What is a soft book launch?

In “Book marketing requires patience,” I noted that many authors have unrealistically high expectations for their book launches.

When those expectations aren’t met, writers often feel like failures.

It’s not a good feeling. But it’s one that can be avoided.


Plan a soft book launch.

Soft book launch defined

In the marketing world, a soft launch happens when you release a new product to a limited audience before doing a full-blown introduction later.

Companies use this approach for a number of reasons, including gathering feedback they can use to improve the product or fine-tune their marketing language for the full launch.

For most products and services, it’s a great way to answer the question, “Have we got this right?”

3 reasons to plan a soft book launch

There are three primary reasons a soft launch is a smart strategy for authors and books, too.

1. Reader reviews

A soft book launch gives you time to secure those all-important reader reviews before introducing your book to the world.

Reader reviews tell book buyers that your book is reader-tested and approved. This is important “social proof” you’ll want in place before announcing your book outside your network.

People who don’t know you or your product quality need this reassurance.

These early reviews also give you fodder for marketing pieces that include quote graphics (quote cards).

2. Quality assurance

The people you trust to support you during your soft launch can identify any random typos, format glitches, or other issues that seem to inevitably creep into books.

You can also ask for feedback on your book description on the back cover (if you have one) and online sales pages. Is it accurate? Does it resonate with them?

3. Marketing language

Many times, you’ll spot patterns in your early reader feedback. Several on your soft book launch team might express the same thought – “I wasn’t expecting that twist at the end!” or “I will look at this issue differently now that I’ve read your book.”

When you identify these gems in their feedback, consider how you can use them to improve the book’s description and marketing materials.

Create a soft book launch team

Many authors use “street teams” for book launches. They’re people you recruit from your network to read and review pre-publication copies of your book and talk it up on social media during the launch period. (Be sure to read “How to create a street team for your book” by author and popular podcaster Meagan Francis.)

Use a similar approach for your soft launch, but leave out the social media component. With a soft launch, your focus is on securing feedback and honest reviews on Amazon, BN.com, Goodreads, and any other platform that’s important to your book.

You don’t want supporters promoting it yet.

Managing the launch

With your team recruited, take care to:

  • Communicate precisely what you need team members to do and when.
  • Give them enough time to read and review the free copy of your book that you provide.
  • Ping them occasionally with reminders – we’re all busy and can lose track of time.
  • Provide exact page links they can use to share their reviews.
  • Make it easy for them to write a meaningful review in minutes by providing them with a copy of the Build Book Buzz Reader Book Review Form.
  • Explain that reviews need to be honest and that reviewers must include a disclaimer sayinig they received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Presuming everything unfolds smoothly, you’ll be ready for that official launch to a far wider audience in just a few weeks. By taking this extra step, you’ll not only increase your confidence, you’ll improve your chances for success, too.

What has been your most successful book launch strategy? Please tell us in a comment.

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  1. Sandra,

    Thank you for this information. I love your newsletter. It has so much information in it. Thank you for doing this. I just wanted to let you know it is much appreciated. (I’m launching my book later this year, and I’m trying to take it slow and figure out what steps to take first. I’m sure I’ll be taking your course.

    1. Aw, thanks so much, Tricia. That means a lot to me.

      I’m glad you’re taking your time with this. There’s a lot to learn. From a marketing perspective, the first step is creating a quality product. That’s so essential to success.


  2. Saving this one – I’m hoping to finish NETHERWORLD by the end of the year.

    And I’m planning an actual, in-person, book launch party created by an event planner (small) because, at the retirement community where I now live (about 250 people in Independent Living), 30-40 have read PURGATORY, and have claimed to be waiting for the next book.

    We have had so few community events this past pandemic year that I think a nice celebration will be fun. I didn’t have a party for the first book – not enough people nearby to do so – so this should be fun.

    Now to figure out how to goose those who come to the party for the cupcakes into actually writing a review so as to be ready for the wider launch.

    Have bookmarked this post, and will be mining it for ideas when the time comes. Thanks!

    1. Your event sounds WONDERFUL, Alicia! As for reviews, first you have to get them to READ it, right? I’m sure you’ll get tons of questions about how to write a book…maybe you can answer them with references to the book’s content: “Flashbacks can play an important role in storytelling, so when you read the book, notice how I handled that in Chapter 7….”

      I’d also print postcards asking them to write a review to help other readers; include a shortened URL for review links on Amazon and Goodreads. Some of the language in my article here might inspire you: https://buildbookbuzz.com/letter-to-readers-who-love-books/


  3. Thank you for all the great information.I’m topsey-upside-down now with too much going on – finishing my edited story, getting website setup, and all the things I call “trinkets.” I’m very interested in your soft book launch info, but its a bit early for me. I’ll keep this on my list and your classes also.

    1. You’re welcome, Olga. It will still be here when you’re ready for it. ; – )


  4. Hi, Sandra,

    I am not clear what you mean by “soft launch”. do you mean to publish the book on Amazon and only promote it to your launch team? I don’t see how to post reviews without the book being on amazon. I thought of doing a pre-order just to get the url to include in the request for a review a the back of the book.

    thanks, carol March

    1. Carol, it means publishing the book on Amazon and promoting it to a limited audience that you can count on to read and review the book, and post their reviews on Amazon, BN.com, Goodreads, etc. How you define “limited audience” depends on what’s available to you. It can include a launch team and review services such as BookFunnel and NetGalley. Your goal is two-fold: To make sure there are no errors in the book (typos, grammar, erroneous or outdated info, etc) and that you’ve got reviews in place before you announce it to the world.


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