The Amazon Launch for Your Book: What You Can Learn from My Mistakes

The Amazon Launch for Your Book: What You Can Learn from My Mistakes

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter:
How to get nearly free publicity on your own or partnering with your publisher
(updated and expanded to 416 pages!)
As the author of The Frugal Book Promoter ( and other award-winning books in the HowToDoItFrugally series of books, I probably shouldn’t have made any mistakes with the online launch of the second edition. And I probably wouldn’t have if I had been taking my own advice.
In the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter I warned people that it’s never too early to begin promoting a book. That was years ago! Sometimes we need a boot in the pants to remember what we already know.  I shouldn’t have waited so long to begin making lists and checking them twice!
And since that first edition was published I had built a great platform that I thought would be sufficient. And that brings me to my biggest mistake. Hubris. We authors who have been around awhile are often sure that we can rely on what we have done and who we already know. My contact list included Denise Cassino, an online launch specialist (, and I knew I could rely on her. I have a huge contact list I had been collecting assiduously. What more did I need?
Well, The Frugal Book Promoter also warns authors to categorize their lists. Which I did. But I didn’t have a specific category for the kinds of writers and people who run writers’ services I could ask for bonuses. Bonuses are those things that we offer people when they buy our book on a certain day to try to raise our sales rank. I pulled together a great bunch of bonuses, but after the fact I kept remembering folks I could have asked so it wasn’t nearly as long as it could have been and these bonus partners help an author get the word out (online) about your book.
Further, I took a vacation just before the launch so I hadn’t given myself much thinking time. Again hubris. I reiterate in my book that getting publicity and doing promotion is a partnership. The people an author or publisher hires to help them can’t do it on their own. They need both ideas and cooperation from the author.
Hubris. I had launches before. One for my novel at the Autry Museum of Western History. One for my book of creative nonfiction at my home. Several at bookstores for chapbooks of poetry. But they were realtime launches. This online launch was different. Launches designed to raise ratings at online bookstores are done online and needed lots of techy expertise. At least I knew that I needed Denise!
Services for online launches are like a bowl of minestrone. They come in different sizes, at different prices. The different ingredients are designed to do different things for the health of your book. The more you know about them before you start, the easier it will be to make choices based on the time you have, the money you have and the needs of your particular book.
I knew that when you hire any publicist, you aren’t just buying services. You’re buying their network, their contacts. Their Rolodex is at least as important as their expertise. I didn’t know how much I could do to support Denise because the word “online” mislead me. It seemed so…well, automated. I was right but I was also wrong. No matter what your expert’s level of expertise, the author is still always a vital ingredient. They bring the personal stuff to the launch buffet.
I also had a grasp of how to promote on online bookstores but I still needed Denise to lead me through lots of little things I didn’t know. Luckily, time wasn’t so short she couldn’t do that. Stuff like getting one’s Kindle edition and paperback edition connected. Things like getting your book into a suitable Amazon category with as little competition as possible. Thinks like running a “like” and “tag” campaign before you even begin the launch. If you don’t know about those things, you need some help, too. Yes you do.
I thought this campaign would be lots less work than a book tour. Let me tell you, after two days focusing on online sales, I was exhausted. On the night of my launch I fell into bed at 8 pm. I know people who have stayed up all night checking ratings. I am inspired by their stamina but not about to emulate it!
So, was my campaign a success? That’s the other thing I learned. Online launch campaigns are just like marketing in general, though they can be measured more accurately. When you hit #1 in Amazon’s sales ratings you’ve made it. But is that really your only goal? I don’t think it is. My book hit a very low (and fantastic!)  rating of 1,422 (the lower the better) in overall books but never made it to #1 in its category. #4 was the best we could do for a book in the competitive category of marketing. Here’s what the campaign did:
1.      It gave me new opportunities to connect. Even a mistake we made with the bonuses gave me a chance to reconnect with people who had already ordered The Frugal Book Promoter.
2.      The new names of opt-in writers I collected were worth their weight in marketing gold.
3.      The new partners who contributed to the bonuses the campaign offered—well, that was more than worth the effort.
4.      Oh, yeah! At least for some time, my book beat Stephen King’s On Writing, a moment even noncompetitive me shall cherish! Mmmm. And a couple Writer’s Digest market books!
Online book launches are like anything else in marketing. They’re about branding. They’re about exposure. They’re about networking. They’re about sharing. Most of all they’re about learning more and having some fun. Marketing in all its aspects is a vital part of publishing. An online book launch is a way to learn to love it.

Carolyn’s online campaign propelled her book to number four in one of its categories and to the top 100 books on Amazon for a time. When she fell into bed at the end of the launch day, that was enough. She writes a free Sharing with Writers newsletter and blogs for the benefit of authors , and Learn more about her consulting services and books for writers at


  1. Hello Carolyn,

    I read your article with interest. It was informative and straightforward. However, I would be grateful if you could expand on the following: My book hit a very low (and fantastic!) rating of 1,422 (the lower the better) in overall books. I really have no idea what you mean by "the lower the better". I guess I need some teaching on the "rating" meaning too. Thanks.

  2. Love finding this here this morning, Jo. I hope many of your vast audience learn something from my booboos! (-:


  3. Great post, interesting info from one who knows the process of publishing.

  4. Terrific article! Something to always remember is that no matter how seasoned and experienced we are in an area there is always room to learn and grow.

    All the best,
    Award-winning Children’s Author
    Write What Inspires You Blog
    The Golden Pathway Story book Blog
    Donna M. McDine’s Website
    Author PR Services

  5. Carolyn, this is such useful information. I'll be doing my own joint venture and these tips will help a lot. I was aiming for Feb2012, but realize I'll need more time for prep, so may shoot for June.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

  6. Thank you for sharing your mistakes! Usually we only hear about the successes and it's in the mistakes where learning happens. Mind you, making it into the thousands for a marketing book for writers is pretty darn good(for laemonie - #1 means you're the top selling author - as in #1 in the NYT bestseller list, so the closer to 1 you are the more your book is selling). Before I get down to working on my own campaign (with help from your advice), I need to go and make myself a bowl of minestrone!

    Magdalena Ball

  7. Thank you all for taking the time to comment.

    I totally agree Donna, we never stop learning.

    Big congrats to Carolyn for winning the best business book in the writing category at THE USA “BEST BOOKS 2011” AWARDS for this book.

  8. Laimoni, I think you've got it. When the rating is in the millions, not so good. Anything in 1,000-ish is very good. There's lots to learn about getting your book in the right categories, though--so that low rating translates into Amazon's bestseller lists! Google Denise Cassino and let her lead you through the Amazon circus at a very reasonable fee.

    And thanks to all of you for stopping by. Isn't this a neat blog Jo provides for us?


  9. You're right Magdalena. Mistakes teach us so much.

    Thanks Carolyn :)

  10. Carolyn! I actually read that first article when you talked about it never being to early to promote your book! Nice to have an update on already great info!

  11. I'm glad this post created some interest from writers. Yep, hope you all learn from my mistakes. Of course, we learn faster from our own mistakes. (-:



I love to hear from you. So feel free to comment, but keep in mind the basics of blog etiquette — no spam, no profanity, no slander, etc.

Thanks for being an active part of the Writers and Authors community.