Why Most Authors Get Book Launches Wrong & What We Can Learn

In the past week, I’ve had multiple conversations with authors about book launches. They’ve said things like, “How did you do that?” or “My publisher would never go for that.” And that, in the words of Yoda, is why you fail.

Why Most Authors Get Book Launches Wrong & What We Can Learn from This
Photo Credit: Let Ideas Compete via Compfight cc

Launching something isn’t about satisfying the status quo. It’s about exceeding expectations. And most people refuse to do this because they’re afraid. Sadly, the fear leads to the very thing they’re trying to avoid.

If you’re going to get people to care about your book, your business, or even your blog, you’re going to have to do more than satisfy them. You’re going to have to wow them. Which means you must make them sit up in their chairs and say, “Really?!”

Just the other week, Jon Acuff did that when he broke the cardinal rule of book publishing and gave a free digital copy of his book to anyone who preordered the hard copy.

This isn’t supposed to happen. Books come out on their publishing dates, not months before. But it did. And Jon’s readers rushed to order the book so that they could start reading now. That’s the kind of thing that gets people talking.

Another example was when Bob Goff announced at the end of his bestselling book, Love Does, that every penny spent on the book was given to charity (including the publisher’s cut). When did Bob announce this? On the very last page of the book. It was an added delight, not something you expected going into it.

How to know you’re on track

For my upcoming book launch, I’m doing something super crazy that almost feels too risky. In fact, I’m a little bit scared it won’t work or that it’ll blow up in my face. But this, friends, is when you know you’re on to something.

When it feels like you’re about to be too generous, it’s time to lean in and give even more. Because nobody talks about normal. People talk about stuff that wows them. And the best way to stand out is do something unexpected.

So what does that look like?

First, you have to realize that you don’t get to decide what remarkable looks like. Your audience does. They will tell you when you’ve really done something incredible.

Second, you have to identify what normal looks like. In other words, what is expected? You can’t hit “wow” until you know what people want.

Third, you’ve got to go for broke. Meet expectations, then do something that totally blows them away. And find ways to keep doing that as you go.

To see what big thing I’m doing for my next book launch stay tuned! Tomorrow I will send you an email with some huge news. Make sure you’re on the list.

What have you done that feels too risky? Share in the comments.

32 thoughts on “Why Most Authors Get Book Launches Wrong & What We Can Learn

  1. Interesting post. I have a book coming out this fall and so I am very interested in hearing what others are doing/have done. Mine is just a small run but still, of course I want to sell books! I look forward to reading others’ comments to see what they are doing and you Jeff are the ultimate in what you do so I can’t imagine what it will be, but I am sure it will be good!

  2. Risky? TOO risky? I once traveled to India knowing I’d change my name and come back wearing orange robes. My parents pretty much disowned me. Suffice to say I discovered who my friends were. Re publishing, I’m launching an experimental essay soon and I’d love to go overboard. Thanks, Jeff, for the reminder to go brazen or go home. And in the process discover once again who my friends are.

  3. I started a blog about getting more out of life, embracing creativity and personal development. It felt risky to put my words and art out there in the public domain. Especially since I’m still a full time police chief. And I started this venture with the intent of building a future business around it. But it sometimes takes intelligent risk taking to grow.

    1. Hi John. You are very right. It does take intelligent risk taking to grow. Risk of alienation from peers, ridicule from those too frightened by life to move away from their comfort zone. But if you’ve ever read the book about the 5 most common things people say on their deathbeds, you’ll know why what you do is vital.
      Follow your true purpose and with it will come true happiness and peace.

  4. Great post, as always.

    Risky: publishing my first book last year (Zondervan, check), trying to make room in the ‘day job’ of brain surgery to blog (check), podcast (check), and write a novel (check).

    Terrifying: Ignoring your heart and continuing to ‘play it safe.’ Someone recently asked me how to persevere when his entrepreneurial efforts seem to be going nowhere.

    I said, “First, quit unless you’re doing it for the love and not the money. Absolutely quit unless your heart tells you you have to create or die inside. Then you won’t care about the money. Second, read everything Steven Pressfield has written.”

    Thanks Jeff for showing us all there’s a way to follow your heart AND be successful.

    Still loving Tribe theme, by the way.

    Oh, and boy did I learn a lot about publishing! Take-home message: Your publisher, agent, editor, etc. are great, but your book’s success ultimately comes down to how hard you’re willing to work after its release.

  5. Risky?! Hmmm, traveling to North Africa against my parents’ wishes when I was in my early 20s. As far as book marketing, one risky thing I did was ask for the sale during a Facebook party I ran on my birthday for my second YA fantasy novel. It’s often hard to share with the world what you want for your birthday and I did it!

  6. Thank you, Jeff, for not only teaching us such valuable lessons, but for modeling them, as well. You have become my “go to” blog and podcast because you back up amazing knowledge with authentic living. You truly practice what you preach. For me, that is the most important part.
    I don’t want to speak out of turn, but for anyone reading this, you REALLY want to get on the email list. I have the honor of being on his launch team, and let me just say that this book is blowing up our group! People LOVE it. Jeff has shared just a few fun things that are coming up, and it is flat-out awesome. You’ll want to get on the inside loop. Trust me!

