There's nothing quite as exciting for an author as the prospect of the book they've been writing and working so hard on finally being published. And then there's nothing quite as daunting as the book launch. In particular, for first-timers. We're digging into the book launch today with Tara Alemany, who is a multi-award-winning author and the publisher at Emerald Lake Books. She knows a thing or two about the book launchSupport the show
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Welcome to the Empowered Author Podcast. Discussion tips, insights and advice from those who've been there, done that helping you write, publish and market your nonfiction book. Being an author is something that you've got to take seriously. I'm proud I've written a book. What does the reader need? First, what is the reader's need? Second,
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The Empowered Author Podcast, your podcast hosts are Bonnie and John Wagner-Stafford of Ingenium Books.
There's nothing quite as exciting for an author as the prospect of the book they've been writing and working so hard on finally being published. And then there's nothing quite as daunting as the book launch. In particular, for first timers. We're digging into the book launch today with Tara Alemany, who is a multi-award-winning author and the publisher at Emerald Lake Books. She knows a thing or two about the book launch. Welcome, Tara.
Thank you for having me, Boni. I'm looking forward to our conversation today.
Yes, me too. Now, did I get your name right after practicing before we went live?
Pretty close. Pretty close.
Yeah, Alemany. Alemany. Okay, I'd say it half a dozen times, but I won't do it right now. So the book launch—really such an important phase, once we deal with all the important stuff that you put into writing a great book and doing a great cover and all of that stuff. Tell me where you think it's important for authors to start thinking about when they're thinking about their book launch. It might not be what people think.
I actually think that the book launch thought process has to start very early on, like, even when you're still writing the book, because there are certain factors in writing the book that dictate what your book marketing or book launch plan is going to look like. You need to know things like who is your ideal reader? And why are you writing this book? What are you hoping to accomplish with it? And so when we're working with our authors, we go through this exercise that we call the Dear Author exercise, that becomes the foundation for any marketing plan that they put together for their launch or even subsequent marketing. And the neat thing about it is it's like this verbal vision board. We have the author picture themselves 18 months in the future, writing a letter to the You they are today before they've gone through all the launch activities, proclaiming all of the things that they've accomplished in that time through the launch and the readers they've impacted and stuff like that. And it's really neat. I've never been one to do those pictorial vision boards, they just... I deal in words, so they don't do a lot for me. But sitting down and writing a letter is a very cathartic experience in most instances. And so when you do this visual, verbal, visual verbal vision board exercise, it's really interesting what comes out. And so after they've written this letter, we go through and highlight those different goals. And once they know those goals, we have them prioritize the goals, and they pick the top three that are most important to them. And from there, knowing who their ideal reader and what those goals are, now they can start looking at where they're at, and what it would take to get there. Because without having that information, any marketing plan you put in place is just pixie dust. It really is, it's, you know, no plan.
Right? Well, that sounds fascinating and very much in line with what we take our authors through different labels, of course, but the same exercise. So once you've done that core piece of work, and let's fast forward through an author's, you know, potential journey to the book is done. And we are really staring down the barrel of actually having the book be available for sale. What are the things that you want to think about? And what if there is and there isn't always and it will be different for every author, but if there is a 1- 2 - 3 - 4 in order, what would you say they are?
I think the first thing is to understand that there's a difference between your release date and your launch date. We talked about the fact that the release date is the date that the book becomes available for people to purchase, whether it's online or in stores, or wherever else, but your launch date is the date that you choose to start driving traffic to your book so that you start promoting it. And there's a reason why you don't necessarily always want your release date and your launch date to be the same. Because when you're releasing online, whether you're self publishing or working with another publisher to do this, it takes time for the online retailers to pull listings together and get all of the information in there. So, for instance, on your release date, your title may not be very searchable, it may not appear in the search indexes of Amazon and Barnes & Noble and things like that very much. So sending a lot of traffic to something that's not easily discoverable is challenging. We also want to see the number two thing happen, which is to have as many reviews as possible put on that book before you start driving traffic to it. Because reviews become that social proof that tells people who don't know you, or aren't familiar with your topic, whether or not this book is worth investing their time and money in. And so if you focus on the release, and the launch being two separate things, and the release being everything that you do, to make the book available and make it appealing to readers, and the launch being those concentrated activities you do to try and drive traffic to the book listing, then I think you're ahead of the game, because the thing about launches is that you can have multiple launches, you've got your first launch, but you can decide at any point in time to have second launches. And third.
