5 Essential Self-Publishing Book Marketing Tips for Your Mystery Novel’s Launch Day
by Desiree Villena
There are few things more exciting than the day your book is finally out in the world. All that time and work you’ve put into making it the best it can possibly be—from research and the writing itself, to implementing feedback from beta readers and professional editors—and now all that’s left is to sit back and let readers have it. It’s a heady mix of thrills and nerves, much like a good mystery novel. But before you sit back and consider this case closed, there’s still one very important part of the publishing process left: creating a solid marketing plan for launch day.
So what goes into an effective marketing plan? Let’s break it down.
Laying the groundwork for a successful launch starts long before the actual release date. In fact, the more effort you put in now, the bigger splash you’ll make come showtime. And it all starts with building hype.
One of the best ways to generate buzz is with your cover. We’re visual creatures, after all, and compelling covers are an easy way to grab a reader’s attention. Of course, the best way to ensure you’ve got a killer cover is to work with a talented cover artist who knows the genre you’re writing in. Some of them may even provide you with “teaser” images that you can use, so make sure to ask if they offer any promotional graphics. If working with a professional isn’t in your budget and you’re going the DIY route, make sure your cover conveys a sense of danger or disturbance. No matter which path you choose, always take a moment to hunt for clues on what cover styles are popular by browsing through the bestsellers in your categories on Amazon.
Once you’ve got the cover nailed down, it’s time to decide how you’re going to unveil it. A guest post is a popular option, using a larger blog’s audience to drive traffic to your own work. But even if you can’t swing that, make sure to hype up the cover reveal beforehand. Small images that show only a taste of the design, sprinkled onto your social media accounts in the days leading up to the reveal are a fun way to get the word out.
And while you have the attention of readers, make sure you give them something to do with their excitement! Call them to action with…
It works for the big publishers and it works for us self-publishers, too. Preorders are a great way to give your launch a boost in rankings.
Most of the platforms you’ll be looking to release your book on offer preorders these days, so it’s a waste not to take advantage of them. Preorders not only capture sales through early hype of your book, but start building your sales rank before it’s even released. Coupled with a cover reveal, this can lead to some encouraging early numbers, positioning you even better for the boost you’ll capture on launch day.
But there’s another advantage to preorders, and that’s being able to play around with your book description, categories, and keywords before your book goes fully live. For a few weeks before launch day, you can gather data on what draws readers to your book on Amazon—and what doesn’t—giving you an inside edge for when your sales really kick off in earnest.
You can set up preorders on Amazon up to 90 days before a book release, but most people recommend a few weeks or a month at most. That’s enough time to experiment and build some early ranking, without starting to lose momentum for launch day itself.
Now that you’re driving traffic to your book, it’s time to make sure those visitors become readers.
Here’s the hard-boiled truth: nothing drives sales better than reviews. But if your book is brand new, how is anyone supposed to have read it in order to leave a review?
The answer, of course, is to provide reviewers with advanced copies. And advanced copy—sometimes called an Advanced Reader Copy or ARC in the traditional publishing world—is simply that: an early version of your book, that you give away for free in the hopes that the people you’ve given it to will leave you a review.
Now, it’s important to note that if you do set up your book for preorder, your reviewers won’t be able to leave their early reviews on Amazon until release day—but at least they’ll have read the book and have their review ready to go. Additionally, early reviews can be posted on Goodreads in advance, and you can quote the best ones under the editorial review section of your book’s page.
You can reach out to reviewers individually, or you can use a service like Reedsy Discovery to put your book in front of a whole team of reviewers specifically interested in self-published books.
Alright, so now you’ve got people reading your book in anticipation of launch day. What do you do when launch day finally arrives?
One of my favorite advertising methods is to use “email blast” services. There are literally hundreds of these available, though obviously not all of them are as effective and reputable as others. They also work best if your book is on sale, so you’ll want to use this mainly if you plan to launch your book at a discount.
Email blasts also tend to work best if your book is a standalone, the first of a series, or your debut novel — basically, any situation where there’s not a built-in fanbase already eagerly anticipating launch day. Email blasts are an excellent way to boost your initial ranking and get your book in front of a lot of people all at once. BookBub is, of course, the king, though you’re not guaranteed placement, and you do pay accordingly.
But even if you can’t land a coveted spot among their subscribers, you can still build an email blast launch strategy. Scheduling several smaller lists will give you a couple of boosts throughout the first week, which tells the sales rank algorithm that you’re doing well, putting your book in front of still more readers on Amazon search results.
Of course, not everything can be automated, and there’s still no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and doing the work. Which is why you’ll want to cap off your launch day with…
For the best visibility on launch day, consider going on a good old-fashioned blog tour. Several weeks before your release, make a list of blogs that might be a good promotional opportunity for your book.
Not sure what kind of sites to approach? Book review sites that post about your genre are always a good bet, but if you really want to dig deeper and think creatively, try putting together a reader avatar. A reader avatar is a stand-in model of what your typical reader is going to be like — their age, gender, interests, and income, among other things. Then, you can consider what topics would appeal to them, and can craft a series of guest posts toward sites targeted there, in order to entice them toward your own work.
Even if you’re not going to go that extra step, though, make sure you book has at least a few guest appearances on blogs or even podcasts that align directly with your book. These can be as simple as release day announcements if you’ve already developed a relationship with the host, or range from interviews, to sneak-peaks, to posts on news going on in your particular genre.
Whenever you approach a site owner, though, remember: the more prepared you are to do the work, the more likely they’ll be willing to listen. Just saying “I want to appear on your blog but don’t have any ideas” isn’t anywhere near as likely to succeed as, “I have a guest post on [relevant topic] that I think would be a great fit for your readership.”
With these tricks at your disposal, it’ll be no mystery why your launch day kicks off with a bang.
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She tries her best to avoid using terrible tropes.