Desire by Design, my contemporary romance (fiction), is the first in a series that will be rolled out over the next 6-12 months (there will be at least three books in the series, probably more). It has been on pre-order on Amazon for almost three months; it went live on Friday, July 14. Promotion started this Monday, July 17.

(I kept telling people the launch date was the 18th, because I thought Monday was the 18th; I can write a book, but apparently I can’t read a calendar).

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll share what I’ve done to launch and promote it, what’s worked and what hasn’t. Hopefully, you’ll get some ideas that you can use when you launch your own book.

Background

I’m a new-ish author (this is my third fiction book) in an extremely competitive genre (contemporary romance). My goal with this book isn’t to make a zillion dollars as much as it is to start gaining credibility and traction with romance readers and draw them into the Silverweed Falls world. When I’m close to releasing the second book in the series, I will probably make this one permafree, but right now, I’m at the $.99 price point.

I’ve written previously about how I kickstarted my fiction list with an Instafreebie offering. The mailing list now has ~2100 subscribers; not a lot by fiction author standards, but 2100 more than I had three months ago, so no complaints. While I’m obviously hoping that a good number of these subscribers will become buyers, my first task for them was to see if they’d help me by providing beta feedback and reviews. My goal was to launch with at least 50 reviews for credibility.

 

Here’s a timeline to date:

 

May 24: I sent an email (then 860 people) to my list asking for beta readers—people to read the final draft of my manuscript, pre-proofreading, and give me feedback on the story/characters. This serves both the purpose of getting legitimate feedback from actual romance readers as well as engaging readers in the process. 47 people signed up for beta copies;15 actually provided feedback by the deadline.

June 7: Sent a reminder to everyone who had signed up as a beta reader that I needed feedback by 6/15.

June 15–July 1: I was on vacation in Cuba with my family. It was awesome.

July 5: Asked list (now at 1,950 subscribers) to sign up for advance review copies of DbD. 209 people signed up.

July 14, Friday (the day that the book went live): I began (politely) badgering reviewers to leave reviews. I got about 20 reviews within the first 24 hours. I also (politely) asked if they’d consider buying the book even though they already had a free copy, as reviews by buyers a “verified” and more likely to be read.

July 16, Sunday, morning: Sent out a second email to those reviewers who had not opened the first one. This resulted in a flurry of reviews posted over the course of the day.

July 16, Sunday, evening: Sent out a reminder to the people who had opened the first time around. Asked people to send me a link when they’d posted so that I could thank them personally.

July 17, Monday: Woke up to 41 reviews. This was 9 short of the 50 reviews I’d hoped to launch with, but it was close enough that I didn’t mind too much (the fact that they were overwhelmingly positive didn’t hurt).

July 17, 18, 19: Wrote a bunch of sincere thank you emails in response to people who had sent me links to their reviews.

 

Analysis (What I’ll do differently next time)

 

It’s still too early to analyze the promotions aspect (sales have been slow but steady), but I can talk about the reviews. My goal was to launch with 50 reviews; based on past experience, I knew that of the people who signed up, probably only about 25%–33% would actually come through, which turned out to be a fairly accurate guess.

As I mentioned, 209 people signed up to review. As of today, Wednesday, DbD has 57 reviews and a 4.6 star rating. I’m very pleased with the response, but I did hope that a few more reviewers would buy the book as well (I mean, c’mon, it’s only 99¢!). But of that 57, only 5 (so far) are verified.

I don’t regret the way I went about getting reviews this time around. Now that I have a list to work with though, I’ll make a more formal ARC team next time. I’ll either make buying the book a requirement or make it free for a single day before I start launching it and advertise it only to reviewers (free downloads via a KDP Select day count as purchases for review purposes).

I was pleased with the beta reading process. Most of the feedback I got was along proofreading/copy editing lines, but I did get some on characters/plot, and made some minor changes in response. Fortunately, people liked it; if they’d suggested major changes, I would have been in trouble as I was committed at that point to releasing by 7/14 and wouldn’t have had time for a major re-write given that I was on holiday for two weeks right beforehand.

Note to self: Don’t schedule book launches and vacations at the same time.

 

Next week

 

I’ll go over the sales results of the various ads and other promotions I did and analyze what worked and what didn’t.

 

Obligatory vacation photo of me with two of my kids in Trinidad, Cuba