So this is really an important concept I see so much. You know, we don't have to go very far on social media, before you see authors. And usually, I don't want to slam the first-time authors, but they are such a good example. And I feel so deeply for them because it is so challenging. You know, oh, my book is published, nobody's seeing it. I'm, you know, nobody's buying it. I don't, you know, I don't know what else to do. So it's helpful to hear about a way to conceive of those two things differently, you can conceivably publish and release the book without doing anything else until you're ready.
Right. [Unclear], The thing about launches is you can tie them into various things. So you can decide to launch. So one of our books is a yoga book. International Yoga Day is coming up, there can be a relaunch of the book that's associated with International Yoga Day, where that launch is really a concentrated effort to drive traffic to the listing, which is different from all of your normal everyday book marketing. Every day book marketing is about creating visibility. It's about building your author platform, it's about building those relationships. It's about making those connections and forming those partnerships with people who already have your audience in front of them. But when you're launching that's that concentrated period of trying to get attention at a given date and time and driving traffic. And so they're two different things. And you can... the launch is part of your book and marketing plan. You want to figure out when it is an ideal time to do a launch. But you always want to be sharing information that shows your connection to the topic of your book. So if your book is about yoga, for instance, you always want to be on target and talking about yoga, but not necessarily about your book all the time. You want to be associated with the topic of your book.
Yeah, that makes sense. Let's pause for a moment for a message from our sponsor.
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You mentioned the… I mean, we could spend the entire 30 minutes here talking about reviews. But let's talk about reader reviews for a moment. And I know they don't necessarily come first in the order of things we might do in a book launch. But you mentioned there's not being any sense trying to drive visibility or traffic to a location of a book where there aren't very many reader reviews, what's your best recommended strategy for an author to try to get reader reviews?
That is always the bane of every author's existence. So thank you for asking that. I think what it comes down to is it has to be a compilation of various tactics. One is to make sure that people that are your peers or that are influencers in the topic we're talking about, you know, if you have connections with any of them, and can ask them to write reviews, that's one place to start. You have the challenge of asking family and friends, which is the default place a lot of people go, but you run into certain platforms that don't allow reviews by family or friends. So for instance, if you wanted to use family and friends to write reviews, I wouldn't recommend having them write reviews on Amazon because most likely they'll get put down, pulled down but there's no reason why they can't go write them on Goodreads, which is another reader-centric platform for book discovery. And so you have to think about the different people that you have access to that you can ask to write reviews. And where is the appropriate place for them to leave a review, they can always write a blog post, if they're a blogger, they can put it out in social media. If they do that, they can put it on Goodreads or library things. So there's different places. And a lot of people focus on how am I getting all my reviews on Amazon, which definitely you want to get your reviews on Amazon. But the more places your book is discussed, the more opportunities there are for discovery as well. So don't feel like it's second best to have reviews posted on a different platform. Just make sure that you're putting them in the appropriate places. So you start first with, with those that you're connected to. After that, I do recommend using services like NetGalley, simply because NetGalley allows you to connect not only with interested reviewers, but also with librarians and educators and booksellers who are looking for potential titles to bring in. So it creates some discoverability there. And then there are certain tools you can use where you can kind of look at books that are similar to yours. So comparable titles, and find out who reviewed them in the past and what their public contact information is. So reaching out to them with a strategy of Hey, I saw you read this book and really liked it. And I have a book that's somewhat similar. Here's how mine’s described, would you be interested in reading it. So that can be a way of doing it as well. The challenge is, when you're doing that, it's almost the equivalent of cold calling. And your conversion rate is essentially maybe one or two people out of every 100 you approach will say yes, so it's very tedious and time consuming. So I look at those areas that you can do first, where you're going to be connecting with a large group of already identified self identified reviewers. I've been using BookSirens recently, and I really like them a lot. It's a good platform, but they're very picky about what books they promote, because they know their readers well. And they have the way their system is set up. They have, for every book downloaded, they have a 75% Review rate. Now that's really amazing. That doesn't happen on most review sites. And so they.. but they way they manage that is they safeguard and only put up books that they know their readers are going to be interested in. So not every book is going to be accepted. It's an application process you go through, but if you get accepted, it's a great place to be.
