Keys to a successful Facebook book launch (part two)
Editor’s note: Throughout this book marketing series, I will have a few guest posts from authors and editors who have shown true promise in the topics they write about. My hope is that by bringing in guests with experience and knowledge, you’ll get an in-depth walkthrough of what to do and why, and the details will allow you to be effective in your journey as you market and sell your book.
In the last post, Michelle King covered how to prepare for a book launch event, which you can find here. In this post, Michelle is going to cover promoting your book launch event before it starts so you can maximize attendance. She’ll also cover how to troubleshoot your event in case something doesn’t go as planned.
Marketing may not be your favorite aspect of being a writer, but it’s definitely important. You should be sharing posts every few days across any and all social media platforms you have a presence on. If you get yourself organized with scheduled posts (you can do that through Hootsuite if the social media app you’re on doesn’t already have the option), it doesn’t have to take a lot of time and there are a lot of free or inexpensive ways to get your event some exposure outside of your typical social media circles.
Your personal social circle
The first thing you should be doing is encouraging your friends and family—anyone who currently follows and supports your author goals and accomplishments—to be spreading the word. That can be through sharing your social media posts or actual word-of-mouth to people they interact with on a daily basis. This is where networking really can come into play. If you have a good circle of fellow authors that you associate with on social media, if you are all already sharing each other’s literary news, this will expand your event’s reach. It would be a good idea to become acquainted with your local librarian (or, depending on your genre, with the local school teachers).
Newsletters, groups, libraries, and newspapers
There is also the option of getting your event listed in some newsletters or in writing groups that have members who are willing to share things on their personal pages/profiles. Ask around. Many authors have a newsletter they send out and might have space to let their followers know about your upcoming event, or some are part of a writing group (either physical or online). Be aware that ad space in newsletters could possibly be paid advertisements, depending on the demand for ad space the owner of the newsletter has, but if you look hard enough, you can find some for free. And it should never cost you to share a post in a Facebook group.
Libraries, as mentioned above, are a great place because you’re a local author. If a smaller library knows there’s a local author around, they might have more plans than you do! Ask, though. You won’t know unless you ask.
Newspapers are a great way to reach a large audience that already reads! If you go to college, send a news release to the college paper. You’ll also want to send one to local TV stations (if you don’t mind being interviewed for public television) and to your local newspaper(s). This will put you on the local map. Cities love local celebrities, even if you’re not quite famous yet. Who knows!
Back to the college thing. If you tell your college relations (student relations) department about it, they might include you in their newsletter or in their social media platform. Colleges enjoy hearing when students do something great, even if it’s just a first step. They might be eager to show you off to the world.
There are also some sites that operate as cross-promotional opportunities. These sites work on the share-for-share concept where you get points for sharing other members’ posts on social media, and, in return, other members will share yours. The one I used for my event was CoPromote.com, but since then, the site has stopped working and hasn’t been rebooted yet. There are some alternatives that seem like would work just as well: ViralContentBee, CreatorCollabs, and Flauntt. (Disclaimer: I have not used any of these sites so I cannot vouch for them specifically, but they are definitely worth checking out!)
If you’re willing to spend a few dollars, boosting your posts directly through your social media platform will get you some reach, too. I boosted one of my event posts for roughly $10 and got a week’s worth of advertisement to my selected audience. In this case, you’ll want to make sure you have a good handle on who will be buying your book. It may be a children’s book aimed at three-year-olds, but they don’t have the money; their moms or dads or grandparents do. Think about who you think would be interested in your book (don’t guess; do some research!) and make sure you target them.
Lastly, don’t count out the old-fashioned options of using print advertisements! People in your hometown may be excited to hear that someone who walks among them is publishing a book. At least do a price check for what it would be to print an ad in a newspaper (if you don’t get interviewed for it) or ask the library if they’d allow you to hang a poster or two somewhere where readers would see it. It won’t hurt to ask, and the more people you talk to about your book, the more doors you open for when the book is actually published and you’re ready to do some readings or advertising.
Some blogs even offer interviews for only a little bit of money. You’ll want to make sure you do your research here, though. Check the blog’s social media platform, and pay attention to their followers. They might even have a large number of followers, but that doesn’t matter. How do the followers interact with their posts? What good is a large following if there isn’t any interaction? This is important, so do your research, look at the likes and comments on individual posts, check out their social media platform, and look at the quality of their writing before deciding on whether you want to pay that bill.
