The book launch is dead. Long live discoverability

In ‘the old days’ (think last decade), publishers would organise a book launch to help announce the release of a new book. They would put their marketing campaign into action at the same time, stock the bookshops around the country, and then wait for sales to take off. If sales took off, then more orders would come in, and everyone would be happy. Unfortunately, not every book launched follows that formula!

As a ‘publishing facilitator’, I meet many first-time writers who are self publishing and who want to have a book launch after publishing their book. My first question is, ‘Why?’ All I can think about is the horror of the planning, the invites, the catering, the entertainment … the list goes on. And for what purpose? You are unlikely to sell enough books to cover the cost of the launch, so why would you bother?

I once read a column by Mark Dapin about how he managed to sell 42 copies of his new book at his book launch, but six of them were to the same man who happened to spill a glass of red wine on them. So in essence, he sold 36 books at his launch – and Dapin is someone with a profile! With all due respect (or none at all): how many books do you think you’re likely to sell at your book launch?

These days, a big push into marketing your book on release isn’t so important. What is important, however, is releasing a book which will:

  1. deliver the reader what they’re expecting or looking for, in a quality manner
  2. encourage the reader to spread the word
  3. be easily found and purchased online.

The pressure to make an ‘instant success’ of your book is no longer there. ‘Sleeper successes’ are now totally allowable – particularly for ebooks and print on demand (PoD books). The keyword now is ‘discoverability’ – making sure that your book can be discovered by the people most likely to be interested in reading it.

So what if you really, really want a book launch? Again, my question would be, ‘Why?’ Be honest with yourself: what are you hoping to achieve? Unless you already have a high public profile and the money to throw at a book launch, you’re unlikely to sell many books, so what’s the point? If you wish to simply celebrate the fact that you’ve finished and published your first book, then sure, go for it. But expect it to be an expensive party!

Personally, I think you’d be better off plunging the party money into online ads to draw attention to your book. Spread that money out over six to twelve months and see how it works in getting you sales. Because at the end of the day, if no one wants to buy your book, then what are you celebrating with your launch?

This blog post was inspired by a guest post from Mark Coker (of Smashwords) here:

For some ideas about marketing your book as inexpensively as possible, have a look at our ‘marketing a self-published book’ page on our IndieMosh site:

3 Replies to “The book launch is dead. Long live discoverability”

  1. Jen, the one thing that goes missing when you drop the book launch/tour is the personal touch you get with your readers and those who are tasked with selling those books. I find it a little “lazy” of authors to sit back and just expect people to buy it. As a reader, I would like to know there is a real person behind the story, how it came together, anecdotes of other launches etc…

    For an author to give the launch/signing thing away, to me, is disrespectful of readers.

    Just my opinion, of course.


    1. I take your point, Paul, and agree with you, but only in regard to authors who are being published via traditional publishing channels or who are pre-printing in bulk and retailing through bookshops.

      For those who are self publishing and retailing online, and particularly when it’s their first book, they need to be where their buyers are going to be – online.

      Maybe one day, if they plug away at it, some traditional publisher will throw them an advance for their fourth or fifth book and fund them a launch party, too!

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