My new office space is filled with books and shipping materials today, as we’re sending out advance review copies of The Disciplined Leader by John Manning.
Shipping and distributing books is something we do to serve our clients. It requires many hands on deck, and we pull in occasional workers to get a fast turn-around on books in, books out.
Getting books out in the world prior to a launch is a great way to fuel early buzz. We encourage clients to share advance copies with as many friends and colleagues as possible, because we find that the number of books authors send out prior to launch is a great determiner in how many Amazon reviews they can expect to gather soon after launch week. Early Amazon reviews fuel excitement and provide important social proof for a new book.
Packaging books is a time-consuming activity and requires coordination and planning. We stock up on shipping labels, shipping envelopes, and stationary. Many authors choose to include a bookmark and some take the time to individually sign bookplates, which we add to each book, transforming each advance copy into a valued (signed) edition.
If you are launching a book soon, it’s helpful to plan in advance for all the details related to sending advance copies.
Here are a few considerations:
Shipping Method. We typically ship books media mail, when time allows, for the lowest price per book. Depending on the weight of the book and distance we’re shipping, the price to ship first class is often comparable, so shipping media mail doesn’t always make sense. If you choose to ship via USPS, you may want to consider wait times and other inconveniences of processing books at the post office. Our team has a pretty sweet arrangement with our local (small town) post office, in which we drop off large quantities of books for them to process in between other customers. This saves our team hours of time and our authors money. While using service like stamps.com may seem like an easy solution to the waiting-in-line-at-the-post-office dilemma, it hasn’t worked well for us, despite several tries; we’ve struggled with importing large lists and then needing to spend time correcting addresses; it’s not as seamless or easy as you think and it doesn’t play with Infusionsoft, our favorite CRM.
Mailing Lists. One of the pain points in distributing early copies of books is incomplete or incorrect address lists. If you plan to ship books, working on address lists far in advance is very helpful. Another work around is sending an email with a form, linked to your CRM, to gather addresses. For some clients, we use our own system and forms, simplifying this often-confusing process. The lists can then be exported from the CRM and merged into a file for printing labels.
Packaging. We’ve seen some author stand out by choosing branded packaging to match their company or book branding. Chip Bell had fun with an advance mailing of actual sprinkles prior to sending his book Sprinkles. Other authors choose specialized packaging. A brightly colored envelope is certain to get more attention than a white or other typically colored package. Alexandra Watkins did a great job with this, including Hello, My Name is Awesome stickers on every envelope. Fun packaging requires advance planning, and will likely create additional expense but is certainly worth it for some authors.
Messaging. If you are going to invest in shipping out hundreds of advance books, the message you send with the books is important. What action do you want people to take? How will you follow-up? The message you send with the books is also an opportunity for building a relationship with each recipient. Craft your message carefully. If you plan to spend any extra time, time spent on personal notes is probably the most valuable part of this process.
Support. Many of the authors we serve underestimate the demands on their time during a book launch. Sending out books is an additional activity that is not likely as high leverage. Plan in advance how you will deal with the extra administrative details related to your book promotion. Will you hire a temporary assistant? Work longer days? Enlist your kids? Outsource to a team like ours? Be proactive in planning for support; you’ll need it more than you expect to.
Every book you send into the world represents the opportunity to make a difference through your words and content; each book is a seed that can grow and bear fruit for your business.
Tell me something! If you are an author, what else can you share about the not-so-glamorous parts of your job?