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Episode 320: Anna David (That's Me!) on Launching a Book (Excerpt From MY Book)

Jul 15, 2020

This week's episode features a very special guest: me. Yes, it's me giving you an exclusive excerpt from my new book. It's the 12th chapter of the book and definitely the meatiest. It's also the most relevant for you because it's focused entirely on what to do once you've finished your book and are getting ready to launch it.




Anna: Hi there. Welcome to Launch Pad podcast, where I talk to writers about their best tips for book launching as well as what books can do for your career. I know I say I have a very special guest a lot, but today I have a very special guest because that guest is me because this episode is an excerpt from my new book, Make Your Mess Your Memoir, which is out. Now, this excerpt is chapter 12 of the book, which is meaty as hell: it's almost 45 minutes of solid information. And it focuses on how to launch a book and drilling down on your goals with your book. Now, if you have already checked the book out, congratulations, and I love you. If you haven't know this, it is a combination business book memoir. I've coined the word biz-oir for it: you may have heard me talking about this book before.

if you have, forgive me, if you haven't, it's 10 chapters of my messy, messy life and how I made it into a memoir as well as four chapters on how you can do the same. Now, if you have already launched a book, some of these things, you can go back and implement, or even do a relaunch with an advanced reader team or new cover, or just use them for your next book. So stick around for the end, where I'll tell you how I came up with —namely, all the things I did for my traditionally published books that didn't work. And I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that you can get the book now, including the audio version, as well as a special treat for being a podcast listener, by going to Now I give you the show, which is to say chapter 12 of Make Your Mess Your Memoir followed by what I'm calling the director's cut, which is the story behind the chapter. Stick around. Here you go. Oh, do you want the show notes? Forget the show notes. Just go get the book. Here we go. With the excerpt.

Once You’ve Finished Writing

Now that you know how to write a book, let’s talk about how you can publish it. The first step is to educate yourself.

Educate Yourself About Traditional Publishing

If you’re determined to pursue traditional publish­ing, here’s how it works for non-fiction: you’ll need to find an agent who will submit your 25- 60-page book proposal to book publishers. (Yes, you could submit yourself but I don’t recommend it—not only because agents understand contract nuances we don’t but also because most reputable publishers won’t work directly with authors.)

Know this going in: even after you’re signed by an agent, it's really, really, really hard to get a publishing deal today; the rough statistic is that two out of every 10,000 book proposals submitted to major publishing houses sell. It also takes a really, really, really long time for a book to see the light of day—usually a year or two between when a publisher acquires your book and when it’s released.

If a publishing company does acquire your book, however, there’s good news: they cover the costs of editing, designing and releasing. In exchange, they own the rights and make all decisions about the cover, title, release date and everything else (with your input, of course). Once they earn back your advance, you then theoretically start earning royalties (the rates vary bit it’s usually been between eight and 25% of the book sales), This is theoretical, however, because only about 25% of books ever earn out their advances.

The rewards of traditional publishing are undeni­able—especially if you’re published by one of the Big Five publishers. Your book is legitimized in the eyes of many and your chances of hitting bestseller lists and getting covered by the media are better.

The misconceptions people have about traditional publishing are also undeniable. Everyone I know who tells me they want to be published traditionally gives the same reasons—they want to hit the New York Times bestseller list, they want to be sent on a book tour, they want the support a big publisher provides and they want their books in stores.

Here's what I can say to that: the chance of a book hitting the Times list is miniscule and putting your focus on that is a great way to make your book release experience miserable. (I know because I did it—five times!) The one time I didn’t obsess over a book of mine hitting the list, it did hit the list. And while it’s undeniably cool to be able to dine out on being a New York Times bestselling author (and trust me, I have), focusing on that as a goal is, I think, to miss all the potential joys of the publishing experience.

In terms of a book tour, I personally know almost no one who has been sent on one—and I know a hell of a lot of traditionally published authors. I guarantee Elizabeth Gilbert, Glennon Doyle and all the authors who don’t need book tours are sent on pretty plush ones, but the authors I know who “go” on tour are often paying for and arranging those tours themselves.

As for publisher support—look at it like this. Imagine you’re a filmmaker and you get a studio to invest in your movie. Yahoo, you’ve made it! And this isn’t just any old movie but one you wrote and are directing, producing and starring in. And you’re not just starring in it—you’re the only star. The year that you’re shooting, the studio is very supportive. Lots of patting you on the back and giving you advice. Then it’s release day. You’re a bit scared by the fact that, er, nothing seems to be happening. So you reach out to the studio…and don’t hear back. You’re confused. Weren’t you all in this together? Didn’t they give you money so you could all have a hit on your hands?

So surprising is this experience that every time it happened to me, I basically suffered something close to amnesia and therefore had to go through it six times in total before I finally got the memo: my pub­lisher wasn’t going to do anything for me. The reality is that publishers pick a book or two a season to put all their efforts behind—and my books never made the cut. All the major media exposure I got for my books I secured myself. That’s because the chosen ones are the ones that don’t need support. Howard’s indifference to my books wasn’t personal; he was just going for low-hanging fruit.

As for having your book sold in bookstores, HarperCollins paid for each of my books to be in stores for a few weeks. Then the books slowly, with each purchase, dwindled out of the store—never to return. The reality is that most books that aren’t instant bestsellers don’t stay in stores—unless the author jumps in. (More on that in a minute.)

I don’t mean to sound discouraging. I just mean to sound realistic. And there’s a reason that, after six traditionally published books, I wouldn’t go tradi­tional again.

