What To Include In Your Book Launch Schedule

Once again it's March and I find myself getting ready for a May book launch.

New Book, New Series, New Genre

Last year I was launching the fourth and final book in my Awakening supernatural thriller series. (You can read more about that in When Working Harder Might Not Be The Answer Part 1 and Part 2 if you like.)

This year I'm launching Book 1 in a new series. I'm also publishing in a new genre–mystery/suspense without any paranormal or supernatural element.

Because I'm seeking new readers as well as trying to reach existing ones, I hope you'll find my launch plan helpful wherever you are in your career.

As in any business, it's always more of a challenge to draw in new customers than to sell additional products to existing ones.

Because of that, I felt I needed a more detailed schedule/plan than I had last year.

Feel free to copy and paste any part of my plan and modify it to fit your books.

The tasks to do begin this week, but I created the schedule by working backwards from the May 1 launch date.

What It All Means

A few notes on the reasoning behind certain tasks and on vendors you might not be familiar with:

  • Book Funnel is a service that allows you to easily deliver free ebooks to readers who are reviewing your books or to whom you want to give an ebook for other reasons (such as for a bonus for signing up for your newsletter). (See Nos. 2, 9, & 10 in the plan below.)

Right now it's only $20 a year for a basic account. I signed up last night.

  • As I wrote about in Reaching More Readers PublishDrive is where I upload my files to distribute ebooks to a boatload of platforms. (Nos. 17, 23, 29.)

For the other platforms, I upload directly.

Q.C. Davis Mysteries, Book 1
  • I'm setting a later preorder date for Kindle than for Kobo, Nook, and iBook/iTunes (Nos. 19 & 21) because last I checked, in terms of where your book ranks on Amazon's charts, it's better to have more sales on the first day than a bunch of preorders.

Why do a Kindle preorder at all in that case?

I want to have a Kindle link available before the release to put on my website and into the back matter of my other books.

  • Vellum is the software I use to convert Word files to files for the various ebook and paperback platforms. (No. 8.)

It's very easy to use, but so far available only for Mac.

  • When Darkness Falls is an urban gothic horror novel and my only novel in Kindle Unlimited (which means it's not available on any other ebook platform). (Nos. 12, 16.)

Because it's in KU, I can run a Kindle Countdown sale. I'm hoping by doing that for the same week as the new release, at least some readers who buy or borrow it will find their way to my Q.C. Davis series.

Gothic horror in Chicago's South Loop
  • The Charming Man is my working title for Book 2 in the Q.C. Davis mystery series.

As you'll see in Nos. 36-40, I'm holding off on most of the advertising and outreach to bookstores on The Worried Man until Book 2 is also out. That way the effort and funds have a chance of selling two books in the series rather than only one.

It's possible I could sell three rather than only two if I'm superproductive and get a preorder for Book 3 underway in time. (Working title The Fractured Man.) That seems unlikely, but I'm ever the optimist when it comes to time.

  • The people I mention sending paperback books to in No. 35 are ones who love mysteries or loved my previous books and who know a whole lot of other people that they might tell about The Worried Man.
The Book Launch Schedule

The Worried Man (Q.C. Davis Mystery No. 1) Launch Schedule

Completed? Date Task(s)
1. __X_ Goodreads

__X_ Facebook

March 12 Create Goodreads and Facebook review teams & invite friends
2.  __X__ March 16 Create Book Funnel Account
3. Contact Kobo re: Worried Man preorder and release date
4. March 17 Contact my book groups re: reviewing advance copies
5. Invite Goodreads readers who like Sara Paretsky and Elly Griffiths to join GR review team
6. Email mailing list re: chance to read and review
7. March 18 Add Coming Soon to LisaLilly.com
8. March 19 Create Vellum files for review teams
9. Add files to Book Funnel
10. ___ Goodreads

___ Facebook

___ Mailing List

March 23 Contact reviewers re: links to ebooks on Book Funnel
11. March 24 Add Coming Soon to all Bios online
12. ___ Countdown scheduled

___ Just Kindle

___ Digital Book Today

___ Other(s)?

Schedule When Darkness Falls 99 cent Kindle Countdown (for 5/1-5/8) plus ads
13. ___ Fussy Librarian


___ Bargain Booksy


March 26 Schedule New Release ads Worried Man
14. March 30 Contact designer re: paperback cover
15. April 1 Final Edits (if any)
16. April 2 Schedule When Darkness Falls 99 cent ads (for 5/2)
17. ___ Kindle Upload

