Step-by-Step Activities to Launch a Novel
This will be an expanding post, following my steps as director of Crickhollow Books & Crispin Books to plan an actual book launch of a forthcoming novel – a lovely work by a first-time novelist. The diary combines standard release tasks, along with other activities and outreach special to this book because of the content, genre, etc. I believe this post could be useful for those planning to launch a book, a chance to see the process unfold as a sequential week-to-week diary. I’ll add detailed content once a week, along with an outline of coming activities. It represents the work that a publisher (in my case, a small indie press) undertakes to release a book.
And I’m happy to answer your specific questions along the way.
Summary of the Book Being Launched
The novel I’ll be launching is titled Phoebe’s Heron, by Winnie Anderson. It is a middle-grade historical novel, but potentially has an equal or larger adult audience. The protagonist is 12-year-old Phoebe Greer. As we meet her, she is just arriving with her family (father, mother, little brother, and nurse Daisy) at a mountain cabin, not far from Denver, Colorado, in the hope that the high altitude and fresh air will heal her mother’s tuberculosis. While Phoebe wants nothing more than for her mother to get well, she misses city life in Denver and her best friend Lisbeth, whose parents own Denver’s finest millinery store. Soon, however, she meets Jed, a local boy and bounty hunter for bird plumes to satisfy the fashion demand for feathered hats. They become friends, and Jed introduces Phoebe to the wonders of the wild environment. One day Phoebe sees a great blue heron in the creek. While she remains loyal in her friendship to Jed, she does not tell him about seeing this bird. Meanwhile, Phoebe’s mother will face the specter of death. It is a summer that transforms young Phoebe’s understanding of friendship, family, death, and the importance of doing the right thing.
The audiences for the book include traditional middle-grade readers and those who buy books for them: public librarians, school librarians, and parents. Also, the book has a strong element of depicting the beginnings of the Audubon Society bird preservation movement, so I am interested in reaching out to birders and Audubon Society supporters.
Publication date will be around Thanksgiving 2017, with books in hand around Nov. 1.
Author Winnie Anderson is first-time novelist. She is not shy, but not especially interested in social media activity. She is very happy to do school visits; was an educator herself. She will also do some outreach to local bookstores where she knows the staff. She has been living in Baltimore, but will be moving to Evergreen, Colorado, going back and forth this winter, eventually moving permanently to Evergreen.
WEEK 1 Activities
Kick-off Marketing Planning, 8/24/17.
I actually had a face-to-face meeting with the author. More typically I would do initial planning meetings on the phone or via email. (If you are self-publishing, you are both author and publisher. Try to be clear on the different hats worn by these two roles; try to maintain discipline in creating your book’s marketing plan and implementing it.)
This meeting is a time to solicit ideas from the author, and for me as publisher to prep the author on things he/she will be expected to do, things most beneficial if they come from the author. In this case, these are personal connections developed with local bookstore staff in Baltimore, MD, and Evergreen, CO.
Develop Basic Tools
Author Photos. Author has already delivered a set of good promotional head-shots. These are good in being sharp, and they avoid distractions in the background.
Cover draft. I have a draft of the cover, which we agreed represents the book well, with a nod to the tastes of the adult audiences.
Phoebe’s Heron has several spheres of audience.
The first is a local/regional market (in this case really two locales, as the author will be in Baltimore before moving to Evergreen, CO). In each locale, we’ll build lists for bookstores, media contacts, literary organizations and events, and Audubon Society chapters and other birding community contacts.
Second market is a national kidlit audience. This ranges from national review publications (Booklist, School Library Journal, Horn Book, etc.) and the diverse world of online kidlit bloggers (see more on bloggers below).
The third market is the world of birders and conservationists. This is a literate group, with participants very passionate about their commitment to this environmental movement. The book explores a period around 1900 during which the commercial millinery business comes into conflict with early conservation advocates, led by Audubon Society growth.
Identify Key Bookstores
We identified these influential indie bookstores: in Colorado: Tattered Cover (Denver), Hearthfire Books, Kappy Kling owner (Evergreen), Boulder Bookstore; in Baltimore: The Children’s Bookstore (Baltimore); in Milwaukee: Boswell Books. We’ve collected addresses, staff buyer names, and will share reaching out to the store. One key tool is to have a professional title info sheet and to have national trade distribution.
Boulder Book Store
1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado 80302
Also: KGNU is partnering with Boulder Book Store for a radio book club. Every month Arsen Kashkashian, head buyer at Boulder Book Store, will select a book to inspire the KGNU listening audience and Boulder Book Store customers to read along together. He and KGNU’s Maeve Conran will then be joined live in studio by the author for a book discussion. Click here to listen to past KGNU & Boulder Book Store Radio Bookclub editions in the archive.
