There's a really good reason that traditional and hybrid publishers leave plenty of time between the book being finished and the actual publish date: and that's to give launch marketing and street team efforts sometime to work in your favour.
There are all kinds of things you can do, as an author, to give your book the best chance of making a splash in the marketplace on and after publish date.
Today we're talking with one author about what she did that worked for her — with respect to her launch team, or her street team. Tanya Hackney is author of Leaving the Safe Harbor: The Risks and Rewards of Raising a Family on a Boat.Support the show
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Introduction (various voices) 00:05
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 does the reader need, second?
What happens if you start writing your book before you identify your “why”? What’s the problem with that?
You’re an indie author, you take the risk; you reap the rewards; you are in charge of the decisions. You’re the head of that business.
Every emotion you’re feeling when you’re writing is felt by every other writer.
The Empowered Author podcast. Your podcast hosts are Boni and John Wagner-Stafford of Ingenium Books.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 00:58
So today, we’re going to talk about book launches again, but with a bit of a twist. So we have previously on the Empowered Author podcast talked about book launch from a publisher and/or marketer perspective with the advice. Now we’re going to dig into an actual case study: what happened, what worked and what might be something that an author would do differently next time. And that author that we’re talking about today is Tanya Hackney, who is author of the recently published “Leaving the Safe Harbor: The Risks and Rewards of Raising a Family on a Boat”. Tanya, welcome.
Tanya Hackney 01:39
Hi, how are you today?
Boni Wagner-Stafford 01:40
Hi. Oh, I’m good. And you know, I just did it again: I just pronounced your name wrong. And this is something that, you know, anybody who listens to more than one episode of this podcast know that I frequently mess up people’s names. I apologize, Tanya.
Tanya Hackney 01:52
Oh, hi. Thank you for having me on.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 01:54
You’re welcome. So we are – at the time of recording, we are not very far past your actual publish date. But we are several weeks past when your launch activities as an author actually began. So I want to have you walk our listeners through all of your process and, you know, what you did, what you learned, and even what you, you know, didn’t like and what you were resistant about. And so let’s start at the beginning, from the launch perspective: tell us what you were setting out to do with your launch activities.
Tanya Hackney 02:42
Okay, if you want to start at the beginning, you have to start at the part where I don’t want to be a marketer; I just want to be a writer. I want to …
Boni Wagner-Stafford 02:48
Thank you so much, Tanya. It’s … Absolutely.
Tanya Hackney 02:51
I just want to go into a little writing closet and write books and then have lots of people enjoy my books without having to push them on anyone. I really didn’t – I was very resistant to the entire idea of selling a book; I just wanted to write the book. But of course, you can’t. What’s the point of writing the book if you aren’t – if that book isn’t going to find its readers? So you have to figure out how to find those readers. And I knew that I had an untapped resource because I have these wonderful friends all over the world, many of them whom I met out sailing. And I knew that they would be able to help me, even if it was simply like going into bookstores and requesting the book wherever they live in the world. And I didn’t really have any, you know, practical knowledge about how to do this: just sort of a feeling. And then when we did the launch team meeting and that all came to my attention about how to practically use a launch team, how to build a launch team, how to use social media to get the word out, that was a little bit more practical. And I felt – I didn’t feel like I was stranded. Somebody was there explaining it and walking me through it. So I didn’t feel like somebody said, “Here’s a bunch of books. Good luck.”
And so I was able to … Right. “Go sell these books.” I felt like, that I could go into it confidently and knew what I was supposed to do. And it helped that we had those follow-up meetings, like how is everybody doing? What are you doing with your launch team? Pretty much after the first call where we met with Stephanie Feger to talk about what a launch team is, although I felt completely resistant to starting one, like literally five minutes after that call, I set up a private Facebook group and invited my closest friends – you know, maybe 10 people – and set the goal of growing the group. The group is now at 86 people. And some of them I don’t know because my team members were encouraged to invite someone whom they thought might be interested in my book. And so, you know, I’m now meeting new people. And it was – it’s turned out to be like a wonderful, fantastic thing. I hope I answered your question. I feel like I’m rambling.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 05:10
No, that’s fantastic. So there were a couple of things there: what you set out to do and what you set out to do, just to summarize. Or maybe I’m reading between the lines – not that we’re reading and there are any lines here as we speak with one another for this podcast – but you set out to help people find and read your book and enjoy your book because you’re passionate about it. And that’s what you were doing with the launch team?
