Watching It Climb: How Simply Salsa Got to #1
by Janet Perez Eckles
The road is rough when you can’t see. The journey is intimidating when it’s the first time. And the tasks can be overwhelming when time is limited.
All the above were true in my case. But on my book’s launch day, when hubby and friends reported the climb of Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God’s Fiesta on Amazon.com, my heart felt delicious triumph.
That day, we gasped at each stage, and in the evening, the book hit #1 on Amazon.com in the Religion and Spirituality category.
A Carefully Crafted Plan
Here’s what I did to launch Simply Salsa.
Mapped the writing process. I found a topic only I could write about. My first agent, Wendy Lawton, gave me that advice.
I wrote something only I could write. I prayed and asked for wisdom. Blindness, tragedy, broken dreams, sadness, triumphs. There it was—the theme, the message.
I defined my target audience. For this book, that meant women and men who had experienced setbacks, adversity, and disappointment in life and wanted someone to show them how to triumph.
I sharpened my writing skills by attending Christian writers’ conferences, joining critique groups and online writers groups, developing relationships through all the above opportunities, and writing something every day.
Submitted stories everywhere. Yes, everywhere from friends’ newsletters to Guideposts Magazine.
Turned rejection to redirection. At first, rejection seared. But I kept at it, until my stories were regularly featured in national magazines, online publications, and Chicken Soup for the Soul books (to date, 22 Chicken Soup titles include my stories).
Perseverance paid off when Guideposts featured my story and I was invited to have my own column in a magazine and a community newspaper. This exposure was vital because my bio ran with the column, providing a link to my Web site.
My current agent, Les Stobbe, wonderfully supportive, negotiated my contract when I got an offer from Judson Press. With contract in hand, I finished the book, and the arduous marketing efforts accelerated.
Continued working on my Web site, with the goal of driving targeted readers there. I already had a Web site where I promoted my keynote messages and my first book, Trials of Today, Treasures for Tomorrow. But I revamped it to support the theme and the spirit of Salsa. And it was continually updated throughout the launch countdown to build excitement about the upcoming release, showcase early reviews, present contest details, and more.
Continued sending my newsletter. Each issue of my newsletter, Splash of Inspiration, features two heartwarming and inspirational stories, humor, health tips, insightful quotes, announcements, and links to my Web site, blog, and recent articles.
The newsletter is sent every two months. It currently has about 1,400 subscribers. Take a peek: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continued blogging. I already had a blog, but I updated the theme to align with the theme of my new book—sassy, passionate, warm, and scriptural in its message. Each blog post included a mention of my upcoming book. Readers among my 4,900 Facebook friends saw the title months before its release.
Expanded my mailing list. Along with subscribers to my newsletter, my mailing list includes 1,200 email addresses of people who contact me after reading my stories, hearing me speak, or hearing about me from another source.
At each speaking engagement I have, I give a free book to someone chosen from the feedback cards I hand out and then collect. These cards request comments and email addresses.
Became even more active on Facebook and other social media sites. Here’s my biggest weakness. Being blind, I cannot navigate to submit posts. But when God has His hand in the process, He provides. He brought my ministry partner, Cindi Lynch, into my life. She becomes “my eyes” as she navigates through my writing, Web sites, formats, and technical issues, and places the writing I send her before my 4,900 friends. I make sure I respond to everyone who comments about my posts.
Twitter is also a challenge for me, but I seek hubby to use Twuffer.com to post tweets to 1,000 followers. (As a scheduler for listing and posting future tweets, Twuffer is a very useful tool.)
Got other media exposure, on radio and TV and through groups. Before and during the book-launch process, I was a guest on various radio programs and on blog talk radio as well. All hosts gave me opportunities to announce my book and provide contact information.
Also, I joined the John 3:16 Marketing Network. Its founder and mentor, Lorilyn Roberts, wrote a powerful manual detailing each step for a successful launch (it’s available for purchase at smashwords.com/books/view/72306). This very inexpensive resource guided me through each step, and I highly recommend it.
