This post continues my recent series comparing traditional book marketing methods with newer, more effective strategies.

This article (the third installment) focuses on the strategic decision forego a big launch at a book’s introduction into the market. Traditional book publishing once put a lot of emphasis on the launch. But high-profile launches are most effective when you’re communicating to mass audiences via mass media in mass-market bookstores. None of that applies in a market that relies heavily on Internet sales—and all ebooks rely heavily on Internet sales.

Related: To learn more about marketing strategies, register for “4 Weeks to a Powerful Book Marketing Strategy,” a hands-on course from Digital Book World University. 

One of the reasons the launch used to be so important to book sales is because when all books were sold in physical book stores, they competed for shelf space. Shelf space in a physical bookstore is finite. A brick-and-mortar bookseller doesn’t want to clog her shelves with books that don’t move. So publishers would put all their effort into early promotions in order to generate sales and earn the right to stay on the shelf. On the Internet, book sales can afford to be more gradual.

Another reason to forego a big, mass-market launch is that they are very expensive and extremely short-lived. But even if you’ve got a big budget and a tight schedule, a large-scale launch is simply not all that important for an ebook. Why? Mass-market launches are built on the assumption that high sales in the first week dictate a book’s future success—and that simply doesn’t apply in the world of ebook sales. While any book that sells well in its first week typicallys stand a high chance of success, the opposite is not always true. Many best-selling ebooks experience very low sales early in their lifecycle before going on to climb the charts.

Finding Out By Sheryn MacMunn

Finding Out By Sheryn MacMunn

First-time author Sheryn MacMunn had this experience she first introduced her book Finding Out. After two months of sales that barely moved the meter, she decided to do a free promotion on Amazon. The free offer succeeded in moving books. Finding Out even went up to No. 1 in her category for a brief time.

But brief is the operative word. “I was at No. 1, which is like a dream, right?” says MacMunn, “but then it was like, how do I sustain it?” Sales floundered for a year or so, then MacMunn chose to work with me on a long-term book promotion strategy.

Her strategy today is simple. Every month, she does a single email promotion (which I discussed in last week’s article), she regularly monitors her customer reviews and author profile and she enters awards contests whenever possible. This steady, consistent plan has grown her sales and keeps them high. Today, Finding Out is a top seller in several Women’s Fiction categories.

MacMunn’s experience is just one example of how low early sales do not indicate a lack of customer interest. All they indicate is a lack of awareness among readers. On the Internet, generating awareness takes time. And luckily, authors have the luxury of time on the Internet because they’re not competing for shelf space there.

So if your goal is to create an ebook best-seller—and what self-published author’s isn’t?—instead of worrying about your launch, create a strategy that includes regular, consistent price promotions, positive reviews by influential bloggers and a long list of customer reviews.

Related: To learn more about marketing strategies, join me for a course I’m teaching at Digital Book World University, “4 Weeks to a Powerful Book Marketing Strategy.” Here’s where you can find more information and details on how to register.

7 thoughts on “Book Marketing the Old Way Versus the Way That Works Today—Part 3: Ignore the Expensive Launch


    Scrolling down through pages of covers and pitch-fragments is a mind numbing process requiring disposable time and determination. Eventually, the e-shopper wearies or is called away. So then, at what point is the e-book slide into oblivion? Five pages down? Twenty pages down? With each page of covers the chances for a buying-reaction diminish. Melville had this problem too. How did Moby-Dick, Los Encantadas, etc. re-surface? All of this pratter is based on a-priori reasoning. What we need is empirical data in a compilation of 500 e-buyer interviews.

    1. Jennifer Jensen (@jenjensen2)

      This author and Amazon book buyer doesn’t scroll down, for exactly that reason! My book choices come down to word of mouth. For instance, I’ll go back up in a minute and click on “Finding Out” that was mentioned here – it’s a genre I enjoy. I’ll read book blogger reviews, hear from friends, check in at Goodreads, or catch something in another sort of blog post. And then I end up exploring the “people also bought” suggestions Amazon puts at the bottom of the page. I dip into Book Bub once in a while, and buy some from their suggestions IF the full description and sample intrigue me (and show me the book is well-written). Of course, that’s a requirement before buying any book. I find a lot of great books that I wouldn’t have otherwise, but scrolling down? Not for me.

  2. Theresa M. Moore

    Scrolling and being actually seen are two different things. If most people won’t scroll, it’s because they are overwhelmed by the number of covers already visible on a site. Amazon makes it a habit to present books by the major publishers first, then other independent and self-publishers second, and make it impossible to sell by never presenting some titles at all. I try to present all my books on my own site on one page, so the customer does not need to scroll, but again that is only a selling opportunity and not indicative of actual sales. In the long run, serious readers will scroll while less picky ones will not. That’s the difference.

  3. KB Gardener

    An author who is a good friend of mine keeps reminding me that readers will not take an author seriously, especially one in a genre such as romance, until they have at least three books out. I’m working on my second book and am already planning my third book–and I have an idea for a fourth book that just popped into my head one day. I’m more concerned I won’t be able to write fast enough.

  4. J.B. Simmons

    Great post. The one thing I’d suggest adding is to keep writing more books. As Hugh Howey has said, it was a good thing he didn’t make it big until he had several books on the market. When readers find an author they like, they’ll check out prior works. Same point as yours: no worries about shelf space.

    Also agreed about the “expensive” part being unnecessary. For more practical tips on a low-budget, effective launch, this post might be helpful:


  5. Pamela Smith

    Exactly, in now a days, internet promotion through various medium like emails or social networking sites is an important tool.Everyone is so connected to the web and so reviews on any topic comes rapidly.



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