So let’s move on to the other options.

Educate Yourself About Self and Hybrid Publishing

Self-publishing isn’t what it used to be back when your great aunt paid a janky publisher to put out your family history and foisted the copies upon every family member over the holidays.

Instead, these days, it’s possible to publish a book yourself that is indistinguish­able from a book pub­lished by, say, HarperCollins. If you’re going to achieve that goal, however, it means that you must strive for excellence at every stage.

The time frame is—well, it’s whatever you want it to be. While I highly recommend taking your time with it, Amazon allows you to replace a book with an updated version at any time so it’s possible to launch a book, re-do it and launch it again. Still, I don’t recommend that. “You only get one chance to make a first impression” is a cliché for a reason.

Then there’s what we do at Launch Pad—which is called hybrid or indie publishing. In this case, a client hires us to write and publish or just publish the book. The client pays for the entire process, keeps all the proceeds and rights, and makes all final decisions about content, cover, release date and everything else.

Of course, deciding which way you want to go in terms of publishing isn’t the end of it. If a traditional publisher acquires your book, they’ll be taking care of a lot of what follows in this chapter. If you’re publish­ing yourself, this will fall on you.

So what’s next?

Come Up With Your Title

Who doesn’t love coming up with a title? Answer: so many that often people have theirs before they even start writing their book.

Many also change their titles along the way—and for good reason. Tim Ferriss’s first smash hit, The 4-Hour Work Week, was originally called Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit. I can’t tell you why it had that title but I can give you a 100% guarantee that it wouldn’t have sold over a million copies if he had kept it.

When I first wrote Party Girl, I was enamored-verging-on-obsessed with the title. At the time that my agent signed me, however, she told me she couldn’t submit a book called Party Girl to publishers because a book with the same name had just come out. So we sold the book to Harper under the title The After Party. In the year between acquisition and release, that other Party Girl book sold so poorly that we were able to revert back to my original title. (Fun fact: that other Party Girl was written by Rachel Hollis, the mega bestselling author of Girl, Wash Your Face. It’s safe to say everything worked out okay for her.)

When coming up with titles, always aim for clear over clever. It may be tempting to want to include a reference to something in the book but if readers don’t get it, they’re unlikely to want it. When Bought came out, it seemed like a pretty straightforward title. Well, I can’t tell you the number of people I spoke to about the book who would respond in a way that made it clear they thought it was a tech book called Bot. (If you ever find me writing a tech book, by the way, please have me arrested for fraud.)

Another fact to keep in mind is that most non-fiction books have subtitles. Here’s why: a title is meant to attract attention and a subtitle is there to clarify what the book is about. A subtitle also, in this Amazonian world we live in, gives the author a chance to use keywords (more about that in a bit). The fact is, Amazon is the third largest search engine in the world (right after Google and YouTube) and some readers are going to find your book by typing something into the search bar. A subtitle with keywords that people are searching for frequently will come up.

Still, don’t obsess too much over keywords. When you think about why you read a book, chances are it’s because a friend or someone you follow wrote or rec­ommended it. So while some readers are going to find your book by searching, most are going to read it because it’s worth recommending.

If you’re worried a subtitle will weigh your book down, consider this: one of the most popular books of the past few years is Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***. What most people who recommend it don’t even think about is that it also has a subtitle. But do people say, “Hey have you read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life?” No, they just use the title. Same with another incredibly popular book of late—Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass. Its subtitle is How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Did you know that? If yes, please email me and I will personally buy you a copy of that book because your attention to detail and memory are beyond impressive.

(You may notice this book doesn’t have a subtitle. That’s for two reasons—one, as I mentioned, I’m experimenting a bit here and two, my title is clear enough that I felt like a subtitle would be redundant. Like a bad parent, let me just say “Do as I say, not as I do.”)

Once you have your title, you move onto the next —and frankly most laborious—stage. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


If you’re going with a hybrid publisher, the pub­lisher will take care of the rewriting process. At Launch Pad, we do a first draft and then a rewrite based on the client’s feedback.

If you’re rewriting on your own, one option is to start every writing session by re-reading what you wrote the day before. But know that this can be a rabbit hole so if you believe you may get lost in an endless rewriting loop, I recommend that you start rewriting only after you’ve completed your draft.

Whenever you rewrite, just know you’re doing it to streamline and look for repetition. But it’s also possible to err on the side of not reinforcing who, say, a character is enough. Keeping the reader informed but not overly informed is a delicate art. The rewrite is the time to refine it.

You’re also looking, on this first rewrite, to simply make sure your book makes sense. Is the content in the right order? Do all the scenes work? Is the word­ing correct and the flow working?

While I don’t have a specific routine for rewriting, my friend Paul Shirley does. He suggests giving the first draft to one person and asking that person to let you know five things they like and three things that need work. After rewriting based on that feedback, he recommends giving that draft to five different people who have different perspectives—say, Mom, college roommate, work partner, casual acquaintance and cousin. You’re basically looking for as disparate feed­back as you can. He recommends then taking months away from your book before rewriting again.

Your own rewriting process is going to depend on you. But I will offer one last piece of advice: be careful who you trust with your manuscript. We’re all fragile flowers, especially when it comes to our creative work. Find supportive people but urge them to be honest. “I loved it” isn’t, after all, feedback we can use.

Once you’ve rewritten (and possibly rewritten again), you move to the next stage: getting profes­sional help.

