Don’t Make Your Book Launch Like a Trip to the Dentist

photo by purplemattfish

Too many book launches are panic attacks, similar to a trip to the dentist.

With 1.5 million books published last year, writers nowadays know that publicity for their books around book launch can be challenging. The days where you can silently write your book, and then scream about it on launch day are producing lesser results than they may have once done.

So we introduce this concept of author platform – slowly developing a trusting relationship with your ideal readers over time. So that, when your book finally does launch, you have an audience of people waiting for it. They WANT to buy it. They WANT to spread the word. You have to rely less on screaming at the world about your book, and more on communicating with an audience that already knows you and trusts you. An audience ready to take action, to buy your book.

But we are all busy. We put off core aspects of developing your brand as a writer because, well, you are writing; you are working through a tough publishing process, whether you are self-publishing or going through a traditional agent/publisher relationship.

So we wait. And as the book launch approaches, it becomes more and more similar to how we treat a trip to the dentist:

Between your twice a year checkups, you get busy. You brush, but you don’t floss as much as you could. You brush for 20 seconds, not 60. You miss the teeth in the back, day after day. And you justify it as “I am busy, I did brush every day… but I will floss tomorrow.”

Then you go to the dentist. And you panic. You hope for a clean checkup, no cavities. The image of a drill in your mouth comes closer to reality. You realize that you EASILY could have done better keeping your teeth clean in the past few months. You realize that those extra 60 seconds per day would, cumulatively, would have avoided the feeling of terror you now experience. You make promises to deities.

This is how many writers feel when they get to their book launch. They neglect developing their platform, building their audience over the months/years before the book launch, only to panic when the launch day approaches.

So they are left with few options other than to hope for a miraculous thing to happen. They have few options but to begin screaming: “Buy my book!” They desperately want to find a big audience, when really they have done very little preparation to even understand who their ideal audience is.

This is why so many previously published authors work with me the second time around, they learn from their mistakes: that publishing alone does not guarantee an audience.

A friend of mine said this to me recently: the highest price in the world? 1 cent. It is HARD to get someone to commit to buying a book, for ANY price. It is hard to get them to commit to reading 300 pages, to entering their credit card information, etc.

So how do we avoid this feeling, this panic of the drill in your mouth as you lead up to your book launch? At the most basic level, I would encourage you to answer these questions:

  1. Describe to me, in detail what your ideal readers read in the last 12 months. Specific book titles and authors. Tell me why they read those books, what was their deeper motivations, passions or needs?
  2. Where specifically can you go – online or off – to meet your readers? What blogs do they go to, what forums, social channels, print media, bookstores, organizational affiliations, what libraries, do they actively participate with?
  3. Who manages or organizes these places. I want names, email addresses, phone numbers.
  4. Who can you send a personal email to about your book that would care? Again: I want names.

The key word in the list above is: “SPECIFICALLY.” If you have to write this list all at once, it can be overwhelming, even stifling. But what if you add one name a week to a list? Or one place per month? That, 6 months from now, you would have a really strong list of:

  1. Other books and authors your ideal readers love.
  2. Places online and off where you can find your ideal readers.
  3. People who you know that can connect you to your ideal readers.

Wouldn’t that give you a sense of confidence. Options that feel like you are connecting to like-minds, not spamming unknown masses?

We talk a lot about the habit of writing, but this also applies to that habit of connecting. The more you understand who your audience is; where they are; what motivates them; who is connected to them – the more your book launch will feel like a natural extension of writing, and less like an arduous panic attack.



About Dan Blank

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers share their stories and connect with readers. He has helped hundreds of authors via online courses, events, consulting, and workshops, and worked with amazing publishing houses and organizations who support writers such as Random House, Workman Publishing, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer’s Digest, Library Journal, and many others.


    • says

      Yes, this is with regards to author platform, or even marketing efforts. How do you know what blogs/forums/social media your ideal readers participate in? RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. Honestly, this is the key differentiator between authors who know their audience, and those who don’t. Put in the time with research, write things down. Listen.

      I know that sounds like basic advice, but it is the sort of things I have methodologies and templates around for those I work with in classes, workshops and consulting. Too deep to get into via a single blog comment!

      Dan Blank´s last blog post ..Why In-Person Events Are SO Important (and where I will be this year)

  1. says

    Dan, thank you for your excellent steps for a successful book launch. I, for one, want to avoid the “panic attack” feeling that can accompany a dental visit, to use your good analogy, when I launch my book.

  2. says

    Just what I needed as I start working on the marketing section of my book proposal. I’ve seen versions of these questions before (Thank you, M.J. Rose), but the slant here is slightly different.

