I recently had a chance to catch up with Kate Sparkes, author of the best-selling Bound Trilogy. I asked her a lot of questions, from how she shows up for her art, to how she prepares for launch, and even markets her book. Below, find part 3 of a 5-part series exploring how this talented author, who has managed to spin her dream of a full-time writing career into reality, shows up for your art. I hope you enjoy it!
If you haven’t read Kate’s work yet, well, get to it – you won’t regret it. Let’s begin with a little bio:
Kate Sparkes lives on the magical island of Newfoundland, where she’s always checking wardrobes, locked doors, and interesting caves to see whether they lead to new worlds. She passes the rest of her time hanging out with her family, reading, walking her dogs, and writing fiction that lets her come very close to escaping reality.
She likes sending treats to newsletter subscribers, so be sure to sign up for bonus content, sneak peeks, advance review copies, news about future books, contests, and more! Visit www.katesparkes.com for details.
Kate Sparkes on Showing Up For Your Art – Part 3: Preparing for LAUNCH!
Laura: What do you do to prepare for your book launch?
Kate: The first priority is making sure the book is the best it can be. After that (and formatting, proofing the paperback, etc.), I’ll get it out to advance readers who are willing to leave an honest review on Amazon. I aim for at least 20, and hopefully get a dozen reviews somewhere near release day from them. Those readers come from my newsletter subscribers and my Facebook reader group, and I try to give them 2 weeks to read. I’ll plan a facebook launch party and invite everyone. I post teasers wherever I can (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook). I try to remember to post in other Facebook groups, but usually fail or end up being too shy to post.
My launch strategy is not the most sophisticated.
Laura: Where are you published? (amazon, B&N, createspace, smashwords, etc)
Kate: Amazon, plus Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and anywhere else Draft 2 Digital will distribute. I might try KDP Select when my pen name takes on a new and busy genre, but we’ll see how things look when the time comes. For now I’m pretty stubbornly non-exclusive.
Laura: How do you determine your pricing?
Kate: I almost never want to pay more than about $5 USD for an ebook, so I price my books at or below that. One of the reasons I decided to self-publish was because I didn’t want to pay what publishers charge for ebooks and would have felt weird asking people to spend that for mine. $4.99 is my regular price for my big books, with frequent $2.99 sales on Bound (and occasional 99 cent sales if I can get enough promo going). Short novels and novellas are $2.99.
Laura: How did you promote your first book, and how have you tweaked or changed that with more recent ones?
Kate: I started with posting on my blog long before I even thought about publishing. I’d participate in a weekly blog hop where we posted snippets of our books, and got a small following there. I had my first facebook launch party for Bound and was fortunate to have enough people buy and leave reviews that it gained Amazon visibility in a few sub-genres, and things picked up from there. It hit #1 in a few of those categories within a month, which was actually a little confusing for me, because I do stink at promotion. Getting a BookBub ad helped bump it up again a few months after.
Things haven’t changed much. That probably hurt me with my latest release, which was pretty quiet in spite of excellent reviews. But I’m really not built for promotion.
Laura: Do you hold a book-release party? Online? Live? Both?
Kate: Just on Facebook. There’s not enough local interest to make a live one worth the time or energy. But my Facebook parties are REALLY fun. Guest authors, tons of prizes, scavenger hunts, music. And I love hosting them, so that’s kind of my reward for getting the book out there.
Laura: What do you feel creates a successful book-release?
Kate: I guess technically “selling a lot of books” is successful. But in terms of a successful release event, I think people hanging around, being engaged in the party, and feeling like their presence was valued is pretty successful. I always want people to feel like they got value out of spending their time at my parties, even if they don’t walk away with a prize.
Ultimately the goal is to have people talking about, reading, and recommending the book. If people are doing that, your launch was successful.
Laura: Do you distribute ARCs, and get reviews prior to release? If so, where do you distribute them?
Kate: I distribute them via email to people who requested them (and who have reviewed one of my books previously or can show that they’re regular, reliable Amazon reviewers).
Laura: Do you blog, guest blog, promote through websites, social media, etc, prior to launch?
Kate: I don’t, other than posting on my own social media accounts. I’m happy to do something if someone approaches me, but my time is so limited that I don’t go out of my way to seek opportunities. I suppose it would be different if I were writing non-fiction. I’d be seeking out guest blogging opportunities and such for that.
Laura: What about promotional materials? What bling works best?
Kate: I don’t do much! I use Moo Cards to make cover cards (cover image on one side, tag line, title, and my name on the other) that I can sign and mail out instead of bookmarks. Those and my business cards with my covers on them are my only branded swag. But I’ll also give out store-bought bookmarks and other little goodies that relate to my books. For Into Elurien I sent out some monster erasers and decorative antique keys, and for Sworn I had gold feather and dragon charms that I put together myself. Signed books seem to be the biggest draw, though the itty-bitty toy mythical creatures that went into one prize pack for Sworn were a big hit. You never know.
I guess I don’t do a lot of branded stuff because I’ve never bought a book after I got “bling”, so it’s not at the top of my list for promotion. Anything I send out is usually as a thank-you or to make parties and giveaways fun.
Laura: Book trailers, yes or no? If yes, what makes for a good one?
Kate: Great for other people, not something I’ve ever seen a need for myself. Again, they’re cool, but I’ve never bought a book based on one. I’m not sure it would be worth the money for me to hire someone to do it. If I had the skills, maybe I would.
Laura: Words of wisdom for someone looking to create a successful launch?
Kate: Put out the best book you can, and package it as professionally as possible.
Be available. Run your own party, or at least be active in it. If it’s a live event, be out there mingling and willing to sign books. If it’s an online party, join in on discussions and answer questions. Be enthusiastic about this amazing thing you’ve brought into the world, and celebrate it! For non-party stuff… Aim for solid build-up and excitement. “I wrote a book, buy it” isn’t enough. Everybody and his uncle is publishing books now. You need to get people excited about YOURS. Respond to tweets instead of just automating them and walking away. Let readers know you value them. Share snippets and teasers. Do a reading. Show off how good it is.
And if the launch doesn’t lead to immediate bestsellerdom? Don’t get down on yourself. Maybe this one is a slow burner that will pick up momentum over time. Maybe you’ll hit it big on your next book and people will come back to this one then. Maybe you’re going to have a small but rabid fan base who will want everything you write. Don’t let anyone else define success for you.
Thanks so much, Kate!If you haven’t read earlier parts of the series, you can find part 1 here, part 2 here, part 4 here, and part 5 here. You can check out some of Kate’s work for free – check out how: