15 Days to Launch – What I’m Doing

September 02, 2020

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

Big Enough is officially published on September 15th. It’s hard to believe it’s coming so fast, but I feel good about where we are in the process. 

big enough book cover

Here’s what I’m doing right now:

In the midst of all the book-specific activities, our normal work must go on. My personal newsletter goes out every Tuesday and this morning I finalized it and scheduled it to send. My subscribers have followed the entire book process, so it’s fun to give them a behind these scenes look at where we are. Tomorrow we will publish a new Common Craft video, our 113th. This means sending a different newsletter to over 12,000 subscribers and posting to social media, etc. This issue will have a big promotion for pre-ordering the book. The show must go on!

Setting The Stage

Books often bring new traffic to the author’s website(s) and it’s always a good idea to prepare. I feel like I’ve been setting the stage for months and it’s close to being ready. For me, this means looking at the websites I run and doing everything I can to ensure they’re converting, working properly, and look great. The goal is to turn book traffic into longer term relationships, whether that means subscribers, members, connections, or friends. I expect the book to bring attention to my personal website, Common Craft, my newsletter, and social media accounts. 

Recently I decided on a new profile photo that will become my new standard. Sachi took this off the coast of Orcas Island, where we live. I should note that Sachi has become my barber, because, you know… pandemic. She’s pretty good!

Lee LeFever Headshot

New Platforms

In the process of writing Big Enough, I decided to publish it on leelefever.com and make my personal website the home of my writing. Starting in January, I designed and developed the site from scratch and it’s now my central platform as an author and home for all future books. 

Today, I’m seeing that I have two brands or personas online. Common Craft is the oldest and most powerful. The brand is focused on our videos, with lots of traffic and followers. Our YouTube account, for example, has nearly 50k subscribers and over 16m views. The Common Craft Facebook page has over 4000 followers. 

I share those numbers for context. Right now, I’m at the very beginning of promoting the brand of Lee LeFever, Author. Like Common Craft, I have a YouTube channel, but it has 14 subscribers and nearly 1000 views, total. My new Facebook “Author” page has 152 followers. And honestly, I’m excited about it all. I will mention the book on Common Craft, but I feel it’s important to build a new platform for what I expect to be the long term direction of my career. 

Emailing 300+ People, Individually

My biggest project lately has been the pre-order campaign. As the author, it’s up to me to reach out to my network and encourage them to pre-order the book. If they do, it can help the book get more attention when it arrives.

In the past I might have written a general email, added everyone I know to the BCC line, hit send, and hoped for the best. And it might have worked. I’d expect moderate success from moderate effort. 

Because of COVID and the turbulent environment, an email blast didn’t feel right. After a lot of consideration, I decided to take on the task of emailing virtually everyone I know with a personal message. In the past two weeks, I’ve sent over 300 emails, all with a message exclusively for that person. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Created a spreadsheet to organize everything with headings for name, email, Contacted Responded, Pre-ordered.
  2. I searched for all the email addresses using my Gmail contacts, LinkedIn, web searches, and a few guesses. 
  3. I drafted a few versions of the email, all with placeholders for their name, etc. I had three basic audiences with slightly different messages: friends, influencers, family. All messages had calls to action to pre-order the book, help spread the word, or make connections.
  4. I saved those emails as templates in Gmail. This made creating a new, auto-filled draft a cinch. 
  5. For each person on the list, I tried to think of a memory we shared, or a story, like the first time we met. I wanted to show them the message was exclusive to them. This process, while time consuming, was delightful. I learned about everyone on the list and it made me feel like relationships were being rekindled. 
  6. People responded and I was heartened by the reaction. Some didn’t respond and that’s expected and okay. But many more did and pre-ordered the book. They were so supportive which made me feel more confident. The book reached the top 35k on Amazon’s best seller list during this campaign. 
  7. I kept track of everyone who pre-ordered and will be following up later to humbly ask for a review. 

Podcasts

Podcasts are the number one way I’m promoting the book. So far I’ve recorded six and have a few more scheduled. I’m excited to be interviewed by Andrew Warner at Mixergy this week. I recently started working with Interview Valet, who helps with podcast placement and promotion. 

If you know a podcast host who might be interested in having me as a guest, please send them to this page

Videos

The three videos I produced to accompany the book are now on YouTube and available to watch. I’m particularly proud of the trailer, which has beautiful live-action footage. We’re experimenting with using it in ads.

Advertising

The conventional wisdom is that you shouldn’t spend a lot of ad dollars on something that people can’t buy. For example, we’ll be advertising on Amazon, but that won’t start until after launch. Today, we’re testing a few ads and trying to get a feel for what people might respond to. We’ll probably be doing it for months. 

Personal

I’m working a lot, pretty much all my waking hours. I’m not used to this kind of work schedule, but I know it’s temporary. It helps that I’m motivated and excited to get to the next task. I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for days. 15 days and the book will be out in the world, hopefully selling itself to some degree. Between now and then, I’m doing what I can to make sure it starts on the right foot.

So, it’s a lot. And I love it. It will be tiring, but I’m excited to push through the next two weeks and finally see the book arrive!

Learn more and Pre-order Big Enough

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Each week, I share a story from my life, which usually involves a recent move to an island, building a custom home, publishing books, and running a business. Learn more.

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