The (3) Essential Parts of a Book Launch Postmortem
In the world of Project Management, a postmortem is a special meeting where the project team reconvenes after everything is complete. We talk through what went right on the project and the parts we’ve all tried to forget. It’s a “lessons learned” session; a review so we’ll all actually learn those lessons and (hopefully) not make the same mistakes on the next project. It’s easy for these meetings to become finger-pointing sessions, but a good project manager will work to make the meeting a “safe zone.” A place where results can be assessed honestly.
A book launch is, in itself, a project. A short-term undertaking with start and finish dates. So I love the idea of holding my own private postmortem for each book launch. As I work to make each launch more successful than the last, I can focus on areas that yield strong results and ditch the efforts that were a waste. Also, this gives me a good pulse on how book marketing is evolving.
So let’s take a look at the (3) essential parts of a good postmortem, and I’ll use my recent launch as an example.Timeline of Efforts: Record this as if you’ll be struck with amnesia the next time you review this document. Write down every milestone in the launch process, pricing, ads purchased, emails sent, everything! I also like to record how many books are sold each month during the pre-order period. Here’s an example:
January (90 days out):
Jan 6th: Preorder available. Book available on all platforms. $.99 pre-order special price.
Jan 7th: Sent email announcing preorder. 16% click rate
1078 Books preordered in Jan
Feb 1st: Changed book cover. (I never loved the first version, so I decided now was the time to change it if I planned to. No noticeable difference in sales from one to the other.)
Feb 1st: Added bonus giveaways w/ the preorder version
859 Books preordered in Feb
Mar 12th: Bookbub add for Mountain Promise (previous book in series). 40,040 total free downloads of MP over 5 days. 593 total Mountain Call preorders during that same 5 days.
Mar 10th: Sent email to subscribers about preorder bonuses. 5% click rate
Mar 17th: Sent email to subscribers sharing a peek at Cathleen’s profile (the heroine). 3% click rate
Mar 24th: Sent email to subscribers sharing a peek at Reuben’s profile (the hero). 3.5% click rate
Mar 31: Guest blog on ***
1517 Books preordered in March
April 5th: Release day. Changed book files to remove preorder bonuses.
April 6th: Blog interview on *** w/ book giveaway.
163 Books preordered in April
3617 total pre-orders
List of Marketing Efforts: Did you do any advertising? Blog tours? Giveaways? How many emails to your list? Write everything here. Example from my launch:
Did FB advertising, (4) mailing list emails, (2) blog interviews, preorder giveaways, and ran free BB ad on previous book in series.
Ran FB ad from Jan 7 – April 1st.
Bonus giveaways w/ preorder. Included in the back of the ebook for preorder file:
- An additional short story.
- Character profiles for the hero and heroine, including the pictures that inspired their characters.
- A behind-the-scenes look at my creative process.
The Good, the Bad, and the Repeatable: Make this exhaustive. List every single thing you can think of.
Things that went RIGHT: Bullet point out everything you did that worked well. Both in keeping your work load down and in selling books. You’ll want to do this stuff again on the next launch.
- I definitely want to do the Bookbub ad for the previous book in the series for free.
- There were many more clicks from my organic email list (readers signing up in the back of my books) than from those who signed up as part of the Mountain Man giveaway using Facebook lead gen ads. Despite the FB list having (6) times more names.
- Interview on *** blog
Things I would change: List everything that didn’t go as planned. What promotion didn’t sell any books? What part of your automation broke?
- Not sure whether the preorder giveaways added extra sales. I think that may be more beneficial for non-fiction than fiction. I did receive good feedback from readers about the additional short story in the back of the book.
- Sent total of (4) emails to list. Next time send only 2 or 3. (When available for preorder, sneak peek of content or characters, and maybe release day email.)
- FB ads were a net loss, which I knew would be the case going into it. I chose to do them to gain wider exposure, but I’m not sure it was worth the cost.
What to do next time: What do you want to make sure and do next time? What missed opportunities did you realize too late? What broke that you don’t want to break next time?
- Blog tour. Get the book in front of every influencer I can.
- Maybe do a large giveway of an Amazon gift card or gift, with rafflecopter sharing.
- Submit to review sites like Publishers Weekly and RT Reviews.
- Think about $2.99 preorder price point next time. At least to start, then I can lower if sales are slow.
And there you have it. When I prepare for my next book launch, I’ll review these notes and put together an even stronger strategy. I can’t wait! 🙂
What about you? Have you held a book launch postmortem? What was your most helpful effort in your last book launch?
7 thoughts on “The (3) Essential Parts of a Book Launch Postmortem”
June 7, 2016 at 1:03 pm
Thank you for generously sharing your successful strategies with other authors. I’m learning so much from you and look forward to using these tips for my next book launch!
June 7, 2016 at 2:03 pm
Thanks, Debbie! I love analyzing the results and so I know what’s working. It’s a constant process. 🙂 Glad it’s helpful to others!
June 9, 2016 at 7:59 am
Oh goodness, I need to go do that! 🙂 Thanks!
June 9, 2016 at 8:09 am
Good luck, Janet! It seems like my postmortem results are always a little different than I expected. 🙂
January 5, 2017 at 7:18 am
[…] talked about the importance of doing a postmortem for a book launch, so as I set my email list growth goals for 2017, I thought it might be helpful to see what efforts […]
January 28, 2018 at 6:13 pm
Thanks for sharing your strategies Misty. Great info! What I’d love to know more about, however, is how much you had to spend in ads to generate 3,617 in preorders. I’m assuming that created $3,581 in sales, but how much did you have to spend to make that splash?
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January 29, 2018 at 6:49 pm
Hi Christy! My total spend on FB ads was $840, but I can tell you that’s NOT what brought in the 3,614 preorders. It’s hard to know for sure, but I estimate the FB ads brought in about 400 sales. The three primary things to which I attribute the sales were: (1) read-through, since this was book 5 in a series, (2) email subscribers, because I saw a significant jump in preorders every time I sent an email to my list, and (3) running the BookBub Featured Deal on the previous book. I had over 40,000 downloads of that previous book, and a prominent link to buy the preorder book at the end of the story. I hope that helps!