How I messed up my launch, and what you can do to avoid it

Ten days ago, Starting Chains came out. I’m still kind of recovering from that. It was a hard launch.

I mean, it was a really freaking hard launch. When I published Station 86, everything seemed to go like clockwork! All of my e-book launches have run smoothly, and I haven’t had a worry with them.

I don’t know if it was because Starting Chains was bigger, or if God decided I’d had it too easy, or if it was because I got cocky. But this launch went sideways really, really badly.

And to be honest, I don’t have anyone to blame but myself.

So I wanted to share with you what went wrong with my launch for three reasons. The first is that I want you all to know that I’m not perfect and that I mess up hardcore sometimes. The second is that I want to be able to print this out and stick it somewhere visible so that I remember what I’ve learned the next time I’m going to launch a book. The third is that I’ve learned a lot from this botched launch. Hopefully, you’ll learn from me, and not make these mistakes to start with.

I also want to point out that, as dumb as I was, I did manage to get the book out on the date I announced. So I’m also going to list the ways I kind of righted the ship.

What I did that was stupid

I announced the launch date before everything was ready, and really most of my issues stemmed from this mistake right here. I said the book was coming out on September 8th before I had things like a cover or a solid plan to publish the physical book. Before I had a cover turned out to be the big thing.

I had a friend make the cover for me. Unfortunately, that friend, well, life happened to that friend. It’s not in any way his fault, and I don’t blame him for not being able to finish the project. But I was left, two days after the due date he and I had discussed months before, with no cover at all.

Fortunately, another friend stepped up and made the cover for me. But he couldn’t do a graphic image, which meant that it didn’t look good when rendered in print. Which means that the cover, if I had printed the book, wouldn’t have been a high enough quality.

I didn’t do hardly any of the promoting that I wanted to do. I wanted to do a Thunderclap, and do a launch kit for a ton of blogging friends. I wanted to create some wallpaper images to give away, and maybe even make one of those cool book trailers I see people do.

But all of that should have been done months ago before I even announced a freaking launch date! Once again, I didn’t give myself enough time to get done what I wanted to get done, largely because I didn’t have a cover ready.

I planned the launch for a time I had to know I was going to be busy. Like, the second freaking week of school! Which means that I was promoting while I was on vacation, shopping for school supplies, getting my kids back into the swing of things. Even if I had gotten the cover in time to properly promote, I don’t know when I would have slept.

I didn’t research my plan enough. I thought that, because my first book had been inexpensive to print, this one would be, too. I was wrong. The cost of printing through Amazon was going to be almost $16.00 per copy! Which meant I would have been charging at least $17.00 just to make a profit after shipping. I couldn’t do that. So now I’m going to be researching printers.

I didn’t have money set aside. Especially not after back to school and vacation ate up all of my money for a while. So I wasn’t able to really order copies of the book, even if I did print them because I couldn’t afford to!

What I did that was smart

I got the e-book out, instead of scrapping the whole thing. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t fun, but I did do it. And I think the cover that my friend made turned out really great. It took some late nights, but I did manage to at least get the damn book out.

I kept my cool, for the most part, which is why anything got done at all. Now that the dust has settled I’m looking back kicking myself. But while I was in the thick of things, I just did what I could every day, as much as I could, and let the rest go.

I didn’t go complaining online. And I’m not really complaining now. I’m not bemoaning about how terrible this was, I’m learning from what I did wrong. Admitting that you screw up isn’t bad. Bitching online is, especially when launching.

I upped my social media presence before the launch, even if I didn’t do as much as I wanted. I was on a few podcasts, had a few interviews. I was posting a lot more on Facebook and Twitter, to make sure no one forgot that the book was coming out. I put in the time, and hopefully, it got the word out.

I made some neat graphics months in advance, which you might have noticed. These took a little time to make, but I used them for two months!

I bowed out of my launch event as gracefully as I could. That wasn’t a fun call to make, but I made it. I explained to my contact at my local book store that I couldn’t justify putting an expensive book I wasn’t happy with on their shelves, and that I hoped they would allow me to reschedule. They took it well and agreed to reschedule with me.

What I learned from this experience

Don’t announce a launch day until everything is damn well done. I can’t stress this enough. I will never, ever, announce a launch date until every damn thing from the book to the cover to the graphics is done!

Work with professionals. Which isn’t to say that my artist didn’t do a good job. But I need a graphic artist to do a cover. I might even hire someone to put together my e-book and physical book for me, just to give me more time to advertise and write. I think that the money would be worth it.

Schedule life first. Don’t schedule launches during busy seasons. It’s a simple as that.

Start promoting as early as possible. I started three months early, but I started without proper tools in hand.

Give people lots of time to help you. I had a launch squad of willing people to help, but I couldn’t get the info to them fast enough. Many of them had to bow out, and I don’t blame them.

I can always promote when the books already out. Which is what I’m going to be working on the next few months. I’ll be doing some major promoting during the holidays, for instance. I’ll be getting the book into the hands of some critics, and hopefully making that book trailer I wanted.

Keep calm, and it’ll work out for the most part. This is probably the biggest lesson I learned. I messed up, but the book’s out there now. No matter how bad you mess up, you can always make it right.

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