Tanya Hackney 05:35
Yes, yeah, I wanted to increase my readership and just put the feelers out into different audiences and different geographical locations. And the launch team I mentioned really helps.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 05:48
Right. And you mentioned a couple of things in there: that there was a there was a briefing; you had some actual practical guidance. So – and you mentioned setting up a private Facebook group. But let’s talk about what that: what those practical things were. So you set up a Facebook group – a private Facebook group. You started with 10 of your closest friends; it has grown to 86 people at the time of this recording. What did you do with that Facebook group? And what else did you do besides the Facebook group?
Tanya Hackney 06:22
Well, at the beginning, I was reluctant. I didn’t really know how I was going to use it; I just wanted to have the infrastructure ready for when I knew what to do. I don’t like a barrage of notifications and constant upkeep. I don’t really – I really hate Facebook to start with. I love it and I hate it. I was not on Facebook for – I’ve only been on Facebook for a year and a half; I’ve only had my Instagram and Pinterest account for a year and a half. I’m not really fully utilizing them. I get what they’re for; I get what they do. I just don’t particularly – I prefer to actually talk with real people. And I’m still very much three-dimensional in the way that I relate. However, I recognize it: that’s how the world operates and that you can reach a lot of people in a short amount of time and you can really connect with old friends, maybe, that you wouldn’t run into in, you know, in the three-dimensional world. As far as my reluctance: I didn’t really want to barrage people because I don’t like being barraged. And you encouraged me to stop projecting and to think about, you know, being a little bit more bold in asking and being more consistent in posting. And so I think at about the one-month mark – one month before release – I decided to go in the exact opposite direction: instead of not barraging anybody and not asking anything, I decided to put up a daily post and do like a launch theme like with a T-minus countdown. And I did a countdown from the from the one month mark and then posted something every single day. And being a mom of five children, I have learned how to ask for help. That was one thing that being a mother to a lot of children has taught me, is that I can’t really – can’t do everything all by myself. And so that lesson helped here: I really can’t, you know, produce a book, publish a book, distribute a book, market a book all by myself. And so I was willing to ask for help. And so I had, you know, a bunch of different questions and requests: from, “Could you guys please share this post?”, or I would set up a podcast alert to let people know, you know, that I had recorded a podcast and then they could share that link to asking people to go into a local bookstore. And I have a friend up in Maine who went into four local bookstores and they now have my book on their shelf. And had I not felt comfortable, you know, reaching out to those people and then asking for those things; I have no reason to believe that there would be a small bookstore in Maine that would have even known about my book.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 09:05
Right. And I guess that is an important bit of context that maybe, before we go too much farther into what you did, is – and again, we’re recording this five days, I think, after your technical publish date: so the book was visible; it was available for presale. The cover was, you know, available. It was on the Ingenium Books site. It was on Amazon. It was on, you know, Barnes & Noble. It was all over the place. It was available for presale, so there was visibility. But talk to me a little bit – and to us – about what results you’ve seen just in the last five days and how you feel about that and whether it was what you expected.
Let’s pause for a moment for a message from our sponsor.
Tanya Hackney 10:27
In every area, this book has exceeded my expectations. Maybe it helps that I came to the table with no expectations and so I was going to be pleasantly surprised, no matter what happened. But I would say far exceeded. I asked all of those 86 people who are in that group to buy the book – the digital form – so that they could be a verified purchase. I asked them to read an advanced reader copy and write a review. And I think most of them did that for me. And then I asked them to share it with friends so that they could preorder the book. And when the book released, it released in the number one slot for biographies by educators: great little niche market there. But I was super excited. I’m like, “Well, how many new biographies by educators could there be?” And I looked in there were like, more than 30. So number one out of 30 is not bad; I was very excited about that. And then the book has continued to sell both paperback and digital formats in the top 10 of the new releases for the last week.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 11:37
Yeah, that is absolutely outstanding results. And I think that is what pretty much every author that I think I’ve ever spoken to, that’s what they’re after: they want that. And rightly so. You know, time and energy and blood, sweat and tears and all kinds of hard work and, you know, love and all that stuff that gets poured into the creation of a book, that you want some positive feedback when it’s out. So I think, you know, congratulations are certainly in order. And kudos to you for following the advice that you got, which, you know, even though you had resistance – and normal, natural resistance that we all have. But so that provides the context for what we’re talking about, which is, so what did you do, now that we’ve gone into what the results are? So I want to talk to you about – or get you to talk to us about – what did you hear from your launch team in your private group? Was there were a theme of questions? Or was there a lot of interaction? Or were people, you know, taking what you were posting in that private group on a daily basis and going away and being silent about it? Were you interacting a lot with your launch team?
