Supernatural thriller writer John L. Monk recently made the move to post-apocalyptic YA to bestselling results. This week, I talk to John about the specific launch strategies he took to make his new book a success.
John L Monk is the author of the supernatural thriller series The Jenkins Cycle (Kick, Fool’s Ride, and Hopper House), and while his books have been well-received by readers, he was frustrated over the difficulties of finding readers for the books. Since The Jenkins Cycle is a cross-genre mix of supernatural, thriller, mystery, and action, he realized readers weren’t finding it very easily.
“When it has everything,” he says, “nobody knows what they’re looking for.”
So while the books did well once readers found them, John was caught up in a perpetual marketing game of constantly trying to push the book into readers’ sights. “If you’re not promoting, you’re dying.”
John was becoming frustrated with his results and decided he would write his next book targeted at a “canned audience,” or an already existing and developed audience — basically writing to market. He had an idea for a post-apocalyptic story in which all the adults and 80% of the kids in the world die from a metabolic disease, leaving only a small population of kids left, very Lord of the Flies in its tone.
Knowing that post-apocalyptic YA fiction was very popular — think Hunger Games — he wrote Hell’s Children, launched it to market just a month and a half ago, and at the time of this interview, was making more per day than his IT job off of “one miserable stand-alone novel,” exceeding his expectations.
“So if I can do it,” John says, “you can do it because I couldn’t do anything for three years, folks, not really.”
John leveraged lots of strategies that he learned through podcasts and from fellow indie authors, and he executed a very deliberate launch strategy designed to keep his book visible.
Firstly, he decided to launch the book exclusive to Amazon in order to gain access to the Kindle Unlimited readership. Although he’s done well in the past on Apple and BN, he says sales don’t last on those platforms, and all the advice he was getting pointed him straight to KU.
Then he gave away ARCs to 45 people, generating 14 reviews.
John also ran a week-and-a-half “secret” pre-order period, purposefully avoiding promoting it to his regular readers so that organic searches would have a chance to generate more genre-targeted also-boughts for the book, given his other books were more cross-genre and less-targeted.
Regarding price point, the book was launched at $.99, then moved up to $2.99 later on.
Throughout his launch period, which ran for about four weeks, John ran Facebook ads to drive traffic and keep up the visibility. John began his FB ads when his pre-order for Hell’s Children went live, which he let run for a week and a half before launch — though in hindsight, he says he should have let it run two weeks — and has continued them to today on a budget of $5/$10 a day.
While the ads ran in the background, John stuck to his rule of doing one actionable thing each day to launch his book up the ranks. Here’s what he did:
- Day 1 – John told BookBub his new book was out that day, and BookBub told the 85 people who had followed him from his previous BookBub ads about it.
- Day 2 – Fellow indie writer and good friend hit his mailing list with news about John’s new book.
- Day 3 – Big-name hybrid author boosted a Facebook post about John’s book to his following, helping to generate 145 sales on one day.
- Day 4 – Bargain Booksy ad went out.
- Day 5 – Another big-name author hits his mailing list for John. John also hits his own mailing list at this point.
- Day 7 – Another fellow indie his mailing list over three days to three separate segments of his subscribership.
- Day 9 – John appears on PT Hylton’s YouTube Channel for a cup of coffee.
- Day 10 – Another good friend hits his list for John’s book.
In the third week following the release of Hell’s Children, a big-name post-apocalyptic author pinged him out of the blue to he loved the book and he was letting his mailing list know about it. Throughout the launch, John continued to stay active on Facebook, sharing little tidbits of progress with friends and fans, and he received lots of shares and encouragement. His book continues to do well in the rankings.
As of 7/21/16, Hell’s Children is currently ranked #1050 in the Kindle Store, and #6, #22, and #22 in its subcategories. His sales commissions cracked the $300 mark in daily sales towards the third and fourth week of his launch. In the fourth week, he saw sales of 50-70 a day. As of the interview, he’s had 600k-700k page reads through KU.
Although Hell’s Children is a stand-alone for now, John is working on a sequel he hopes to get out in the next 90 days.
Awesome Indies Project
A while back, John decided that there were too many talented indies who weren’t getting the attention they deserved, so he decided to highlight them on his website as a sort of shout-out and tribute as a way to sort of help out, specifically picking folks he didn’t know personally. It’s more of a “statue” in their honor. The effort might not necessarily generate sales for them, John says, but it’s a great way to interact with his community.
At first, he focused only on indies that weren’t doing well yet, nobody “big name,” but eventually changed his mind to include everybody. Everybody needs help, he says. Everybody’s staring at the 30-day cliff, everybody’s got kids to feed.
Now he shares great books of indies no matter how far along they are in their career.
“What are we going to do on this planet? I mean, we accumulate all this money and then one day we die. Money isn’t as important as people. And everybody out there is spending precious hours of their life writing their books and busting their butts, and if you can help them, you should.”
Advice to New Authors:
- Write three to five books in a row first, then release them one month apart.
- Make sure the editing is on point and think about your brand.
- Get a great, great book cover.
- Be good to people. Develop good relationships and be interested in people.
- Listen to podcasts like crazy.
Action Tips for a Successful Launch:
- Give away ARCs for those initial reviews. John recommends giving away 4 to 5 times the number of reviews you’re shooting for. He gave away 45 ARCs and received 14, with a few trickling in later.
- Launch to Kindle Unlimited. Many authors are finding great success through KU. For those authors who are worried about their eggs hanging out in one basket, just make sure you do your research, and keep in mind that the exclusivity period is only 90 days at a time.
- Ask your fellow indie authors with whom you already have a good relationship with, who regularly interact with their mailing list, and who write in the same genre to give you a boost or shout-out to their audience to let them know about your book. Make sure to return to the favor to friends and colleagues.
- Bolster the visibility of your book’s Hot New Releases status with Facebook ads.
What’s your favorite, most effective launch strategy/activity?
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