A guest post by writer Desiree Villena
All romance authors want readers to fall head-over-heels in love with their newest publication. And while marketing a book is a long-term commitment that evolves over time, authors who plan to self-publish shouldn’t underestimate the power of their novel’s launch day. This is the day your novel is brand new — which gives it a certain appeal right off the bat.
This is not to say that an underwhelming launch spells doom for your book’s future. But a strong launch can certainly drum up some momentum and help connect a steady flow of readers to your Happily Ever After! With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you prepare for your romance novel’s launch.
1. Identify your target audience
It might sound dramatic, but basically all of your marketing success hinges on your ability to understand your audience. Say you’re in a room with 100 people, and 20 of those people enjoy books like the one you’ve written. Tying to convince all 100 people to buy your book will almost surely result in a huge waste of your time and less-than-promising sales. You might end up making your pitch to the room in general in order to try and catch the attention of as many people as possible — only to wind up totally losing the interest of those already-hooked 20.
Now say you walked into the room and spent your time focusing on those 20 people right away, letting them know specifically how your book matches up with their interests. You’d likely walk away with more readers, and your valuable time would have been much better spent! So before you start marketing, ensure that you know who your intended audience is, and begin putting your efforts into connecting with them.
Let’s break things down a little further. One great way to figure out who your target readers are is to create a “proto-persona” — in other words, a hypothetical reader who will be interested in your romance novel. Jot down a few things about this reader, including:
Of course, an exercise like this does often lead us to rely on stereotypes, and it’s obviously ideal if your book connects with all kinds of different people. But as an indie author with limited resources, coming up with a proto-persona can be a good way to make sure you’re using those resources efficiently. That way, come launch day, your marketing efforts will be directed towards the people who are already receptive toward and enthusastic about books like yours.
2. Have a great looking cover
The cover of a book does a lot of heavy lifting. It tips people off to its genre and nods to major story elements. It can be hard to get right; it needs to be distinctive and memorable, while also adhering to industry standards. This is especially true with romance novels, a genre with so many different niches and subgenres. It’s important that your cover is not only professional-looking, but that it also includes the markers that readers of your genre or subgenre are looking for.
Have you written a super-steamy romance? You’ll want a suitably sultry scene on the front cover. Should your book be listed amongst modern women’s fiction like The Kiss Quotient? Then adhering to the new trend of illustrated figures on your cover will likely be the best route for you. Is it a historical romance? Two people embracing in timely garb will fit the bill.
The tricky part isn’t figuring out which trends fit your specific brand of romance — simply head to Amazon or your local bookstore and scan the aisles, and you’ll likely see certain elements crop up again and again. The bigger challenge is figuring out how to make your book stand out. (For instance, with an animated book cover?) For authors who go the self-publishing route, the job of emphasizing the unique qualities of your romance without your cover being “too busy” will fall to you — unless you hire a professional cover designer, of course.
So apart from ensuring that your genre is made clear on the cover, try writing a list of the other important elements at play in your novel. What’s the setting? What’s the nature of the romantic relationship — is it a slow burn or fiery love affair? Is there an important scene that takes part in the rain? On a boat? At the airport? Find a way to represent just one or two of these key elements on your cover.
3. Ensure your mailing list is set up
If you’re planning to publish one book and then retire from writing right away, you can feel free to skip this step. On the other hand, if you’re looking to make a career out of writing romance novels, then setting up a mailing list is a vital part of your launch plan!
A mailing list is a list of people who have agreed to receive communication from you by giving you their email address. The bigger your mailing list gets, the easier the job of marketing your next book. That’s because, by the time your follow-up title hits stores, you will already have a list of people to whom you can promote your book — people who’ve already expressed that they want to hear from you.
However, you should do more to maintain your mailing list than just sending out emails each time you publish a new book. In between publications, you might tease tidbits from your upcoming titles, give reading recommendations, or whatever else you think would appeal to your audience.
You can also feel free to play around with the frequency of your newsletter! If you send out a biweekly email and notice a bunch of people unsubscribing, try a monthly email instead and monitor what the reaction is to that.
When it comes to attracting people to your mailing listing in the first place, reader magnets can come in extremely handy. On your blog or author website, offer an incentive — whether it’s the first chapter of your book for free, a giveaway draw, an infographic of the 100 best love affairs, or anything else that might strike the fancy of prospective readers. Let people know that, in order to receive the incentive, they need to sign up — hence, the offer attracting them like a magnet.
4. Have reviews ready to go
It’s a big moment to have someone land on your book listing; it means something has compelled them to investigate your title further, and maybe even buy it! If your book cover and book description entice them, their next step is likely going to be scrolling down to the review section to see if other people have read it and what they thought about it. Social validation plays a big role in the purchaser’s decision-making process, so before you launch your book, make sure you’ve already got a couple of reviews at the ready.
There are a number of ways for you to secure these important pre-launch book reviews, but here are the two main avenues:
With these four tips in mind, you’re all set for a swoon-worthy launch day! We know that many romance writers tend to be prolific, and there’s no time like the hot-on-the-heels period following a successful launch to publish another book. So don’t forget to set aside time to do what you do best, and write another romance for all of us to get lost in.
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world's best resources and professionals. She’s very passionate about indie publishing and helping authors reach their dreams! In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading fiction (especially contemporary romance novels) and writing short stories.
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