Hire an Editor

There are several different types of editors and rounds of editing and it’s crucial that you understand who does what and when.

The first round is the developmental edit. This is the edit that’s a lot like what you did when you were rewriting—but it’s done by an unbiased professional. He or she is looking for inconsistencies, less-than-smooth flow and to possibly move sections around. This editor isn’t focused on tiny grammatical correc­tions but rather on major changes.

Next the manuscript goes to a copy editor who will focus on tiny grammatical corrections. This person is looking for missing words, incorrect punctuation and consistency on editorial decisions, such as whether or not to use Oxford commas, whether or not to write out numbers, whether or not to italicize book titles and websites…factors that may seem insignificant but are obsessed over by people like me.

A proofreader generally follows a copy editor because even though a copy editor is trained to look for all those niggly, tiny corrections, that copy editor is a human being and will thus make mistakes. The proofreader is there to catch them.

Even with all those editors, however, there will probably still be mistakes. It’s frustrating, but so many books have been published with typos that you can find countless stories online that show different typos in major literary works. The good news in self and hybrid publishing is that, as I noted, you can correct and replace a manuscript easily.

In order to decrease your chances of publishing a book with typos, you might consider recording your audio book at this point. (More on audio books in a bit.) There’s no better way to catch errors and other small bits you want to change than by reading your work aloud. If you’re not ready to commit to an audio book, you can also try using programs that will read your work out loud to you.

When hiring an editor, err on the side of caution. I can’t count the number of clients who have come to us at Launch Pad with books that they say are edited —and that need a complete overhaul. That’s because anyone can call him or herself an editor and what the word “editor” means varies a lot. Your book could need a developmental edit (and if you’re new to writing, it probably will) while the person you hire is only equipped to fix typos.

To avoid running into trouble with this, have a clear conversation with every editor you consider hiring. Get on the same page about what they plan to do. If that person hasn’t worked on traditionally published best-selling books, ask for references. In some cases, potential editors will be willing to edit a sample chapter.

Because Launch Pad editing is limited to Launch Pad clients and we run on the pricey side, I keep a running list of freelance editors and cover designers who are available for hire. I don’t know these people and therefore can’t vouch for their services but I do know that they work as editors. You can find the list at

Once a book is edited, you may have one more step before getting the book laid out.

Consider Any Potential Legal Issues

If you’re writing about real-life experiences in a book, I highly recommend including a disclaimer; you can even go ahead and copy and paste the one I use in this book. I also recommend changing the names of the people in your book, unless they tell you not to or it would stand out as just plain odd (like, say, chang­ing the name of the spouse you’re going to thank profusely in the Acknowledgments).

Even with names changed, there can still be legal issues and if there’s anyone you’re writing about who you feel might object to how they’re portrayed, err on the side of caution.

When I went through Party Girl with a lawyer, she gave me a rule of thumb that I recommend following: if you’re including a character based on someone who could object to their portrayal, try to make sure that person is described in a way that makes it not entirely clear who it is. In other words, do not describe a char­acter based on someone you know who has one leg, lives in Ames, Iowa and works in cryptocurrency. The more vague and less unique the details are, the better. You can always alter details to make someone less identifiable.

While we recommend that any of our clients who have any concerns at all hire a lawyer to review their books before publication, not all do. As a result, we’ve had instances in which objections came up immedi­ately before publication; lawyers had to be brought in at the 11th hour and changes had to be made. I don’t want that to happen to you.

We also had a client tell her company that she was doing a book but didn’t show them the content. Her supervisors objected to some of the material in it and she almost lost her job as a result. So if you’re not a free agent—by which I mean if you’re associated with any sort of corporation, society or group that might object to anything in your book—have the manuscript approved ahead of time.

Once it’s approved, you get to move onto another fun stage: thanking the people who have helped get you to this point.

Write Your Dedication and Acknowledgments

So who do you want to dedicate your book to? You don’t have to dedicate it to anyone but if you want to, it can be either a person or a group of people. Some of the dedications our authors have used, just so you can see the variety, are:

To la mia famiglia

To all social service team members all over the world who are heroes to many

To Evan

Then there’s the Acknowledgments section, which you can think of as a Dedication times 10 or 100, depending on how many people you include. It appears at the end of your book and it’s where you thank everyone who’s helped you with the book or everyone who’s helped you on your journey to get to this point in your life. (My Acknowledgments section for Party Girl was so long that I even thanked a certain Trader’s Joe snack I ate obsessively while writing it; Los Angeles magazine warmly mocked me for it.) Most books include an Acknowledgments section.

Hot and/or manipulative tip, depending on your point of view: If there’s a well-known person you don’t know but who’s been an inspiration, you can include that person in your acknowledgments. This gives you a lovely excuse to reach out and send that person a copy of your book when it’s out. Maybe you’ll garner a new, high-profile fan.

Next up: an opportunity for validation.

Gather Blurbs—and Possibly a Foreword

Some books have forewords and a foreword is exactly what it sounds like—the words before the words. It’s written by a luminary that has a close relationship with the author. But don’t stress about it because this section isn’t at all necessary. Have you ever bought a book because of who wrote the fore­word? (Here’s another opportunity to get a free book; email me if you have and I’ll send you another copy of that book because you are one dedicated fan of that foreword writer.)

A foreword can absolutely provide legitimacy so if there’s someone you know who’s either incredibly well-known or extremely well-respected in your field, you can ask that person. If it’s someone who’s quite busy (which, of course, can go right along with being incredibly well-known and well-respected), you can offer to transcribe their thoughts into a foreword they approve.

