Updated: Jun 9
When I launched my first self-published book, I made the mistake that lots of new authors make. I’ll release my book and worry about marketing after that, I told myself. Little did I know the uphill battle I’d set myself up for by doing that.
I quickly realized that if I wanted the success of a traditionally published book or author, I’d have to do what they do. So I spent weeks reading, taking courses, and learning, learning, learning. I set out to become an expert on marketing plans so I could figure out how to make one that worked for me. And in all my research, one strategy kept popping up: build a launch team.
But why are launch teams an important part of your marketing plan? Momentum. The more traffic your book draws around the release, the higher up it ranks, which makes Amazon increase your visibility. This leads to more sales which then leads to more visibility…it's a snowball effect!
So what is a launch team?
A launch team is a group of potential customers in your niche or target audience who have agreed to help you release your book. They do this by reviewing your book the week of release and sharing it with others. Not only that, but it's also a fantastic way to build your email list. You just give them a digital ARC (advanced review copy) of your story before the release date. The best part? If they like your book, they’ll purchase a physical copy!
Why would they want to?
I get asked this question a lot and the answer is quite simple: people love free things. If you can find children’s book lovers and your story resonates with them, they’ll be more than happy to help you out.
So...reviews, traffic, momentum, email leads—it all sounds great, but where do you find these people?
Most authors find their launch team members through social media—by posting on their author accounts and sharing to Facebook groups. All you have to do to find people willing to support your launch...is ask!
Friends and Family
Another concern authors have involves having friends and family on their launch teams. I’ll hear, “my mom tried leaving me a review but it’s not showing up!” Having friends and family review your book is against Amazon’s review policy so if your close friends and family try, Amazon will either not post the review, remove the review, or flag the account if it happens too frequently. While some people think it’s unfair, the fact is that it’s a biased review. You can ask friends and family to support your launch in other ways but keep in mind that their support isn’t what will get you success in the publishing industry...if it was, you’d already be there!
Posting in Facebook Groups
“Authors are your biggest cheerleaders, but they are rarely your target audience.”
Again, your launch will go much farther if you keep your launch team made up primarily of potential customers in your target audience rather than friends, family, or other authors. But I see it all the time: an author sticks to making launch team posts in author groups. There are authors who might support you with a review but remember, one of the perks of your launch team is that it builds your email list. Aim for 90-95% or more of that list to be potential customers rather than fellow authors, friends, or family.
When it comes to posting in groups, the more active you are before you post, the more people will see it. If you join a group and immediately make a post, the Facebook algorithm will show you to a much smaller pool of people than if you were to like and comment on other’s posts in the group more than a few times. So if you’re planning on posting your launch team requests on Friday, on Monday-Thursday, you should be as active as possible.
This isn’t just for the algorithm though—people take notice. If your only interaction is “join my launch team” or “buy my book!” you’re going to come across as a spammer. You’ll get the best response by making connections with your audience and they will remember it in the future. In your post, add in what inspired the book. Why is it needed? What will your readers get out of it? What impact does your story have on others? Don’t just pitch your book, pitch your story.
Collecting Members Information
Use a Google form to easily collect names, emails, and consent to contact. You’ll find that it’s much faster than having interested individuals private message you and manually collecting them, especially if the interest goes viral. Then, you’ll use an email service like MailChimp, MailerLite, Wix Ascend, etc to send out professional emails to the team. If you do it well, they’ll want to be part of your future launches!
Verified vs Unverified Reviews
A verified review means that the person leaving the review has purchased the book. An unverified review indicated that the reviewer has not purchased the product they’re reviewing. Many authors have questions about these, and assume that verified is better than unverified, but if you think about your own Amazon purchases, do you go through and count how many reviews are verified or unverified? Personally, I never notice. As long as you have a mix of both, you have nothing to worry about.
That said, ARC copies don’t count as purchases so if you’re concerned about the balance from your launch team, use KDP Select to set your book for free and email them. “Thanks for being a part of my launch team! As an extra thank you, I’ve made my Amazon ebook free until (insert date here)” and then attach the link for them to download.
Finally, make sure you are sending them clean links. When you go to an Amazon page, there's a series of letters and numbers following the ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) which allows Amazon to track where people are coming from when they use that link. This is a problem because it’s often the reason why reviews get denied—Amazon will flag them as suspicious reviews since they all came from the same place. To prevent this, all you have to do is use a clean link.
Here’s a picture of what that looks like:
All of these things are what made my first launch team a success, with over 800 people joining before I closed the requests. My launch team is the reason by book earned a bestseller banner within weeks of publication and also resulted in hundreds of reviews within the first week of release, setting the tone for all my future releases.
So...build a launch Team. Build momentum, and keep getting your book out there! Visibility is key.