By Laura Marshall and Helen Marshall
You’ve gotten a publishing deal, finished writing your book, got an awesome cover and the first copies are coming in. I bet you’re thinking the hard works all done, right? Well, as you might have guessed, the work’s only just begun. Whether you’re with a small or large press, an increasing amount of responsibility for marketing the book now falls on the author. Being able to write a challenging, engaging book requires quite a different skill set than trying to sell one.
Before I delve into my principles for putting together a marketing plan, Helen and I stopped to brainstorm some of the challenges we’ve come across doing book marketing:
Scared? Overwhelmed? Marketing can seem very intimidating, but what we want to stress is how to come up with a plan that’s realistic both in terms of the resources you want to devote to it and what you can accomplish. The goal of this blog post isn’t to teach you what tactics work: for one, it’s very difficult to know what’s going to work. Even the big houses, which have substantial capital to direct toward marketing, still have difficulties figuring out what will make a book sell. The goal of this post is to try to help you adjust your mindset so that when you start making decisions about what tactics to apply, you’ve got the basic principals down. So here’s a place to start.
1 – Time vs. Money vs. Quality
In a world of limited resources you only get two out of three. If you need it fast, it will either be expensive or of low-quality. If you need it cheap, it will either take a long time or be of low-quality. If you want production values, it’ll cost you or take a while.
Most of us don’t want to devote a huge amount of money toward marketing because, at a basic level, writing is a job. The money is supposed to flow toward the author. So recognize from the get-go that the main thing you have to invest is your time and your expertise. Try to leverage those things to good effect. Do what you’re good at. Do what you can quickly and effectively.
2 – Come up with SMART Goals
Make sure your marketing goals are:
Realistic (This one is VERY important)
Know what it is you want to get out of the marketing, and make sure it fits into your broader goals of where you want to be in five years and what kind of writer you want to be. Do you want to sell copies? Do you want to sell copies and make sure that those copies are read? Are reviews more important than sales? Is word-of-mouth more important than sales? Are you at a stage where you are trying to build your “author brand”? Are you trying to reach new fans? Are you trying to encourage sales from previous fans? These are all slightly different goals, and require slightly different tactics. Plan for what you want to happen, and then track everything so you know what worked.
3 – Remember the Five Ws
1) Who is doing the marketing?
2) What do you want to accomplish?
3) Where are you targeting?
4) When is your timeframe?
5) Which elements will you prioritize?
Marketing is really all about coming out with a plan that it is realistic to implement and gets you the results you want. Remember, you aren’t selling a single book; you’re building a career, and every book is part of that. But so is writing the next book. And the book after that. And the book after that. Most books don’t become break-out successes, even if they seem that way. They are part of a process. So even if you don’t meet your goals, look back on what you did, evaluate what worked, learn from the past, and keep trying.
DON’T SHOOT FOR THE MOON!
Be realistic about your financial, social, personal constraints and available resources and find ways to maximize your success within those parameters. This is the most important of them all. If you’re doing all the work (or even most of it) save your time and energy by focusing on tactics that are achievable.