If there’s someone you feel you can ask for a favor but not quite as big a favor as a foreword, why not ask for a blurb? Blurbs, also called endorsements, are those quotes from well-known people about how amazing your book is. In a pinch, you can always use a quote from the foreword as a blurb. You can also, in a pinch, use a quote that’s about you and not about the book.

While blurbs are also not required, most books have them. At Launch Pad, every book has at least one so that we can put it on the back cover but we’ve had authors who’ve gathered literally hundreds. Just like with a foreword, it’s unlikely that someone will buy your book because of the blurb, but they do provide great “social proof” that you can use everywhere—on your book, in your book, on your website and on Amazon. You can also make blurbs into share-able cards for social media.

One factor to keep in mind: asking someone to blurb your book is a massive favor. I’m someone who is both asked to blurb and also asks others to blurb books so I speak from experience when I say that you shouldn’t ever expect someone you don’t know to do it.

The best way to have success with a blurb request is to make it entirely clear why you’re asking this person and then show just how grateful you are to them to even consider doing it.

When I first started publishing books, I simply didn’t understand what a big favor I was asking. I was so excited about my book that I delusionally believed whoever I was asking should be, too. It was only when I started blurbing other people’s books—and being on the receiving end of some of the most pre­sump­tuous requests and kindest thank you gestures imaginable—that I realized how unappreciative and presumptuous I’d been.

Give your blurber time to read your book—ideally at least a month—although if you’re requesting a blurb from someone who you theorize may not have time to read the entire book but would like to support you, you can offer to write the blurb yourself and just get his or her approval.

Now that you’ve gotten some validation for just how awesome your book is, there’s a necessary but simple technicality to handle.

Come Up With Your Price

There are all sorts of opinions out there on pricing, so I’ll just tell you what we do at Launch Pad: we usually price our paperback books at $12.95 or $15.95 and our ebooks at $9.95, although if an author wants another price, we go with that. If your book is on the shorter side, you should price it for less. Keep in mind that you can always change your ebook price later.

If your book is available exclusively on Amazon, you can also make it free upon release or down the road, and have it listed on freebie newsletters to drive it back to the #1 spot. This is a service we provide for clients but you can easily do it yourself; just Google “KDP free book” for information on how.

You can also give your book away for free using a site called BookFunnel. BookFunnel accounts cost $100 a year and allow you to create landing pages for multiple books where anyone can download a PDF or an ebook in exchange for their email address. If you’re sending out regular emails (more on that in a bit), you know how valuable that email address is.

Now onto another simple but crucial task.

Get an ISBN

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to copyright your book since books have an automatic copyright as soon as they’re published. The only reason to have your book copyrighted is if you end up getting into a legal battle with someone because you believe they’ve plagiarized your book; in that case, you’ll have far more power if you have a copyright.

You do, however, need an ISBN—an International Standard Book Number—and you need a different one for each version of your book (paperback, ebook and hardcover if you’re doing one). You can purchase ISBNs from a company called Bowker. The cost dimin­ishes greatly if you buy in bulk (it’s $125 for one, $575 for 100) so if you think you’re going to be pub­lishing more books, why not buy a bunch?

While Amazon provides free ISBNs for anyone who published exclusively on Amazon, I recommend splurging on your own since you may want to have your book available on Nook, Apple Books and elsewhere.

Once you have your ISBN, you can easily convert it into a bar code for your paperback. Download the bar code and give that to your cover designer to place it on your back cover.

Did I mention cover? Yes, I did. That’s because we are, at last, at this stage.

Have Your Cover Designed and Your Book Laid Out

I’ve told you not to skimp on an editor. It’s also important to put some money toward a cover. While you can use a free cover from a site like or even create one on Amazon, the cliché that you can’t judge a book by its cover is an outrageous lie.

A cover could be the difference between someone buying your book and skipping over it entirely. As I mentioned in the Editors section earlier, you can access a list of cover designers for hire at, but as with the editors on the list, they aren’t people I’ve worked with before so do your own due diligence.

While I also have layout designers listed on that page, you can use your own layout software for your actual manuscript—Vellum is considered the best of the bunch but for now, it’s only available for Apple.

If you’re doing a hardcover as well as a paperback, you’ll need two different covers; almost every cover designer will happily do the additional one for a nominal fee.

Which brings us to…

Decide If You’re Going to do a Hardcover

Most authors these days create ebooks and paper­backs but skip hardcovers. Here's why: hardcover books can cost the author up to $13 apiece, take months to print and aren’t purchased as often as paperbacks and ebooks.

Like it or not, the majority of your readers will probably be buying your book on Amazon and for the moment, Amazon only prints paperbacks. Still, the fact that they offer print-on-demand at all is pretty spectacular.

Here’s why: authors used to have to provide Amazon with books. Now, whenever someone orders your book, Amazon custom prints and ships it with­out charging you and instead subtracts the cost from your earnings. You keep 60% of standard distribution and 40% of extended distribution to bookstores and libraries.

Still set on hardcover and want it on Amazon? No worries. You can list it for a nominal fee in the IngramSpark catalogue, since they have a distribution deal with Amazon. If you’re not going to be buying bulk copies to hand out or sell yourself, you won’t pay more than the Ingram fee.

But that’s not the only decision to make about ways readers can get your book.

Decide If You’re Going to do an Audio Book

Oh, audio books! Where would we be without them? Answer: a lot less well-read. The rough statistic is that 50% of American adults have listened to one and my guess is that 100% of authors have.

