Do you want to know how to reach new levels of success with your book launch?
Listen as digital events design expert, Robbie Samuels shares some of his secret marketing savvy to skyrocket launching your next book in ways you didn't think possible.
Do you want to know how to reach new levels of success with your book launch?
Listen as digital events design expert, Robbie Samuels shares some of his secret marketing savvy to skyrocket launching your next book in ways you didn't think possible.
In this week's powerful episode "How to Reach New Levels of Success with Your Book Launch" you will discover...
Susan Friedmann: Welcome to Book Marketing Mentors, the weekly podcast where you learn proven strategies, tools, ideas, and tips from the masters. Every week, I introduce you to a marketing master who will share their expertise to help you market and sell more books. Today, my special guest is Robbie Samuels, a passionate entrepreneur who's been recognized as a networking expert by Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Ink. And as an industry expert in digital events design, he helps his clients ensure their online events run smoothly with less stress and greater participant engagement, as well as helping them discover prospects who are ready to buy whenever they launch a new product or service.
He hosts the On The Schmooze podcast, and a weekly virtual happy hour, No More Bad Zoom. He's the best-selling author of Croissants Versus Bagels, strategic, effective, and inclusive network at conferences, and his latest book, which I know he is going to talk more about, Small List, Big Results. It's been several years since I interviewed Robbie, but we have kept in touch during that time. But he has been making an incredible name for himself in the meantime. Robbie, it's an absolute pleasure to welcome you back to the show. Thank you for being this week's guest expert and mentor.
Robbie Samuels: Thank you for having me.
Susan Friedmann: Robbie, you have done such an incredible job with not only your first book, the Croissant Versus Bagels, but now with brand new book, the Small List, Big Results, we need to talk about launching your book because I know that our listeners always want to know how to do it successfully. And there are so many myths out there, and so many ways in which you can do it and you shouldn't do it, so put us straight. What's the best way, or the Robbie Samuel's way, of successfully launching a book?
Robbie Samuels: Well, I would start with don't keep your book a secret. I think too often writers are just heads down creating content, not talking to their likely readers, not letting their network know. And then suddenly, one day out of the blue, announcing to the world that they published a book, and nobody really cares. And it's really demoralizing. You need to reach a point where you're willing to talk about what you're crafting while you're crafting it. I was doing this with my second book. I actually started writing it in 2018 after my first book was very successful. My first book, I had 150 reviews within a week of my launch date, and it's now at 190 global reviews. And my second book, which the launch date was this past Sunday, it now has a hundred and, I think, 38 reviews. It's on track to surpass the first one. A lot of that was people were really rooting for me, rooting for the book before the book existed, and were helping me create the content, even starting back in 2018 when I first started working on the book.
Susan Friedmann: Whoa, so those are some pretty staggering figures, especially with reviews, and I want to talk more about that. But you start off by saying don't keep your book a secret. How do we start announcing it to the world, at what stage? So you talked about the fact that people helped you write the second book or gave you information to help you write the second book. Talk us through what you did to let people know about the book, at what stage? Are you six months out? Are you 12 months out? Talk to us about that.
Robbie Samuels: The second book was in response, the Smallest Big Results ... the subtitle is Launch a successful offer, no matter the size your email list, is in response to my experience working with entrepreneurs, coaching entrepreneurs around product market fit and lead strategies, like how do you find more leads. I noticed that a lot of people were doing common mistakes, and there's another way. So I outlined the content, literally just created an outline, and the first thing I did was, I hosted two master classes. These were free. And I just let my community know that I was working on the content of a book, and that I wanted to talk through what the pieces were, and get their feedback, and see what I'm missing that might need to be included, that I'm not even thinking about. There might be a better way to explain it. There might be a story I could include. There might be a concept that I need to flesh out.
There are two master classes where I just ... I had an outline. I talked through the outline. And I will tell you, a big part of that was I had to get the content out of my head. I'm not a person who feels drawn to writing, which is a funny thing to say having published two books. But I needed to get the content out, and I wanted to make sure that whatever I put in the book was relevant to my audience. And so actually, at RobbieSamuels.com, forward slash Masterclass, those classes exist, and they're now opt-ins on my site. And also, there was a third one I did because there was a concept in the book that was really resonating with people around discover your ideal client. So I did a separate masterclass just on that concept to really flesh that out.
