November 10, 2014

7 Pre-Release-Day Tips for Authors

Just over 21 days remain before the official release of Mending Heartstrings (cue the freaking out!).    Signups are now available for the release-day blitz hosted by Xpresso Book Tours, and there are still spots open for the blog tour. The e-book is also available for preorder through Amazon.

Gearing up for the release has been quite the experience, so I've decided to share some of my newfound wisdom (partially as a reminder to take my own advice)! Here we go:
  1. Set up your Amazon author page & author central account.
    • Author central allows you to keep track of your books, your rankings, both as an author and for each individual book (see point 2!), and the details of your author page.
    • Setting up your author page means that when people click on your name, right under your book title, they can see a page dedicated to and controlled by you — you can include a photo and your bio, of course, but also your Twitter feed and even a blog feed if you'd like. This also consolidates all your Amazon books in one place for readers. And it adds  your photo & bio to the "more about the author" section of your book page, which will help engage readers.
  2. Don't obsess over your Amazon rankings.
    • Incredibly tempting as it is, regularly checking your rankings could make you think you're bipolar, and Amazon doesn't help this by updating ranks every hour. Yes, it is thrilling to see your rank jump up with a sale, but depression can easily set in as your rank steadily drops each hour a new sale isn't made. This is especially problematic when your book is available for preorder — it isn't even out yet, so very few people know about it, and yet those numbers slipping down and occasionally jumping up will drive you insane.
    • It may help to understand how the Amazon ranking system works, and while the algorithm is kept secret, there are some basics we do know: 
      • Rankings depend on a combination of when the last purchase was made and how many copies have been purchased overall.
      • If you're ranked pretty high (let's say top 100,000), a single sale will not make a huge difference in the number, but it will keep your ranking higher for more hours. 
      • If you're ranked pretty low (let's say 800,000+), a single sale can rocket your ranking by hundreds of thousands. This is because there are millions of kindle books, hundreds of thousands of which are not being bought at any given point in time. This also means that your ranking can be around 500,000 one hour, and in the top 100,000 the next, based on a single sale. In other words, the ranking yo-yoing actually means very little in terms of number of sales.
    • Perhaps most importantly, author central keeps track of your best rank in any given 24-hour period (for both your books & your general author rank). So, rather than watching the rank move up and down every hour, you can check once a day for increased peace of mind.
  3. Don't stress out about things which aren't under your control.
    • So much about a book release is out of the author's hands, especially if you're traditionally published. How many people sign up for your tour (Have I mentioned there are still spots open in the Mending Heartstrings tour?), what kinds of posts they sign up for, what publicity efforts are being implemented when, when your digital file is finished, and more — it's all out of the traditionally published author's hands, and stressing about that fact will not change it. 
    • On the plus side, there are plenty of things authors can and should be doing in preparation for release day. There are more than enough to keep you busy, and focusing on those instead will actually be productive!
  4. Plan your giveaway goodies, but don't go overboard.
    • Find out which giveaways you're responsible for (Is your publisher handling prizes for your blog tour? Do you want to contribute additional prizes, or run a separate giveaway of your own? What about prizes for any release-day parties?), and then decide how many prizes you need for each one. Remember, each giveaway cost actually includes not only the price for the item, but also the shipping materials & fees for each winner.
    • Make sure you order giveaway items far enough in advance that you're not worried whether they'll arrive by the release date.  This also gives you the opportunity to order extras of anything you absolutely love or if you realize you need more of an item. Take photos so you can share & get people excited!
    • Keep your eye out for discount deals for potential swag for giveaways. These will help keep your costs manageable while possibly also giving you new ideas.
      • Bonus tip: Check out Vistaprint.com and Artscow.com, both of which occasionally have fantastic deals on all kinds of fun things!
  5. Plan your release party!
    • Whether virtual or live, release parties take a lot of planning, and they can be extremely stressful — especially if you're trying to do everything last minute. Take your time to research ideas online, to plan your giveaways and activities, and to work up a schedule. Even though things likely won't go exactly as planned (no event ever does), having everything be decided, including back-up ideas, will help you enjoy the event rather than wanting to curl up in the corner and cry.*
      • *In theory. I'll be sharing my impressions and what did/didn't work from my virtual Facebook party after it happens. Meanwhile, wish me good luck!
  6. Take advantage of the resources available to you.
    • This is really a life tip more than an author tip. Between your personal network and the wealth of information online, you have access to more resources than you'd think, and possibly more than you need. Think critically about any advice, but otherwise, take advantage of other people's experiences, talents, and free online tools!
    • Specifically for authors: 
      • Do you have artsy friends? Ask them to help you design your giveaway items! Someone who's crafty? Ask them to create some unique, custom items for you. Even if you pay for the materials and, for instance, dinner for your friend, the items will probably be both more unique and less expensive than from commercial retailers.  Giveaway items can also be books donated by your publisher or by other authors — be polite, but don't be afraid to ask!
      • Do you need a 3D image of your book, but you only have a flat digital book cover? Check out this 3D generator; after uploading your images, you can rotate the book to get exactly the angle(s) you'd like!
      • Ask for tips from more experienced fellow authors. You can do this through social media, but also by reaching out to other authors who work with your publisher and/or agent.
  7. Don't try to replicate another author's plan.
    • This may seem contradictory to point 6, but you need to do what works for you, and for your books. Do grab ideas from other authors' experience, but make sure you tailor everything to match the theme and style of your book, and your own personality. Otherwise, you could be adding to your stress by forcing yourself to mimic someone else, and worse, your plans may feel flat and recycled to readers.

That's it for now, though I reserve the right to add to / amend this list in future posts based on any new experiences over the next few weeks!
Do you have any tips for authors getting ready for their book release? Share them in the comments!

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