Whether you’re self-publishing a book for the first time or you’re a veteran indie author, the idea of launching a book is always going to be a little daunting. After all, there are a lot of moving pieces and you only get one chance to make a first impression (though, that’s not strictly true these days — more on that later).
The good news is that at Reedsy, we’ve helped over 10,000 authors bring their books to market. And in this guide, we’re going to share some of their best tactics. We’ll give you a straightforward plan for launching your book and reveal where Reedsy Discovery can give you a much-deserved boost. But if you just want a rough idea of timings, you can head to the bottom of this post to find a suggested timeline.
Step 1: Writing and Editing
☐ Have you written an awesome book?
Your whole self-publishing adventure will hinge on one thing: will readers love your book and recommend it to others? If this isn’t the case, no amount of advertising and PR can help it.
☐ Has your manuscript undergone developmental editing?
If this is your first book — or your first time writing in a new genre — then hiring a developmental editor might be the best money you’ll ever spend. They’ll work with you on improving the big picture (structure, outline, pacing, characterization, dialogue, etc.).
☐ Have you worked with a copy editor?
Copy editors are there to ensure that your audience gets the very best reading experience. They’ll root out your writing tics and help you refine your prose into something your readers will lap up.
☐ Has the final version been proofread?
Nothing can ruin a reader’s experience like typos and grammar errors. A professional proofreader can help eliminate that problem.
Step 2. Book Design
First impressions matter. If a reader doesn’t connect with your cover design, then chances are that they won’t read the synopsis or preview the first chapter. With indie publishing, almost all sales take place online so your design will be doing almost all the heavy lifting when it comes to first impressions. On Reedsy Discovery, your cover will be vital for attracting reviewers and getting readers to upvote and buy your book.
☐ Is your cover design fully legible as a thumbnail?
In most cases, your cover will first be seen as a thumbnail (small image) alongside many other similar designs. At this size, it needs to legibly present the title and author name. That is the absolute bare minimum a cover should achieve.
☐ Does the cover reflect the tone of the book and its contents?
It’s no good having a beautiful cover if it entirely misrepresents what your book is about. That will lead to some seriously annoyed readers. To properly signal what the book is about, the cover artist needs to know your genre and its current market trends and be able to present readers with something that feels both familiar and unique. Hiring a professional cover designer with experience in your genre is the best marketing investment you can make.
☐ Has your manuscript been typeset and formatted for ebook and print on demand?
Don’t forget about interior design! Free formatting tools are available to typeset your book, but if your project has quite specific design needs (think art books, cookbooks, or books with complex graphs and tables), consider working with a professional layout designer.
Step 3. Pre-Launch Marketing
While Reedsy Discovery can help you boost your visibility at launch, It’s important that you start connecting with readers and growing an audience well before then. So what can you do to achieve that?
☐ Is your mailing list set up… and growing?
What’s better than getting someone to buy your book? Getting them to join your mailing list! That way, you’ll be able to let them know every time you launch a book.
The best way to grow a mailing list of relevant readers is to offer them some free content (prequel novella, character backstory, checklist, template, free video course, etc.) as an incentive to join your list. To find out more about how to set up and grow a mailing list, take this free Reedsy Learning course.
☐ Have set up your book on pre-order on all major online retailers?
Pre-orders allow you to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing efforts in the run-up to the launch. Anytime you update your mailing list or post on social networks about your upcoming book, you can include a link for people to immediately pre-order.
Pre-orders are particularly powerful on the Kobo store and Apple Books, as every pre-order sale there has twice the impact on bestseller rankings (compare to a regular sale after launch day).
☐ Have you contacted potential reviewers and sent them an ARC?
Reedsy Discovery is the perfect avenue to secure a high-quality review before your launch — but you shouldn’t neglect other reviewers. They could be book bloggers, local reporters, or even readers on your mailing list who ready to leave you a customer review on launch week.
Contact these readers and reviewers well ahead of time and send them Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) so they can start reading!
Step 4. Submitting to Reedsy Discovery
Reedsy Discovery is a service that helps authors connect with readers and readers. It offers you the chance to get a write-up from an experienced reviewer and be directly promoted to fans of your genre on Reedsy’s ever-growing list of keen readers.
Here are some of our top tips to give you the best chance of securing a review, being promoted, and getting the attention of Reedsy’s army of hungry readers.
☐ Have you identified your genre?
First-time authors, especially novelists, often struggle to define their book’s genre. Your book might have magical elements but also feature a lot of romance and actually appeal primarily to fans of romance. If you choose ‘fantasy’ as your genre, it will be made available to our pool of fantasy reviewers — and have a greater chance of getting passed over, or worse, receiving a bad review.
One way to figure out the best genre for your book is to think of comparable titles. In which categories/genres do these titles show up on Amazon? In which section are they shelved in bookstores? From that, you’ll have a better idea of which genre to choose when submitting your books to Reedsy Discovery (and setting up your book with retailers).
