When you have no books published, what does a launch strategy look like?

This is a question I have been asked at every stop so far on the epic 20Books Drive Across America and the profound train ride around the UK.

From a strategic perspective, you don’t know how your book will be received. You probably aren’t sure of the exact genre (for marketing purposes). You aren’t sure of the technical process of publishing. There are so many things that you don’t know, but there is one simple way to get some of that information: Publish your book. You don’t have to build a readership before you have anything for them to read. You don’t have to set up blog tours or promotions. You don’t have to do any of that.

And too many people think that you do, and it is holding them back. I think the people I’ve met were looking for a strategy that included joining feedback groups, setting up a newsletter, running promotions—those things that seasoned authors will do to launch their books. They built that stuff over a long period of time. They have existing readers, also built over time.

It takes bait to attract the fish. No one dangles a bare hook and expects to catch anything. With a product, you now have the means to attract readers—those people who might like your style and read your books.

Until you publish, you don’t know what you don’t know, but you can always sell a good book. You may end up putting a new cover on it. You will redo the blurb. You may even rewrite it. Nothing is fatal for an author’s career. We learn, and we grow.

Would it be better to have a reader magnet first? In your overall sales funnel, yes, having a reader magnet—short story to full-length book, the best sample of your style that you can manage—is beneficial, but you’ll run across the same problems. How do you get it into readers’ hands? If you have the magnet ready, publish it. If you don’t, publish the book, and at some point in the future, get the reader magnet into the mix.

Consider the chicken and the egg. Start learning what you don’t know by using what you have at hand. One of my bestselling books this year is one I published five and a half years ago to no audience, without a readership, with a bad cover, and I could go on, but why? When the third book in that series was ready with new covers on them all, I ran promotions on book one, and that started a great five-year run that has led to over one hundred thousand dollars in sales for that series.

Getting it right before you know anything about this business is putting a great deal of pressure on yourself. Getting it right eventually is an effective way to launch a career. The best thing you can do to help yourself is to get the book out there and listen to the feedback. And keep in mind that nothing sells your first book like the newest book. Write another book, and write it better.

Picture of Craig Martelle

Craig Martelle

High school Valedictorian enlists in the Marine Corps under a guaranteed tank contract. An inauspicious start that was quickly superseded by excelling in language study. Contract waived, a year at the Defense Language Institute to learn Russian and off to keep my ears on the big red machine during the Soviet years. Back to DLI for advanced Russian after reenlisting. Deploying. Then getting selected to get a commission. Earned a four-year degree in two years by majoring in Russian Language. It was a cop out, but I wanted to get back to the fleet. One summa cum laude graduation later, that’s where I found myself. My first gig as a second lieutenant was on a general staff. I did well enough that I stayed at that level or higher for the rest of my career, while getting some choice side gigs – UAE, Bahrain, Korea, Russia, and Ukraine. Major Martelle. I retired from the Marines after a couple years at the embassy in Moscow working arms control. The locals called me The German, because of my accent in Russian. That worked for me. It kept me off the radar. Just until it didn’t. Expelled after two years for activities inconsistent with my diplomatic status, I went to Ukraine. Can’t let twenty years of Russian language go to waste. More arms control. More diplomatic stuff. Then 9/11 and off to war. That was enough deployment for me. Then came retirement. Department of Homeland Security was a phenomenally miserable gig. I quit that job quickly enough and went to law school. A second summa cum laude later and I was working for a high-end consulting firm performing business diagnostics, business law, and leadership coaching. More deployments. For the money they paid me, I was good with that. Just until I wasn’t. Then I started writing. You’ll find Easter eggs from my career hidden within all my books. Enjoy the stories.

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