So this sounds like it could be a full-time job just trying to cultivate reviews. And you know, just taking a little peek into the world of many of our authors and conversations that we've been having this week as a matter of fact, but and that is something that you could say about any number of the activities around marketing a book, including during the launch period, how do you recommend that authors try to manage deciding where to put their finite time and energy into an almost unlimited potential list of things they could do?
I think you need to kind of have some targets in mind for what you're trying to accomplish. So when it comes to reviews, I like to see a minimum of 10 reviews before we start doing a lot of promotion. And hopefully you have a close enough network that just from your immediate circle of people, you know, you can get that many. If it's a little bit less, that's okay. What you don't want is that barren, there's no reviews yet. And now I'm going to spend a lot of time driving, driving traffic there. But if you start with you even that minimum of 10, One of the things that Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield talk about with Chicken Soup for the Soul, is that when they first started marketing their book, they committed to doing five things a day, every day to market Chicken Soup for the Soul. And that could be reaching out to somebody for a podcast interview, that could be reaching out to somebody for review, that could be reaching out to a blog to do a guest post. But they did something, five things each day. And I think for a lot of us that don't have, you know, co-authored books where there's two of us, even if we just commit to do one thing each day, eventually, by the end of the year, that's 365 things you've done to build your book. And it does have a cumulative effect. So don't feel discouraged that you have to get all this stuff done at once, prioritize what it is, start with a solid base of reviews, then start getting your visibility and publicity. We love submitting our books to book awards. We think that has a lot more merit to it than, say, striving for the bestseller category, which so often on Amazon is just a gamed system. So unless you're going for what I refer to as a “legitimate bestseller”, Wall Street Journal, New York Times USA Today, which is extremely difficult to do, it's not worth spending your time on something that nobody values anymore because we all look at Amazon bestseller and go, you know, they sold 10 copies at 1am. And, you know, managed to get to the top of the category. Great. That's Yes. And for that hour, right, yeah. Whereas, if you go for a book award, we have our authors focus on juried book awards. So these are book awards that are going to be judged by librarians, book retailers, people that are in the industry. And if you go for a juried book award, and you receive recognition from that, now, suddenly, that's something that can never be taken away from you. You're not a bestseller for an hour, you are an award-winning author for life. You know, and that's, that's, that's from a marketing standpoint, that's a big thing.
How do you go about deciding, you mentioned a key thing here, the juried book awards? But for an author who's maybe you know nudie, of if you did a search, for example, a Google search on you know, indie author, book awards, you can there's a plethora, some of them are, you know, we've never heard of and some of them seem kind of familiar. What are the things other than looking for those juried book awards, that you would say that authors should watch to tell them whether or not it's worth a submission.
So there are two resources that I would point out, one is one that aLLI has put together, they have a resource that is, ranks and rates, different Book Award competitions, and lets you know which ones are valid to be in and which ones aren't. There's also a service that I really enjoy called Book Award Pro. Finding a Book Award to submit to can be a very time-consuming process, you need to know what's open for submission, what categories do they take? When is the judging? How much is it going to cost? When will I find out if I won an award or not? What Book Award Pro does is you submit your book information to this service. And it finds a Book Award that is currently open, that is well rated, that is a juried Book Award, and identifies those for you. And so it's a very nominal fee, I think it's $9 a month if you do a subscription for them to identify these things for you. And then it has tiered levels where for higher monthly premium, it will actually submit your book to those awards for you as well. So, you know, using something like that, where it's taking a lot of the research out for you, and it pinpoints the ones that it thinks that your book is most suitable for helps a lot.
That sounds like a brilliant idea. I'm going to check it out as soon as we're done.
I have a link if you're interested.
Oh, fantastic. I'll take it. Yeah. So you have a, I don't know how recently you launched your book launch course. But I had a wonderful opportunity to have a little peek under the hood, before you and I talked. It looks like a very, very comprehensive course. And there really is so much to learn. And so many moving parts, tell me how you decided that it was time to put together a course just about a book launch.