__ Kindle PreOrder set

___ Nook Upload

___ Nook PreOrder set

___ iBook Upload

___ iBook PreOrder set

___ Kobo Upload

___ Kobo PreOrder set

___ GPlay Upload

___ PublishDrive Upload

April 8 Upload Final Files on All eBook Platforms & set pre-order dates as noted below
18. April 8 Create KDP Print edition
19. ___ Nook

___ iBook

___ Kobo

April 9 Upload for 3 eBook Platforms PreOrder
20. April 16 Upload cover and manuscript files on Ingram Spark
21. April 17 Kindle PreOrder Begins
22. ___ Awakening

___ Unbelievers

___ Conflagration

___ Illumination

___ Also add 1st Chapter of WM to Illumination

___ When Darkness Falls

___ Also add 1st Chapter of WM to When Darkness Falls

___ Super Simple Story Structure

___ One-Year Novelist

___ Creating Compelling Characters

Update Also By and Bio in previous books with Worried Man (include links for Kindle, Nook, iBook, Kobo, website for others)


23. ___ Kindle

___ Nook

___ iBook

___ Kobo

___ GPlay

___ PublishDrive

April 26 Final Book Files Uploaded
24. April 27 Add Worried Man To Goodreads
25. ___ KDP Print

___ Ingram

Publish KDP Print & Ingram editions
26. Contact review team re: KDP Print edition
27. April 29 When Darkness Falls Countdown price to 99 cents today
28. April 30 Schedule Goodreads Ad for Worried Man
29. ___ GPlay

___ PublishDrive

April 30 Publish
30. May 1 Worried Man Live on all
31. May 1 Contact review team re: eBook editions
32. May 1 Contact email list New Release Worried Man
33. May 2 When Darkness Falls 99 cents ads run
34. ___ Awakening

___ Unbelievers

___ Conflagration

___ Illumination

___ When Darkness Falls

___ Super Simple Story Structure

___ One-Year Novelist

___ Creating Compelling Characters

May 2 Update back matter with GPlay and print links and upload new files
35. May 3 Send print copies of books to Merry, Anne, Dan L., others who might spread the word
36. June Contact Bookstores in Chicago area re: signings/release parties for The Worried Man and The Charming Man
37. June Set release date for The Charming Man
38. June/July Schedule Worried Man Ads for week of Charming Man release
39. Charming Man release week Run 99 cent sale for 3 days on The Worried Man
40. After The Charming Man is released Schedule Goodreads Kindle Giveaway

If you have other questions about the schedule, please ask in the comments.

Until next Friday–

L.M. Lilly

Planning A Launch Party For Your Self-Published Book

So your paperback version of your book is almost ready. How do you let the world know?

One way is to host an in-person book launch party. (You can also have an on-line party, but that's typically directed toward ebook sales.)

In the days of traditional publishing, your publisher probably would arrange a party at several books stores in different parts of the country. Now both traditionally and independently published authors usually need to take the reins on planning.

So let's talk about the why, when, who, what, and how much of your party.

Here's one of the book release banners I created using Canva.com:

Reasons To Host An In-Person Book Launch Party

The best reason to have any party is to celebrate, and that's the best reason for a book launch party as well.

You've worked hard, you've finished and published your book, and you want to celebrate with other people. Don't lose sight of that as you plan. Have fun!

A party also helps raise awareness of your book, especially among people who don't read on ereaders.

People tend to assume if you publish your own work, you only publish in ebook editions, even if they see an ad or a Facebook message that says otherwise. But when you invite them to a paperback book release party, it sinks in. You'll be surprised how many people will attend and tell you they didn't know your books were available in paperback.

A party also gives you a reason to contact people. Very few people want a “buy my book” message in their email In Box or on social media, but a party invitation is different. It's fun.

It also gives others a reason to talk about your book. They may mention that they're going, invite others along, or talk about the event afterward.

Where To Host Your Book Release Party

If there's a bookstore that's carrying your books, you can approach the manager or owner about having a party there if there's space. A store that doesn't carry your books might also be willing to host if it will help bring new people to the store or increase sales. My view is, it can't hurt to ask.

But don't feel limited to bookstores.

It can be easier to get people to come to a bar or restaurant, and those venues make it feel more like a celebration than a book reading.