Once upon a time, Audible had to buy your audio rights for your book to become available as an audio book and they only purchased a tiny percentage of the books out there. If they bought your book, they paid for studio time, production and a narrator (or for you to record the book yourself). Then, in 2011, Audible created ACX, which allows any author the opportunity to record, produce and upload a book and have it sold on Audible.

Be forewarned, however: recording your own audio book isn’t the super fun lark you may envision. The average audio book is 10 hours long and a serious mouth­ful to record. I recorded Party Girl over the course of three days, taking multiple breaks to gargle salt water or just rest my voice and complain in my head (since I was giving my voice a break) about how not fun the experience was.

Audible also has incredibly stringent audio stand­ards and getting your audio files approved by them can take a very long time.

When it comes to releasing your audio book, you have two options: making it available at the same time as the print and ebook versions or having a second “launch” down the road. A second launch provides a nice opportunity to drum up renewed interest in your book and also gives you a cushion in case Audible doesn’t approve your audio version by your deadline.

As for whether or not you want to record your book or use a narrator, make this decision with as unbiased a mind as your brain will allow. If you have no audio experience, your talents may be best left on the page.

If you decide to record it yourself, I want to empha­size what a good idea it is to do so when you’re nearing the end of your line editing process so that you can catch errors.

And voila! Your book is ready to be released. What now?

Set Yourself Up for Success on Amazon

I’ll be honest: I don’t find uploading a book to Amazon to be the easiest process. (Perhaps the best part of having a team is that I get to opt out of being the one to do this.)

First, it requires creating an author account on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), then selecting categories and keywords (more on that in a second) and then uploading your book and cover. As with Audible, the cover can get kicked back since Amazon’s require­ments are subject to change (though the re-approval process happens a trillion times faster than it does on Audible).

Selecting categories and keywords is more important than you may realize. As I mentioned in the Titles section, keywords allow readers to find your book when they’re searching for information on your topic. Amazon allows you to pick up to six keywords and, as with search engine optimization, you can choose to either make each a word or a “long tail” keyword—otherwise known as a string of words or a phrase.

The best way I know of to determine which key­words to use is to get Publisher Rocket, a $97 software that allows you to search keywords and then see how many books out there are also using those keywords and even how much those authors are making. Selecting your own keywords using Publisher Rocket is therefore half art, half science: you want to use keywords that haven’t been used by too many authors, but you also want them to be popular enough so that people can find your book and buy it.

Picking the right categories is even more important because this is when bestseller lists come into play. Amazon, as of now,  only provides room on the back end for you to list the book in two categories. However, there’s a handy workaround that is completely legit yet not widely known: you can contact Amazon and ask them to list the book in eight additional categories. This means that instead of your book having two opportunities to hit the bestseller list in its categories, it has 10.

Publisher Rocket is again your best friend when it comes to picking categories since it provides the same information for categories as it does for keywords. Just like with keywords, it’s crucial that you use categories that fit your book; if you list your book in a category only because it seems to be netting great money for the authors who use it, but that category isn’t right for your book, it’s only going to annoy a reader.

Now that your book is out there, the next step is equal parts exhilarating and stressful…

Plan Your Launch

There are an endless array of ideas and strategies for having a successful launch so let me tell you the one we use at Launch Pad: the stealth release.

First, we tell the author to ask friends, acquaint­ances and fans to be a part of an Advanced Reader Team; we then give those team members a link to an electronic version of the book at least a month before launch. Through a series of emails we send out over that period, we nudge the team members to read the book and write a review.

Then, three days before the official release date, we instruct the group to purchase the ebook and then copy and paste their review. We price the book at $0.99 for those three days so we’re not making anyone pay 10 bucks to do the author a favor. On release day, we change the ebook’s price to $9.95 and announce the release to the world; this means that by the time readers see the book on Amazon, it already has a nice collection of positive reviews.

A word about your Advanced Reader Team: don’t include your best friend, your mom or your spouse. Amazon has strict rules about which reviews they consider biased and will remove any they believe are written by someone too close to the author. This system is wildly arbitrary; an acquaintance of mine wrote a review of one of my books and received a notification that it was biased. However, I know people who have approved reviews written by their parents.

The ideal team members are people who support you but aren’t in your inner circle. They’re also people who have already purchased books in your genre. That’s because the more those people have a history of buying books like yours, the more likely the “Customers Also Bought” algorithm is to kick in.

Also: Amazon has strict rules about authors paying anyone to review their books. You can thank all members with a gift but always encourage them to write honest and not necessarily rave reviews. I know I’m more likely to consider a book honestly reviewed if it has an array of different opinions and ratings than a book that has only 5-star raves.

Like I said, there are hundreds of other ways you can make a launch successful, including but not limited to: hiring a publicist to get media attention; preparing social media elements and swapping out every image you have on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and anywhere else with pictures of your book and links to buy it; pinning links to the book to the top of all your social media; creating and posting cards with book quotes, blurbs and reviews; having launch events wherever you go (more on that in a bit); doing virtual book tours and making video trailers. And the list goes on.

Still, always remember: this is not just a launch. It’s a journey. Your book can have a life as long as yours—or longer. The worst mistake you can make (I know because I made it over and over) is to move on from hyping your book after launch week. You’ve worked too hard for that.

Now that we’ve covered Amazon, let’s talk about other places your book can be available.

