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Big Enough Socks and Stickers

Big Enough Socks and Stickers

I’m so thankful for the people who pre-ordered BIG ENOUGH. The book made a splash on launch day and was the #1 New Release in the category of home based-businesses.

screenshot of big enuogh on amazon

I ran a pre-order campaign for the book to generate early interest and sales. And it worked. We sold over 450 copies before the book’s official launch. I count it as a success and learned a lot.

To encourage pre-orders, I offered a few tiers of incentives that included stickers and socks. Last week, I wrote a personal note to each person who pre-ordered and included their gift. It was a big project and one I enjoyed because writing a personal note of gratitude, by hand, feels right. It made me want to write more personal notes and hopefully improve my handwriting along the way.

I recently got to see the Big Enough socks in action and it was glorious:

Learn more about BIG ENOUGH.

The Dread and Delight of Publishing Big Enough 😕 ➡️ 😍

The Dread and Delight of Publishing Big Enough 😕 ➡️ 😍

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.


Of Dread and Delight

The date of August 15th was stuck in my mind. That was the day my pre-order campaign for Big Enough was scheduled to begin. Unlike finalizing the book website or changing my social media profiles, this date mattered because it marked a very personal phase of the project that would find me emailing virtually everyone I know.

This sort of campaign is practically a requirement for authors like me. Before the book comes out, my personal network is where it all begins and it’s my job to contact people and encourage them to pre-order the book, or share a link. With their help, the book can earn attention before it comes out.

I never look forward to self-promotion, or promotion of any kind, really. I wish there was a way to put something into the world and have people buy it on merits alone. But that doesn’t work for books that are not yet published. I must be involved.

In normal times, I would dread the process of promoting the book. I’d probably write one big email, add everyone I know to the BCC line, and send it. The process would be over in an afternoon and I could move on. I’d probably get moderate results from moderate effort.

These, as you know, are not normal times. COVID has changed everyone’s life in ways large and small. Millions of people are out of work and people are dying in unthinkable numbers every day. We’re on the cusp of an election and social unrest that sucks the air out of everything in the media. What an excellent time to launch a new book!

The dread I felt for self-promotion became magnified by the pandemic. Not only do I have to promote the book, but do it in a turbulent and unpredictable environment. I worried that I would come off as someone who was ignoring the reality of other people’s lives. I expected people to respond with messages like, “DUDE, read the room!”

I reviewed my list of friends and peers and tried to imagine what I could say that would encourage them to be involved. How could I approach them in a way that felt natural?

As this weighed on my mind, I thought about how I would want to be approached for something like a book in this environment. I’d want it to feel personal and authentic. I’d want to feel like it was sent to me, exclusively. I would want to feel like a relationship had been rekindled. This prompted an idea: Instead of blasting a single email to everyone, what if I took the time to email every person, individually?

The business person in me said this strategy was inefficient. And that’s probably true. A single email blast would work well enough. I’d get over the icky feeling and hope for the best.

But then something changed. It felt like I didn’t have a choice. The only way to promote the book, in my mind, was to send hundreds of personalized, individual emails. These weren’t just personalized by name, but actual messages to that person with the goal of making a real connection.

After five or six hours of research, I made a spreadsheet with every person, their email address and a place for notes about them. This was the foundation and it looked daunting. Over 300 emails, many to people I respect and admire. I felt pangs of dread.

One morning last week, I reserved a few hours on my calendar and dove in, starting on the first row. It didn’t take long to feel the first glimpse of delight. For each person, I tried to identify at least one thing I could mention that would show I’m thinking about them, exclusively. This might be something I saw on Instagram, a memory from the past, a funny anecdote. Inside jokes are often the best connectors. Going through each name on the list forced me to think back about our relationship, how I knew them, when we saw each other last.

If I needed inspiration, I’d find something by searching for them by name. I’d see that they switched jobs, moved to a new location, or got married. I’d learn about their lives and then show them, in email, that I was aware. I made the effort. This reflection time was delightful because it made me appreciate the people in my life. At a time when my physical contact was at a minimum, these reflections gave me a sense of community that’s long term and will last through the pandemic.

The project was taking hours each day, but it was more fulfilling than I could have imagined because it was personal. Sure, I was promoting a book and asking them to pre-order it, but I was also reaching out as a friend who knows them. I was showing them that they mattered. I didn’t compose every email as a soliloquy, but I did make it clear the email was exclusive to them. In more than one case, I learned a friend was recovering from an illness and was able to approach them with that in mind.

