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As a public relations agent and a book launch strategist, I’ve seen many authors dream of having their books become bestsellers. I’ve also seen most of them resort to common book marketing strategies, like getting their book mentioned in a top-tier magazine or choosing a niche Amazon category.
So, let me tell you the story of how I discovered it and the results it brought to my agency’s biggest book launch campaign to date. Spoiler alert: The book hit No. 1 bestseller on four lists: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
The book launch challenge we were facing
It was November 2022. I had just become a brand-new mom with a 1-month-old baby while my PR agency was working on the biggest book launch project we’ve ever taken. We had a really good starting point: The author that we were working with is Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, who is a co-founder of Mindvalley and wrote the book Becoming Flawesome. She had a decent following on social media — enough to sell the book, but not enough to truly reach the bestseller numbers.
Our initial bet was on attracting some huge platforms, from well-known media to huge influencers. Seeing the results of our efforts come in very slowly, I realized we needed to change the approach.
Traditional promo tactics focus on superficial metrics. I believe the world of book marketing is filled with too much nonsense — outsmarting the algorithm, shady category hacking schemes and fake publications in vanity media. Nowadays, all you need to do to become an instant bestseller is to toss your book into some strange Amazon category and voilá.
Hacking your way to the top of the Amazon search results might get you a bestseller badge, but won’t guarantee genuine readers. Did you know that even if a book spent a minute on the top of the category, it’s technically already a bestseller in that category? With this launch, we were after reaching real people, not just meddling with the algorithms.
Six months before the launch date, I made a bold decision to heavily invest in relationship-building for this book campaign, building a community around the book’s central idea.
What does it mean to build a community around your book?
Building a community around your book means creating a group of people who feel connected to the book’s idea — a community that is genuinely interested in what the book talks about and excited to read it — as well as a club of advanced readers and a group of early advocates who’d spread the word.
Focusing on individual connections with people who would be genuinely excited to read the book was a bold move. In the busy ever-moving online world, you are looking for strangers that you think would be interested in the book, vetting their content, reaching out, establishing warm connections and getting them on board to promote the book.
You feel like going one by one you are completely wasting your time.
Of course, we were not talking to individual readers, but rather with bloggers, podcasters and other opinion leaders who can drive some excitement and bring their followers on board for the launch.
Here are the numbers we were able to hit with this micro-influencer strategy in six months:
- Kristina became a guest on 90 podcasts.
- She was featured in 90 vlogs.
- Her book was promoted in 300 articles on blogs of all sizes.
You might have heard that the ideal community size is about 100 to 120 people. So, we had Kristina speak with about 20 of her closest contacts. This is crucial, as those are the people who would become her top supporters. To create an even bigger reach, four of our team members focused on talking to 100 to 120 people each.
These numbers might still seem out of reach if you are an individual author working towards promoting your book. However, not every book needs 480 features. Sometimes, getting the author on 20 to 30 key platforms is more than enough. As an author, you just need to find the strategy that works for you.
This promo campaign started a few months before ChatGPT and AI-based tools blew up, and halfway through the campaign, we started implementing AI tools to find relevant micro-influencers, acquire their contact details and make the first connection. After that, a real person would pick up, because warm real relationships turned out to be the key. If you are an author promoting your book without the support of the team, AI tools can make a huge difference in how many people you can engage.
In Kristina’s case, this shift in our approach to her book launch campaign led to her becoming a four-time best-selling author.
Fewer shortcuts, more connection
Here are a few things I would strongly recommend if you are working towards the book launch:
- Separate your promotion period from the launch period. No matter if you have a team or you’re going solo, writing a book and promoting one are very different kinds of mindsets.
- Give yourself at least three to four months from completing the final draft until the launch date. This time allows you to build those real relationships or get your existing connections on board to support you with the launch.
- Don’t chase after influencers with huge numbers, focus on people you you know would 100% resonate with your message.
- Create an advanced readers club: It might look just like a Telegram group or a WhatsApp chat where you give people “behind the scenes of your launch progress.” It goes without saying that personal connection is a first step before adding contacts to advanced readers. Those would be your closest supporters.
- Give your advanced readers early access. This is the genuine way to get Amazon reviews on day one of your launch. If they’ve read a few of your chapters or a whole book before the launch, you can ask them to drop a review within the first 24 hours. Amazon would reward you with better visibility.
A genuine community that’s truly interested in your book’s message is more valuable than any shortcuts or tricks, even if it’s a small group of people. These real connections with your readers will take you much farther in the long run.