So the reason I put it together is, because as a publisher, our company is growing. And these are the things that we always want to make sure that our authors know about. Because one of the things is a publisher, being an ethical publisher is important. And that means knowing that you're not just handing a book to somebody at the end, and expecting them to know what to do with it. I think it's part of our responsibility as publishers to help our authors know what they need to be doing. And for a lot of first-time authors, they appreciate that guidance, even for experienced authors, they appreciate the guidance. So as our company is growing, in the past, I always did this one on one with each author. And it got to the point where I was repeating the same thing over and over again, right, and so decided to go ahead and record the information so that first we could give it out to our authors. So you know, when they found it to be very beneficial for them. But it gave us the opportunity as well, since we have a lot of people on our mailing list that aren't going to publish with us. But they’re authors, they're interested in this information. And because we're known for providing a lot of educational information, we decided, well, let's release this as a course to the general public as well, and see what interests we have out there. And there's actually been quite a bit, it's been nice. We did a soft launch in February. And we're really beginning the main launch now. But there's been quite a bit of interest. So I'm enjoying it.
There. Well. Yeah, it looks fantastic. So we've talked about just a couple of the things that you know, we won't have time to go into everything but what would your next most important thing be to talk about with book launch? We've talked about establishing your goals and what you want to accomplish, knowing your reader. We've talked about reviews, we've talked about awards, and I feel like we've talked about something else but the fact that a launch, you can have as many as you want. It's different from the release date, what would your next most important thing be?
For an author,
My next most important thing for an author at this point would be very similar to what I talked about with reviewers where you want to find where reviewers are, so that you're talking to a lot of them at once. The next thing is to really leverage other people's audiences. So you want to find people that already have the target readership following them that you're trying to connect with. And find ways to be able to partner with them, find ways to be able to do something that is a win win win for everybody, whether that's that you do a webinar for their, their following, or you do a book, newsletter, swap with them, find different ways to get in front of established audiences, so that you're not trying to create your own audience all the time. When you try and create your own audience that can become very tiring and very tedious very quickly. But when you can get in front of an existing audience, now you are doing the host, good, good deed because they need material for their following. You're doing something good for that following because you're bringing them valuable, beneficial information. And so hopefully, it becomes somebody that now wants to follow not just where they started, but to follow you as well. So definitely find those places that you can partner with in that way.
Yeah, podcasts being one. But that's not the only thing, what else might be considered a way to look for where those audiences are that can be leveraged?
Well, you have to think, as I said, about who has the audience, you already have some. One of my most recent books was called Publish With Purpose. And so I really talked about the mindset behind writing and marketing a book. And so when I started looking at that, I'm looking at…so who already has author audiences, part of it was going to be podcasts. But I also worked with book publicists, because they're dealing with authors every day, I worked with editors, because they're dealing with authors every day. And so I found different individuals who already were in what's called shoulder industries. So we weren't competing with one another, we were serving our audience in the best way we possibly could. And so that's, you know, a great way of being able to do that. So if you are writing right now, I'm working with a young adult fantasy book, we're getting ready to publish that later this fall. And so that author is going to spend time looking for other fantasy authors, you know, can they do group things together, so that they can do she's done a lot of with her first book, a lot of bundles, where she will bring different young adult fantasy authors together, and do a giveaway that is of a bundle of books from all of these different authors, it gets her book in the bundle as well, so that readers are exposed to it, but it's also exposed to the books of the other young adult fantasy authors who have chosen to participate, and all of them are promoting the same thing together. So there, you know, you have to think about the fact that working with other authors is a great way because a reader doesn't read just one book. And so if you find other authors who write something similar to what you write, you're helping that author maintain their audience, because they don't always have new things to share with their audience. So if they can share another author that their audience is going to enjoy, it becomes a great thing, because they're still maintaining that relationship with their readership.
I'm totally… my brain just went in a totally different direction. And I'm, I'm gonna ask you, do you recommend, and do you ever do detailed written marketing plans for any of your books or with your authors that, of course, include elements of the book launch? How do you think about approaching it from a, you know, we were talking earlier about if you're a visual thinker or a written thinker, we're talking authors, most people connect with the written word, but do you write out launch plans?