Brainstorm Ways to Get in Bookstores

Remember how I said that the people I know who want to be published traditionally talk about their desire to have their book sold in stores for years? And remember how I broke down the harsh reality that that just doesn’t happen most of the time?

This is where the author comes in. We list books in Ingram, which means that any bookstore can order the book. However, a store is unlikely to order a book customers aren’t requesting. Our client Emily Lynn Paulson came up with a crafty workaround for this. She knew she wanted to do a book event in her home­town and happened to know one bookstore owner. When she asked the owner to carry her book and the store owner quickly agreed, Emily realized that other bookstores might be more open to carrying her book than she had initially realized.

She then reached out to the people on her Advanced Readers Team and to her social media followers, offering to give anyone who’d make the same request at their local bookstore a Starbucks gift card. Through her grassroots efforts, she was able to get her indepen­dently published book in over 70 bookstores around the country.

Many authors fantasize about having their book sold at airport bookstores, but get discouraged when they find out that it can cost up to $20,000. That inspired our client Darren Prince to get creative: when he was passing through an airport bookstore, he started chatting with one of the store clerks and asked if he could place his book there among the books for sale. Then he took some photos. Voila, it looked to his entire social media following like he’d made it to airport bookstores!

While we’re on the subject of airports, let’s talk about the part travel can play in your promotion.

Consider Touring

You know how I told you we’re all unlikely, no matter who publishes us, to be handed an itinerary and have bookstores awaiting our arrival? That being said, there are countless other ways to go on tour.

While COVID19 changed travel forever, I believe it’s worth highlighting authors who found ways to create tours for themselves.

I know a writer who decided to do a “couch tour”: he reached out to readers and let them know that if any of them were willing to host a reading for him, he’d show up—books in tow. The move was so unique that The New York Times actually did a story about it—a story I saw, which inspired me to reach out and become one of the hosts.

I gathered a group of about 20 people and, after the reading, he sold us each a book. He did that dozens of times in different cities. This resulted in multiple book sales—and then there was the Times profile, which probably helped sell more copies than the entire tour put together. It pays to be creative.

Emily Lynn Paulson arranged for “mini launches” wherever she traveled during the months after her book came out. Even if she just held those events in her hotel room, she was able to gather people in those cities and towns to share and promote her book.

Virtual tours—meaning speaking to organizations and book clubs online—are also obviously increasing in popularity. They require motivation and a lot of pitching but I know people who’ve had a lot of success with them.

Another option is to reach out to companies about bulk ordering copies of your book. My friend Ryan Hampton taught me this method when his first book was being released. He went through every contact in his address book, sifting out the people who worked for companies that might be interested in his book topic.

From there, he reached out with a tantalizing pitch: if the company or institution ordered bulk copies of his book, he would fly himself there to speak. He would also make that into an event local media would care about and reach out to local media himself. In short, he made his pitch an offer that a company would absolutely benefit from. By doing this, he sold thousands and thousands of copies.

To keep up with the meta-ness, I should tell you that I’ve done that with this book—and so you, dear reader, may be someone who got this book using this method.

At this point, you may be saying, “That’s cool and all but I want to get on Ellen and Oprah! How can I make that happen?”

Educate Yourself About Traditional Media

The reality is that everyone wants to get Ellen and Oprah to promote their books and while your sales would indeed skyrocket if you could secure those spots, it’s just not likely for most of us.

Also, most traditional media does not sell books. Back when Party Girl came out, I was told that if you could get your book in People magazine and on The Today Show in the same week, you were virtually guaranteed a bestseller.

That’s simply not true today. And I don’t have solid evidence that it was ever true. I got more press than I can even fully recall for Party Girl—and all the traditionally published books that followed—and yet I can name plenty of books that didn’t have nearly as much press and sold more copies.

The reality is that the marketing rule of seven holds true for books. What this means is that usually a reader has to hear about your book seven times before they’ll be motivated to buy. Seven appearances on The Today Show is no small feat.

It’s far better to try to “own” rather than “rent” your audience. I’ll get more into this in the next chapter, but for now, know that gathering potential readers and adding them to your email list is, in terms of book sales, worth so much more than any main­stream media you can get.

That being said, getting on TV shows and in maga­zines is undeniably cool. It’s amazing social proof. You can add “as featured on/in” to your website along with the media icon. Other media outlets are more likely to consider you credible so each “hit” is likely to bring another. If you hire a publicist, just know that the quality of publicists, much like the quality of editors, varies greatly. If you want to take media mat­ters into your own hands, I recommend subscribing to Help a Reporter Out (HARO); you’ll start receiving three emails a day filled with requests from journalists looking for sources on every topic you can imagine.

When I subscribed to HARO, within a few days I saw a journalist who was looking for a source to talk about rehabs. I wrote him a two-line email introduc­ing myself and he quoted me in the story he was writing for Fortune magazine. Since then he’s quoted me in numerous other stories. That brief email I sent him, in other words, did for me more than publicists I’d paid obscene amounts of money had done.

Speaking of spending money…

Don’t Be Afraid to Give Away Copies

If giving away copies of your book when you’re hoping not to drop any more money on your book than you already have seems counter-intuitive, allow me to explain: you’re probably not going to make money from book sales, but you can make a lot of money from having a book. In the next chapter, I’ll get into different ways you can make money from your book but for now, know this: one book you give away can pay off 10 or 100-fold.