Tanya Hackney 13:00
Well, again, you’re talking to someone who – I don’t love that medium. From an inner – you know, I would rather call somebody up: call up an old friend and be like, “Hey, I wrote this book. Will you, you know, would you mind taking this – my sell sheet – to your local bookstore?” I would rather have that personal interaction. So I would say, I don’t know that I had as much interaction as I had hoped. But I would say, I think consistently, when I would throw up a post, I had about 50 responses: you know, likes or thumbs up or sometimes I would ask questions and then I would see how many answers I got. I wouldn’t say it was highly interactive. I would love that. I love that idea of everybody identifying as a tribe or a team and then feeling a part of something. I’m not sure that I did a really good job of making that happen. I’m not sure if the team gelled. But I’m not sure that one month is enough time for a team to gel anyway. That’s a pretty quick ramp up. So I don’t know: hard to say.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 14:05
Yeah. So, what else did you do in the launch period? And I – you know, I don’t remember exactly how far in advance we started talking about what you were going to do for launch period but I think it was at least eight weeks before publish date. But so what else did you do besides the private Facebook group?
Tanya Hackney 14:23
Okay, so in addition, I took advantage of a wonderful marketing tool, which is mutually beneficial: I started signing up for podcasts. And so the podcaster is excited because whatever business they are marketing – or even if it’s just their podcast – they’re looking for interesting content. So that benefits them when they have someone to talk about something interesting. And then it benefits me because it’s free exposure for my book. And I was choosy. I wanted to make sure that whatever podcast I was on, was a good fit for, you know, the markets that I was reaching into. But I went ahead and reached into other markets besides, you know, the sailing and cruising world. I only did one podcast with a fellow sailor. All the other ones were parenting, adventure, kind of life transformation, family travel. I went, I did lots of really cool – had wonderful conversations and have met people that I would never have met otherwise. Hopefully, I have readers that I would not have otherwise have found. One of the other things that I did was I combed through my book for quotes. And I dug through my old photos. And I started matching a book quote for a photo and putting up posts on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. And, of course, with the quote from the book, also the link to the book. And then kind of monitoring how many, you know, likes or shares I had there. And that was helpful. So I was giving constant exposure. And then it didn’t hurt that the book was winning awards. And so I’d be able to make these wonderful announcements, like, “I just found out that I got a – my Kirkus review, you know, was a starred review,” and it was fun to be able to announce those things.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 16:17
Yeah, that’s very fun. What about bookstores? Talk to me about what you did with bookstores.
Tanya Hackney 16:24
Oh, yes, I almost forgot. I just thought about my local reach. I mean, it’s wonderful to think about a wider readership but everything starts at home. And so I started just hitting the pavement: I took my book and my sell sheet down to Key West and I went to the cute little bookstores down in Key West and talked to the owners and gave them my sell sheet and asked if they’d be interested in doing events; that, you know, I was local. And I had a wonderful reception at my little hometown library. And at the little coffee shop where I actually spent hours writing the book, the owner there was very excited about having the book in the store and doing a book signing. So some of that. That satisfies me more than doing Facebook posts because that is that sort of 3-D interaction that I love.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 17:16
Right? Real life, human form, face to face. Masked up, of course – or not.
Tanya Hackney 17:23
Not in Florida.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 17:26
Yeah, I was going to say, let’s not open that little can of worms. But so how did you feel going into your bookstores? And in fact, let me back up before we ask that: you mentioned sell sheet. I don’t know whether the audience of listeners will all understand what a sell sheet is. So talk to us about what your sell sheet is: what’s in it?
Tanya Hackney 17:47
Well, I think it probably is what sets a professionally published book apart from a self-published book. It’s something I didn’t even know existed until I hired Ingenium and we collaborated on this project. You’re bringing in a glossy page with a photograph of your book and about the author and a synopsis of the book and ordering information. It looks professional; it looks sharp. You don’t look like a novice, which is nice if you are a novice. And you’re able to hand them the information and it’s all right there. And so then they know immediately how to get contact the distributor, how to purchase books, at what price they will be purchasing the books and what their markup will be. It gives them all the information they need. And that’s really wonderful. That has been an excellent tool.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 18:43
And the reception that you … Yeah, well, that leads to the second question that I started with, which is going backwards, as I so often like to back into my questions: but what was the reception like when you got to the bookstores?
