Launching the first novel

July 17, 2017

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How different can launching a novel be from launching a nonfiction book?

I’m about to find out.

The Lazarus Door book cover mockupI’m getting ready to launch my first novel, The Lazarus Door — after finishing the launch for my fourth nonfiction book, Writer Overwhelmed! I was so nervous about launching my first novel that I went ahead and submitted my book to Kindle Scout.

I thought, “Hey, if Kindle Press wants to publish a novel, I can just lean back and let them handle it. They know how to launch novels.” And while Kindle Scout had the novel, I worked on Writer Overwhelmed! and my beta-readers had a month to read the novel and get back to me with their feedback. It worked out well.  

Except now I’m still faced with publishing my first novel and I’m wondering what I should do differently from the way I’ve been launching my nonfiction books.


Book promotions

These are the promotions I lined up for the launch of Writer Overwhelmed!

  • Book Marketing Tools’ quick promo submission tool ($29), which submits my book to 29 different promo sites in a few minutes for the first two days of the launch (which is when it will be free).
  • James Mayfield promotion ($13) — scheduled for July 18th (the first of the two free days).
  • KD ROI for June 20th –which is when the price will go up to 99 cents.

I used these three promotions for my last book — Writer on a Budget — and had the best launch, yet, with over 1,000 downloads on the first free day.

That may not sound very impressive to someone who was used to having multiple thousands of downloads during the discounted launch period, but it’s progress for me, so I’m grateful for it. I’m speaking as an author who published her first book less than a year ago (October, 2016) and who doesn’t currently have an email list, though it’s something I’m working on.

This approach to book launching isn’t terribly ambitious, I know. I remember paying for several Fiverr promo gigs for my first book, which is still selling well but which had a more or less lackluster launch compared to later ones (with zero spent on Fiverr promos).

I’d sign up for Buck Books (they were a big help with my first book), but they require a professionally-made (non-Fiverr) book cover, and I designed my own.  They’re not perfect, and a professional designer might be able to create something better, but I can’t afford to pay $100 for a cover right now, and I’m having too much fun designing my own.

Here are some other things I did to build buzz for Writer Overwhelmed! — before launch day.

  • I involved Facebook friends in the making of the book’s cover and kept them posted on its development.
  • I also involved them in the phrasing of the book’s subtitle.
  • I prepared to make my blog more helpful to fellow writers — writing more posts, getting it set up for more traffic (finally getting a sign-up form ready for an email list).

This time, using what I learned from Nick Stephenson’s free book, I also created a reader magnet that anyone peeking at the first few pages of Writer Overwhelmed! can download for free. Soon, I’ll be able to use that as a way to get more people signing up to my email list, but for this time around, I just wanted to provide an extra bit of value to those checking out the book.

Writer on a Budget reader magnet cover

Click here to get your free copy of this reader magnet (pictured at left), and if you get a chance, I’d love to know what you think of it. 

I also invited readers to this blog and added a widget where visitors can sign up to at least receive an email every time I publish a new blog post. The aim right now is to keep creating blog posts that make visitors want to read new ones when they’re published.

It’s not the same as an email list, but it helps. 

Promoting Writer Overwhelmed!

Besides the promos I’ve lined up, here’s what I’ll do to help spread the word about my book for launch week:

  • FB posts — sharing affiliate links to my book on Amazon, especially during the free and 99 cent days
  • Sharing on Twitter — same as for Facebook
  • Continuing to build and contribute to a growing and supportive community of writers on Facebook and with my blog

Launching The Lazarus DoorThe Lazarus Door book cover

As someone publishing her first novel, I wasn’t sure if I needed to do anything differently. Here are some of the ideas I’ve read about — mostly on Derek Murphy’s website, (I’ve linked to the relevant post):

  1. Doing a giveaway of my novel and other novels (those I’ve read and recommend) in the same genre — to make more people aware of the novel and to build my email list
  2. Writing book review blog posts about a number of other novels in the same (or close to the same) genre — offering a brief teaser for each novel and providing links to each and to the authors’ websites — and promoting it widely with a tantalizing graphic (designed on Canva, of course)
  3. Reviewing those same novels on YouTube (a bit squeamish about that one).
  4. Breaking the novel into teasers, add pretty graphics, and share them on social media on the day or days before the launch.
  5. Creating Amazon ad campaigns for the novel, with at least 300 keywords each and starting with low bids, just to make the book more visible from the day the novel goes live on Amazon and up to launch day — and then raising the bids as the price for the book goes up and according to their performance. KDP Rocket and KD Spy are both great tools for finding keywords for ad campaigns. is a free tool that you can use to find books related to your own and see a network of books related to those, providing a ton of title and author keywords. 
  6. Sending ARCs out to everyone who shows interest in reading the book and ask them to please review the novel if they enjoy it. It helps if you send out or post reminders on launch day, so they can take advantage of free days or 99 cent days, download a shiny, new, improved copy of the novel and (hopefully) leave positive reviews.
  7. Use keywords in your book’s description on Amazon, so your book will be more likely to appear in the search results when people who might like your book go searching for something good to read.

Whether you use Instafreebie or Bookfunnel to share your ARCs, it’s up to you if you want to pay to collect their email addresses (only the paid version of these services allows you to do this) or just send out the link and let your ARC readers download their copies without giving you their email addresses. If you’re wanting to build an email list, though, and you have some ideas on goodies and helpful tips you can share with your email list, it’s probably worth the upgrade to collect those email addresses.

Full disclosure: I haven’t done this, yet. I didn’t have the email list ready, and I had a full plate and just wanted to get the ARCs out, so I set up my Bookfunnel link and was grateful for every beta-reader who asked for one. I’ve made it a tradition to include the names of my beta-readers on the Acknowledgments page of my books. I also do what I can to help them promote their books. It’s all part of building and contributing to a supportive community of fellow writers.

Of course, you also want to attract more readers, but being part of a supportive community of writers (who tend to also be readers) can definitely help with that, too. Your beta-readers, who may come from this community, may be the first to review your book, which helps encourage more readers to buy your books and (hopefully) leave positive reviews when they finish reading them.

Once I set a release date and then a launch date for The Lazarus Door, I’ll work on some of the book marketing suggestions in that final 7-item list. I’m not promising to do all of them (and I’m unlikely to do the YouTube thing), but I’ve already done numbers 5 through 7. So, I’ll pick at least one of the others and get it done. Then, I’ll let you all know how it went.

Thank you for reading, and have a great week!


*Note: This post contains affiliate links to the Amazon books mentioned.


By Sarah Lentz

Writing and designing book covers are two of Sarah Lentz's favorite things. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, their four kids, and two messy but adorable guinea pigs.

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