Announce your book like a wedding
How many people were at your wedding?
20? 100? 200?
Think back to the process of building that invite list. There were the obvious choices: Parents. Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. You may have had some debate over who would be the best man or maid of honor, who would be a groomsmen/bridesmaid but, again, there was no question as to whether or not those friends and siblings would "make the cut." It was just a matter of where they would stand in a line.
Keep going down the list. His friends. Her friends. Parents' friends. People on the bubble - like your best friend from 2nd grade who you haven't talked to in 20 years. Would it be weird for them not to be invited? Would it be weird for them to be invited? Or how about the new co-worker who sits next to you. Last week you split a Domino's one-topping pizza. Does that qualify as a wedding guest?
You put together the invitations. Physical invitations. You built an Excel spreadsheet of physical addresses. You bought stamps and licked envelopes. Repeat, you licked over 100 envelopes! You paid more on all of this than you're comfortable admitting in public.
But there was no question for anyone who opened that envelope whether or not you wanted them at the wedding. You're invited. We want you to be here. Now do you want chicken or beef?
Sure, some people couldn't make it, but the majority of people listed in that Excel spreadsheet showed up. People traveled across the country to be there. Hundreds of dollars on flights. Another hundred on a hotel room. And then they bought you a waffle iron on top off all that!
But what if you did the invites like this
Imagine, instead, you did no physical invitations. No emailed invitations either. You just posted one thing on Facebook/Instagram:
We're getting married, June 15th, hope to see you there!!
Hope to see who there? As someone reading that post, how do I know if I'm specifically invited? Will the bride and groom know if I'm there or not?
If there are any potential conflicts in the schedule, it's probably easier to just skip the event. I mean they're not counting on me being there, right? I didn't get a specific invitation...
Book Publishing vs. Wedding Planning
It would seem weird to announce a wedding this way. But when it comes to announcing a book, this is the norm. Writers will post the Amazon link on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and have a little blurb like: "Really excited to announce..." or "Proud to be a published author! Here's my new book."
Then what tends to happen is the new book sells 5, 10, maybe 15 copies over the next four months. And the writer is left wondering, "What happened? I did everything I was supposed to do. I posted on social media. I even did an ad on Facebook. How can I have 1,200 friends on Facebook, 1,000 LinkedIn connections, the post itself got 300 likes, but only 8 copies sold of my book? How? It doesn't add up."
It goes back to the wedding invitation. You would have more people show up to a wedding if you invited 50 people directly vs. advertising the event to 500 people without any personal invitations. The same rules apply with publishing. Your first 100 fans should be invited to be part of the release.
I mean you could even use the same Excel spreadsheet from your wedding. Send them something about the book. Either physical mail or save money with email.
The people who were willing to travel to your wedding, book a hotel room are probably also willing to click buy now on Amazon. People who wrote a $200 check as a wedding gift are probably comfortable spending $20 on your book. The co-worker you split a $10 pizza with, chances are they will spend $5 for your ebook.
But they have to be invited. They have to know, "Hey, it would mean a lot if you read this book." "I want you to be there." For some of them, maybe your closest 10 friends/family, maybe you don't even ask them to buy it at all. Just send them a copy with a personal note.
Compare that level of personal invitation against social media, hoping they happen to see your post in a sea of political rants, photos of sandwiches, and new baby photos that make up the rest of a newsfeed.
One question I asked myself when I wasn't seeing results from posting things on Facebook was simple: When have I ever bought someone's book because I saw it on Facebook? If it doesn't work on me, why would I think it'd work on other people?
You can share it on social media later
If the book is only for friends and family, there's no need to worry about any of this stuff. In that case, you're not looking for a wide release. It's not for more than 10-15 people.
But if the goal is north of 100 copies sold, if you are trying to make it a bestseller, pursuing writing as a full-time career, you can still (eventually) use social media... all you need to do is just keep following the wedding approach.
Here's what I mean. When the wedding is over, now all of the pictures go up on social media. People who weren't there or weren't invited get to share in the experience. They're seeing the "Best of" highlights. Everything is being presented in the best possible light.
Why not do the same with your book? Once you've had 20, 50, 100 people from your inner circles buy the book, now it's time to post the photos. Share the Amazon link now that it has 12 five-star reviews from friends and family. Instead of emailing a literary agent or publisher with a Word document attached, send them a physical copy of your book and share the stats. "Hey, I'm at 90 copies sold, I'd love to work with your team on how to grow this audience."
Hop on their radar. Show that you can start and finish a project and generate sales of the book. It might be too late for that particular book, but now you have a higher chance to work with them on the next one.
Tough Part: It may not grow past 100 copies sold
I'm a romantic. I want to believe what happens for every book is 100 friends and family read it, they tell their friends, their friends tell their friends, and then it's the whole Pay it Forward scene, spreading to 10,000 people.
But that's not the case. Most books end up selling under 500 copies, just like most weddings have less than 500 guests. Most authors don't have Stephen King or JK Rowling type of stats just like most weddings don't look like the Royal Wedding and Madison Square Garden isn't really a popular wedding venue.
So then why not make it an epic party for the 20, 100, 200 people who you've personally invited? Sign the copies. Have a release party. Invite 10 close friends over for dinner, have a feast, hand them copies on the way out. Make it a hardcover book if you can afford to, but there's nothing wrong with doing a paperback. But, either way, make it physical. Yeah, you could always make it an ebook, but that's kind of like the wedding invitations; there's something special about holding a physical copy. You can do an ebook version later.
And then, when the celebration is over, keep spreading the word (if you want to). Share the photos. Share the link.
But the people who you invited to be there first will have a different experience from everyone else. They will look at the photos, see the Amazon link, and smile.
"I was there."