☐ Have you started your synopsis with a compelling hook?
To give you an idea of what reviewers are facing when they’re choosing what books to review next, we’ll give you a peek behind the curtain.
This is the reviewer’s dashboard, where Reedsy Discovery reviewers browse all the submitted books that are awaiting review. The thing to note is that they will make a snap judgment based on your title, the cover design, and the synopsis.
From the dashboard, the synopsis gets cut off after around 23 words (if they click on the synopsis, it will expand to full-size). If your synopsis is just a methodical explanation of the plot, that’s a wasted opportunity.
Instead, craft an irresistible hook to capture reviewers’ attention and make them desperate to find out more. For tips on crafting a hook (and the rest of your Discovery synopsis), check out this article on writing book descriptions.
☐ Is your sample chapter compelling and appropriate?
If a reviewer is intrigued by your short synopsis, their next step is to click the ‘Read Book’ button, which will let them read your sample chapter before committing to review the book.
To continue our fishing metaphor: if your synopsis hooks the reviewer, then your sample chapter is going to reel them in. While you can paste in any sample chapter you want, we recommend you use your first chapter, or your prologue. Otherwise, reviewers might be confused when picking up your book for review. You don’t want to confuse your reviewer.
The sample chapter doesn’t have to be strictly a chapter. If you want to use only a section of the chapter as your sample, by all means, go ahead. The one thing we’d encourage you to do is to triple check that sample has no typos and is representative enough of the rest of your book.
☐ If you’re co-ordinating a big launch, are you submitting your book early enough?
Regardless of whether you’re submitting your book for review on Reedsy Discovery or with the New York Times, you should send your Advance Review Copies months in advance of your launch. On Reedsy Discovery, a reviewer might love your synopsis and be desperate to review it, but an imminent deadline will put them off.
Submitting your book on Discovery a couple of months in advance improves your chances of it being picked by more reviewers. And perhaps, most importantly, it will give you time to make changes if something isn’t working with your book’s submission.
To illustrate: say that I’m launching my first novel. I’ve submitted it on July 1st with an eye to launching it on October 1st. July comes and goes and I notice that no-one has offered to review it. What does this mean?
- Is the cover not appealing to reviewers?
- Is the synopsis weak?
- Have I chosen the wrong genre?
- Could it be the title?
Considering how I’m relying on all these elements to sell my book once it’s launched, there may still be time to fix the problem. Perhaps I’ll test out a new synopsis, tweak the title, or commission a new cover. By submitting my book to Discovery far enough in advance, I can still tweak those elements to see if I get a better result.
Of course, Reedsy Discovery is only one part of a healthy book-launch diet. And to help you put together your own plan, here’s an example of what a book launch timeline could look like.
Example Book Launch Timeline
Your own personal timeline will depend heavily on the nature of your book and how time-sensitive your launch is. For the best chance of
6+ Months Before
- Identify your audience. Find out how
- Create your social media accounts. Find out how
- Set up your author website. Find out how
- Set up your mailing list and start building it. Find out how
5 Months Before
- Consider working with a publicist on your PR plan. Find out how
- Finalize your cover design (you’ll be using this on all your marketing efforts). Find out how
- Finalize the copyediting, proofreading, and formatting of your manuscript. Find out how
- Research retailer categories, keywords, and other metadata elements impacting discoverability. Find out how
4 Months Before
- Send your ARCs out to blogs, local papers and literary journals for review. Find out how
- Assemble a street team from your mailing list, online connections, and close friends. Find out how
3 Months Before
- Submit your book to Reedsy Discovery. Find out how
- Create additional marketing assets, including your author photo and bio. Find out how
- Set up your book on pre-order on all major online retailers. Find out how
- Send your ARC to members of your street team so they can start preparing reviews.
2 Months Before
- If your book hasn’t been selected for review on Reedsy Discovery, consider optimizing your cover, synopsis, and genre selection.
- Start hyping your book with your mailing list (cover reveal, chapter reveal) and remind them to pre-order your book.
1 Month Before
- Check in with your street team to ensure that they’ve read your book and are ready to post their honest review on Amazon when you launch.
- Keep teasing your mailing list about your upcoming launch.
- Consider setting up Facebook or Amazon ad campaigns to promote your pre-order and start testing ad creatives. Find out how
- Send an email blast to your mailing list and contacts. Get them to mention your book on Social Media.
- Remind your street team to post their honest reviews and ratings on Amazon.
- Share the positive response you’re getting on social media.
- Get your fans to upvote you on Reedsy Discovery, and promote your Discovery page as much as possible through social networks to increase the exposure you get from our algorithms.
- Try Running Facebook and/or Amazon and/or Bookbub self-serve ads to promote your launch. Find out how