The days leading up to the event and the day of
Post before the event starts
Depending on how many guests you’ll be featuring during your event, you’ll want to start introducing them in the days (or weeks) leading up to the big day. Ideally, you should be posting about once or twice a day in the last two weeks before your launch day, so a good way to do that would be to announce one guest per day, including any giveaway they might have offered to do. You’ll also want to start announcing what items you’ll be giving away during the event, if any.
Check in with guest authors
The day before the event, make sure to contact all of your guest authors and helpers to double check that they are still going to be available and that they know what time they’ll be posting. Double check your scheduled posts and images. If possible, have a friend read through them all to ensure they are easy to understand and don’t have any typos that you might have missed. Add all of your guests and helpers as actual event co-hosts so that all of the attendees will get notifications whenever anyone posts (as long as they haven’t turned notifications off).
Post everything on time
Make sure you post your introduction and welcome posts on time. With events like these, being even a minute or two behind could snowball faster than you can imagine. Your first posts should be introducing yourself as an author. What other stories have you published or still work on? Where are you from/living now? What draws you to writing, and how do you find your inspiration? What are some of your other hobbies? Having a pre-written bio about yourself will make this a lot easier. You’ll also want to introduce the book. List the blurb, genre, and a little about the main character. Include an engaging excerpt and encourage everyone to share.
Try to include wording in all of your posts that encourages interaction. Ask where the attendees are tuning in from, or how they heard about your event. You could even start the event off with a giveaway that will last until the end of the day to get some buzz going right off the bat.
Find a good “frequency”
The frequency and amount of posts you put up will be entirely a personal preference, but keep in mind that you want to stay active on the attendees’ timelines without being overwhelming. You also want to give people enough time to interact with each post and not feel rushed to the next one, as well as give you time to interact with the attendees. People are much more likely to follow authors on social media if they are relatable and make the effort to acquaint themselves with their readers.
Introducing your guest authors
You should put an introduction post just before each guest’s turn starts, and post a small thank-you post when a guest’s time slot is coming to an end. Tag each guest in their respective introductions and thank yous. I included a five-minute leeway between each time slot to give myself time to thank the previous guest and to introduce the next guest. It helped me to avoid having to worry about posting on top of a guest either at the end or beginning of their time slot.
If you have giveaways prepared
If you plan on doing any giveaways, make sure to keep certain times open or make an agreement with the guests around the time you want to post the giveaway so you can post at the end or beginning of their time slot and not worry about interrupting their flow. If you’ve pre-recorded a reading of the book, it would be a good idea to post that at the end of the event with a small statement asking for reviews. Explain how important reviews are to self-published authors and let them know all the places where a review would be appreciated (Amazon, Goodreads, the Facebook fan page, etc.)
If you have a helper, you can ask them to live-tweet the event. They would log onto either your Twitter or theirs and put up a tweet announcing specific events, such as giveaways and each guest, and would encourage people from Twitter to come take a look on Facebook. This could also be done on Instagram with screenshots of posts or pre-planned images for this purpose.
There are a handful of ways your exciting day could go wrong. I’ll address a couple, but make sure you try to plan for any hiccups you might think of, no matter how unlikely it may seem.
A guest is late or doesn’t show up at all
If you’re worried about any guest’s reliability, keeping the communication open will ease your mind. Message them periodically before the event to remind them of their time and what they’ll need to post. Message them at the start of (or even before) the event. If they are slow to respond, be ready to post something in their absence or have another guest ready to switch places. Be careful of the latter solution since it isn’t “filling the hole” as much as just moving it. Have a list of “fun facts” about your book or mini-games ready so you can fill any space you might need to. Keep an eye on guests who take a long time to answer you before the event. If anyone goes more than 24-48 hours without responding to your messages, and it seems consistent, you might want to consider politely cutting them loose.
Guests are having problems with posting or it keeps waiting for authorization to post from the main host
Making each guest author an actual co-host to the event should solve this problem. If you haven’t made each of them a co-host, you’ll just have to be vigilant and keep an eye on the event to authorize each post as soon as possible. If the guest is just having problems with posting because they are inexperienced or are having computer issues, see if they can send you any pre-written posts and you (or a helper) can post for them.
