How to Kill Your Book Launch: Guest James Duvall

Summer School Graphic 2019

Please join me in welcoming our next guest writer in the Summer School series, James Duvall! James has four novels published, his most recent one being a high fantasy adventure titled SHARDS that I decided to purcahse because it claims to be for people who love Pirates of the Caribbean, which I do! He’s here to talk about the all-important BOOK LAUNCH portion of self-publishing, with a couple of tips on what NOT to do!

How to Kill Your Book Launch! (And I mean that in a bad way!)


James Duvall

Good afternoon! My name is James Duvall and I write books about dragons. I got started self-publishing on Amazon two years ago and today I’ll be talking about what a disaster it was to get started.

1. Your Friends Are Trying to Kill You

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘kill them with kindness’ once or twice before. Well that can happen in a more literal sense (get it, because books? No? Moving on then~). To understand why and how I am going to teach you about what I call book neighborhoods. The easiest way to see these is to go to and type in your book’s title. Yasiv will plot out the links between your book and adjacent books and books that those books are adjacent to and it will continue to do so for several levels.

What you’ll start to see is clusters of books, usually with one particularly popular book in the middle of each. These are your neighbors. Ask yourself the question.

Am I living in the right neighborhood?

One of the biggest mistakes a new author can make is to involve his or her friends and family in the process of the book launch. Why? Because you’re going to end up like that model home in Arrested Development. The one in the desert with no one around.

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You see, your friends and family might be really enthusiastic about you, but they’re probably not all that enthusiastic about your dragon books, or, more importantly, dragon books in general.

One of the first things I did when getting into self-publishing was to publish a novella called The Brightistry. It was about a teenager trying to get his boss to let him take his exams to become a full-fledged member of the Lightmakers Guild.

I told everyone I knew about it.

They all came out and bought it. Things were great. For one day.

After that, sales came in at a dead crawl. Like, imagine a limbless basilisk on a frozen pond. That’s about h– stop laughing! Not funny! (Okay that was kinda funny.) But seriously, sales were coming in so dismally slow and I had no idea what was wrong..

Then I took a look at my Also Boughts. Mom teaches food science, sister prefers cozy mysteries, cousin likes biographies, co-worker reads about sailboats… My Also Boughts were an eclectic mess. Amazon had basically dropped me in the middle of a desert of my own making.

Failure #1) Involving my friends and family got my book isolated and forgotten by Amazon’s Algorithms.

Solution #1) Using Amazon ads you can target books that are similar to yours which increases the likelihood that people buying your book are the people most interested in your topic, which in turn trains the Amazon Algorithm and gets you included in emailed ads and the like.

2. Your Art is Telling People You Don’t Care (and so why should they?)

My very first experiment was to put up a novella using one of Amazon’s handy little template covers. Had myself a cozy little sunset. Title. Author Name. Awesome story about a shapeshifting gryphon sneaking around in the Rocky Mountains fighting dragons made of fire.

Short version: I sold 1. After a year I took it down. Whoever that one guy was. You’re not crazy, that story did exist. You have the only copy~~ (for now.)

Nowadays when I put together cover art I commission it from talented semi-pro artists on Lots of great artists there. Check out these fine specimens~

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It’s important to understand that if you have a slapdash cover that looks cheap (even if it wasn’t) people will get the idea that you didn’t really care that much about the book and just tossed whatever old cover on it.

Failure #2) Bad Cover Art

Solution) Custom cover art!

I compared notes with a few other authors that were using bad cover art. I found that with a similar marketing approach, my custom cover art books were outselling them 10 to 1.

Most astonishing: Lots of those artists had only paid 20$ less for their clipart disaster than I did for these custom covers.

It makes a world of difference and I highly recommend it. It’s a lot cheaper than you think.

 image<—— James says this is what he looks like. So… there you have it. No better author for books about dragons than a dragon, amIright?!

If you wish to follow James around the interwebs to find out if he is REALLY a dragon or just pretending to be one, you can find him in these various locations:




And don’t forget to go take a look at his latest release, Shards – available HERE.

For five hundred years the Mistwood Vault has kept its secrets. Thousands have tried to break in to the strange vault discovered in the darkest part of the Mistwood. None have succeeded. Timothy Binks, a notorious smuggler, comes to the aid of a crashed airship and finds the most unlikely of things: Standing amongst the flames is a gryphon, guarding a chest unto pain of death. What the chest contains will change all their lives. Hidden inside is the first key to finally unlocking the Mistwood Vault. 

Secrets are hard to keep. The search for the rest of the keys first draws the attention of a clever dragon alchemist and later, a far more sinister mage. Who will open the vault? What’s locked inside? Find out!  If you like Pirates of the Caribbean and high fantasy adventures, you’ll love Shards! Join the hunt today!

~ jenelle



Hopefully James comes around and sees this question.

Personally, I’ve seen awesome covers that cost anywhere from $100 – $1,000, depending on the cover artist (and whether you just want an ebook cover or a matching paperback with wraparound-and-spine). Sometimes it depends a lot on what you want and which artist you want. You can get some very nice premade covers (existing covers where the artist just puts in your name and title) for as low as $20, and I’ve seen some great ones. Personally, I’m considering a cover artist for my next series that is going to run closer to that larger number, but I think it’s worth it for what I’m trying to do.

I recommend perusing several indie-covers you like and seeing who the artist is for those and then reaching out to see what their pricing is.


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