Can you imagine getting more than 18,500 preorders for something you create? Today I want to talk about what it took for one author to do just that — attract 18,500 preorders prior to the release of a new book.
… for your book.
… for your art.
… for your craft.
… for your business.
… for anything creative you are launching.
That you receive so many preorders it guarantees you success.
Okay, the context of this is one author — Michael Hyatt — but I’m actually going to spend very little time talking specifically about him. Why? Because he had a team of people working on his launch, plus a co-author.
Michael’s latest book, co-authored with Daniel Harkavy and titled Living Forward, was just released. Yes, it’s nonfiction, but the points below apply to all types of books, and many other forms of launches, whether it is a business, art or something else.
Earlier this week, Michael’s head marketer, Chad Cannon, shared a post about their book launch. I want to share highlights below, and really dig into several key elements that are critical for you and your work.
#1 You Need a Team
How many people helped Michael’s book get into readers’ hands? This many:
“There were about fifteen people speaking into various pieces of the campaign with a team of three to four involved in the day-to-day details.”
In the recent past I’ve talk a lot about how important collaboration is for your career. It would be so easy for us to look at Michael’s impressive credentials, factor in those of his co-author, and assume that alone is enough to ensure success.
Well, he didn’t think so.
So he built a team. Of course, he had his publisher — Baker Books — and their team. Yet, still that wasn’t enough. So he brought in his own chief marketing officer, plus a bunch of others executing on just the marketing end of things.
If you aren’t familiar with Michael’s work, it’s worth noting that he has an “operation” that works at the professional level. When he got serious about video, he built a video studio and office in his yard; he brings in professional video folks to do his videos. A screenshot from his Instagram:
So it’s not surprising that he has a marketing team focused on the launch of this new book. The question for us becomes: how can you consider creating a team for yours? One that doesn’t break the bank, and allows you to attend to your many other responsibilities.
My advice to get you started:
- Create colleagues. Others who do work similar to yours, and are in a similar place that you are. These folks MAY be local, but they don’t have to be. Most of mine live all over the country, and really, all over the world.
- Identify a few supporters who can help give feedback and keep you accountable. Folks you ask a little bit of every so often, and who will give good feedback.
- Nurture your early fans. So often people IGNORE the five people who love their work because they are so busy trying to get 1,000 people to love their work. If you have five people who know what you do, who love what you do — reward them!
- Identify processes for your work. This allows you to begin to be able to consider who can help you accomplish them. For instance, I hire interns for some work that I do. That is only possible if I identify a process they can help take over for me.
- Create a street team (or launch team). Here is a post that explains the concept. For Michael Hyatt, and many other authors, I see them reach out to their audience inviting 100 or so to become a street team. The author provides behind-the-scenes access if the street team members agree to help promote a specific book.
#2 You Need Time for Your Launch
How long before book launch did Michael’s team begin preparing? This long:
“Our marketing team built out a launch plan over a year ago.”
I talk about this all the time. For many of my clients, our work begins a year before a launch. For the work I did with Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, we began working on the book launch a full year prior to its release. (See — it’s not just for nonfiction!)
Here is a look at how Michael’s team spent that year:
“[The marketing team] spent countless hours refining and executing [our launch plan].”
Let’s let that sink in — a team of people separate from the author spent “countless hours” for an entire year.
Do you have to spend countless hours? Of course not. My advice to get started:
- As I mentioned above, get some collaborators.
- Do an initial brainstorm. Remove yourself from your normal context — go to the library, or to a cafe, or to a friend’s work space. Leave your phone in the car. Don’t plug in the internet. Brainstorm everything you want to accomplish and the experiences you want to create. Use this time to feel a sense of freedom of what is possible, not the crushing weight of your normal responsibilities. Bring coffee, and a friend if possible.
- Focus on a few specific actions. Identify a few things you want to do REALLY WELL, then ignore the hundreds of other things people tell you that you have to do.
- Focus on moments of connection with your audience — not spinning your wheels posting content that you hope some social media algorithm picks up. Make this a human process filled with conversation, not a technical process of simply cross-posting stuff on social media.
- Schedule regular check-ins on your plan. Perhaps weekly you go back to that cafe your with game plan, and take 20 minutes (over coffee) to check in and adjust.
#3 Worry About Who Will Share Your Message as Early as Possible
Too often, we focus on the message itself, assuming that a great message will naturally spread.
Nope. It often doesn’t.
The term “influencers” has been thrown around a lot the last five years. Yes, I’m gagging as much as you are. People are not to be judged by their marketing value to you.
As you develop a launch plan. As you develop content ideas. As you map out who will care about your work, and who can amplify it, consider how each piece is an EXPERIENCE that others will want to talk about.
Not because you are getting in their way, but because you are delivering something that immediately resonates with them.
It goes beyond the vague advice of “be generous.” Seth Godin rightly states that books are a “screaming bargain,” yet in Michael’s launch, he encouraged preorders by giving away a ton of other content for those who ordered early. This included a package of audiobooks, a virtual event, action plan, digital coloring book, and templates. It was pitched as: “Preorder my book now, and receive $360 worth of bonuses for free!” Here’s a screenshot from an email I received:
Some of the bonuses were useful, and some were just plain fun. You can almost imagine his team sitting down a year before launch, throwing out crazy ideas for bonuses that they can create for a preorder rush.
For your work, consider what would be helpful to your audience. What would create a meaningful experience for them. Everything Michael gave away was digital — it didn’t cost him a dime to send it.
#5 Fear of Missing Out is the Crux of Good Marketing
I obsess about observing launches of all types. A common theme I see for successful launches is this: lean heavily on the trigger of “FOMO,” which translates to “the fear of missing out.”
This can be married with the ideas above… illustrating that a bonus is going away, or a live event is super-special and once-in-a-lifetime. The fear of missing out is a powerful psychological trigger. If you want to master it, along with other powerful psychological triggers, study Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence.
#6 Marketing Means Being Strategic
One term hidden in the post about Michael’s launch is “bulk orders.” His team sought out bulk orders whereby companies or organizations would purchase hundreds of copies for their team, their audience, or their event.
This is what “marketing” can be all about. Thinking strategically about alignment with key audiences, and getting VERY specific on seeking out value.
This, as opposed to what I see many do, which is: “Create a broad message that should appeal to many. Tweet it, hoping to go viral. When it doesn’t, Tweet it again.”
That doesn’t work.
#7 “Luck” is the Elephant in the Room
With 18,500 preorders, and all of their other marketing efforts, Living Forward landed on these bestseller lists: USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Bookscan.
The elephant in the room? It hasn’t yet made it on The New York Times Best Seller list. Now, maybe that happens next week. But it hasn’t happened yet.
With 18,500 preorders, with all of this marketing, so far that hasn’t been enough to hit The New York Times Best Seller list.
Which is a reminder of how important luck is in this process. You can have the best book, the best author, the best team, the best plan, thousands of raving fans, great word of mouth, great blurbs, great reviews, and so much else. But you also need a little bit of luck to hit all of your goals.
(Michael’s previous book hit The New York Times list, and he has written about setting that as a specific goal.)
Congratulations to Michael, Daniel, and their team on the success of the book!
For your own work, what launch strategies have either worked best for you, or have you found most compelling for those you follow?