    Many thanks

  3. says

    I really admire this approach, like building a network one day at a time, in advance, with a great (dental) analogy to connect the point, too. Thank you for the food for thought and fuel for thoughtful action. An excellent post, Dan.
    Jennifer King´s last blog post ..Great New Books 2013 Launch

  4. says

    Although, I’d prefer for all those writers not to send me newsletters and emails telling me about their books because my inbox is about to explode — unless of course I asked to be included in their mailing list! *smiling*

    I find after that initial excitement over a book’s release, the difficult part is keeping that up – I’m on book six (one’s a novella in an anthology, but still), and I hope that I am connecting with readers one “books sale,” one reader at a time – I’m active on FB, twitter, and pretty much on my blog, but beyond that, and what my publishers do, I’m woefully clueless. Not that I don’t listen to advice, it’s just it’s all become a big loud white noise in my head and I want to pull a pillow over said head *laugh* . . . I do find on twitter, FB, blog, I don’t shout about my books, or rarely speak of them anymore- I’ve become so sensitive about that from seeing it so much from some other authors that I back slowly away, palms outward, an apologetic look glazing my peaheaded face. lawd.
    kathryn Magendie´s last blog post ..Naw, the gym ain’t no charity–so stop donating to it! But, join a gym wisely.

  5. says

    Well said and very practical advice. My brother, a contrarian to be sure but still, says to me just to push my buttons “I still think you can just write a really good book and it will sell, without doing all that blogging, clogging, platform building, building an audience without a book out there.” Au contraire.
    Diana cachey´s last blog post ..Victorian GHOST Scares Groupie . . .

  6. says

    Your brother is an idealist, and many writers would love to live in his world! :)

    I think the question for me is best framed as: how do you live every day? Is it engaging with the world on the topic you love, the stories you love shaping? Or is that hidden from view, just a tiny part of your existence. I don’t like to think of all of these activities as merely “marketing” because they go deeper than that.

    And why is it that all siblings are button-pushers?!
    Dan Blank´s last blog post ..Fear and Writing: Do You Hide Your Writing From Friends & Family?

  7. says

    What a great post, Dan! The dentist analogy is all too apt! I think we tend to think we should be applauded for brushing at all (building even a small platform) when, if we made just a few small additional quality tweaks every day, we could enjoy both dental health and mental health (in the case of an author, developing a strong community ready to help). I am trying to apply the lesson I learned from you in your online class. This post was an excellent reminder of how critical it is to build relationships and to keep building them.

    For me, thinking of an ideal reader outside the usual reach of a small Mennonite press has been the most challenging task. But I’m going to floss over it each day. :-)

  8. says

    Great post. I totally connected with the dental imagery. My experience with marketing has been jerky (i.e. I did a lot of research and ground work right after I submitted the story and then did nothing waiting for it to be published.) Now, it will be out in March and I am scampering around to find my lists and marketing notes.

    Your post gave me confidence that all the work will be worth the time.

    Quinn Cole´s last blog post ..Into the Fray

  9. Marilyn Slagel says

    I never leave home without books in my car and 2 in my purse. I hand out business cards and show my book to every bank teller, store clerk, etc.

    Sometimes people buy the book, not always. Constantly connecting to people is the way to go.

    Of course, sooner or later word may get out and they’ll run screaming into the night when they see me coming!

    Great article, Dan! BTW, Owen’s pic on Friday was great!

  10. says

    I am one of those people who wrote a best selling book (500,000 copies) by researching my audience via the net for three years before and during writing the book. I started in 1995 and I was one of the pioneers in the nonfiction book’s subject. Now my online communnity is 20K, and I don’t do much promotion outside that except for two years ago when I started blogging for the Psychology Today website (I was asked to do it and it pays).

    If people did the research to find out what their readers want (for non-fiction) BEFORE they wrote the book, and the book they wrote really made a difference, and the pricing and distribution are right, people would be more succcessful. Research during the product development stage has been THE key for me.

  11. says

    Love this post, Dan. It is incredibly timely as I met with a friend who is helping me plan my book launch for my first-ever book, which releases May 1st. I’ve been keeping an excel spreadsheet of local people I know who might be interested in a humor book, and it’s amazing the people I keep coming up with when I’m doing mundane things (like brushing my teeth). The spreadsheet grows…
    Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom)´s last blog post ..Book Update: Alphabetical Awesomeness

  12. says

    This blog post should be required reading for anyone even flirting with the idea of writing a book.

    I hear from the same types of authors you do, Dan. My first question always is, “Why did you write the book?” Most can’t even answer that simple question. Or they say, “Because I want to share my story with the world.”

    My advice to authors is to target their audiences, long before the launch, as narrowly as possible, and build the relationship, one contact at a time.

    There are opportunities galore to do this fairly quickly using basic research tools Like Facebook groups, Twitter Lists, and LinkedIn Advanced Search and Signal. They all will give authors the kinds of specific information you are asking for, Dan.
    Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound´s last blog post ..Dog Tweets—How To Contact Facebook: A Directory of 120+ Forms