If you’re not getting a lot of interaction on your posts, the first thing you should do is to be patient! If your event starts early in the morning, there’s a chance people are still waking up. If it’s a third or halfway through your event and there is still low interaction, make sure you’re inviting attendees to interact with each post. Share the posts with your personal friends list and include a call-to-action for people to come join in on the fun.
It will also benefit you to encourage all your guest authors to participate, too. You’re a team now, so act like one. Sometimes, a post simply needs a couple of people to kick the ball so others will follow and chase it. You can all agree beforehand whether guest authors are eligible to win prizes if that happens.
You can also ask a few friends for support by interacting. It’s a chance for them to win free stuff, isn’t it?
You or a guest experience loss of internet
This is where having back up plans come in handy. Have a secondary location you can go to, either a coffee shop or library or someone’s house where you can bring your laptop (or in a worst-case scenario use a public computer) to finish the event.
In the time that you are traveling and setting up, a designated helper can post for you. If a guest experiences loss of internet and is able to contact you, talk to them to figure out the best course of action. Would it be worth it to post for them if they are prepared with pre-written posts? That will be a question only you can answer.
The best thing you can do to prepare for this is to have all your posts, images, videos, etc. stored in either a Google Drive file, a DropBox, or somewhere else on the Cloud. If your computer shuts down and your posts are stored there, you can’t get to them. You can encourage your co-hosts to do this, too, or you can even set up an individual file for each co-host and give them editing access to that file so they can store their stuff while also giving you power over the information if needed. This can be a lot of work, so it’s up to you to decide whether you want to do this.
Guests have mixed up their schedule
If one of your guests thinks they should be posting either earlier or later than they had agreed to, contact them and ask if they can still finish out their original time slot. Being a few minutes late is better than not showing up at all. If they definitely cannot make it to their original time, you have the option of asking other guests if they’re willing to switch. Just don’t do something that will make everything more complicated than it needs to be; sometimes, it’s better to cut your losses with a no-show than to scramble around and mix up the schedule more.
Something comes up that pulls the main host away from the event early
Life has its own plans, and they don’t always quite mesh with the plans we make for ourselves. Things come up, such as work or family emergencies or any other little thing. Having a backup helper will be the best option in this scenario. Someone who can post whatever you have left and keep the guests on time and deal with any issues that might arise in your absence. Be picky with choosing a helper. You need to be able to depend on them.
A guest who has agreed to do a giveaway hasn’t contacted the winner
This is something that happened to me personally. It’s frustrating. Luckily for me, the winner was a close friend so it was easy to explain that the guest author simply wasn’t responding to my communications, and it wasn’t an issue. However, this can reflect poorly on you if it’s a potential follower or fan of your book. The only way to prevent this is to keep the lines of communication open with your guests and reiterate, multiple times, the responsibilities you both have agreed to. Message each guest who has a giveaway, at the end of their giveaway, to discuss the next steps so you can be in the loop in case the winner contacts you about anything.
If the guest isn’t responsive, and it’s obvious that the giveaway winner will not get their promised prize, you might want to consider offering them something. If you have a couple extra items beforehand, this will be easier, but it would be just as effective to offer them a paperback copy of your book (since you made sure to have a batch on hand, right?). I would strongly advise against pointing fingers or letting the giveaway winner walk away with nothing.
In another version of this scenario, the guest may have started a giveaway but never chose a winner. If a winner hasn’t been chosen within twenty-four hours, I suggest you take the liberty of choosing a winner and giving them a prize from your own collection.
Above all, keep in mind that no matter what “goes wrong” with your event, the most important thing is to have a good time. If you are enjoying yourself, chances are that your attendees are as well. If you happen to have a lull due to a missing guest or have to cut the event short, it won’t affect things too much as long as you approach it reasonably. Everyone should understand that things happen. So don’t let anything cloud the happiness of your exciting day!
After the launch, make sure to personally thank each of your guests and exchange information to stay in contact for future events you or they might put together. Use all opportunities for networking that you stumble upon! Message all giveaway winners to discuss shipping options, and thank them for their participation.
And, lastly, sit down and breathe. It’s over. You’ve done it; you’re a published author!
(As a last comment, feel free to take or leave—or mix and match with any other tips—any of this information as you see fit. Some of these tips might not work for you or your project, and that’s okay! The important thing is that you’re doing your research and putting together an event that fits your personality and comfort level. Good luck!)