Personally, I don't typically. I have tried. And each time I try, I find myself getting kind of lost in the process. One of the things about planning is that you can become so focused on the plan that you don't ever actually activate any of it. And so my reason for doing, for instance, the Dear Author exercise and prioritizing that goal, those goals is, because if I have three goals I'm trying to achieve, I know where I am, I know what's in alignment with getting me closer to that goal. Any other opportunities that come at me that don't move me closer to that goal? They need to be deferred, because they're not the right opportunity for right now. And so having that clear picture of, why did I write this book and what am I trying to accomplish is going to help me figure out what fits, so the rest of it becomes, what do I have time today to do in order to try and pursue marketing my book better? What do I have time to do in the coming weeks? Because if somebody says yes, Do I have time to put together an entire webinar for somebody else's group or whatever that might look like? So you have to think through those things. It was kind of funny, I joked about the fact that I have wanted to send out this affiliate announcement for this course for some time now. But the platform that I was using didn't have the functionality yet. And I've been waiting for months for it to come. And so when it finally came, I just shot out an email, totally forgetting about the fact that it wasn't just about setting up affiliate accounts for people, but the people were going to want to have been on their podcasts and speaking to their audiences and stuff like that. And suddenly, I have a lot of things scheduled that I hadn't anticipated, right. So you have to think through those things to make sure that you're not overcommitting yourself.
Exactly. Well, and that was, you know, I got that email. I'm like, Oh, I want to talk to her about that on my podcast.
yeah, it's the same thing, when you're doing a book launch that you have to be willing to make the time to have these conversations.
So is there anything that you think an author might be surprised about in either your book launch course? Or when thinking about the book launch? in particular? Did we already cover that kind of thing? Or is there something that you just really want people to know that they don't have any concept of?
I think the main thing, first, there's, there's two things. One is, most authors, they get to the end of their book, and they think the hard part's done. And unfortunately, you've probably really enjoyed the writing process, the marketing process, I know very few authors that enjoy it. And, so it is much harder to do than the writing. And I can say that, as an author myself, you know, I have the same thing. I don't enjoy marketing my books.
but the other part is that people think that there are a set of rules as to what you have to do and have to include in your, in your marketing, you have to be on every social media platform, you know, in, that's all bunk. You don't need to be on every social media platform. When you know your goals, and you know your ideal reader, that determines where you need to be. that determines who you need to try and partner with and to create the visibility. So one of the things I talked about in the course is - there are 92 lessons in the course- there's over nine hours of video content about how to go about figuring out what's going to be best for you and your book that will help you connect with your reader and reach your goals. And not every single one of them is right for everybody. So you have to look at everything with a discerning eye. Is this particular activity something I'm going to be comfortable with doing? Is this something I'm going to be good at doing, if I apply myself to do it, if I'm not going to be good at it, because I'm uncomfortable, it doesn't make sense to do it. If you don't enjoy being on podcasts, then spending time trying to get on podcasts is probably not the best thing for you to be doing. Just because everybody else is doing it doesn't mean you need to. And I think that's the thing is is to understand that book marketing works best when it's tailored to your specific needs, and what you're good at, what you feel comfortable at with doing
That makes total sense and feeds right into the focus of this podcast, which is empowered authors, you need to know that you can do what is right for you and nobody, but you can tell you what is right for you because nobody else is you.
And you sure can't either your publisher can't tell you specifically you need to do X, Y and Z. They can tell you I have seen this work best when you do A, B and C, but you have to decide if those fit with what you can do.
Exactly. Okay, fantastic. So we're just about at our 30 minute mark, I want to make sure people know where to find you. So you can be found. And we'll include links in the show notes. And in the text version of the podcast, which will be published as a blog as well when it gets there. But for folks just listening on the go, Emerald Lake Books, anything special about your URL?
Nope. emeraldlakebooks.com, you can find us there. When you get there. There's actually a quiz right on the homepage as to what's the best publishing model for you. Because a lot of people don't know exactly what the right way is for them to publish. And there isn't one right answer. The answer is going to vary based on your, how much money you have, how much time you have, whether or not you like learning new things. And so this quiz takes you through and figures that out.
Perfect. That sounds fantastic. So Tara, I want to thank you so much for joining us. And it really sounds like a valuable course for I can't think of any kind of author that wouldn't benefit from learning those details in your book launch course, so highly recommend that folks check that out. And I'm thinking that there's probably going to be an opportunity for us down the road to talk about something else. I don't know what it is right now. But let's keep our options open, shall we?
I would love that. Yes. Thank you.
Excellent. All right. Thank you, Tara.
Thank you, Boni.
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