Monday, May 16, 2016

Should You Relaunch Your Series and How?

Hello glorious Monday morning, (can you tell I'm a parent? ^_^)

Last week I talked about Rachel and my teamwork. This week, I'd like to return to the train of marketing posts I'd been working by talking about rebranding and relaunching old series. If you have an older book or series out there, then I think that you'll find there's a lot you can still do with it. Also, for those you who launched a book and maybe didn't hit the mark on the marketing of it, this post should contain a number of useful segments.

So why should someone relaunch a series? What does that entail? What should they watch out for? Onward!

Should You Relaunch Your Series?

When I first heard about this idea of a relaunch, I had to slap my forehead that I'd never thought about it before.

Don't let the sales get you down Sokka

There's several considerations that make me very excited about the idea of relaunching a series. Basically it comes down to how different things are now versus then. By 'then', I mean when your given book or series first came out versus now.

The first and biggest thing that's probably changed is readers. Ebook market growth and book market growth has added millions every year. While many of these people are not wholly new to reading and books, think about how many launches and hot releases they weren't around for.

Therefore, if you have a book or series that's been out for several years,
There are millions, tens of millions even, of people who are in the market now that weren't around when your book was new. 
I personally find that potential very exciting and that's what we're all about reaching today.

Also consider how you have (hopefully) grown as an author. How many more readers, many more connections, and much larger reach you have now versus when the work originally came out. Ask yourself, if you launched your old series today, how much better could you make that launch go?

Age isn't the only consideration for a relaunch however. Newer works that have had a lackluster reception are also likely targets. Many good books miss their mark with their marketing. Look at The Spirit Thief for example. Great book, but it had the wrong cover and so it didn't do well to start. Then Orbit put a new, much more appropriate cover on it, and relaunched the series. It's been doing well ever since!

So, with these exciting possibilities in mind, let's talk about what a relaunch entails.

How to Relaunch a Book or Series
The only one like this! I promise!

In essence, a relaunch means new covers, blurbs, front/back matter, and marketing all coordinated into a pseudo-launch push to get attention like it's a new book. This doesn't necessarily mean new titles, though. We're aiming to keep the reviews and store position of the original. Those are gold so long as they are even moderately good. (Of course, if your reviews are so terrible you don't want to keep them, you can always pull the book down and completely relaunch with a new title and everything, but you're going to want to look at that title again very seriously since that many bad reviews generally means there's something seriously wrong with your story. That has to be fixed first. There's no cover or branding in the world that can sell a people don't want to read.)

But we're going to assume your book is good, maybe even great! It's just fallen off the radar and needs a new coat of paint to catch new reader attention. That's what a relaunch is all about: making the old and forgotten look new and exciting!

When planning a relaunch, the main theme is modern

The most powerful part of a relaunch is getting new covers. Make sure to do your research. Your book should have also-boughts and also-vieweds now on Amazon and other stores. Go look at those to see what kind of look your actual customers like and are interested in.

The also boughs can also give you a good idea who's. When you launched the first time, you could only guess at your readership. Now, though, you have real proof of who likes your book AND what other kinds of books they like via Amazon's also boughts. Once you know that, you can start studying your reader's favorite best sellers. Analyze their covers. Read their blurbs. Check out their sample chapters.

You don't have to copy them, but having this information will help you make keen decisions for recovering and blurbing your book(s). We don't normally chase trends, but
You are trying to rebrand as close to trend as is possible without causing distortion. Don't try to be what you aren't. Instead, find where you fit in the modern marketplace.

Second shelf from the right, on till morning...

For example, someone at RT2016 said that the term "Werewolf" was out and that readers and fans weren't using it so much anymore. However, werewolves were still very popular, they were just falling under the whole "Shifter" umbrella now. Picking up on these kind of keyword changes is important. All those potential new readers I mentioned bring with them new context and new search terms precisely because they weren't around for when those older terms had power.

Don't Forget BISACs
While doing this research, pay attention to BISACs. Are your related best sellers in the same BISACs as you? Is your work in the right categories?

If you're selling on Amazon, these same rules also apply to your keywords, which determine your Amazon categorization. KDP only lets you pick 2 BISAC categories, but it gives you 7 keywords. Getting these 7 right is vitally important to making sure your book is turning up in the right searches. (If you're not sure what keywords to use, here is Amazon's own list of keywords divided by genre and what Amazon categories they get you into. Knock yourself out!)

If you have't played around with your categories before, don't be afraid to experiment. Look deep, try something new, you might be surprised. Getting yourself into different searches and lists is a big part of reaching a new audience who's hungry for your book.

Updated Insides

While the core text of the book isn't likely to change during a relaunch (unless you're rewriting), the front and backmatter are fair game. 

For example, do you have your blurb in the front matter? That's really useful! People often buy books on impulse but don't actually get around to reading them until later, sometimes much later. But because most e-readers only show the title and maybe the cover, it's not uncommon for readers to forget why they were excited about your book in the first place. But if you put your blurb at the very front of your book, they'll get pumped up again and go into the text with the right frame of mind.