Think about it like this: if your book is related to your business, giving a copy of your book to a pro­spective client could cost you a few dollars and make you, depending on what you charge for your services, thousands and thousands of dollars. Earlier, I men­tioned a client who released a book at the end of 2019. By early 2020, he told me that he’d added $500,000 to his bottom line. While he couldn’t attribute the added income 100% to the book, every single new client he’d signed had read it. Unsurprisingly, we’re now doing his second book.

The best way to give your book away is to simply carry it with you everywhere you go. Our client Darren always keeps copies in his suitcase so that whenever he travels, he can give away copies. That’s how he was able to get in the airport bookstore! Our client Matt George saw a major athlete in a Vegas casino and was able to grab a photo with the athlete holding the book, which he then posted. But you don’t have to limit your freebies to bold-faced names. You never know who will be impacted by your book or hire you as a result of it. I know people who leave copies of their books in their local Starbucks on the off-chance that a prospective client picks it up.

It's also probably worth the hassle and expense of sending copies out. Here’s a tip I learned from busi­ness coach Alan Weiss: when sending a copy of your book to a prospective client, sign and send two. The person is then inclined to give the book to a friend (and if it’s a prospective client, chances are that the prospective client is friends with other prospective clients), and people are much less likely to throw away a signed book.

Related: don’t be afraid to shamelessly plug your book and the fact that you’re an author wherever you can. Add “Bestselling Author” or “Author” to your email signature along with a link to the book. List that you’re an author on your social media pages. Include it wherever you can. Why not? You worked hard for it, right? And you could call it selfish not to share your book with someone it could potentially help.




Hey there. Thank you for sticking around. Now, I'm going to talk about how I came up with those things that I wrote about and read about in the book, which is to say all the things that did not work that I tried with my traditionally published books. So my first book, Party Girl, things were so different. This came out in 2005 and I thought I was guaranteed a bestseller because Judith Regan had acquired the book. It was, there was tons of hype around it. And I got on the Today Show and I got the book in Cosmo and it got everywhere. And I was really naive. I just thought that traditional media meant it was an automatic bestseller. And so I didn't do anything. And I really didn't take advantage of opportunities. I had, I was a regular on this TV show called Attack of the Show.

Speaker 1 (00:49):

So I could have been building my newsletter list like crazy. Wasn't doing that. So what I did is I went to New York and what can happen? Oftentimes you can't get a traditional reading or signing at a major bookstore unless you're bringing something to the table. And so Harper told me, well, you, what you should do is get another writer. So you can do something called “in conversation with”; I've since done this a few times. And other writers have used me as the person to be in conversation with. And the bookstore is basically doing that because they figure they can double their crowd if they can get fans of both authors. So I went to New York and I did that at a Barnes and Noble at Columbus circle. I also had a launch, an LA launch at my hometown bookstore, Book Soup, where over a hundred people came and then there was an a party at a restaurant next door, super, super fun.

Speaker 1 (01:50):

A hundred people may have come. A hundred books did not sell; here’s a dirty secret about a book launch party, which is that the problem is if you're not a famous writer, which is to say a writer where strangers show up for these book launches and you are relying on the people you know to show up and buy your book. It's super nice of anyone, you know, to just show up. And the frustrating part is that you see them, some people show up and they don't buy the book. And it's a terrible feeling because you want to kill them for not buying the book, but then you're really happy that they showed up. So you can not count, especially for the hard cover books, 25 bucks. Like you can't count on the people to who show up for you to buy the book, especially if maybe there are people you gave the book to already or whatever it is, people don't…non-writers don't know how much it means.

Speaker 1 (02:45):

So most book store parties or any kind of book party, they just don't sell books. Oftentimes what a lot of people will do is they will just buy the books for their guests. And that's part of what the guest gets is, is a gift of a book. So that's, that's what I did. With the book, there was a whole debacle, which I have talked about a lot, which is that Regan Nooks had gone under. So there was no publisher to support me. And so the, it just didn't go well, but there were just also things I didn't understand. So for my next book, which came out a little over a year later, this book was called Bought. I thought, I, I get it. Now. I get what to do. I didn't get it at all. I still went after traditional media, I still got plenty of press.

Speaker 1 (03:37):

I called on all my contacts, but what I didn't get is, is, is how to really make it a news story. I sort of got that, but instead I was approaching media in this way of saying, why don't you write about my book? Inherently, a book coming out, unless you're Stephen King or James Patterson, or Elizabeth Gilbert is not interesting to people. You've got to figure out what makes it interesting and journalists are looking for stories. So, so just figure out what their beat is, what they're interested in and how your book can actually help them have a story. I hired a very expensive publicist and actually at first, and this can happen with a, when you hire a publicity company, the first publicist they put on my, on my book was amazing. She was so sweet. She got me all this press. Then she quit. And I got put with another publicist who did nothing.

Speaker 1 (04:35):

And all she really did was get absolutely wasted at the launch party. I threw, I threw a very glamorous launch party cause I was dating a French guy who owned a restaurant and we did it there again, didn't sell a ton of books, but was fun. And again, what I really wish I'd done in retrospect was built my own audience, not listened to the publisher and, and tried to make my book newsworthy. I will say what I instead did is I got Harper to fund. It was crazy back then. Publishers would say, “All you have to do is create a viral video for your book,” which is an inherently ridiculous thing, because like a video can go viral, but you can't create, it's like saying you should go create a New York Times bestselling book. Like it's not something you can create. It is up for the world to determine, but I didn't know that.

