This question hit my inbox today and I thought I’d share some of my reply here.
Great question – I remember these feelings vividly when I launched the first eBooks on ProBlogger and dPS.
On one hand, you want to sell as many copies as possible to make the long writing process worthwhile. You know that to sell those copies you need to let your readers know you’ve got something to sell….
But on the other hand, you don’t want your readers to all disappear because you never talk about anything else than what you’ve got to sell.
The answer is annoyingly… ‘it’s a balancing act’. There is no right or wrong answer but here’s what I’ve learned:
1. If you don’t promote it – nobody else will (at least in the beginning)
Most of us have the fantasy that we’ll release our eBook and that before we know it, word of mouth will make it viral across the internet and we haven’t had to much more than tweet that it’s available.
The harsh reality is that unless you’re Oprah (or you have access to Oprah’s Twitter account) – this is highly unlikely! While things do go viral and word of mouth can be an important factor online, the sooner you face the reality that you are going to be the one who will be needing to spread word of your new product … at least initially (and probably longer than that).
Down the track you might find that the people who buy your product begin to tell others about it but you need to be the one to seed that and to do so you’ll almost certainly need to promote it to the readers you’ve already got.
2. Make it an Event
When I first launched ‘31 Days to Build a Better Blog‘ I remember being really concerned about a reader rebellion taking place. Not so much because I was going to annoy readers by promoting the eBook but because I was selling them something for the first time – after years of providing free content.
What amazed me was the good will of my readership. The first time I mentioned I was developing something to sell on my blog (about a month before I launched it) the news was actually celebrated by some of my readers.
There were many congratulations and lots of requests for more information about when it would launch – how much it would be, what would it include etc.
There was no real strategy in mentioning it, except perhaps softening the blow with my readership. However, by doing so I inadvertently created some anticipation among my readers about the launch of the product.
As I got closer to launching the eBook, I began to talk about it more and more and in doing so the anticipation of the launch grew. I realised that I was not only not annoying my readers – they were actually enjoying the process.
The launch of the eBook became something of an event on ProBlogger. It was celebrated by my readership rather than something I had to convince my readers to put up with as a necessary evil.
I realised the eBook was something my readers be part of. That fact that it was very practical and useful helped in this but for me, I learned the power of bringing readers along on a journey of releasing your product.
3. Develop a Multi-pronged Launch Campaign
When we release an eBook on Digital Photography School we generally launch over a 3-4 week period and take a fairly multi-pronged approach.
During that period we map out a series of communications that will go out.
For example, we’re currently launching our brand new Landscape Photography eBook (as I write this we’re about to enter week #2 of our launch) and the launch will probably play out like this:
Prelaunch: we use social media to build a little buzz before launch by showing the cover, running some competitions to get readers guessing the topic etc. We send a few key affiliates advanced copies of the eBook for them to review.
Launch Day: on launch day we email our full list with a sales email, post an announcement on the blog and do a series of status updates on social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest). We also typically email our affiliates about the eBook and our eBook author promotes it to their own network. The strong message in the email, blog post etc is about an Early Bird special.
Week 1: Over the first week we promote the eBook a number of times on social media but don’t write about it again on the blog unless it is a ‘by the way’ type mention when we touch on a relevant topic. We also mention the eBook in our weekly newsletter.
Also during week 1 (and sometimes each week during the launch) I’ll run a ‘challenge’ with readers to get them taking photos on a theme related to the eBook and showing those photos (here’s an example from this last week).
7 Days After Launch: We typically email our list again and post on the blog with a 2nd communication about the blog. This week we’re launching a competition for buyers of the eBook but other times we’ve emailed other messaging.
Week 2: we try to post some posts on the blog during week 2 that are guest posts on the same topic as the eBook, often by the same authors. It is important to me that these posts don’t just promote the eBook but they also deliver value whether people buy the eBook or not.
We also again mention the eBook in the weekly newsletter.
14/21 Days After Launch: Depending how the launch goes we may send a ’1 week to go’ email at this point to let readers know that the Early Bird Special is coming to an end. We might also include some testimonials from readers at this point and might also link to the posts that the author has done on the blog.
Week 3: often we’ll post more guest posts on the blog this week and will continue to pepper social media with occasional messages.
Last Chance Email: with 48-24 hours to go until the early bird offers end we send a very short ‘last chance’ reminder email. This is usually just a few lines.
Every launch is different and we’ve done a variety of other things for different launches like posting interviews with authors, running webinars, giving away excerpts from the eBooks, running competitions in the lead up to launches and much more.
The key here is to think about what messaging you’ll do through out the launch and not just to send the same message out each day over and over.
You’ll see in the above that each week has its own theme that helps take readers on a journey.
We also make sure that a fair few of the blog posts that mention the eBook during the campaign are actually valuable to readers whether they buy the eBook or not. My goal is not just to sell readers eBooks but also to equip ALL of my readers in the topic we’re exploring during the launch.
4. Keep Delivering Value Outside of the Launch Communications
A key objective for me during all our launches is to continue to deliver high value to readers during the launch period that is outside of the launch. So while we’re certainly promoting the eBook during the above launch there’s also the normal level of blog posts going up on the blog about other topics.
On a typical week on dPS I publish 14 tutorials – during a launch week it remains at this level. The same thing is true on social media – we continue to share great content on social that is not related to the launch.
So anyone who doesn’t want to buy the eBook still is getting other value out of the site during the launch.
This takes concerted effort as you get excited about the launch and tired from creating all the messaging for the launch – but it is very important. I’ve seen many bloggers fall into the trap of only ever talking about their products on their blog for a month while they launch something and in doing so the momentum of their actual blog stops.
Don’t let this happen or you might just find that after your product launch you have no readers left!
5. Listen to Your Readers
During your launch sequence, pay a lot of attention to any feedback you are getting from readers.
If they begin to complain about the launch, this might be a signal to take the foot off the pedal slightly. If they’re excited it’s a signal that you’re hitting the mark.
Also watch your sales numbers. Generally, there comes a point during a launch when your communication starts to be less effective. This is a signal that you might want to draw the campaign to a close.
When we launch an eBook we never quite know how long the launch will go. We may put aside 4 weeks but if things slow we might cut it back to 3. If there is momentum we can always extend it.
Over time as you release more products you can also compare one launch to another to help identify whether you are onto a big launch or one that might be worth calling to an end sooner than later.
What Would You Add?
The above process does involve promoting your eBook and the reality is that any promotion will annoy some of your readers. You are likely to get some pushback every time.
But I’ve found if you make your launches relevant to readers in terms of topic, you promote something of high value and you work hard to deliver value during a launch that most readers will not only put up with your launch – but many will celebrate it and participate in it with you!
I’d love to hear your tips and experiences with launching products. What have you done to launch without annoying your readers?