This might not sound like such a big deal since you already got the sale, but remember: sales are good, but readers are gold. Even if you sold a book, including that forward blurb increases your chance of actually being read even months later. Anyone with a good cover and title can move product when it's on sale, but book buyers who actually read your book are the ones who'll go on to read all your other stuff.

While you don't have to do a full relaunch to add a front matter blurb, it's my example because it's a technique that wasn't widely around a few years ago (and still isn't IMO). We just started doing it for the Heartstriker series ourselves. But if you are doing a relaunch, and you haven't considered this stuff before, now's the perfect time to do so.

Prepping for a relaunch is the perfect time to make sure you are utilizing up-to-date book selling techniques and best practices.

Do you have new books out? Update the lists! Update all the info about yourself, pages, mailing lists, and so on. You should be doing this anyway, but the relaunch really needs to have current, accurate information.

As for the back matter, make sure you're politely asking for a review, make sure that each book in the series leads the reader to the next and beyond. If you have more than one series, try to lead readers to your other works as well.

If you haven't touched your book or series in a few years, I bet you'll find loads of updates and work to do here that is absolutely worth doing.

Add New Formats

Are you ebook only? Missing print, audio, or hardcover? A relaunch is a great time to consider adding new formats. This is a good idea in general, especially audio, but releasing in a new format is kind of like a mini-launch all by itself, and that's strong stuff when paired with a relaunch. Usually the marketplace(s) involved will put your new edition of their thing up in their various promotions or new releases sections. This is about as ideal as it gets if you can time the release of a new format with a relaunch.

Plan the Marketing Push

You're going to need to make noise for a relaunch to work properly. While new covers, formats, and possibly BISACS will get you fresh eyes, a serious marketing push is needed to get the most bang for your time and buck. I'll list everything I can think of marketing wise as follows but, keep in mind: this is hardly a complete list, and you don't have to do all of these things to be successful. What I'm about to describe here is a lot of work to put together. Any one of these can have a big impact, but the more you can combo together, the bigger the end result will be!

1. Dig up new reviewers and send review copies to them. Line up appearances on podcasts, or multi-author events if you can swing them. Find people who have reviewed books like yours and try to court them for reviews as well. Drum up that second storm of attention.

2. Line up your favorite email blast services (like Bookbub). Since this is an existing product, not an actual new release, it's totally viable to do a discount sale to kick off your launch. This will get you a lot of attention, a lot of sales, and hopefully put you high up on the lists of various marketplaces like Amazon. The power of Bookbub and its smaller competitors is well known.

If you want to see a run down of email blast services and their effectiveness, check out my post on the NDFL Mega Promotion. There's a list of services, links, numbers, and analysis. Enjoy!

3. If you are not Amazon exclusive, reach out to the promotion services of iBooks, B&N, and Kobo. All three of them have people you can email and ask for help with a launch or relaunch. They love to work with authors on things like this, but it does take time to line up. How much varies with the vendor, but 4-6 weeks would be the minimum polite notice. (At least, that's what I've been told. We're Amazon exclusive, so we haven't tried this yet.)

4. Use your social media and your own reach. Even if you're not boasting millions of followers, a big push at the right time can make a lot of ripples. Hit up all your blogging buddies for a blog tour, or do a give away. If you have more than one series out, consider how many of your new fans haven't read your older stuff and advertise specifically to them. They're already inclined to like you and might have been thinking about picking up your older titles for a long time. A promo or sale combined with a shiny new cover might just be the push they need to buy.
Fun Fact: "People who bought The Legend of Eli Monpress" is the most successful ad campaign I've ever run for NDFL. 
5. Carefully determine if you'll use any paid advertising services like Amazon Marketing Services, Google Ad Words, Goodreads Ads, Facebook Ads, and so on. Be warned, though - I don't have silver bullet advice on using these. Each one takes months of refinement and experimenting to learn. For all our efforts, Rachel and I still haven't achieved a positive ROI on any paid ad we've ever run. (ຈ ﹏ ຈ) That said, there are tons of authors who have fantastic success at paid ads, so YMMV.

TIP: When putting together these kinds of marketing campaigns, make sure to track track track! I typically just use a google doc spreadsheet. But it's important to make sure you keep an eye on contacts, dates, commitments, and overall spending (which can easily get out of hand. $10 here, $20 there ads up!)

This might sound like a lot of trouble, but I suggest it for a reason - keep in mind the one big weakness of a relaunch:

The Industry Loves New Books, Not Old Ones

So good, but so left to their dust...
At the end of the day, your relaunch isn't actually a launch and isn't actually new. This is the biggest weakness with this strategy and the main hurtle to overcome. You aren't getting the special treatment from booksellers (especially Amazon) that comes from putting up a new title. For example, recovering your series doesn't get it on the Hot New Releases page. 