Speaker 1 (05:30):

So, I mean, I hired a fancy director. We did castings. I mean, it was so silly cause it really got like 50 views. Maybe now I create videos for my books using an app called Clips, which is awesome. And it usually takes around six minutes and is completely free to make. So I thought I learned something. So then with my next book, which was called Reality Matters, it was an of essays about reality TV. I got all these fancy writers to contribute essays to it. And I hired a publicist, a less expensive publicist and really, it was these two women and they were real go getters. And so we, they did an amazing video actually for the book. And then we planned this huge event at this fancy club slash restaurant called Les Deux in LA. I matched a reality for every essay in the book.

Speaker 1 (06:29):

I found a reality star from that show to come to the party. I mean, I had to cajole and convince people from The Bachelor, people from The Real World, all these shows somehow did that. And we got all this press to show up again. It sold less than zero books because the Bachelor cast member who showed up, just talked about how the Bachelor couple had broken up and all the news stories, People magazine, all these places just wrote about that. So in and we got excerpts in all it got reviewed by the New Yorker, it as say, has got in the, in Esquire and, and really no one cared. So again, I wish that I had really thought about my audience. I also think, I wish I'd thought about the topic of the book, which, which is reality TV, which it turns out is something nobody wants to read about.

Speaker 1 (07:27):

They just want to watch. My next book Falling for Me, that came out in 2007 and I thought, Oh, I, I get it. Now, what you have to do is you have to create a multimedia experience. So since this book was documenting a year in my life, I went and I documented it. I created videos. I created photos, I hired photographers and I put it on my website and unfortunately no one cared. And I, it was just a lot of work for something that, you know, you be counting on the idea that a lot of people are going to go to a URL. And that that's really going to sell copies is, is, is like creating a quote viral video. It's just not a good use of your time or resources. I also tried something with this book and the previous book or no two books before.

Speaker 1 (08:28):

I don't know. I can't remember which one where I really went for trying to get my number very low on Amazon because the lower the number, the better the book is selling as in the number one book on Amazon is selling better than any other book at that time. And so I did things like I gave away a Starbucks gift card for every person who, every fifth person who emailed me their receipt. And then I gave a Kindle and I was broke at the time. So I couldn't even afford a Kindle for myself, but I said, You know, the 50th person who buys the book, I will send a Kindle to. And, and I think I got exactly 50 people buying the book that day. And I sent a Kindle I couldn't afford to that person. I did get my Amazon number kind of lower than it would have been, but ultimately it wasn't a terribly fun way to spend my release day.

Speaker 1 (09:24):

And in the end, I'm not really totally sure what it did. So I, Oh God, here's another, here's another thing that I did that, that okay. You get kind of, you can get kind of desperate when a book is coming out and, and when it's a traditionally published book, I did feel that my publisher kept making me feel like I should be doing more, or maybe I put that pressure on myself. But you know, and I had contacts at TV shows. And so somebody from Anderson Cooper reached out to me and said, We'd really love to have you on the show and talk about your book. Now, since my book was about dating and falling in love, they said to me, Would you want to do a segment where you get back to gather with an ex boyfriend on the show? And I was so desperate that I reached out to an ex boyfriend when I was not in touch with anymore and did not want to get back together with, but I just thought, Oh my God, I'll sell books.

Speaker 1 (10:30):

Oh my God, I have to do this. And in the end, neither of us wanted to go through with it. And so that, but it's just really kind of brings me back. Think, just even thinking about that too, how desperate I used to get. And it's no wonder that I didn't enjoy my book releases more. So if I could have done it again, I would have tried to enjoy the experience more and focus less on book sales and not felt so desperate and learned from previous mistakes and continued to focus on building my own individual audience, which I wasn't doing at all. I don't, I may have had a newsletter list sign up on my website, but I wasn't doing anything to get people on it. My next book was called True Tales of Lust and Love. It was based on a storytelling show that I did.

Speaker 1 (11:20):

I got very well known writers. I planneed multiple readings and shows and lots of people showed up, but it still didn't sell many books. I also sold the book as a web series to a, it was a reality TV company that was doing videos for companies. And they had just signed a deal with, Oh my God, I can't remember. But it was a toilet paper company. Cottonelle is that a toilet paper company. And they couldn't air the digital show unless they had a sponsor. So we spent months trying to figure out how do we make a toilet paper company sponsor this show about true tales of lust and love that never that never worked out. And then there was my book, the next one I published on my own.

Speaker 1 (12:18):

This was last year, 2019. It was called How to Get Successful by F-ing Up Your Life. And I had finally learned from my mistakes, and I finally took control of my release. I created an advanced reader team. I wrote the book I wanted without publisher interference, and I enjoyed the process. I had fun with it. It launched with more than 50 reviews, which was more than any of my other books had gotten. And it was a best number one bestseller in multiple categories. And here's the thing: Book authority, which is this super prestigious book site, named it one of the best books about addiction. And here I had thought, Oh, you have to publish traditionally to get taken seriously by any legitimate media outlet. The book I published on my own with my own hired editor and my own hired a cover designer is the one that got this prestigious thing.

Speaker 1 (13:21):

So the only mistake I made frankly, is that I, my ego told me I didn't need an editor. So I launched the book. I put the book out there originally just with my advanced reader team, without it had tons of mistakes, it needed development. And so I realized there's, I can never release another book without hiring an editor. So that's my behind the scenes. That is why, what I wrote in chapter 12 is so important because it took me six books to learn that I could control the process. And probably most importantly, that I could enjoy the process. So there are your director's notes. And if you want to grab the book, go to Thanks so much for listening. See you next week.