Also, a bar or restaurant makes it easier to serve food and drink. While I've been to book release parties at bookstores where they allowed the author to open a few bottles of wine, usually the snacks and drinks are pretty limited.

The easiest and least expensive places to host often are ones where the cafe, bar, or restaurant is one with counter service. Most managers or owners are happy to reserve a portion of the space for you. You handle your own book sales, and the establishment makes money off people buying coffee, drinks, or appetizers.

If you want to treat your guests, you as the author can buy appetizer or pastry trays and/or pick up the tab.

I've recently been to an evening book release party at a private room in Chicago's House of Blues and a Saturday afternoon one in a small Italian restaurant where the authors reserved the whole space. I've hosted parties in a Cosi cafe and in a coffeehouse, and I'm having one in Soppraffina Market Cafe in downtown Chicago later this month.

If you're inviting a small number of people, you can also host at your home or at a party room if you live in a multi-unit building. (The lawyer in me insists that I remind you to check to be sure your liability insurance will cover this type of event.)

Whom Should You Invite?

In person parties are about connecting with current fans and reminding acquaintances, friends, and family that you have a book (or books) out rather than bringing in new readers. That's because unless you're already famous or you've written non-fiction on a hot topic, it's unlikely people who don't already know you (at least through a mutual acquaintance) will attend your party.

One exception is that sometimes someone you invite will bring a friend, and that person will become a fan. That's always a good thing, so let people know that they are free to invite others.

Invite friends, family, acquaintances, and–unless you're keeping your writing and work life separate–coworkers and other business associates.

Also invite anyone else you're in touch with who you think might be interested, even if you've never talked about books with that person before. You never know when you'll discover that a person you've met once or twice really enjoys the type of book you write and will be thrilled to discover you're an author. Sometimes these people become your best advocates.

Remember, this is the perfect time to let everyone know you have a book out.

Don't worry, if people aren't interested, they'll RSVP No or simply delete the email or invite. As long as you don't hound them about why they're not attending, you won't offend them.

How Much Will This Cost And How Much Will You Make?

For most authors, an in-person event isn't a money maker. In fact, it might cost more than you take in. Think of it as advertising and, again, as the celebration it is.

How much you spend depends on your budget. The event I attended at the Italian restaurant had a lovely appetizer table and an open bar. I didn't ask, but it had to be quite pricy, I'm guessing at least $40/attendee if not more. The second event I attended had appetizers that were passed by servers and a cash bar, including for water or soda.

If you are on a tight budget, though, you can opt for the bookstore or coffeehouse approach and have limited refreshments or let people buy their own.

The event I had at Cosi cost me about $100 for sandwiches and pastry trays. (The manager gave my guests a 10% discount on their drinks, which was nice.) I also spent about $40 on drawing prizes. I sold 40-50 books, netting $4 per book.  So I broke even on the event, but I also added quite a few people to my email list.

For my September 21 event, I'm threading the needle price-wise. I'm having an appetizer bar and passed hors d'oeuvres as well as non-alcoholic drinks, but it's a cash bar for alcohol. (As you might guess, including an open bar would have nearly doubled the cost.) This will cost about $27 a person.

Will I sell enough books to cover that? Probably not, but it'll be a great time.

What Do You Do All Evening?

Most book release parties last a couple hours. To make it more fun for your guests, it's nice to do more than have your books available.

I usually have a trivia quiz about the events in the first 1-2 books in the series and a separate drawing for anyone who signs up (or already is on) my email list.

Prizes usually include an autographed book, a $25 Amazon gift card, an Audible download code, and having a character named after the person in a future book. (To my surprise, that last one is the prize almost everyone wants.)

It's a good idea to enlist a good friend to handle book sales so you can chat with people and sign without sitting behind a table all night.

You can also read some pages from your book. I personally don't usually do that, as it changes the party atmosphere. One author I know played a portion of his narrator's reading of the book. I'm considering asking the narrator for The Illumination how she feels about that, as she has a wonderful voice, and I'm so excited about her take on the characters.

Some authors, rather than sell their paperbacks, give them away and ask people to write reviews.

I haven't tried this myself and am a little skeptical. Some people will attend and buy (or accept) a copy of your book to support you, but they may not be big readers or may not read in your genre. So while they may mean to write a review, they may never finish the book and do it, and you'll be left with an acquaintance or friend who feels guilty every time they see you. (Sort of like when you loan someone money.)

