My friend and author client Paul Sohn sold 1,000 copies of his first book, Quarter-Life Calling, on launch day and signed with a New York literary agent six days later.
He’s what I call a success story.
When I edited his book, I knew his message for millennials was going to change lives. He was passionate about helping twentysomethings find their vocational sweet spot, and you can’t ignore that kind of dedication.
And he was certainly passionate about his goal for selling 1,000 books on launch day.
So it’s no surprise that everyone keeps asking me, “How? How did he do it?”
So I asked him, and Paul was gracious enough to give us some incredibly valuable answers. Want a successful book launch like Paul Sohn’s? Well, here ya go . . .
What were you looking for when creating a launch team?
I knew I couldn’t launch my book by myself. I needed a strong tribe to get the word out. So I asked myself, How do I mobilize a group of people—many of whom I haven’t met in person—and create a huge buzz around this book?
There were over 800 people in Paul Sohn’s book launch Facebook group. Here’s where Paul’s platform with paulsohn.org is so important: he reached out to his 7,000+ email subscribers and asked them, “Would you be interested in being a part of my launch team?”
On Facebook, I asked people in my own network and other networks, like Dreamers & Builders and 30 Days of Hustle, and people said, “I would love to help.” I also individually messaged my own Facebook friends. Almost 300 people signed up through those messages. After that, I created a campaign where I asked people to invite their own friends who would be interested in reading my book as a bonus and being able to help spread the word—in other words, tapping into their own networks. It trickled down, and I was able to create 800 people or so in the launch group.
What was most effective in selling these books? Social media? Networking? Launch team?
It was multiple things coming at the same time. I had planned out the launch two to three months prior and started gathering the launch team and using Thunderclap to create buzz, which got 1 million people for social reach. I had specific instructions from people on what to do on that day and asked them to buy the book on release day only. Also, as they read Quarter-Life Calling, they bought multiple copies to share with others. I had to clearly communicate to people and use as many avenues as possible—Twitter, Instagram, email—and talk to them in person as well. I said, “This is my goal, this is what kind of help I need, and this is what I need you to do.” It was strategic for me at the start. As I was starting the launch process, I knew I had to begin with the end in mind—I asked, “What’s the goal with the launch?” To sell 1,000 books. I wanted to share a goal people would get excited about.
And people did get excited. This brand-new author wanted to sell 1,000 copies on launch day? WHAT?! That was so crazy that it might just work . . .
Your book trailer was fantastic and set a high bar for other trailers. Who came up with the concept? What was your vision for this trailer?
The book trailer didn’t start off as a book trailer. I wanted to film a narrative of my life but not necessarily the book itself. It was more about my story. I just felt like this is something that I want to have and be able to look at after twenty to thirty years down the road. I want to use this footage to realize this is where I was in my mid-twenties and this is where God has been leading me to pursue his calling. Books do a good job, but when you see yourself at that age and see what’s happened since, that would be pretty awesome. I wanted to capture that moment.
Watch it here: https://vimeo.com/150444831
How on earth did you manage to sell 1,000 copies in one day? Everyone is asking me about this!
Two months prior to the book launch, I had been seeking out opportunities to connect with other platforms to share my message, like churches and conferences. I don’t think planning is the answer, but because of my faith as a Christian, God has been a part of this. People had been connecting with me, and doors had been opening for me. There were all these speaking engagements lining up, so I said, “Hey, instead of you paying me a fee, I’m having a book launch, so can you use those funds to buy the book and give it away to the people who are attending the conference?” That was a win-win situation. I said, “The only caveat is I want you to buy the books on Jan. 18, which is the launch date, because that’s going to help me reach my goal of 1,000 books sold.”
Paul wanted to get people excited about what God was doing with his book, which is why getting his launch team to buy multiple copies was a huge success. When you read Quarter-Life Calling and decide to give copies to your friends, you think, “What I’m doing is something greater than just helping one man sell a lot of books—I’m helping him make a difference in the world.” There was even a reader who actually cried—that’s how much the book had been touching people's lives. Had Paul not shared the PDF copy to his launch team, they would not have read it and realized they needed to buy more for their friends.
A lot of people will help if you ask them. Be clear about what kind of help you need. People are more than happy to help.
What didn't work in your book launch?
The timing. I released the book on MLK day and a Monday. I would’ve done more studies on times and dates before launching.
How did you get so many book reviews? Most indie authors are begging for just ten measly reviews, and you got 100!
When I started planning the book reviews, I thought, Should I provide an incentive? I toyed with that idea but didn’t do it after all. And honestly, I think that incentives actually made it less genuine. I had confidence in the book and the content, so if people were willing to buy multiple copies, they won’t mind sharing a review. I created a visual and said, “Can you go to this link and leave a review?”
Again, if you look at the launch team of 800 people, getting these reviews shouldn’t be difficult. It all starts with a good team.
You published on a Monday. By Wednesday, you had a call from an NY literary agent. And you signed the contract with Waxman Leavell Literary Agency by Saturday. How did that happen? How did the agent find you?
I want to find that out too! I think it was another divine appointment because the agent emailed me and said she was able to see this incredible buzz. She said, “I read your book and was struck by it.” She’s also a Christian and millennial, so she wanted to see my book reach a wider audience. I thought, Is this really happening? Is this real? I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never had a publishing deal. So I talked to my friends who had done this, so they coached me on questions to ask. I felt like it was an open door and I was very overwhelmed and just incredibly grateful that God had been opening these doors to use this book. It’s not by my own strength or platform—this is something I can only explain through God.
What happens with Quarter-Life Calling now that you'll be traditionally publishing it?
Moving onto the next step, and I’m having my first in-person meeting with my agent next week. There’s a lot of work involved to create this pitch for the publishing houses, and I want to do the greatest job for that. I’m just collecting all the information and how I can best show why publishing houses should invest in me and the book.
When you hit your goal of 1,000 books sold, how did you celebrate?
We had a small celebration with my family with cake and celebrated. It wasn’t crazy fancy. I was thinking of having a physical book launch, but that didn’t work out. So I went to my family and said, “Let’s just celebrate this together.”
Any final advice?
It’s not that I’m crazy talented. I’m an ordinary guy. I’ve been learning and growing and building my platform. If somebody like me can do it, anyone can. I want to encourage people that it could be a long journey. This didn’t happen overnight for me. It took a lot of time. It’s like that verse in the Bible, you prepared for the battle, but at the end of the day, God will figure things out and show you the way. We have to do everything we can to bring our gifts to others.
I wanted to encourage people that this too can happen to you. Go back to the heart and mission of why you wrote the book and don’t get distracted.
There you have it, readers. If you haven’t read Paul Sohn’s book yet, grab a copy today: http://paulsohn.org/quarter-life-calling/.