Set a launch date and enlisted partners.Simply Salsa was released on August 1 by Judson Press, and I chose August 9 as the launch date to give time for books to arrive at Amazon.
I contacted specific prayer partners and asked them to join me in prayer. I sent them updates and specific prayer requests throughout the process.
Created a landing page. Two months before the launch, I hired Scott Shafer, a fellow author who provides this service, to create a landing page where all pertinent information about my soon-to-be-launched book would be available. (I didn’t actually use the page until closer to launch, but wanted to get it ready.) Scott is a fellow John 3:16 Marketing Network member. His advice, suggestions, support, and prayers were invaluable.
Continued to build buzz.
Well before launch date, I decided to hold a contest for people who ordered the book. I got sponsors to provide gifts and started advertising both the sponsors and the gifts in mailings. I wanted to build excitement so more books would be sold and there would be numerous opportunities for people to win prizes.
Several weeks before launch date, I created a variety of one- to two-minute videos that were posted on my Web site with links to my blog and social media. These videos were designed to be casual, inviting, and exciting. The specific goals were to invite partners to participate in various ways, spread the word about the book’s launch date, promote me as a speaker (again including mention of the launch), and give instructions on how to obtain gifts and enter my contest.
One month before launch date, I encouraged the members of the John 3:16 group to help spread the word by letting their followers know about Simply Salsa. I asked each member to participate in the launch by providing an e-gift and information about themselves to be included on the book’s landing page, where it would be seen by each person ordering the book or interested in ordering it.
Three weeks before launch date, I called out to more authors, asking them to consider partnering with me. This time I contacted individual John 3:16 members. In addition, I drew on relationships I had built through years of attending writers’ conferences and participating in online writers’ groups, and I invited all those contacts to become partners.
Two weeks before launch date, I continued blasting my social media sites with frequent updates on Facebook and Twitter. These posts included announcements about Simply Salsa along with brief excerpts and quotes. At the same time I recorded a portion of Simply Salsa to be included on the book’s landing page. And I created postcards announcing the contest, gifts, and launch date that I gave out to church members and friends and at gatherings.
One week before launch date, I created several different posts for Facebook and several Tweets. Each included a brief video. I sent a request to my partners, asking that they include these posts and/or tweets liberally on their own Facebook and Twitter pages.
At the same time, I continued working with Scott Shafer on content for the landing page by providing him with:
• a compelling description of Simply Salsa
• a brief video
• an audio excerpt read by me
• endorsements I had obtained by sending PDF copies of the book to some of my contacts
and fellow writers
Also, I sent an announcement of the launch, including a brief endorsement, to my newsletter subscribers and also to my mailing list.
In the home stretch, when the landing page went live a couple of days before launch date, I started including a link to it in all mailings, on my blog, and on my Web site.
In addition, I sent a request to partners to send an announcement to their personal friends and family. And I included a sample brief note they could simply copy and paste.
On Facebook, I posted frequent announcements and created “an event,” inviting most of my 4,900 friends.
On the day of the book launch, I reviewed my contact list and sent another reminder about the contest, mentioning the urgency of taking action on that particular date.
Help Along the Way
All that simply outlines the steps I took. The success of Simply Salsa wasn’t simple. It was made possible because of God’s grace and His provision to prompt members of the John 3:16 Marketing Network to take their commitment seriously. They will blog about a launch, feature interviews on their blogs, encourage others, give ideas, and provide valuable support. Launching a book with a group such as John 3:16 increases the possibility of reaching bestselling status—a feat few relatively unknown authors could accomplish on their own.
Janet Perez Eckles, who is blind, aims to inspire thousands to see the best of life through her writing, which is included in 28 books; through keynote messages; and recently through her book Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God’s Fiesta. To learn more: janetperezeckles.com.