Of course, not everyone was engaged and I’m sure some didn’t have the time and had to ignore the message. I expect that. But I was also surprised by how many people chose to reply and keep the conversation going. Friends pre-ordered the book and posted messages on social media encouraging others to do the same. People I hadn’t seen since high school joined in and it filled me with delight. They were excited to read the book and help in any way they could. Some pre-ordered multiple copies. People wanted to help at a level that surprised me.

As much as I’d love to think this reaction was because of my carefully chosen words or nature of the book, I believe other factors are at work. We are all feeling the effects of the pandemic in ways large and small. Our physical distance may be highlighting new ways to feel generous and gracious. We still value helping and supporting one another, but now it’s using digital bits instead of atoms.

Publishing a book under these circumstances isn’t a best case scenario, but I now have a completely new perspective. What I’ve discovered is that we all want to be a part of one another’s lives. When that’s not possible physically, we can do it in other ways and with other goals. Today, it might be telling someone about the book, tomorrow it could be me congratulating a family with a new baby, or a graduation. I would love to know if a friend I haven’t seen in years is starting a new business or moving to a new town. These are the things that can connect us and now, they are just about the best we can do. I encourage you to reach out to your friends. Give them an update, ask a question, offer an idea. Reminisce.

You might end up feeling, like I do, that there is a support network on our side and helping us through. They’ve shown us that it’s OK to reach out and ask for support. It’s OK to be in touch after years of distance. We all need that and it’s a delight to feel connected again.

Learn more about Big Enough

The Pre-Order Campaign Bounce

The Pre-Order Campaign Bounce

Going into this phase of the book launch, a created a spreadsheet that includes names and email addresses of nearly everyone I know. Over the last two weeks, I emailed them all, one at a time. This ended up being quite a project. I sent hundreds of individual emails, all personalized, and focused on one thing: pre-orders for Big Enough.

As I’ve written before, pre-orders are a powerful way to generate buzz when the book launches and it’s up to me, the author, to make it happen. Once the book launches, there are options like advertising to achieve a similar effect.

Thankfully, I’m starting to some fruits of the effort. I don’t have direct access to pre-order sales numbers, but I watch the Amazon bestseller rank as an indication of how the book is doing relative to all books on Amazon.

You see in the graph above when the pre-order campaign started. That’s what I call the campaign bounce. By contacting people in my network, the book can rank in the top 35k before it’s ever released.

This project was a great opportunity to check-in with people I hadn’t seen in a long time. I now feel like many relationships have been rekindled. I’m so thankful to have the help of friends and family!

Here’s why pre-orders matter:

I encourage you to pre-order Big Enough! 🙂

How to Help the Author in Your Life

How to Help the Author in Your Life

Writing a book is only one part of being an author. To make your book successful, you must also promote it and work to get it noticed. One of the most powerful methods is a pre-order campaign, which means encouraging people in your personal network to pre-order the book.

The question becomes: Why do pre-orders matter? The answer deserves a clear explanation, so I made the 90-second video below as a resource for any author or publisher. Please feel free to share it or use it in your campaign.

big enough book image
Big Enough Book Video Strategy 🍿📚

Big Enough Book Video Strategy 🍿📚

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.


Today is a beautiful Saturday in August and it’s 70 degrees and sunny outside. Our friends are sending us photos of themselves on the beach and having an afternoon cocktail. But for me (and Sachi) it’s a workday. On Monday, the pre-order campaign will begin and I’m doing everything I can to motivate people to buy Big Enough before it comes out. The video below: “How to Help an Author” explains why this campaign is important.

One of the aspects of this project that I love the most is that it’s mostly DIY. We have help with publishing the book, but I built the website and created the videos from scratch. And let me tell you, hiking and setting up cameras and drone footage with two big dogs tied to your waist, who would rather be exploring, is a real challenge (video below).

Videos

Creating videos to go along with Big Enough has been a joy. Making media is a passion of mine and the book gave me an opportunity to make three videos to go along with the launch:

This video explains why pre-orders and review matter to authors.

How to Help an Author

A live-action video on Orcas Island that asks: what does “living the good life” mean to you?

Big Enough Book Trailer

A brief animation that explains one of the big ideas of the book: designing a business to grow what matters to you.

Big Enough for What Matters

Website

The book’s web page on leelefever.com is be the home of the pre-order campaign and we’re shining up the last bits. For example, we’re offering incentives for pre-ordering. If you pre-order the book and send me a screenshot of the receipt, I’ll send you three stickers. If you buy five, I’ll send you Big Enough socks. Making all this clear is a challenge and I’m happy with how it’s turning out.

