Publishing and Marketing A Poetry Chapbook: Experiments, Successes, and Failures (Episode 3: Pre-Launch Strategies)

Copy of C. Alexander (1)

6 Days Until Air

Image result for time bomb

Alright, I have 6 days left until my book will officially be live on Amazon, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s actually already live.  At least in paperback form. Why do I already have it live if I’m not officially releasing it until next week?

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Think about most purchases you have made before you are sure about the products, especially on Amazon. What is the first thing you do? Check out the reviews. So when I do my Kindle Countdown deal on Monday ( because it statistically gets the most downloads during the first five days) there will already be some reviews beneath the book.

Where did I get the reviews?

I told you in the first article that I’m primarily using this experiment as a way to build my email list. But I’m not starting from zero. I am starting from pretty close to zero though. I am starting with 23 subscribers on my email list. Who are these 23 people? My closest friends and family. The people I can depend on to begrudgingly give me some reviews when I beg them a week before the book goes live.

So I spent the weekend getting my book in order, and sending them a PDF version of the book for free, with one request: PLEASE LEAVE ME A REVIEW. Of the 23 people, I expect I will get about 5 reviews. That is fine. That is a good start and will at least give my page a little credibility when the book goes live Monday.

That offer is still on the table, by the way, email me at, and I’ll gladly send you a free copy of my book if you leave me a review. At least until Monday, when I delete this part of the article.

What Have I Learned So Far?

1. Lean (only a little) on people who care about you

It is okay to call in a favor from time to time, given that you are a good friend who helps your friends out when they also ask favors. I wouldn’t beg all your friends and family to spend money on your projects, but if you are offering it to them for free, and only asking for an honest review in return, I think you’ll find that most of your real friends will answer the call.


2. Pre-order advertising isn’t working

I told you I was going to share my failures as well as my successes here, so that you won’t make the same mistakes. I have spent about $10 on Amazon Advertising for the Kindle Pre-order, and it is not really resulting in much. I have decided to back off that strategy, and send Advertising to the Paperback that is already live.  I have also adjusted my AdWords to target the front page of Amazon when I search the term “poetry book.” That means I am literally typing in names like Rupi Kaur, Atticus, Mary Oliver, etc. for my keywords. I will keep you guys posted on if that strategy sees any fruit.


3. Formatting is a bitch

I wanted to avoid any timeline issues. So I finished out the 30-page chapbook over the weekend, revised heavily, sent it to a friend who also revised heavily, and then went live. I covered last time about how I made the cover. I also spent a lot of the weekend making sure the sizing fit. Luckily you can adjust the sizing in google docs (I made mine 6×9 because I want it to look like a mini-magazine), and then set the size in KDP to match exactly. Formatting for kindle was a little harder, so let me share a pro-tip.

Make sure you add a manual page-break (CTRL or Command + ENTER) between every page in your book.

This will save you a lot of headaches when kindle converts your docx file. Trust me.

4. Lastly, Hustle Is Hard

I really want to make this work this time. Which means I am hustling out there. My goal is to propose 100 podcasts, and/or blogs to see if they’d like to talk to me about this project, and the advertising successes and failures. Writing and selling poetry is not for the faint of heart, and I would love to inspire another poet to keep going, or find an easier path to success. So hopefully, you’ll see and hear me soon on other blogs.

In addition, I’m reaching out to 50+ venues in my area to try to arrange readings in the next year. It is time to show my face, get out there, and sell some books. This strategy should allow my success to not entirely depend on the first week of sales (though I will share with you how that goes as well). If I keep hustling and keep up the belief that my audience is out there, I just need to find them, then I know I will be able to define this project as a success, regardless of the dollars and cents it makes.


Let me leave you with two mantras.

I have been saying these two phrases to myself every day throughout this process. They are nothing groundbreaking, but maybe they will help inspire you.

  1. You deserve to see what you could do if you work hard. There has to be a path. Keep searching.
  2. “Rejection is a myth, you never had it in the first place.” -Jack Canfield


Until next time, keep writing, keep working,

C. Alexander

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