And if it's not their usual genre, you run the risk of them disliking the book and either avoiding writing the review or writing a poor or lukewarm one. See guilt issue above.

Despite that, if you want to try this approach, my advice is to give out the books and say something like, “If you like the book, please write a review. It'll really help me out.”

Good Luck!

If you have questions or have already hosted your own party and want to share your experience, please post in the comments.


L.M. Lilly

P.S. If you're in the Chicago area September 21, 2017, and would like to attend the book release party for The Illumination to get ideas and help me celebrate, here's the info.

Book Launch Tips

While I don't write in either genre, I recently started listening to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing podcast. The three hosts combined have a good mix of experience, as they've self-published, won awards, and had books traditionally published.

This particular episode grew from a snafu. The hosts planned an interview with Nate Hoffelder (of The Digital Reader blog) about recent publishing news. Some tech issues cut that short and made it hard to hear. So the hosts added a first segment where two of them  talked about their recent book launches.

SFFMP 137: Launching Books That Aren't “to Market,” Agency Pricing, and Are Ebook Sales Down?

I loved that because they covered the challenges of marketing books that don't fit perfectly in the more typical genres and sub-genres.

Other topics in this episode included:

  • ebook pricing
  • payments to authors for pages read of books in Kindle Unlimited
  • KU scams
  • ebook subscription services
  • the pluses and minuses of paperback and audiobook publishing

The Nate Hoffelder segment is a bit hard to decipher in spots. Also, I found his cockatiel chiming in a little distracting, despite myself being the proud owner of a very cute bird, parakeet Joss Whedon, shown here admiring himself–I mean, inspecting the chair leg in my office.

If you're short on time, you may be tempted to skip that second segment. If you can fit it in while dealing with dishes or laundry or jogging, though, it's worth it.

Until Sunday, when I'll share my experiences using Scrivener to write non-fiction–


L.M. Lilly

When Working Hard Might Not Be The Answer (Part 2)

As I wrote about last Sunday in Part 1 of this post, the best laid plans for the launch of the fourth and final book in my supernatural thriller series were thrown off a bit (okay a lot) when other responsibilities arose and threatened to take over my To Do list. To finish every item on the list, I could have done what I used to do when I was full-time lawyer, which was cancel anything non-work related, cut back on sleep, and work every waking moment.

This time, I did things differently, and it’s because I asked myself why. Why had my goal for so long been to become a full-time writer?

The obvious part of the answer is that I’m happier when I spend most of my time writing. But that’s not all of it, and that’s not what helped me decide how to handle my lengthy To Do list.

It’s that I’m happier when I work hard and also have time to relax, to see my friends and family, read, play games, or visit the park on a sunny day. Will there always be weeks when there's less time for all of that than others?

Yes, of course.

But if I automatically chuck everything but work out the window when confronted with a long To Do list, my happiness at writing full time will dim. In fact, my guess is I’ll become as burnt out writing as I eventually did practicing law.

So as my May 15 release date approached, I did something I was never very good at in the past. For each task on the list, I asked myself (1) whether I truly needed to do it at all; (2) if so, by when it absolutely needed to be done; (3) when the best time to do it might be; and (4) how to do it most efficiently.

I'm sharing the results and hoping it will help you when you're faced with more tasks than time.

What I Did
  • Changing the May 15 release date for The Illumination would both disappoint readers waiting for the book and cause me problems with the e-book platforms where people had pre-ordered. So this one was a no-brainer. I took the time I needed to double check that all the ebook files were in shape and uploaded properly. That checked off one task on the list.


  • My answer brief to the Illinois Supreme Court was one I knew I’d enjoy writing, and it had a set due date. I could have asked the Court for more time, but that would require writing an extra motion, which would be more work in the long run. Also, the points I wanted to argue were fresh in my mind. Putting off writing the brief would likely make it take longer to write. I decided it was worth spending much of the week leading up to the book launch getting the brief done so that, overall, I'd spend less time on it.


  • My assignments for my U of C class had set due dates as well. I checked, however, and learned that because I had attended the first month of class, I could withdraw without losing my health insurance coverage. Or I could attend class but delay or skip turning in the assignments, accepting an incomplete grade.