And then I ended up putting the project aside. I wrote about 20,000 words in 2018, but I didn't have a plan for what came after the book. And the first time I published a book, kind of the same thing. I had a goal around doing online programming, or a course, or a group program, and I felt my way through it. And a lot of what I learned in the process is in the second book. But I knew I didn't want that to be. I wanted to have a much better business plan related to the second book, and I had other things going on in my business. So I let go of it for the moment.
I ended up coming back to it, strangely enough, at the height of building a new business. So as you probably know, in 2020, my business was all about in person, and I had to reinvent, and I became a virtual event design consultant and an executive Zoom producer. And I grew a very successful six figure business in eight months. And so this book is really ... The second book is an answer to the question, "Robbie, how did you do that?" But it's even more so how could the reader do it for themselves? Now the book had a reason to exist, and I came back and wrote the last 7,000 words and finally got it done. But even in August when the book was still being finalized, there were lots of other ways that I was bringing it to my community.
Susan Friedmann: There was constant keeping in touch with people. I love the idea of doing these master classes, and getting people's input, and running ideas by them, and as you said, asking them for stories, things that you wouldn't necessarily have come up with. So, that's brilliant. Talk about the reviews. You've got all these reviews and the book isn't even out yet, or it's just being released. How did you go about that? Because that's a question I get all the time, "Susan, how do I get reviews for my book? How do I get them?" What's your secret there?
Robbie Samuels: Asking again, and asking again, and polite persistence, and systems, and asking again, and better systems. I've been on lots of launch teams. I actually went back through my Amazon and realized that I had written over 50 reviews for authors. Most of those people asked me once, and didn't do any kind of follow up. And then it became a to-do item that I couldn't remember what it was. Wait, who had that book? And I would have to hunt through my email and try to find it, and it becomes a point of stress. I didn't want that experience. So my first and second book, I had a very thoughtful launch plan. I built a large launch team. This time though, when the book was still in the final stages of editing, I actually did a few things to bring it back to the public eye.
One, I asked for feedback on the title, and it changed the title dramatically and the subtitle dramatically. And I asked for feedback on the cover, and that also changed the trajectory of the cover. I also launched these popup masterminds is what I'm calling them, where people took an action from the book, which is called Wake Up Your Network. And they took the action, and then they came to a two hour program with seven other entrepreneurs. And it's a hundred dollars. It's not a huge, expensive thing. But it was a way for me, before the book was public ... I had 50 people go through this program. I did it seven times. And that was a nice base. These are people who had tangibly worked on a piece of the content and proven the validity that it was really useful.
Part of the launch team was that as I was getting the word out there about the popups, masterminds, the book title, and the cover, when people were like, "Oh, this is really interesting, let me know when it's out," I said, "Here's my signup link." And so I have a landing page that people would sign up to join my email list, and then they immediately to be sent to a Google form where I would gather additional information. And you know this because you went through my process both times. And it's from that, that I was able to gather this. I don't know my last count, but I'm definitely over 500 people on my launch team. And I will tell you that just having people in your launch team doesn't equal having reviews because I don't have 500 reviews. Maybe a third of the people will follow through in the end. But yeah, that's why you need a large team.
Susan Friedmann: Talk to us about that team because you've mentioned it a few times, building a launch team, having this launch team, using this launch team. Talk to us about how you're building it and what the expectation is for someone to be part of your launch team.
Robbie Samuels: I ask people to set an intention that they're going to write an honest Amazon review and post it in a timely manner. That is my request from them. In response, I am going to hold them to it and provide the support needed to help them follow through in their best intentions. And when they do, we will both feel awesome. That is the promise of joining my launch team. I also promised that they were going to get a little behind the scenes of a strategic book launch. In fact, I will be running a book launch debrief masterclass just for my launch team members in December, after the dust has fully settled, to let them know how it all went and how it resulted in business for me.
I think it attracted a lot of different kinds of people for different reasons. Some people were drawn to the content of the book. Some were really excited about seeing the process of the launch itself because they're an aspiring author, or they are an author and they want to relaunch their own books. I also offered a couple of things that I'd never done before. One was a dance copy went out on October 5th, and October 12th we hosted a librarian led book club discussion. One of my coaches is a trained librarian, and so she led this great conversation where we just invited people to respond to different questions we posed, and they came on air during a virtual meeting. So I think that helped people, gave them a reason to read the book in that week so they'd have something to talk about at the book club. And we had 60 people on the call, so it was really good number. We also did ... We just had a virtual launch party, a couple hundred people signed up for that. And about a hundred came.
