Run the Race: 4 Product Launch Secrets You Need to Know

Karen Hardin Tulsa OK Christian Literary Agent Priority PR

You've heard the famous quote, "It's not about the destination, it's about the journey." True, but when you launch your book, your new product or your brand, the destination is pretty important.  

As a writer, for many of us it's about bestseller status and sales, because if a book doesn't sell, publishers don't want to invest in our next book with a contract. Make no mistake, status matters and it's a journey to reach that specific destination.  

This past week one of the books I've had the privilege to help launch, hit #1 in three categories on Amazon. That was the destination. This blog is about the journey and for the most part centers around Amazon.  

Rule #1 - Amazon Doesn't Play Fair - So plan accordingly 

I've had the privilege of assisting with the launch of numerous books over the years. Since Amazon started in 1994, it has been part of all my launch strategies and more now than ever before. Did you know that it has been estimated that 75% of all book sales happen via Amazon?  Like it or not, they are the major player.  

What I learned on this journey is that Amazon has once again changed their rules and patterns. They do it to prevent fake chart runs. But in doing so, they sometimes prevent counting real sales, real reviews and real opportunities. Here are some of the challenges we faced.   

1. They did not seem to adjust sales figures every hour as they used to. We had a giveaway in place. In order to receive the giveaway, the buyer had to place their order and then email us with their Amazon order #. That notified us each time a sale went through. The problem was I knew sales were happening because we were receiving emails and yet the Amazon ranking wasn't changing every hour to reflect sales. It was stagnant for the first several hours. That is a huge challenge when coordinating a Chart Climb as it does not allow us to monitor in real time transactions that may or may not be taking place. In this case it was like working blind. I didn't know where I needed to adjust the giveaway or how to instruct my launch team because I couldn't see what was happening in real time the day of the run. It forced me to keep tweaking throughout the day in hopes that I could keep the buzz moving forward.    

2. I know of 2-3 reviews that were posted that Amazon refused to post and gave the reason as their rules for reviews. The reviewers sent me their email with the refused review.  The problem was the reviews were all legit and hit within Amazon's rule structure. We could not find any rhyme or reason that the reviews were denied, and yet they were. Reviews matter. You want to have at least 25 in place the day of your launch which pushes you into a new marketing paradigm in Amazon. We were one short for half of the day because of Amazon's refusal to post two reviews. I had to keep working to find another reviewer on my team who had read the book and was available to post as quickly as possible. After you hit 25, you want to keep going. Hit 100. That put you into another paradigm.     

Rule #2 - Amazon Didn't Do What they Promised

1. In Author Central you have the ability to request two browse sets to be listed for your book. I refer to these as sub-category listings which provide authors an easier chance at hitting #1 in an Amazon category.  

Let's face it, with a couple million books listed on Amazon, hitting #1 in the General Book category is a pretty tough target. But hitting #1 in a sub-category is a goal that can be hit with a good marketing plan and timing your launch.    

For the Amazon "Run it Up the Charts" campaign I just headed up for the book "Four Secrets to a Forever Marriage", I turned in suggested browse set categories to the publisher three months prior to publication. The publisher graciously received my suggestions and submitted them. The problem? Amazon chose to use their own categories. That sometimes happens.   

No problem. As the writer on the book, I had back door access to an Amazon representative and went in as the author to request MY set of sub-categories or "browse sets" to be listed. These were much more defined than what Amazon chose. The change was made by the Amazon rep and I was told the changes would be in place in three days.  

They were, but they were STILL not completely what I requested, even though I was told I could set them and that they were approved. Grrrr...

(Note: "Four Secrets to a Forever Marriage" got down to #147 in General books before it ever went to #1 in sub-categories. That is because it was in a highly competitive category of marriage and love/romance. Let me say, that is not typical. Some books can hit #1 in a sub, even when the book is still up toward 250,000 in general books. Is that unfair? Yes, completely. But the point is, most books don't require the extreme number of sales ours did to hit #1. You can do this.  

Back to my first point #1 - Amazon doesn't play fair. They did make some revisions on my browse sets, which helped, but not all the revisions I requested. BUT let me say, it never hurts to keep trying. Don't give up. My changes that were accepted did help in our climb.    

#3. Multiply your Message with Social Media  

According to current statistics, 92% of people trust recommendations from family and friends on products. And 81% of their buying purchases are influenced by their friend's Facebook and social media posts.  

Make no mistake your launch team or lack of one matters and shows up here...big time.

The importance of those who will help get behind your book, product or brand makes a huge difference. The more shares, posts, tweets, blogs and pins that begin to generate with quotes from your book, a good review or endorsement--a well crafted post--can influence buyers.It usually takes seven impressions before a buyer will take action.  

We were very, very fortunate in the number of bloggers that chose to assist us with this launch. A few of them had very large followings of 100,000 and up, which was certainly a bonus. But even if your bloggers only have a few hundred followers, they can make a difference if THEIR followers will take a call to action to share the post and/or purchase. It is the effect of multiplication.

Facebook reposts, pins and tweets also all matter. Request that your friends ask their friends to repost. Get out beyond your local area. The broader your reach, the better your outcome. Prepare a good quote or post and ask them to reshare what you have created. Make it easy for them to help you.

#4 - Don't Stop after the Launch - It's Not Over

While your goal is to push sales through during a specific time frame the day of your launch, your goal should be ongoing organic sales. And if you do it right and continue your marketing efforts, you can continue your push after your Launch Day Run is over. 

How? By continuing to share great posts, statistics, and incentives to keep orders coming in until the book begins to build traction on its own. This comes in the way of articles, interviews, endorsements, etc. on the book and then sharing those on your social media sites and with your Launch Team. A launch team doesn't conclude the day of the release. It is an ongoing project for 4-6 weeks.

Enlist them. Help them to help you.

If you are on my launch team. Watch your email box for your next step. It's pretty simple.  

If you want to be on my next launch team. Email me to let me know. There is no better way to learn than to walk through it on a team. 

For the record, I don't share ALL my secrets for a launch here, obviously. If you want them all, you can hire me to manage your campaign. 

But I do share several that will help you develop a team and hopefully reach YOUR destination.

Enjoy the journey!


Karen Hardin - Literary Agent and Marketing Guru
PriorityPR Group & Literary Agency