Tattered Cover Book Store
(Multiple locations. Main store:)
2526 East Colfax Avenue
Denver, CO 80206
1254 Bergen Parkway , Suite D118
Evergreen, CO 80439
Located in Bergen Village Shopping Center
Call: 303.670.4549 Write: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Children’s Bookstore
737 Deepdene Road
Baltimore, MD 21210
Advance Access (ARC availability announcement program). We’ll also use a program available to IBPA members (Independent Book Publishers Assn.) to make ARCs available to ABA (American Booksellers Association) indie bookstore. Advance Access is a twice-monthly listing of ARCs available. The cost is $150, but only $75 to IBPA members. The publisher identifies a total number of ARCs available, then handles requests and ships the ARCs. The description should include: title, author, publisher, ISBN, subject category, publication date, the number of free copies to be offered, a maximum three-sentence description, and an email address to which the booksellers can write to directly request a copy.
Develop List of Audubon Society Chapters, Birder Networks, and other Conservation/Nature programs & publications.
Milwaukee: Schlitz Audubon Center; Evergreen chapter. Other Audubon site in KY.
Audubon chapters in region, and nationally.
Find publications; prep to send ARCs.
- Audubon Magazine.
- Sierra Magazine.
- Bird Watching Daily.
- Bird Watcher’s Digest.
Look for influential birders online, on Twitter & Facebook.
Identify Colorado Literary Organizations
Colorado has an active bookstore and literary scene; it also has a lot of tourism.
SCBWI Colorado. Announcements, group PR and cheers and championing. @SCBWIRockyMtn
Women Writing the West is a non-profit association of writers and other professionals writing and promoting the Women’s West founded by Sybil Downing and Jerrie Hurd. $65. Calendar year. 8547 East Arapahoe Road, Box J-541 Greenwood Village, CO 80112-1436 . http://www.womenwritingthewest.org. Offer a speakers’ bureau and links to members’ websites. A blog featuring writing by members on the Women’s West, along with member news.
Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association
The Reading the West Book Awards provide an opportunity to promote authors, increase book sales, expand reach, and create awareness … Nomination period: September 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016
Established review periodical for indie books. Based in Colo. “For 22 years we have published a book magazine with you, the discriminating book reader, in mind. We don’t plug the mega-bestsellers. We don’t push celebrity biographies or ‘how-to-get-richer-thinner-smarter-happier books.’ And we don’t hype books or authors that are reviewed in every newspaper and magazine in the country. You hear enough about them already. The Bloomsbury Review is simply lively writing about good reading and great writers.”
1553 Platte Street, Suite 206 , Denver, CO 80202-1167 USA. Tel: (303) 455-3123.
Identify Other influentials (writers, etc.)
Minnesota author, Polly Carlson-Voiles, worked briefly with Winnie Anderson on her novel. Carlson-Voiles is the author of Summer of the Wolves (2013), which grew out her longtime love of the wilderness country in northern Minnesota, her experiences with wolves at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, and her career of working with lost and found children as a secondary special ed/English teacher in inner city Minneapolis. She lives with her husband and dog near Ely, Minnesota, adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Her book got an excellent review from Kirkus Reviews.
Jeffrey A. Gordon Twitter: @jeffgyr . President, American Birding Association. Avid natural history fan, part-time pop culture maven, photographer, musician, and cook. Colorado Springs, CO, USA. website: aba.org
Other authors of Audubon topic.
Book Trade Review Periodicals
Book Reviews (post-pub, no ARCs)
The Horn Book
300 The Fenway, Palace Road Building, Suite P-311
Boston, MA 02115
Book Review Editor / Foreword Reviews (ARC, 1 copy)
425 Boardman Ave, Suite B
Traverse City, MI 49684
Dan Kraus, Books for Youth (ARC, 2 copies)
ALA Booklist / American Library Association
50 E Huron St
Chicago, IL 60611
SLJ Book Review (ARC, 2 copies)
School Library Journal
123 William St., Suite 802
New York, NY 10038
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (ARC, 1 copy)
Deborah Stevenson, Editor
501 E. Daniel Street
Champaign, IL 61820-6211
Bloggers & Review Websites
The Children’s Book Review. thechildrensbookreview (AT) gmail (dot) com . Colorado based.
The Storied Past.
Other bloggers of kidlit and historical fiction. (I have build up a good contact list of influential bloggers.)
Bloggers of birding community. Need to develop connections here.
Baltimore-based cable television show, Books Alive
If you would like to contact me, you can do so at email@example.com.
My passion is getting kids excited about reading and that’s why I do the children’s book recommendations for WBALTV/Channel 11 here in Baltimore (that’s our NBC station) and have a cable television show, Books Alive, for which I interview topnotch children’s and young adult authors and illustrators and folks from the publishing business. For those who are wondering how I got here, I’ve been an independent children’s bookseller and a children’s specialist at a public library. As an Army wife for 30 years, I raised my two children on three continents and as a grandmother of two I enjoy magical moments sharing books with children.