Susan, the book in itself is important, but I think the realization I had [inaudible 00:13:42] my first book, about a month away from publish date, was that the publish date was just really the beginning, not the countdown day. And so that was such a helpful shift in my mind. The book, this second time, yes, it launched October 31st, and yes, now a few days later we have 138 reviews. That's not the end goal. I'm now leading people to a much bigger offer. The whole process of this launch is about getting people ready to say yes to the offer because they know that they need it. And so it's not so much selling something to them, but making something available. So I think the book was part of this much more lengthy launch around a program.
Susan Friedmann: So many different avenues. I'm like, okay, which one do we go to first?
Robbie Samuels: I know.
Susan Friedmann: You said something that caught my attention, and that is relaunching a book, because often an author makes mistakes the first time around, and it didn't do what they expected it to do or wanted it to do, and there's this big disappointment. And then the question is, "Susan, can I relaunch this book?" And I'm like, "Absolutely." I've got books that I wrote in 2007 that are still going because I keep it fresh in people's mind. But talk to us about the idea of relaunching a book that's already been out there, let's say for a few months, maybe even a few years.
Robbie Samuels: First thing I would say is, for every author, you should know that there's a difference between your published date and your launch date. For my second book, it launched on October 31st and it was published three weeks earlier. That was because my first book, I only gave myself a week to get everything done, and it was very stressful. This gave my launch team three weeks to get their reviews up. And one of the things I do, I didn't mention earlier, Susan, is I ask my launch team to send me the review via a Google form. That was an upgrade from my first time. I was doing a lot of cutting and pasting last time. And that way, I then can turn around and send it back to them with instructions for how to post it on Amazon. But I also now know they have written the review and I can follow up with them.
I think if you published a book without doing any kind of fanfare and not having a launch, before you would relaunch, I would recommend reaching out to someone like Susan and making sure your cover is a solid cover. Because if you were self-published like I am, and you didn't have good resources, or you didn't have the money, or you didn't have good support systems around you, you might need to touch up your cover. And so it's a really, really worthwhile investment. I love the person I'm working with. It's not even the most amount of money compared to editing or something. You might want someone to go through and re-edit to tighten it up, depending on how much money you spent the first time. My first book really had a copy editor, which is different than a content editor.
And then I think you just need to have a reason, make up a reason for why you're relaunching. It could be on the year anniversary. I've worked with people who are doing year anniversary celebrations, some sort of holiday, or anything. It doesn't need to be a reason per se, but you just pick a date and you do the launch the way you should have done it the first time by building a launch team and building some momentum around it, getting those reviews in.
I'm a podcast host, and I get pitched all the time by podcast placement companies for authors who just got a book released in the last year, and I'm amazed how many of them have fewer than 20 reviews. They paid thousands of dollars for this company to try to get them on my podcast, but they didn't make the effort through their own network for free to get reviews. Showing the book is valid, and necessary, and needed in the world. I just think of it as social proof. Aim to get 50 reviews on a relaunch or your initial launch, and I think you're going to be in a good place.
Susan Friedmann: That's fantastic. Another question is about Amazon. There are so many myths about Amazon, and one of them I know is that authors think, "Oh, all I have to do is post my book on Amazon and sit back and let the orders come flooding in," which couldn't be further from the truth, as you and I both know. But talk to us about how you use it, because many times you have referred to the fact that people have signed up on your list, which is exactly what you want people to do, because if they buy it directly from Amazon, you've got no idea who this person is who bought this book. But you want to build a relationship with that person. Talk to us about how you use Amazon and how that works for you, versus having it on material on your own website for people sign up. Talk to us about that differentiation.
Robbie Samuels: I create a landing page, and I happen to use Lead Pages, but you could do this through MailChimp. Any of these services have some kind of landing page. I use Lead Pages. So I have this standalone page that has information about my book. And when you click the button to get the book, there's a popup that says, "Before you get the book, I know you're going to want support in implementing the strategies in the book. Why not download the bonus content now?" And the bonus content for this new book is the Big Results Toolkit, and it's ... I don't know, six different resources, including an hour long replay, two workbooks, several worksheets. Some percentage of people, when they see that opportunity, they sign up for my email list right then, then they're directed to the actual Amazon link.