Big Enough socks
pre-order campaign

Outreach

Authors in my position can make their book more successful by directly contacting people in their network. I have a list of a few hundred people that I will email individually next week with a request: please pre-order the book or share it online. It will take time, but I really enjoy connecting with everyone.

Social Media + Blogging

I have been increasingly active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with book messages, so I post a mix of things in addition to book updates. When I write posts like this one, I usually share the link on Twitter and LinkedIn. I started blogging on leelefever.com in 2003, but I admit, I let it languish for a few years. Now, I’m motivated to make it one of my most useful resources and that means consistent blogging.

Common Craft

I expect the book to raise the visibility of Common Craft and in the past week, we completed some much-needed development work. This weekend I’m reviewing the changes and making final tweaks so that it will be ready for prime time.

Podcasts

I’m recording a few podcasts this week and preparing by reviewing previous episodes of those shows. I’m also working on outreach to podcasts hosts who might be open to having me as a guest.The first podcast episode about Big Enough was just published yesterday.

Headspace

In the past, I’ve struggled with self-promotion. With the release of Big Enough, I’m working to overcome my anxiety about it and doing everything I can to help the book be successful. If I’m going to be an author for the long term, I have to be ready to promote myself. Every day, I remind myself that I’m doing the right things and learning. Sachi’s ongoing support is essential.

Needless to say, we have a lot in motion and I’m honestly surprised by how good I feel about it. I’m excited to contact friends and can’t wait to be on podcasts. Once the launch arrives, the bulk of my work will be done and the book will be out in the world.

30 Days to Launch – What I’m Doing

30 Days to Launch – What I’m Doing

Big Enough will be officially published in 30 days, on September 15th. As you can imagine, the book is constantly on my mind and taking up hours of each day. Here’s what I’m doing right now:

Today is a beautiful Saturday in August and it’s 70 degrees and sunny outside. Our friends are sending us photos of themselves on the beach and having an afternoon cocktail. But for me (and Sachi) it’s a workday. On Monday, the pre-order campaign will begin and I’m doing everything I can to prepare. My goal is to sell as many pre-order copies as I can because all pre-order sales count on launch day. If the number is big enough, it can create a splash that earns attention for the book.

Videos

Creating videos to go along with Big Enough has been a joy. Making media is a passion of mine and the book gave me an opportunity to create a live-action video as the trailer that includes videos shot with a drone. Two other videos are more Common Craft Style. I’ll be sharing them all soon. At the moment, two videos have been finalized and the third will be done later today. We’re adding captions and uploading them to the sharing services in the next two days. Yay!

big enough video images

Website

The book’s web page on leelefever.com will be the home of the pre-order campaign and we’re shining up the last bits. For example, we’re offering incentives for pre-ordering. If you pre-order the book and send me a screenshot of the receipt, I’ll send you three stickers. If you buy five, I’ll send you Big Enough socks. Making all this clear is a challenge and we’re so very close.

Outreach

Authors in my position can make their book more successful by directly contacting people in their network. I have a list of a few hundred people that I will email individually next week with a request: please pre-order the book or share it online. It will take time, but I really enjoy connecting with everyone.

Social Media + Blogging

I have been increasingly active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with book messages, so I post a mix of things in addition to book updates. When I write blog posts like this one, I usually share the link on Twitter and LinkedIn. I started blogging on leelefever.com in 2003, but I admit, I let it languish for a few years. Now, I’m motivated to make it one of my most useful resources and that means consistent blogging.

Common Craft

I expect the book to raise the visibility of Common Craft and in the past week, we completed some much-needed development work. This weekend I’m reviewing the changes and making final tweaks so that it will be ready for prime time.

Podcasts

I’m recording a few podcasts next week and preparing by reviewing previous episodes of those shows. I’m also working on outreach to podcasts hosts who might be open to having me as a guest.

Headspace

In the past, I’ve struggled with self-promotion. With the release of Big Enough, I’m working to overcome my anxiety about it and doing everything I can to help the book be successful. If I’m going to be an author for the long term, I have to be ready to promote myself. Every day, I remind myself that I’m doing the right things and learning. Sachi’s ongoing support is essential.

Needless to say, we have a lot in motion and I’m honestly surprised by how good I feel about it. I’m excited to contact friends and can’t wait to be on podcasts. Once the launch arrives, the bulk of my work will be done and the book will be out in the world.

Learn more about Big Enough.