Literary and Birding/Conservation Events
Rocky Mountain Literary Festival, October 21, 2017, in Evergreen, Colorado. www.rockymountainliteraryfestival.org
Baltimore Book Festival. September 23-25, 2016.http://baltimorebookfestival.org/about-the-festival
http://www.baltimorebookfestival.com/applications/tablers-application . Tablers participate for one full day of the festival, 11:00 am – 7:00 pm. One 6 foot table, in a single line of other Tablers, all housed within a larger tent. Tablers will be located directly on the promenade, at an assigned table.
Great Backyard Bird Count, every Feb. (next GBBC, February 16-19, 2018). Great chance to promote this event, and look for ways to tie-in to the backyard birder enthusiasm, which fits the these of Phoebe’s Heron well. The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a free, fun, and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org. Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world. http://www.audubon.org/activities-during-great-backyard-bird-count
WEEK 2 Activities
Assemble Key Marketing Tools, 8/31/17.
ARC (Advance Reading Copy). It’s time to create ARCs (Advance Reading Copy), digital and some print copies (20–30). These will need to be send soon to advance review periodicals and other influentials (that you can help feel special by sending them this advance version of the book).
For digital copies, plan to make available through NetGalley. Either list on NetGalley through IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association): three-month listing = $199. Can also post to NetGalley through other coop programs; I’ve used Patchwork Press; cost is less.
For digital copies, find a low-cost printer. I’ve used Lightning Source in the past. Budget: $$200–$300, for book, envelope, postage.
[Note to self:] Explore Edelweiss, another industry-wide ARC platform. I find the costs to make titles available as ARCs unclear. For potential ARC readers, here’s a useful guide to Edelweiss for new users .
Title Info Sheet. I also call this a catalog sheet, or a sell sheet. It’s a 1-page flyer for the book to share with anyone: bookstore owners, potential reviewers, individuals. It describes the book, author credentials, core specs (ISBN, price, BISAC categories, distributors, etc.).
This is much like a catalog sheet, if you had a catalog with one book per page (common for frontlist titles by a publisher). I use a standard design format. This is where you describe the book, author credentials, core specs (ISBN, price, BISAC categories, age range, distributors (and how individuals can order). The narrative description might be around 200 words. The page also has book cover, publisher contact info, URLs for the title at the publisher website.
Press Release (draft). This is the time to start crafting a press release. While the Title Info Sheet is a product sell sheet, the press release tells the story: why the book will attract certain audiences, why the book was written, more about the author, and, yes, a description of the book. Along with a press release, you might start to craft a “pitch”; this is the short email with a “grab your attention” reason why a media person might want to read the press release and then ask to find out more about the book, to request a review copy, to book the author for an event, etc.
Fact Sheet. This is optional, but I find that every book has a list of cool facts, not well known, that may drawn media attention.
Handouts. I prefer bookmarks, as they are small and more likely to get used. Others may like postcards. Again, I have several standard designs. I most often print the handout items at GotPrint (good prices).
WEEK 3 Activities
Author Website, Long-Advance Pitches, 9/7/17.
Plan Goodreads activities. While we’ll use Goodreads more after the book is published, it’s good to get a listing up for the forthcoming title.
Plan author website.
Pitch main birder magazines.
WEEK 4 Activities
Author Website, 9/14/17.
Finish author website. The author website is now live www.WinnieAndersonBooks.com .
A basic author website can be simple yet effective.
Essential pages: Home Page, with strong identity of author, About Page, with more about the author’s literary background, My Book Page/Book Title, with info on the author’s book(s), Contact Page, with a form to accept inquiries, and a Blog Page.
Optional pages: Excerpt (for a bit or all of the first chapter). Calendar (especially if the author is very active in speaking engagements, otherwise I would just announce events as a blog post.
The Blog Page will be the place to enter updates on the book, publishing progress, early blurbs and praise, and so on. No need to blog constantly; you just post real news updates when you have them.
Your Blog Page can be the home page, but unless you are churning out lots of regular posts, it’s better to separate the Blog to its own page, and then have a strong Home Page with, according to sage website advice from Jane Friedman, 1) imagery and brief text that offer “clarity about your readership or audience—or who you’re addressing” and 2) “a focused and clear message you want to get across to that audience,” and information about your current book and how to buy/advance order it. Your Home Page is also a place for sign-ups for a email newsletter (ideally, you want to collect email addresses and send a monthly note about the book’s progress).
TO COME SOON
WEEK 5 Activities
Author Website, 9/21/17.
Create advance title information pages on publisher website.
Discuss launch party event with author. Begin planning.
Finish media, blogger, events list, and create spreadsheet to track outreach to these individuals and organizations. Begin to reach out to them.