STANDSTILL: launch lessons learned

Updated: May 3, 2018

On Friday 6 April I released the first novel in my Jake Tanner series, STANDSTILL. Prior to this I had already published a prequel novella in August 2017. I haven't actively been promoting the novella because, at the time, I just wanted to put something out there, so there was something with my name on it that I could use in group/joint promotions etc.

But Standstill is the big dog, the first full length novel I'm going to be pushing hard and running advertising on it. It is the first in the series, after all.

The plan with this launch was to release Standstill at 99c/99p everywhere for the first four days (Fri-Mon), and then offer the prequel novella, An Unlikely Betrayal, for free. All readers had to do was send me their receipt and I’d send them the Bookfunnel link.

So, now that the context is out of the way, I'll start with the launch plan and what I did.

Launch Plan:

  • T-minus 2 weeks: submitted the manuscript to ARC teams.

  • T-minus 2 weeks: organised paid book promotions with the following: BargainBooksy, Book Sends, and Book Runes.

  • T-minus 1 week: sent the first Chapter of Standstill to the rest of my mailing list.

  • T-minus 5 days: experimented lightly with BookBub Ads explaining Standstill was available for pre-order.

  • T-minus: 0 days - launch day - sent my street team the email asking for reviews; sent mailing list email telling them Standstill was live.

Now lets look at that in more detail:

ARC Teams - at the time I sent Standstill to them, I had approximately 80 readers on my street team. Of those 80, 78% downloaded - which equates to 62 humans. I sent it to them with exactly two weeks to go, thinking it would be enough time for them to read. In most cases it was - within a few days I had some members telling me how much they loved the book and that they had stayed awake until the early hours of the morning to finish it. All very humbling and flattering, I know. I made sure to respond to these people thanking them, and letting them know I appreciated their support and feedback. When it came to launch day, I sent out the email relatively early on in the morning, and received 4 reviews on the UK store, and then 8 on the US store on Amazon; 1 on iBooks; 1 on Barnes and Noble; 3 on Goodreads. So, out of those 62 that decided to read the novel, about 36% of them reviewed. I didn’t think that was too bad - obviously, it’s not the sort of results I was after, but still. At least there was some social proof on there for when others decided to buy the book.

Promotion Sites: as stated above, I aimed to do a “double-whammy” launch strategy, if you will, by reducing the price of the new novel then making An Unlikely Betrayal free to those who actively wanted it. (On launch day I did some paid Facebook Advertising promoting this special offer). When it came to paid book promotion sites, however, here’s how the numbers crunched: I ran all of the promotion sites on launch day (6th April) - something I’ve learned from already (more on that later).

I purchased slots with the following: BargainBooksy, BookSends, BookRunes. In total, the cost of these three sites came to: $162.25, and the estimated reach was about 500,000 readers, I think. In addition to this, I also paid the $49 for an express review from Readers’ Favorite. Anyone familiar with the service will also know that they send out your book and book review in a daily email. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), mine was scheduled for 1st April, a week before launch. This potentially meant that everyone who did see that email had forgotten about it when launch day came around. Nevertheless, it was “free” in a sense.

Here’s what one of the emails from BargainBooksy looked like (mine was at the top):

As far as Ad Copy goes, I’m not an expert, but I tried to get in the hooks, social proof, and everything else I could think of in order to get as much attention as possible. In addition, I don’t think the cover is all that bad so that should also add to the sales “package”.

So let’s look at the number of sales I made over the launch weekend:

Because I had organised the promotion sites to hit at once, I received a huge spike in book sales on April 6th. 145 copies, in fact, on the first day - something I’ve never been able to amass with An Unlikely Betrayal which has been available for 6 months prior. The day before the launch, I received 20 pre-orders, and then sales did admittedly drop off after that point, to 30-40 for the final two days of the launch weekend.

Here’s a screen grab of the opening weekend’s sales.

One thing I was proud of was reaching #2,572 in the paid store on I watched the rankings like a hawk, and on the Saturday, in the US, Standstill was ranked No.1 New Release in Financial Thriller (see below), something which I never imagined I would see.

That’s good, but what about An Unlikely Betrayal?

One thing I was surprised to learn was that, despite the promotional offer to receive An Unlikely Betrayal for free, many people still purchased the novella. And, when it came to how many readers sent me their receipts: I received a total of 12 people emailing me their receipts claiming their copies. A little disappointing statistic, but overall I was satisfied with how that aspect of the launch went.

What about revenue then? Did I earn enough money to quit the day job/university?

In short, no. My BookReport dashboard says I’ve made a total of $111, which is made up 325 sales over the launch weekend till the time of writing (11th April). On my D2D dashboard that number is sitting at $20. And then Kobo Writing Life is telling me I’ve £8 in royalties.

So, in total, I’ve just about broken even with the expense of the book promotion sites. And that doesn’t include Ad spend. Over the course of the launch weekend, I spent £80 on Facebook and AMS advertising.

All in all, not a profit, but now that Standstill is at its regular price of £3.99/$4.99, I can hopefully expect to be seeing more royalties coming in, and a better ROI. I like to think it was a good launch, but then what do I know? I’ve only released one book properly. Of course, I’m still new to all of this and I’ve got a lot to learn, like:

  • Not to organise three promotion sites for the same day, and to stagger them instead so that it maintains momentum;

  • Vet my ARC team so I don’t have freebie seekers on there, and replace them with people who will actually want to review my books;

  • Be more strategic with ad spend;

  • And, heavily consider placing the Jake Tanner series into Kindle Unlimited, so that I can focus on point four more easily;

  • Build more buzz with my mailing list of 1,500 people (not big by any means, but I’m getting there).

  • To use social media more - I am terrible at doing it, especially when it came up to launch week. I even had to get my editor and dad to tell me to post about it. It’s something I’m going to be working on this year…

Some final thoughts before I go:

I know it may not sound like success in many respects, I still consider the fact that 325 people have purchased Standstill, and are now reading it, pretty astounding and that’s what I love about this writing career. Not to mention, I felt immense pride when I saw the excellent reviews coming in on Amazon et al. It made me feel so good - if only I mentioned that on social media. Hmm… Onwards and upwards to the next book in the series.

Thanks, and I hope that’s helped some of you with your decisions. If you’ve got any similar stories then let me know!

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