Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Imagine how well your book launch would go if you’d already allowed a handful of people to read your new book. You can skip the part where you nervously wait for online reviews because your biggest fans are already proclaiming far and wide the power of your storytelling.
Often, the best online marketing can be seen throughout the world of indie video games. That being the case, let’s look at arguably the most successful grassroots game of the decade: Minecraft.
You’ve heard of Minecraft, I hope. If not, ask any ten year old, and they’ll fill you in on the specifics. The open-world, digital Lego brick game was first officially released in November of 2011. But long before its official release, fans were able to buy alpha and beta versions of the game as early as 2009, while the game’s developer, Notch, made tweaks and changes, asking for feedback from his existing players.
This meant that by the time Minecraft was declared ‘complete’, it already had a fanbase of millions, eager to shower the game with praise and encourage all of their friends to buy it. No parent’s wallet has ever been the same since.
Providing key readers with early access can have similar effects on your novel’s official launch. Instead of having to wait patiently as readers gradually discover your novel, you’ll have an instant group of existing readers, willing to share your book. Now that’s clever book marketing!
Who gets to read it first?
There are several great places from which you can recruit your army. We’ve spoken previously about the benefits of beta readers as you develop your story – these readers have seen your work develop over the course of their involvement, and they’re the first people you can turn to when requesting positive launch day reviews.
Next, you can look at your social media followers. If you’ve already been building hype for your next novel, there’s a good chance that your followers will jump at the chance to read it before everybody else.
You may also find success by sending advanced copies to book blogs and reviewers. Of course, many book blogs are overwhelmed with review requests, so make sure you fully understand the site’s submission guidelines and review policy before contacting them. I would also advise including a well-worded cover letter explaining why your book would be interesting and relevant to the site’s followers, as well as providing a brief summary of what your book is about. In other words, make it easy for them to review your book.
But, don’t feel that you need to limit yourself to book reviewers – any blog with a decent following will help.
Nathan Kontny is a software developer with over 6,000 Twitter followers who blogs on an eclectic variety of subjects. In 2013, he blogged about a new book release by the author Malcolm Gladwell, after the author had sent him a digital review copy of the book.
What’s interesting is that in another blog post, Nathan Kontny goes into detail about how he got a review copy. He’d enjoyed a previous book by the author, and had decided to reach out personally to request the chance to read the next book early.
Book fans love a freebie, and they’ll also be thrilled at the chance to read your next work early. If you speak widely enough about early access, you’ll be able to find readers who are willing to read your book ahead of its release in exchange for encouraging others to buy it when they have the chance.
Making the most of your early readers
The best way to recruit good early access readers isn’t to just offer a .pdf download on social media – you need to convince your readers to invest a little more in the process.
Create a mailing list especially for the purpose of distributing the book: ask readers to sign up for a free download copy of your upcoming work.
Set a limit to the number of readers you’ll include, and don’t be afraid to turn people away or inform them that they’ve been put on a waiting list. Restricting access makes your advanced reader pool more exclusive, and gives it greater value. Later, you can decide whether you’d like to extend your advanced reader group.
Finally, once your readers are signed up to the mailing list, build the hype for the eventual book launch. Ask readers for their feedback on the story ahead of time. Send them regular emails letting them know the release date and keeping them informed of developments.
In the days before your launch, request that your readers share a review on Amazon when they’re able, and on the day of the book launch, send another email asking for reviews.
This may sound like a lot of contact, but don’t worry too much about overwhelming readers. Speak sincerely to them, let them know how much the book launch means to you, and don’t forget to tell them how much you value their feedback and reviews. A little gratitude will go a long way.
Have you ever offered early access to your books? Have you ever read somebody else’s book in advance of its release? Do you have any tips for creating a good early access army? We’d love to read about your experiences! Leave us a comment below.