The other thing I have is, in the front pages of the book and in the very last pages of the book, I have very big, "Read this," is on the page, and it is an invitation to go and get the Big Results Toolkit from a link that I wrote out. And that is actually, for this second book, is doing incredibly well because it is very relevant to the material. My first book, for the paperback, I gave away the audio book that I recorded myself and I never put on audible. So the only way to get the audio book files is by buying the paper back. And for the ebook, I had some of the content from the book as podcast episodes, as well as blog posts, and I organized them into individual PDFs so they could be easily shared. It's basically a way to share some of the concepts with a team. And that converted really well, too.
A lot of the content for both my books started out as blog posts. That's how I get the writing out of my head. But to me, it's like, I want people to come, like you said, to my world. I don't want to just send them to Amazon. Amazon is a search engine, so you want to make sure you've got great cover art, great title, great keywords, great placement of what categories you're in. There's definitely people who can teach you a lot about that. But for me, I know that I have to do my own effort. The launch team helps with that. I also hire a company to run promotions for me. So I have two days that were free, and three days that were 99 cents, where they got me listed on BookBub, or Buck a Book, or whatever these places are called. I love that I don't have to know that. They have the relationships, they set that up.
There's a point where the hustle is just not worth it. And I'd rather pay a competent person and to do it for me, that's going to drive traffic. Before that happened, I wanted to make sure that my community got me over a hundred reviews. I felt like it was my job to get the book to a hundred reviews before my launch day, so that when all these people from outside my network see the page, it's, "Oh my gosh, this is a great book. Look, people for weeks have been writing all these great comments." So yeah, that was the strategy for how to utilize the Amazon experience.
Susan Friedmann: And what about the whole Amazon best seller status? I know it's a game. Did you play that game?
Robbie Samuels: I do the long hand version of figuring out which categories. I understand what rankings are competitive or would be difficult to get number one. One thing is to know that you can have 10 categories. It's not obvious. But I chose 10 categories. A step up this year was, I then met with someone who helped me figure out 10 categories for Canada and 10 categories for Australia, which are two other places that I have a decent following. And so, I hadn't thought to expand my categories in other country sites. That was kind of cool. I hit number one in two U.S. And two Canadian categories in the first three weeks before it was even formally launched. Hot new release, number one new release in two categories before it was launched. And since then, several others I'm hitting number one already today, again.
For me, it was exciting to hit ... I was a number one new release for women in business. The reason that was exciting is because it wasn't a sub, sub, subcategory. Some of these categories can get kind of small, and that's the game part, right? Two o'clock in the morning, you hit number one for 15 minutes. That's the game. But I think that it's worth getting ranked high. When I do free, I aim to break the top 100, and I've done that with both my books. So if you can break the top 100 free for your free day, then Amazon does a ton of promotions for you. I get reports that my book is being emailed to people. It becomes this hot new release. So, I don't do ads. I'll wait a few months, and I'll do ads eventually, but I'll let the groundswell around the launch itself carry the book for at least a few months.
Susan Friedmann: Amazing. Talk to us about categories in Canada and Australia. Are they different? You say that you looked at having somebody help you with those. Would you list them as different categories in those countries?
Robbie Samuels: This is one of those ... so annoying. The listings at Amazon.com are different than Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk, sometimes just very slightly. One will say business and investing, and the other one will say business and money, meaning the same thing, but it's a different listing. And sometimes the subcategories are slightly different. It's just a matter of going to each site ... and I met with someone who actually had a whole system for doing this, but going to each site and going through the tree, and looking at the different categories. You want to do this because you want to email ... go to the contact page and let the company ... KDP know, Amazon know, here's the categories that I want listed for Amazon.ca, and then here they are. And then you've got to check to see whether they actually get listed. They don't always do them.
So I will say it's a little bit of a fuss. It's not the easiest thing, but it's worth the effort. It's very gratifying as the content creator to have your book be recognized. And I think hitting number one in a category is just a ... It's a nice little ribbon. But it's not, for me, it doesn't translate to more money. I guess some people, they put a lot on the claim of being an international bestseller. And I guess I am an international bestseller. I have hit number one in categories in different Amazon sites. But I'm not going to rebrand my book as an international bestseller, because that to me screams self-published new author, and I'm trying to be seen for the value of the content of the book.