You can't expect to get a full launch effect out of this deal as a result. As such, your own marketing efforts are really important to your success. These things need noise behind them since they aren't getting the same default level of darling new book treatment from all the normal industry channels out there.

Don't be discouraged, though! If you do things right, your series can hopefully enjoy a solid boost and some new legs. Make sure to keep your costs under control. How much you should spend will depend on you and your position as an author. For Rachel, for example, there's definitely a hard number I'd put as a budget limit on any relaunch. Before you ask, there's no point in me telling that number here. It's based on loads of data that's specific to the series and to us. You'll have to do your own homework on this, I'm afraid. 

An Aside,

Ya know how I'm always saying, data data data? Keep your royalty statements. Look at your royalties. Plot them on graphs. Combine them into spread sheets. Look at how they change over time. Look at how they move and twitch when events happen.

Seems like a lot of work I know. But,
Right now, looking at how much to spend on a relaunch, is a perfect example of when this data comes in handy! 
How else can you possibly guess at how much to spend? It's impossible to make educated guesses without, well, an education. Your numbers are your track record. They're your proof of what works and what doesn't, especially if you're also keeping track of when you ran sales. Your sales record is the ripples showing how well your marketing efforts have worked in the past, which makes them invaluable data for making these kind of decisions in the future. Also, if you're indie, there's no publisher keeping track of this stuff for you, so don't forget to download your sales reports every month, or you'll be kicking yourself later when you need that info and Amazon's already deleted it!

If You Don't Have an Old Book...

Not everyone reading this has had a book or series out for several years. What about if you recently launched a book and it fell flat? Should you try to relaunch it?

I lied about the one launch pic haha. Sorry not sorry

If this is you, then there's some painful questions to ask first. Mainly,

  1. Are the right customers finding the book?
  2. Is the book good?

A relaunch can help solve a problem with #1, but it cannot help with a problem with #2. Figuring out the difference here can be daunting. I'm sure that the self-doubt, recrimination, and insecurities are going to make even the most objective author leap to the conclusion, "my book is bad and I should feel bad."

I don't have a magic solution to make this easier on you I'm afraid. You'll have to read the painful reviews figure this out. Ask,
"Are people complaining that they didn't get what they expected?" 
If yes, then hooray! You have a problem with question #1. Since this is so tough to diagnose, let's go into a serious example of this effect in action.

Nice Dragons Finish Last is really well reviewed. However, one of the low-star reviews once said that the book didn't have enough dragons running around actually being dragons / in dragon form. I can see that. Since the book takes place entirely in the DFZ, all the dragons stay in their human forms almost the entire book. I would, too, if every citizen around me had a million dollar reason to call in the anti-dragon mechanized infantry the moment they saw an actual dragon.

Having won multiple awards, I think it's safe to say that the Heartstrikers Series is as close as anything can get to objectively good=. That customer is the best example I have of someone who came wanting one thing, got a good book, but the book didn't have the thing he felt he was promised or was drawn to, so... bam!.. 2 stars.

But if bad reviews are complaining about plot holes, confusion, a lack of likable characters, the book is boring, or other weighty construction issues, then you're looking at a rewrite, not a relaunch, and that's a problem for another blog post. Remember,
Good marketing just helps a bad product fail faster. 
If you have problem #1, then a relaunch can really help you out. But if you have problem #2 and you try to relaunch without fixing the underlying issues, then you're just going to be wasting your money.


Relaunching a book or series isn't for everyone. It definitely requires one to be in position to leverage properly. I hope that, if you are in that position, my advice today has opened a new door for you. It's worth the effort. You spent so much time on that book. Don't let a good book waste away just because it was in the wrong BISACs or had a misstep with its cover. Be brave! Fight for your book!

Thanks for reading today. If there's any topics you'd like me, or Rachel, to talk about here on the blog, please feel free to leave them below. We're always working hard to find information that is useful to you. You can also just hit me up on Twitter, that works too! (@TravBach)

Amazing suggestions aside, next week will probably be about audio books. They are amazing! I'm going to cover why they are amazing, how you can get into them, and some ins and outs I've picked up from personal experience / RT2016 panels.


PS: If you liked this post, I'm trying to have one up every Monday! If you need more to read, the blog has years of back posts about both the craft and business of writing. You can also follow Rachel on Social Media (Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Google+) to never miss a new post. And if you haven't read Rachel's fiction yet, you can find samples of all of her books at They're awesome ^__^


Nicole Montgomery said...

Travis -- your posts are so helpful! Thank you!

Travis Bach said...


Kessie said...

Thanks so much for putting this together, Travis! I'm working through edits for the fourth book in my YA fantasy series, and I keep complaining to myself that the covers are too dark. The stories are light and fun, but the covers say Gritty Urban Fantasy. I'm going to redo them, I think, and maybe give each one a spotlight as I build toward the book 4 launch. They're not really written to market, but I'm fond of them. :-)