Launching a book refers to sending a new book out into the bookselling and consumer marketplace. As with launching a rocket ship from the Earth's gravity pull, a book launch that successfully sends a volume into the hands of buyers requires a lot of thoughtful consideration of the book's target (its potential readers). It then requires a tremendous amount of resources, effort, and energy to give it the required lift-off to ensure it lands where it is supposed to.
Generally, publishers give each book a publication date. Though it sounds very specific, this is is often a general date by which the publisher knows the book will be widely available. (Pub date is not to be confused with the earlier "ship date," which is usually specifically the day the book leaves the warehouse and still has ways to go before it's on the virtual or brick-and-mortar store shelves). Much of the launch activity — the publicity and marketing hoopla that signals the book's arrival is time for the publication date to ensure maximum sales momentum.
Launching Books for Well-Established Authors
For well-established authors, such as a New York Times best-seller (think John Grisham or Doris Kearns Goodwin), launching the latest book means that the publisher needs to let their large, existing reader fanbase know that a new book has hit the bookstore shelves.
Traditionally, a book launch from an author with best-selling track record entails a "major media" push and some level of bricks-and-mortar or online store advertising placement to make its presence known to readers.
On the marketing side, the publisher might take out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times daily paper or the New York Times Book Review (both considered to be premiere venues to get in front of avid readers).
The book's publicist will try to ensure that the author is booked on a key morning television show, such as CBS This Morning, ABC's Good Morning America, or NBC's the Today Show, and the book will likely be showing up front-of-store in Barnes & Noble and prominent online promotional placement on Amazon.com.
Launching "smaller" books with unproven readerships
As it doesn't yet have an established audience, a frontlist (new) title from a new or unproven author needs strategically developed plan to make potential readers aware of what a book is about—and give them reasons why they should buy it.
To most effectively do that, it is advisable to have a well-thought-out and well-timed marketing and publicity plan (and this assumes the book has already been set up with an effective title, subtitle and book jacket).
Publicity and marketing staffs who time their work to get it into stores and get the media's attention in time for the publication date. Here's what you need to know about the efforts that set your book up for proper launch (and if you're self-publishing, follow the same path to launch — there is a lot of marketing and publicity how-to information on this site to help you). Because so many new books are published each year, a new book competes with all the others being launched for the key elements to get it in front of the consumer:
- Bookstore shelf space (brick-and-mortar or virtual),
- Promotional and media opportunities
- Marketing dollars — including cooperative advertising funds — that contribute to their sales.
One advantage a new book has is that traditional media—like television producers and magazine editors—want to feature something new and newsworthy. One element to think about for publicity is whether or not you can hook your book to an existing event, to give the media a fresh angle on a perennial topic.
Note that while book publishers do sometimes spend big bucks on certain titles, the vast majority of titles are launched with modest marketing and publicity budgets. But if your publisher (or you) have some budget monies to spend, consider publicity launch "extras," like a book party or a book tour, to get the rocket boost momentum behind your newly launched book.