Early in 2015, I was inspired to write a book that solved a very specific problem. After many years of launching and marketing products in B2B companies of all sizes, I noticed that, in most cases, they usually encountered many of the same stumbling blocks. These usually had to do with a lack of planning or reflection on their part before they went to market with them.
So, I decided to write down many of the lessons I learned and offer a roadmap that could help companies launch faster and with fewer mistakes.
The Product Launch Primer was born.
When I set out to write the book, I didn’t intend for it to be a big money maker. I really had two main goals:
1. To help small and mid-size B2B companies create more effective product launches.
2. To build my personal brand by demonstrating my expertise in this area.
So after many months of writing, editing, and late nights fumbling with my cover design, I finally completed and posted the book via Create Space and Kindle Direct Publishing in October 2015.
I read quite a bit in advance of the book launch to figure the best strategies for promoting it. I picked up many pointers and began to see several of the same themes emerge.
Needless to say, it’s been an incredible learning experience and it’s only just beginning.
So, about four months in, I thought I’d take stock and share my thoughts and findings to date.
Just to set the stage, I decided on a few main tactics to jumpstart the launch. They were:
- A five day free download period of the ebook on Amazon
- LinkedIn Pulse articles featuring excerpts of the book posted during each day of the free download period. These posts contained a call to action to download the book.
- A Slideshare presentation of key findings from the first part of the book, also with a download call to action.
- Posts on LinkedIn and Twitter
- A direct email to all of my LinkedIn connections inviting them to download the book for free
Here is what I learned so far:
Reaching out to my professional network directly was important
The first thing I decided to do was to send an email directly to the people I know best and ask them to download the book on Amazon for free. This helped to create awareness of the book among the people who were most influential in my career and created a critical mass of downloads on Amazon which assists with the promotion of the book on their site.
I sent the email on a Sunday morning, figuring that there would be less email traffic to compete with. And since, a lot of people use their personal email for their LinkedIn account, I knew they would get the email through a channel they would be likely to check on the weekend. This was important because I believed that they would then be in a better position to download the book immediately (i.e. at their home computer or personal Kindle).
This strategy worked. In the first hour after the email went out, about 10% of my list opened it. Within about a week, that jumped to 48%. It does make you wonder what happened to the other 50% of people you are connected to, but a 48% open rate is huge for any email and represented hundreds of opens in this case.
This effort alone resulted in 166 free downloads in the first five days. I also got several very nice emails from people I haven’t talked to in years. More on that in a minute.
LinkedIn Pulse didn’t help
As I mentioned, I created several articles based on content from the book and published them daily during the five day download period. Perhaps if I was a Linkedin Influencer with 200k followers, it might have gone better. But, these articles got very little traffic and generated no downloads.
Slideshare is phenomenal, just not for driving downloads
Four months in, the Slideshare deck below has generated over 650 downloads. However, book sales really don’t match that volume.
Social media is a little overrated
I followed all of the conventional wisdom and posted about the book regularly on LinkedIn and Twitter. Honestly, I could probably do with some more creative material when it comes to crafting posts and my Twitter following is not that large. I still got lots of click-throughs, likes and so on. None of that actually turned into downloads, though.
— Michael Passanante (@launch_catalyst) January 22, 2016
— Michael Passanante (@launch_catalyst) December 23, 2015
Everyone has a lead magnet
About a month after the book launched, I decided to make a PDF of the entire book and offer it for free on my website as another way to kickstart things. My website is very new and I don’t have regular readership, but I put it up there anyway and went into overdrive on social media promotion. This generated (drumroll)…..zero downloads. Not one the entire month.
I think I might try offering just a portion of the book to see if that has any additional appeal. But, I really do feel like there are so many sites with so many lead magnets out there, the whole situation is becoming diluted quickly.
Amazon is helpful
I’ve sold about 20 units in four months. At first, they were almost all print. Lately, it’s been the ebook that is selling. I’m seeing sales from various geographies which means that Amazon is helping to expose the book to people I wouldn’t ordinarily reach.
I found setting up the print and ebook versions very easy. The only drawback is that you don’t know who the books sold to. It makes it impossible to build a list you can use to communicate with readers directly. I did include information in the book itself so people can connect with me, but I haven’t seen anything materialize from that.
My price point is not optimized yet
I started out with a list price of $7.99. For a 100 page book on a niche topic, I thought that was reasonable. After a couple of months of slow sales, I dropped it to $6.99 to see if that would make a difference.
So far, it hasn’t made a difference in the number of units sold. But, as I mentioned earlier, I have seen a switch from print buyers to ebook buyers. Not sure if there is a correlation, but I’m thinking of raising the price again since the overall volume hasn’t changed. I might as well make as much as I can on each unit.
It’s hard to get reviews
Getting reviews on Amazon is supposed to help the book exponentially, meaning that Amazon will show it in results to more people.
I didn’t expect strangers to necessarily write reviews. I initially asked a few people from my network that I knew downloaded the book to write a review. Some agreed to. None have so far. I am sure they are just busy. Or maybe I need to be more aggressive with asking people. Either way, I don’t have any yet.
It helps to have a brand name
People who already have a platform have a much better chance of getting their book reviewed, getting great forwards written, going on podcasts and speaking tours, and, yes, selling books. That’s not me. At least not yet.
Shortly after the book published, I sent targeted emails to several podcasters in my space. On top of the book being published, I had recently won an industry award and been on two podcasts, so I felt pretty good about getting their attention. I never heard back from any of them.
While some of this might sound negative, none of it is bad in reality. I’ve learned an incredible amount in a short amount of time. And, I have ideas for how to improve on many fronts. Far from giving up, I’m ready to persist and keep trying to unlock the potential that I know is out there.
There is tremendous a amount of satisfaction in writing and publishing your own book. It has raised my own self esteem for starters. You’ll even begin to notice that your friends and colleagues look at you a bit differently.
About a week after I published the book, I caught up with some old college friends. When they asked me what I was up to, I mentioned the book. This led to a bunch of questions. They almost couldn’t believe it. Later, we were all driving to a game and one of them said, “Wow, you’re an author now!”. I never thought of it that way, but their perception sure had changed.
If your book is about something related to your profession, it just adds a degree of credibility you can’t gain any other way. You can include it on your resume, LinkedIn profile, biographies, speaking abstracts and so on. I’ve sent links to the PDF version of the book in LinkedIn invitations as a way to add credibility to my introduction.
Earlier I talked about catching up with people in my own network that I haven’t spoken to in some time. As it turns out, someone I hadn’t caught up with in about fifteen years sent me an email out of the blue introducing me to someone at MarketingProfs who was putting together a new course series. The content of my book happened to line up with one of the topics in the series and she asked me to create a class for that topic, which I happily did. Now, I can count myself among the many incredible marketing professionals who are instructors for MarketingProfs!
In my research, I read several times that the best way to sell your first book is to write your second one. And that’s what I’m about to do. Stay tuned!