  7. Risky was moving to another state with only $80 in my pocket.
    I did take the good advice and offer a weekly newsletter to my readers as an email capture technique. I wasn’t sure how it would be received, but it’s going great. Thank you, Jeff, for your timely advice – I always love hearing from you!
    This year…..my first book. Boy, I’m nervous! 🙂

  8. At 64 I am leaving my past businesses and have launched into the world
    of marriage enrichment. I think there is much from my past to aide more
    couples than I have so far.

    My dad was married 7 times and my
    mom 3. I have been married for 40 years to the same woman (she is very
    understanding). My quest is to assist young husbands as they teeter on
    the brink of wonder and bewilderment through marriage. They are also
    curious as to the life choice they made with one woman for life. I want
    to extend hope and opportunity for a remarkable life filled with more
    ups than downs.

    My book “Cracking The Marriage Code” is
    self-published and the initial center piece for my work. I am eager to
    learn more as to how to do a complete book launch. Of course as others
    have noted, I want to sell books. More than that I want to shout loudly
    that you do not have to endure a marriage, you can enjoy a vibrant
    exciting life even one filled with pot holes on the road of life.

    Jeff, you are such an inspiration to so many folks. Thank you for your open view into your heart.

    This is risky to share my hopes with your fans!

    Jerry Stumpf – Marriage and Romance coach

  9. Risky.
    I’ve only helped someone else do something that seemed risky.
    Our local librarian is a great book launcher for local writers. She recently held a book signing for a writer friend, in which she decorated the entire library to resemble a plant nursery, because the book, a historical romance, took place partly in a plant nursery. Every person in town (a small town) had brought in their house plants and other potted plants for decorating that event. The refreshments were hand-made and extensive. The librarian and I, and a few other helpers, including our local sheriff, all wore period costumes.
    It was a huge success–the writer sold about 160 books that night, which were THERE, available, pre-ordered, because this crazy 73-year-old librarian of ours just knew it would be a hit. Which I did not know, but came along, as a friend, out of pity.
    Opened my eyes.

  10. When I published my first e-book, I set the price as “pay what you want.” I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

  11. I’ve done a few things that feel pretty risky, but the most recent (just a few days ago!) is giving up a solid, reliable, well-paying gig to focus on my copywriting business & writing career. It wasn’t really the “right” time, but then again, when is it ever truly the “right” time?
    I’ve cycled between elation and despair a dozen times since making this decision, going from “I’m probably going to be homeless by this time next month” to “now that I have time to focus on my business, I can double my income!” Who knows how I’ll be feeling 5 minutes from now? : )

  12. Thank You Jeff for the inspiring email, this is the best post of 2015 for me. In my own attempts to do something risky, i have collaborated with my readers to include their unbiased and UNEDITED reviews inside the book because many readers feel that NY Times and USA Today sort of reviews are paid for or biased but basically don’t provide the most trusted opinions. I’ve also included what readers thought the book was lacking and also the 3 star opinions as well as the 5 star ones. Hope readers like the drift.

  13. OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can’t wait 😀 – thanks for this tantalizing teaser 😉

  14. There are days when I think im crazy to quit a full time job to be a full time story teller, but more days of remembering that the world needs more honest story tellers encouraging change. Risky, scary, rewarding all at once.

  15. Made a purposeful decision to downsize my business for a better quality of life. Less money but less stress, better relationships and focusing on writing and making a career from that.

  16. Risky. Wow. Leaving my 27 year career in Film and becoming a commercial pilot at 50 only to quit one year later on finding that it was far from the dream existence I thought it would be. Walking away from a 26 year marriage that was never right. Starting a new business making wooden speedboats. All risky. But risk is life. I guess it comes down to this. Are you committed to having the most extraordinary life you can, or just interested? One uses strategies. the other, excuses.

  17. Risky. Moving from Kenya to Sweden 2 years ago. Deserting my HR career and training. Starting a blog last year. Paying top dollar to revamp it for this year (instead of shopping). I’ll be moving to Florida to do an MFA in Creative Writing in June. Will definitely publish a book soon. Thanks for the post. Have ordered your new book but can you ship to Sweden?

  18. Love this. Super helpful Jeff. My latest self-published book is coming out this month. I made the decision to make it available for free for the first 5 days. I have a few people calling me crazy but there is a strategy behind my madness. 🙂 Being generous and adding value is one important part of the strategy. I also don’t see the book as the final destination for my audience. It’s the gateway to more…

  19. Powerful stuff, Jeff. I’m cheering for you all the way. I have supreme confidence that whatever you’ve got planned is not only meticulously well thought-out but will also dazzle. So excited for you!

  20. I have written a spiritual novel that it is also an historical novel developed in the XIII th Century in Spain. In order to write the story, I actually walked 400 km around montains from Teruel to Toledo (the same pilgrimage that the main character walks in in the book). When I promote the book in Spain and tell the story of my walking pilgrimage and they go: Wow!

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