© 2016 Daniel Arenson
This summer I released Earth Alone, the first novel of my newest indie-published science fiction series, Earthrise. In its first seven weeks, the novel sold over 20,000 copies and received millions of page reads in the Kindle Unlimited library.
Before the launch, my goal was to hit Amazon’s military science fiction and space opera bestseller lists. By following the steps below, I hit #1 on each of these lists. I’m writing this post for other authors and book marketers, explaining why I think this book launch was successful. I hope it helps!
Here are the steps I took to prepare for and promote this book launch:
1. Designed an eye-catching cover
When readers are browsing Amazon and come across the thumbnail, I want them to pause and take a closer look. I hired artist Tom Edwards to create Earth Alone‘s cover. I showed him examples of bestselling science fiction covers (especially in the subgenres of military science fiction and space opera) and asked him to create something similar. The cover also clearly shows what genre it is, making sure I attract the right readers. Get a great cover; readers do judge a book by its cover.
2. Crafted a catchy book description
I worked through various iterations of book descriptions. Friends read them and helped me choose, then I polished the right one. I wanted every sentence, every word in the description to excite the reader. I didn’t try to describe the entire plot; you can read the book for that. I did try to make the novel sound like a great read. Here’s the description I’m using:
They came from deep space. They came to destroy us.
Fifty years ago, bloodthirsty aliens devastated the Earth. Most of humanity perished. We fell into darkness.
But now we rise from the ashes. Now we fight back.
Marco Emery was born into the war. After his mother is killed, he joins the Human Defense Force, Earth’s ragtag army. Emery must survive basic training, become a soldier, and finally face the aliens in battle.
Against the alien onslaught, Earth stands alone. But we will fight. We will rise. We will win.
If you loved Ender’s Game, Battlestar Galactica, and Old Man’s War, you’ll love Earthrise, a new military science fiction series. From a USA Today bestselling author.
3. Assigned a clearly defined genre
I wanted to make sure I reached avid science fiction readers without confusing anyone, especially since many people know me for my fantasy novels. Some novels expertly blend genres, but that can make marketing more difficult. I wanted Amazon’s recommendation engine to recommend Earth Alone to readers who enjoyed successful science fiction novels such as Constitution, Fluency, or The Martian, not just to my fantasy readers. Science fiction fans, more than my existing fantasy readers, were likely to purchase the book, recommend it, review it, and hopefully make it look enticing to Amazon’s recommendation engine.
Therefore, everything about Earth Alone — from the cover to the blurb to the story itself — says “science fiction.” The novel and series title hint at a galactic war. The cover features a spaceship. The blurb describes an alien invasion.
Even if your novel includes elements from various genres, I find that it helps to choose one genre and market to those readers. You want a great view-to-purchase ratio on your book pages on retailer websites. I find that retailer algorithms favor pages with high conversion rates. Clearly defining your genre helps you achieve this.
4. Hired a professional editor
If you work at a traditional publishing house, you’re probably working on a book with an editor. For indie authors, it’s critical to hire your own editor. You want your novel to be as professional as any book out there.
I worked with Victory Editing and had two editors there read the novel — one who proofread it, the other who did a typo-sweep. I also had an author friend do a thorough beta read, where he caught other problems. I wanted the book to be so polished it shines.
5. Sourced early reviews
My readers and I socialize in a Facebook group called The Dragons of Darkness. To get some early reviews, I asked readers in the group if anyone wanted an Advance Review Copy.
Two weeks before the book launched, I emailed digital ARCs to 40 readers. I used a service called BookFunnel which helped my reviewers load copies onto their Kindles. About half of them posted reviews on launch day. I also had a few author friends read the book and offer short quotes, which I pasted into the “Editorial Reviews” section of the Amazon product page.
6. Selected relevant keywords
Amazon’s KDP interface offers a keyword field. It’s important to choose good keywords for your novel. These serve two purposes:
* They help users searching on Amazon find your book.
* They help your book reach extra subgenre categories.
I chose keywords for Earth Alone such as “alien invasion,” which I felt best described the novel.
7. Launched an email campaign
I’ve spent a long time building up my mailing list, which currently has 15,000 members. On my website, I offer three free novels to anyone who signs up.
Also, on the last page of every one of my novels, there’s a link to the signup page.
On launch day, I emailed all of the subscribers on my list. I included the book cover, the blurb, and a contest to win a framed poster of the artwork. I sent a reminder email the next day, again promoting the book and the poster contest.
Focus on building your mailing list. It’s one of the best marketing tools you have.
8. Launched the book at low price point
I launched the book at $0.99 to gain high visibility early on. Within a week, I raised the price to $2.99, but launching at a lower price helped me hit the Amazon bestsellers lists on day one, then stay there.
9. Ran a contest
With my book launch, I ran a fun contest, gifting a reader a framed poster of the cover art. I promoted the contest in my mailing list, on social media, and on the first page of my ebook. I used Rafflecopter to collect contest entries, and readers got extra entries for tweeting the contest.
10. Ran a BookBub Ads campaign
I ran a BookBub Ads campaign (this is separate from a BookBub Featured Deal). For this campaign, I used graphics I created myself in Photoshop. I targeted this ad to fans of science fiction authors who write in a similar style. I budgeted $50 a day for the ad, and I chose a high maximum CPM ($7.50) to make sure I could get many ad views. This got me many extra clicks to the novel’s product page on Amazon.
11. Published a good novel
Okay, I know I shouldn’t extoll my own virtues too much. But I think a key component of Earth Alone‘s success is that the story is good. I think it has a sympathetic main character, colorful secondary characters, a solid plot, nasty enemies, and some heart and soul. Ultimately, points 1-10 are just about leading the horse to the water. To get the horse to drink, that water needs to taste good.
As a result of these efforts, during its first month Earth Alone sold 10,000 copies, received millions of Kindle Unlimited page reads, and hit the Amazon Top 100 bestsellers list. In the following month, it went on to sell an additional 10,000 copies, still riding the high visibility from its successful launch.
I hope this will help when you launch your next book!
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