Behind The Scenes: The Book Launch

The book "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" by Ryan Stevens, placed artistically on a stepladder

The launch of my new book "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" is just around the corner! The book will be officially launched on November 1. I couldn't be more excited to get this important history out into the world. That said, writing, editing and designing the book was definitely just the beginning. The real work hasn't even started yet and I wanted to give you a little behind the scenes look at what goes into an indie book launch!

The goal of any well-organized book launch should never be to get your book in front of as many people as possible. It should be to reach your target audience. "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" is not the kind of book that will explain the difference between a toe-loop and a toe-pick - it's a book for lovers of figure skating who already have a basic knowledge of the sport and its history... and that's who I want to reach.

How do I plan on doing that? In addition to promoting the book on social media (Facebook, X/Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok and Threads) I will be reaching out to people who have signed up to my newsletter and placing targeted ads on Amazon, Facebook, X/Twitter and Instagram. I tried to think outside of the box and get a little creative in my marketing strategy. I partnered with a local business for a giveaway of custom skating-themed bath and body products, hired a voice actor to read an excerpt from one of Jackson Haines' letters for a video promotion and will be hosting a live discussion about the book on social media.

I made a lot of the mistakes the last time around that I have learned from:

- Not 'going wide' and staying exclusive to one platform. 
- Not investigating audience quality/engagement before running targeted ads to followers of influencers.
- Free promotions - great for the first book in a fiction series, not at all for a standalone nonfiction book! As they say, 'exposure' doesn't pay the bills.
- Marketing to general audiences instead of those specifically interested in figure skating.
- Not seeking out ARC Readers and organizing a street team.
- Getting the word out at the wrong time. Facebook's algorithms, for instance, won't show a post to people unless people like or comment right away. I'm an early riser in the Atlantic Time Zone. If I post something at 6 AM, it's 2 AM in Vancouver.

Marketing is a constant learning process. It is a good thing I love to read because I've been learning something new every day over the past six months preparing for this book's launch... but there's one  challenge that is absolutely unavoidable.

A room in the Boys and Girls House of the Toronto Public Library, circa 1930

Libraries are one of the best ways to get your book in the hands of target readers. However, getting your book into them isn't an easy task whatsoever for any indie author. Libraries are particularly discerning with acquisitions of self-published titles. Many won't even consider self-published books unless they have been reviewed by Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Quill & Quire, etc. The cost of a Kirkus Review alone is $450 USD and unfortunately, many self-published authors report that these paid editorial reviews have not provided a good return on investment. A key part of my launch strategy involves pitching the book individually to over two hundred North American libraries as well as dozens more in the UK, Europe and Australia - focusing on local connections when I reach out to them if possible. 

Social media marketing and library pitches are just two of many things that happen behind the scenes when you launch a book. There are dozens of other things that go on: pricing, press releases, creating ad copy for multiple platforms, organizing digital deposit with Library and Archives Canada, writing blogs, sending and answering e-mails, making phone calls and engaging on message boards.

When you go the traditional publishing route, all of these fun things are handled by a team of people. When you don't, it's a one-pony show.

If you want to be amazing and help ensure this book succeeds, there are a few small things you can do that won't take more than five minutes of your time...

- Tell people that love history or figure skating about the book!

- Leave a short, honest review on bookish sites like Goodreads, The Storygraph, Bookbub, Litsy and Librarything and copy it over to the retailer's site you purchased the book from. You can absolutely share the same review on more than one site... in fact I'd love if it you did. Whether you loved it or hated it, a review would be so appreciated!

- Go to your local library's website and fill out a 'Suggest A Purchase' form. All of the information you might need for this form can be found on the site you purchased your copy on.

Thank you so much for your support and I really hope you enjoy reading the book.  
Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":