Susan Friedmann: Fabulous advice. I wanted to talk about a few mistakes, and another thing that I want you to talk about, maybe we can take this over to the premium member site, and that is about launch parties. So keep that hidden up your sleeve. And when we pop into that studio, we can talk about that. In the meantime, give us a few hot mistakes that we should avoid in this arena.
Robbie Samuels: Sending people information like ... I've seen people say, "Hey everyone, check out my cover," which is helpful feedback, also subtle marketing. And then people say, "I want to join your launch team," and they just comment in the comments. If you don't have a way to gather all those interested parties into one place, you are just going to lose your mind. Before you share your title, or your cover art, or whatever it is you're putting out into the world, set up a landing page so that you can gather everybody in one place. Get people to commit into the process, because if you have to keep checking all the posts, that will just be a lot.
One of the things we did this time that I think really was helpful, but took a little more coordination, is that there were two voices coming from my launch team. There was myself and then my business systems and processes coach, Mary Williams. And so, figuring out which email came from which voice, what was nice was that people were replying to her or just sending notes to her because they didn't want to bother me, but it was another ... So I think having a second person this time around was very helpful. I didn't have that the first time, and I definitely felt the workload was a lot. So, thinking about who in your life can step up to help you co-captain. I also used a book funnel to help me share the advanced copy this time, which was great, except that when that book funnel was finally set up, I forgot to let ... I had the automated message, telling people, "Welcome to the launch team," and I really should have updated the note sooner to be like, "And here's the link."
There are ways in which these are processes and systems that could be tighter, so you're doing less manual work. There was definitely some moments where I was a little late to update something in one of my many versions and copies. But I think the humanness is real, and the fact that I'm genuinely excited about the content and not salesy about it helps. But I think you've got to have a real plan for reaching out and reaching out over and over again. I will say one cool thing that I did was towards the end of the launch, when it was like, I'd asked several times now, I gave people an A, B choice, A being I'm really busy right now, but I fully want to do this. I just need to come up for air first. And B is, I'm not sure this book is for me. And then I was like, "If you think B read below, and if you think A, just let me know."
And I got 50 people hit reply to say A, and some of them literally just said A, and some told me the story behind what was stressing them out. But that means that I now have 50 people that I can, in two or three weeks, follow up with and check in with them again. So it's just helpful to know that there are people out there who want to help, but they just ... they can't right now. And I totally get that.
Susan Friedmann: Yeah. No, that's fantastic. I know that passion sells. It's one of the things that I say when people say, "Well, I'm not a sales person. I don't want to get into selling. It feels yucky to me." And I said, "The best thing is your passion about the book. And then when you've got that, that, as far as I'm concerned, can really sell much more than any technique that you use." Robbie, if our listeners wanted to find out more about how to get in touch with you, because you have got so much incredible information that you can share with them, how can they do that?
Robbie Samuels: Well, the cool thing is that my book, the second one, has a lot of great information that I think would help authors build their community around the book, because it's all about how do you build an audience before you release whatever your solution or offer is. And you can get a copy of the book and the bonus content, the Big Results Toolkit, by going to RobbieSamuels.com/Susan. So there's a special landing page I made just for you, Susan-
Susan Friedmann: Oh, thank you.
Robbie Samuels: And it'll give you the opportunity to also see a little bit of my systems, right? It's where you're going to go to this landing page, and you'll be invited to grab the copy of the bonus content, and join my email list before being sent to Amazon. But also, RobbieSamuels.com is just generally my site. And I would love to connect with people on LinkedIn, and just, yeah, say hi and stay in touch.
Susan Friedmann: Fabulous. Well, listeners, there's a gold mine of information, not only in this, but in Robbie's brand new book, Small List, Big Results. Yeah. Make sure that you grab your copy. And always like to end off with a golden nugget, Robbie. So if you were to leave our listeners with those final words of wisdom, what would they be?
Robbie Samuels: You've already met 80% of the people you need to know to be successful. It's time to wake up your network.
Susan Friedmann: I like it. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, and thank you all for taking time out of your precious day to listen to this interview. And I sincerely hope that it sparked some ideas you can use to sell more books. Here's wishing you much book and author marketing success.