Today’s guest post is a follow-up article from our friend, Victor Prince, a consultant and speaker who teaches strategy and leadership skills to clients around the world, sharing the very different experience he had when launching his second book from his first.
I published my first book last summer. The launch went better than I dreamed, entirely due to the help of my publisher, my co-author, and wonderful websites like this one that were willing to help. (Thanks again for your kindness in letting me submit a guest blog, Tara.)
I was recently inspired to write a leadership fable as a short story. I self-published it as a 22-page novella on Amazon. It’s about a team of corporate executives who think they are headed to a golf resort for their annual retreat but are going to work a dairy farm instead as a team building exercise. It was my first stab at both fiction and self-publishing. I was excited and confident.
Then I self-published it and realized how different that experience was versus working with a publisher and co-author. I did my homework, so I didn’t make obvious mistakes, like not hiring an editor to review my manuscript.
I was very happy with my book content. I was not happy with what happened with my launch.
Here are the 5 mistakes (or misfortunes) I made in my first attempt at launching a self-published book.
- Publishing on LinkedIn – I published my original story as a five-part series over a week’s worth of posts on LinkedIn. I’ve had a lot of luck publishing blogs and building a reader base on LinkedIn, so it was a comfortable choice. I knew it was a non-traditional format for that channel, but I thought that it might give the book more chance of going viral, with each day being an opportunity to catch readers’ attention for all the other days. Unfortunately, the story got little traction after I published it. Worse, because I had published it, I could no longer submit it to other channels as original content.
- Timing – After I did research on the self-publishing route and cleared it with my literary agent, I decided to go with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program. I got caught up in formatting and reformatting different versions of the PDF as I loaded it into the system. I was excited when I finally got it exactly as I wanted and I hit the button. I didn’t realize that as soon as I did that I also put it on sale on Amazon. Unlike my first book, I didn’t give myself an advance release date to do guest blogging and other things to promote the book’s launch. I suppose I could have taken it down and started over, but I just left it up and decided to do a crash course promotion over the next days. I mapped out a plan and decided to make the best of it. Wednesday, April 20th, wasn’t the publication day I would have picked on purpose, but it was the day I had.
- Tragically Bad Luck – I have several websites that are important parts of the platform I use to promote my work. Ever since I built those, I’d gotten a small but steady flow of traffic of people looking, not for information about me, but for a celebrity with whom I share a name. It took me a while to figure out the inbound traffic to my sites from searches for “the sacrifice of victor prince” wasn’t from people seeking to do me harm, but from people looking for a specific song by a great artist. I was about to start promoting my web page with links to the book on my social networks when I heard the tragic news of Prince’s death on the radio. After I got past the shock, I realized that my book launch plans were also a tiny collateral victim of that tragic loss. What had been a constant trickle of traffic to my site looking for information about Prince became a tidal wave. Because I didn’t want to look like I was trying to benefit from the tragedy, I canceled my plans to promote my book via my websites.
- The Chicken vs. Egg Limbo – I was inspired to write the book as an homage to my uncles who let me spend my summers as a kid “helping” them on their dairy farms. I wanted the book to have success and good reviews before I presented it to them. But without a launch, I had few initial readers. And with few initial readers, I didn’t want to present them a book that looked like a dud. More importantly, since the book’s characters were inspired by them, I didn’t want them to think it was a statement about them. I was in limbo.
- Printed Copies – If my uncles downloaded the ebook on Amazon, they would see the lack of reviews. I figured out an alternative plan – I would get some printed copies that I could send to them. I chose the on-demand printed publishing format Amazon has and was excited until I found out that my book was 3 pages below the minimum to produce printed copies. So much for Plan B.
I have yet to figure out the best path forward from this bungled book launch. Three random readers that have found the book have taken the initiative to email me with great feedback, so I am confident in the story. I am just sad about my failure to launch it. I’m sure many stories better than mine have died quiet deaths, and I fear this one might as well.
About the Author: Victor Prince is a consultant and speaker who teaches strategy and leadership skills to clients around the world. Victor’s book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results, has been named a Top 20 semi-finalist for 2016 Leadership Book of the Year. See Victor’s other posts on his LinkedIn blog, such as “Lessons Dairy Farming Gave me before my MBA” and “5 Project Management Lessons From my Camino Across Spain.” Victor’s latest book, Executive Farm: A Leadership Fable, is available on Amazon.