Tanya Hackney 19:00
Well, actually, I was kind of nervous. I have never done – most of these things I’ve never done before. And so I took my friend Angie with me because she loves those bookstores in Key West. And I was – I wanted to go down there and I said, “Angie, will you come with me?” And she’s like, “Why?” I’m like, “I just want the moral support.” And so she didn’t say anything but she walked into the bookstore with me. And then, you know, I just somehow heard the words coming out of my mouth and, “I’m a local author and I wrote this memoir. It comes out in a week and would you be interested in putting it on your shelves?” And I, you know, handed off my sell sheet it went swimmingly well. I don’t remember any of it. I went walked out of the bookstore and Angie said, “Wow, that was great. You didn’t sound nervous.” And I’m like, “I don’t even know what I just said. I just went on autopilot.” So it went really, really well. And it was – I received, everywhere that I’ve been, I’ve received a warmer welcome than I expected. But again, I’m going to say like I didn’t expect anything because I never did this before and had no idea what to expect. And so I was going to be pleasantly surprised either way.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 20:07
Yeah, no, that’s fantastic. So what have you – I mean, there’s really we’re still in the launch period: we always talk at Ingenium Books about, “Launch is not a day.” You know, there is a day when technically the book goes, you know, there’s a switch that flicks from available for presale to actually available to order. And that happens on a day. But otherwise, launch period is really a period and it’s a flexible period. So we are technically still in your launch period, as we’re recording this right now. But you’ve come a long way: you’ve done a lot of things; you’ve done a lot of new things; you’ve tried things. Is there anything that you’ve discovered that, for your next book – because there will be a next book – that you would do differently?
Tanya Hackney 20:55
Well, I think having laid the groundwork, I’m not sure that I would do it differently but I think I now have a supportive group of people around me. I have, you know, readers and I already have a launch team: I might sort of – they might be my ground control. They might go on hold for a while but I would probably resurrect that team for the next book. And, you know, add to it. I’m not sure what I would do differently. I I feel like it’s gone swimmingly. So it’s hard for me to … I don’t regret anything that I did. I’m not sure if I’ve made any mistakes. I think some of that will come with – look, I don’t think I have enough distance on it to analyze.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 21:37
Yeah. Yeah. Maybe starting earlier.
Tanya Hackney 21:41
I will say about the one … Yeah. Yeah, maybe starting earlier so that I can build that team so it can gel. Yeah, could be. And I want to keep pushing through, you know, for a couple of months, at least: I’m ready to move on and work on a new project. But I also don’t want to leave this one, you know, out there flailing. I want it to, you know, to really get its feet under it before I move on to the next project. So I’ll keep going until at least probably till the new year.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 22:11
Yeah. So let’s just talk for a little bit about the physical books. So included in your launch activities are some physical books. Tell me about what you’ve done with that and what your thinking was around how to use your physical books.
Tanya Hackney 22:32
I was so excited on the day that I got that box of books. It was so exciting. I like, I was like tracking the UPS. I saw the UPS truck coming down the street: I was waiting for the UPS truck. The office at our marina had said it would be there around six. So I just happened to be loitering around the front office at six.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 22:54
“Just happened to be loitering.” That’s so funny.
Tanya Hackney 22:57
So I was very excited about the box and the guy at the front desk, who, you know, who knows me – I live here – he was grinning at me when I walked in. I’m like, “Tell me that you have a box of books.” He’s like, “I have four boxes of books.” There were some logistical things that I never really thought about, like how many books is 96 books? And then we went outside and I had my daughter Rachel, who’s 10, she took my cellphone and we did an unboxing video. And I’m just a cheesy person. I just am really, really cheesy. And so she had me rehearse: she held, you know, just to see that she could hold the camera steady and she wanted to know what I was going to say and how cheesy it was going to be. And so we did a little rehearsal where I pretended to open the box of books. She showed me the video and she goes, “It’s not too bad, Mom.” And I’m like, “Okay, let’s do it for real.” So then she recorded me and we did an unboxing video and I posted that for my launch team. And then I took those books and I offered them at a discount to that launch team as a way of saying thank you. And then I have done some impromptu signings at our homeschool group, at my Thursday morning Bible study and at a Halloween party. So I’ve now had three book signings, technically, but for close friends and family. And that’s a way for – to include everyone in my celebration. And they are genuinely so excited for me and share that excitement. And they’ve been watching me work on this for, you know, a couple years now. So we’re all feeling that excitement and eating the fruits of those labors.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 24:35
Absolutely. Now you’ve burned through – you mentioned 96: you burned through 90 – I mean, when did those books arrive: a week ago?
