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I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to get a book off the ground. Not because I’ve gotten mine there yet, but because I want to. And I’ve come to the realization that launching a book is like launching a rocket. To put a rocket into space you need fuel. To launch a book you need readers.

That’s obvious enough. The real questions are: Where do you get them? And what do you do when you first have them? And here’s where I’ve been doing a lot of my noodling. You see, I wrote to as many friends and family members as I could think of to ask them to read the advanced electronic copy of ALL SYSTEMS DOWN. I see them as the rocket fuel. If I can get those first 80 or so people to pick up the book, even for free, I’m hoping it will have a cascading effect. If they like it they’ll tell their friends. I might even send their friends free copies.

Because my goal right now isn’t to sell books.

I know, that’s crazy. I don’t even think it’s my publisher’s goal to sell books right now. I just need to get those first few hundred readers to propel my book into a stratosphere where maybe hundreds could turn into thousands.

So for these first hundred-or-so advance readers, I’ve tried to make myself really accessible. To engage them on a personal level. To write back to every email they send with a thoughtful reply.

And, no, I don’t think that an author needs to write personal emails to thousands of readers. If you have thousands of readers, though, you probably aren’t reading my blog; I’m reading yours. At that scale, you can be like Stephen King, and write a daily tweet that goes out to a million people. But for you and me, I think the best route is personalized correspondence. Conversations on whatever platform you like. Hopefully it’s fun. And ideally you’re building a group of readers who will propel that book to the heavens.