Book Launch Case Study with Leigh Stein

Today I take you inside the book launch plans of author Leigh Stein. She and I worked together last year in preparation for the launch of her new book, Self Care: A Novel, which will be released in June.

I want to take you step-by-step into the process she went through to identify her ideal readers and develop her marketing plan. But first let’s start with the results of this work so far:

  1. This is her fourth book, and she said has never had a publisher so engaged with promoting her book, so early in the book launch process. Part of this is because she pitched them the marketing ideas she and I developed 7 months ahead of launch in a 16 page document.
  2. She has total clarity on her ideal readers and how she wants to reach them.
  3. She knows exactly what marketing strategies she will be pursuing and how to get them done.

You can listen to Leigh and I discuss this via my most recent podcast episode, linked to at the end of this post. Okay, let’s dig into some key takeaways:

Develop Your Marketing Plan Early. Much Earlier Than You Think

Leigh and I began working together nearly a year ahead of launch. Why? Because it took us three months to do the research necessary to put together a solid marketing plan. If you wait until you are in the launch window of the book (a few months before publication), it is already too late to develop some of the most compelling and fulfilling ideas. Marketing is not just about a clever idea, it often hinges on developing the right relationships. This takes time. Leigh has had months and months to approach people about her ideas. This kind of relationship building and collaboration requires communication and trust, and you can’t rush that.

This is why a lot of marketing fails: someone puts together a plan at the moment they need it, then pitch it to people that they barely know. The result is often our biggest nightmare as writers:

  • A panicked sense that things need to happen right now or your book won’t reach readers.
  • Learning too late that you don’t have the right plan or relationships to really get people on board with marketing your book.

Word-of-mouth marketing takes time. Give it the attention that it deserves by being prepared ahead of time.

Spend the Time to Identify Your Ideal Readers

Leigh was very clear at the start of our work that she wanted to reach a different audience than the one she had developed over the years with her previous books. She has an incredible network of writers in her life, but for our work, she wanted to be sure to reach a certain type of reader.

We developed personas to represent her two core audiences, and gave them names and personalities. What is a persona? It is a shorthand way of describing an audience you hope to reach. You make it about engaging one person. This becomes a decision-making tool to help us identify the best marketing strategies to use. Instead of having a marketing idea and asking “Would my audience like this” and coming up with the answer of “Um, maybe. Some of them would, I guess.” We instead ask: “Would Lauren like this? Would Lauren LOVE this?”

This allowed us to pursue marketing ideas that felt as though they would truly connect with her ideal readers, and have word-of-mouth marketing potential built in.

Don’t Confuse Platform With Marketing

I see a lot of book proposals where the marketing section consists of vague ideas around “sharing on social media” or “starting an email newsletter.” While I love both of those things and work with writers to develop them nearly every single day, it is important to note the difference between an author platform and a marketing strategy.

An author platform is your ability to communicate and develop trusting relationships with potential readers. It may include a newsletter, social media, blog, podcast or so much else. While your platform can include marketing, the platform itself should not be confused with marketing.

For the work Leigh and I did, we did do a careful analysis of her platform, but we also focused on developing a few core marketing strategies specifically for her book launch. These ideas focused not only on what we felt would reach her ideal readers, but how they would create meaningful experiences that Leigh would love to be a part of.

This is critical. Marketing can — and should — be fun. It should feel meaningful.

As part of the document she presented to her publisher included the following marketing strategies: a limited edition zine that would be mailed to a few hundred people; a series of events that would include a range of speakers and topics; a podcast strategy, plus social media strategy, publicity work, and a month-to-month timeline to get it all done.

We talk about each of them in greater detail in the podcast linked below.

Seek Out Collaborators

Leigh and I first worked together when she took my Creative Shift Mastermind back in 2018. We kept in touch, and even though she has loads of experience in publishing, she knew that to truly invest in her book meant to bring on board collaborators.

It’s funny, I would say that she hired me because she has experience publishing. This is her 4th book, and she has many friends who are published authors. She knows that not all publishers can offer the kinds of hands-on help that many an author wants, and that they can’t begin strategizing very early in the book launch process. (Of course, all of this applies to self-published authors as well.)

So, even though Leigh had a marketing team, publicist, editor, and agent on her team already, she brought me on as a collaborator. For the marketing plans we developed, they are all about connecting with real people. They establish and grow professional relationships with the kinds of people who she is truly inspired by. These are her people.

Every element of the marketing is infused with outreach, with connecting, with collaborating, partnering, and what I call human-centered marketing.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

You can find Leigh in the following places on her website, her book Self Care: A Novel on Amazon, her Instagram @leighstein, and on Twitter @rhymeswithbee.