Tanya Hackney 24:46
Yeah, about a week ago. I’m into the last box. I think I have 20 books left of the original 96.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 24:54
Yeah. And with plenty more places for those books to go.
Tanya Hackney 24:58
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I didn’t realize – I guess because I’m a traveler, I have a lot of friends and acquaintances and people that I’ve met in different parts of the world and at different phases in my life. And it was so fun to reconnect with people and just, sometimes, you know, I was like a little reluctant, like with everything else, like, “Do you want my book in your bookstore?” Like, “Do you want a signed copy? I have a connection with the author.” And then they would be, you know, overjoyed and ecstatic. Like, “Of course I want a signed copy.” So that was very confidence boosting.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 25:31
Yeah. Cool. Alight, let’s see: did I miss anything that you want to talk about with respect to the launch activities for your book?
Tanya Hackney 25:40
I feel like I got – I received some very good advice. Early on, when we were trying to pick the launch date and – well, the release date for the book – and how we wanted to put it out into the world, you mentioned that authors are often antsy: you know, you’ve produced this amazing work and you want to get it out in the world as quickly as possible. I mean, if you’re interested in recouping some, you know, financially, then you want to get as, you know, get as many books sold as possible and start as early as possible. And you, you said, “I’m kind of curious what would happen if we delayed the release a little bit? Because I think if we could enter the book into some, for, you know, for awards or get a paid review from Kirkus, for example, that I think we could give it a bigger splash.” And I think that was excellent advice. And it went against everything I wanted. I wanted to hold that book in my hands so bad. And I thought, “Well, you know, let’s do an experiment. Let’s see what happens.” And so we did all of those things. We entered the book in some awards that would come back before it was published, meaning that when it came out, it could possibly come out with a shiny gold sticker on the cover. We paid for the Kirkus reward and we waited for that reward – or the review – to come back before the book launch so that when you google my book, you can find, you know, that it already has a starred review. I think that made a huge difference in the amount of, you know, I guess noise that it makes when it comes out. So I’m really grateful for that advice. And I’m grateful that I resisted my urge to – I resisted my impatience. I am really happy to hold that book in my hands. But what was another, you know, month or two months? If I’ve been waiting this long, I can wait a little bit longer. I’m going to say something that Jay says when he’s racing sailboats or when, you know, when we’re sparring with another boat if we’re out sailing: he says, “Go big or go home.” And there was this one time where we were racing another catamaran – a good friend of ours – and we had gone up the river and we were coming back the river and it was a downwind run and he said, “Let’s pull out the spinnaker.” And that’s saying something because spinnaker is a pain in the butt. So I was like, “Okay.” So we pull out the spinnaker. And we smoked that other boat and it was so awesome. And that was kind of the, “Go big or go home.” And so I guess with your launch team, I would say, “Go big or go home.”
Boni Wagner-Stafford 28:15
Yeah, very good advice. And I love the analogy to the – putting up the spinnaker. Something happens on your sailboat because of course the book is about a sailboat.
Tanya Hackney 28:28
Of course. Like my whole life (crosstalk) sailing analogy now. It’s just a giant sailing analogy.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 28:34
Right, exactly. But so we won’t say any more about that. We’ll just let listeners figure it out for themselves. So Tanya Hackney, author of “Leaving the Safe Harbor: The Risks and Rewards of Raising a Family on a Boat”, memoir published by Ingenium Books and available wherever you buy your books. And if you want to go to a link, it is IngeniumBooks.com/ltsh, if you’re looking for help finding that. So Tanya, thank you so much and congratulations.
Tanya Hackney 29:10
And thank you. And thank you for all of your good advice.
Boni Wagner-Stafford 29:17
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode of the Empowered Author podcast, please feel free to share it on social media. We’d also be very grateful if you could rate, review and subscribe to the Empowered Author on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you access your podcasts. That’s helpful for us but more importantly, it’s helpful for other indie authors who are looking for resources to help them on their continuous learning journey.