A minor thought came up from the previous post that I wanted to explore further. That is, the current launch (or non-launch) strategies conducted by indie authors and publishers.

I’m going to term them Hard and Soft Launches. Sort of the difference between hard and soft openings for a retail store/ business.

Hard Launches

Now, in this parlance, a hard launch is one where not just a lot of promotional activity is put into the launch itself, but the publisher is expecting significant returns in terms of sales. 

It’s an ‘all or nothing’ kind of goal for hard launches, where you either have to make a lot of money back with the launch, or it’s considered a failure.

Traditional publishing actually does mostly hard launches. For them, there’s a 90 (?) day gap where a book has to sell upon release. If not, they often consider the book a loss because by that point, new books are out, new work is being placed on the bookshelf and your sales will decline. This is the issue with physical stores since they have a maximum amount of (expensive) shelf space.

For indie publishers, the concern isn’t so much physical shelf space but digital shelf space – specifically, in places like Amazon category rankings and the also boughts of other works along with promotional spaces. For example, in some Facebook groups, in an effort to reduce promotions, limit promos to a single day or a single time for a work.

All of which means is that in a hard launch, the publisher needs and wants to earn back all their cost and make a decent profit within the first month to 3 months. As such, a lot of marketing dollars, social equity (at times, via author newsletter trades and shoutouts, etc.) are utilised.

If they don’t earn out, there’s a high chance that they will never earn that money back.

I’ll say for many, many indie authors, this is the modus operandi. You see a lot of talk about rapid release tactics and write to trend works to hit the zeitgeist.

Soft Launches

In a soft launch, the product is pushed out inthe the world with little fanfare. There might be a low degree of promotion and advertising via social media, but the focus and goal isn’t to make the most out of the launch (thus meaning lower levels of investment and time) but instead focusing on the long tail of returns.

Note – this isn’t like having different promotional levels (though it can be part of it – I’ve seen discussions of having A/B/C/D level of promotions for works, so that you don’t burn yourself out throwing everything at say, a tiny short story or book 4 of a series and not having any energy for book 5, the finale kind of thing). This is more about mindset and overall long-term goals.

In a soft launch, the book is released to grow and die on its own merits or to pick up steam in the future. It could also be considered that in trad pub, the midlist releases without any real fanfare are all soft launches by the publisher, who have neither the time nor ability to push release number 102 out of 200 that month.

Here, I conjecture, we’re looking more at people (or publishers) who are producing a significant amount of work on the regular. So anyone producing anywhere from 4 to 12 works would start looking at more long-term, soft launch strategies and the same with some of the mass digital-first publishers like LMBPN. 

In such cases, working backend or long-term return and low cost operations is more important. As an example, if you have a newsletter with 50,000 subscribers and the ability to add 1000 a month, then rotating sales and fan days, pushing readers into those newsletters and your old catalogue is viable.

On top of that, if you use minimal editing (or low cost editing options) and cost of production becomes say, $500 a book; then the ability to generate even a thousand dollars on launch and then a couple hundred a month from there on makes sense. After all, if you (the author or publisher) can generate say, 10 such $200 books a year, that’s now $2000 a month. Do that for 4 to 5 years, and even after burn out (assuming the marketing engine is running); you should be making a decent somewhat passive income.

On top of that, when you’re producing that much content, not knowing which work is going to be a hit; you can let the market decide. And then, whether that success is in 10 years or 40 years later, you more ‘chances’ of having a hit.

The negative? Well, the requirement for an on-going marketing engine that emphasises pushing the backlist. And, of course, the ability to churn out a lot of product. With the knowledge that some of those items will likely be negatives.

Anyway, just some musings. I’m not even sure it makes a lot of sense; but another way of looking at handling backlist/catalogues and launches. 

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