I decided, though, that since I’d spent a significant amount for tuition and like the class, I wanted the full experience. That meant I worked all day on a beautiful Saturday when it was finally nearly 80° out and sunnyBecause I'd thought it through and made a conscious choice, I felt OK about that. A little tired, but OK.

  • I sent a new release email to my email list on May 15. The list is made up of readers interested enough to join in the first place, and some had written me to ask when The Illumination would be out. So those are the people I felt it was most important to share with.
Book 1 in The Awakening Series
  • I scheduled ads for The Awakening, the first book in my series, to run the week of the book launch. That could have waited, but I felt it was worth it to bring more readers into the series now. Also, some of the enewsletters where I advertise will rerun a book after 60 days, so advertising now means I can advertise again there in 60 days.


  • For similar reasons, I scheduled the free days for the Kindle editions of two of my other books for the release week. I also got my files uploaded for the paperback editions of both books (When Darkness Falls and Super Simple Story Structure). Unfortunately, I didn’t get them uploaded in time for the paperback editions to appear on the same Amazon page as the Kindle editions during the free days. It’s one of the things that fell through the cracks. But at least now it's done.


  • I purchased a slot at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest for Saturday, June 10, so I ordered the books I’d need for that. That too was a no-brainer. I love the fest, and it’s always fun to meet the other authors and readers, and it only comes around once a year. (I’ll be there 10-12:30 under the Chicago Writer’s Association tent if you’d like to say hello.)
What I Didn’t Do


  • Now we’re getting into what I didn’t do. While I’d wanted to post about The Illumination on my author blog, that post could be equally helpful later down the road. In the past, when only print books were released, if a book didn’t sell enough in the first few weeks, it disappeared from the shelves. Now, an ebook can live forever, and my aim is a steady stream of sales. Because there’s no time limit, a blog post can be just as helpful later down the road.


Also, people unfamiliar with a book, even if its cover or summary appeal to them, generally need to see or hear of it 3-7 times before buying. A later blog post could be one of the ways new readers see the book a second or fourth or sixth time. So I put off writing that post, and it remains on my To Do list. I will likely get to it next week, after my U of C class is over.

  • The same thing applied to posting on Facebook and Twitter, scheduling a Goodreads giveaway of the paperback, and updating covers on the slides on my author website. I did get a little social media exposure, though, because MailChimp automatically posted my New Release email to Facebook and Twitter.


  • Much as I wanted to write a specific Mother’s Day post on Sunday May 14 on my author blog, it wasn’t the only way to honor my mom. In a previous post on one of her birthdays, I’d said much of what I wanted to write about her. I tweeted that post. I also posted a photo of her on this blog and talked about her creativity and her music. This website which reaches a different audience than my author blog, so I was able to share with more people though I spent less time. 


  • I’d promised that people on my email list would get bonus materials for The Illumination but hadn't promised to send them any particular day. From a marketing standpoint, I realized it would be better to send a few emails, spaced out. So several days after the release I sent a bonus—a PDF of handwritten notes on the plot when I was working on my last revisions. I plan to write a second bonus, an Author’s Note reflecting on the series as a whole. That will be a good way to remind readers about the series a couple weeks down the road, so it actually worked out better than if I'd sent both bonuses on release day.


  • I also put off setting up an in-person book release party. I would have liked to do that, but that requires finding a place, making sure I have the right number of books on hand, and letting people know well in advance, and that type of party doesn't usually increase ebooks sales, which is how most of my sales are made. How much fun it will be and how many people will come also will not likely be any different if I host it now or in two months. And I’ll have the advantage of getting ideas from two book release parties I’m going to in the next month hosted by other authors.

So that's how my task list broke out. I feel good about how much I got done and when. The tasks that were most important got finished before the book launch, a few I did soon after, and a few are left on the list, but they are ones that will be just as effective, if not more so, done later.

Equally important, I didn’t cancel any of my dinner plans with my friends, and we had a great time. I also binge-watched Agents of Shield the Sunday night before the launch to wind down rather than using those few hours to check off more things on the list.

I did miss getting outside on a lovely Spring day (one of the few in Chicago this season), but if I wanted a 9-5 job that was always predictable, I’d go look for one. I don’t.

This experience has made me more sure that I’ll be able to build my career in a happy, healthy way while enjoying my life as a whole. So now I’ll close and watch that next Agents of Shield episode.

Until Friday, wishing you a productive, not-too-stressful week—


L.M. Lilly