Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do You Have a Marketing Plan?

Most of us writers don't have a clue about marketing when writing our books. But once that contract is signed, we realize how much of the marketing actually falls upon our shoulders. So what should be done first?

Take the time to create a marketing plan. It will help you stay focused, and if your brain works anything like mine, it will keep you from getting side-tracked into useless, time-wasting, or budget-busting options.

So what's in a marketing plan?

First, define your book. What is its primary focus? (Even with fiction, you'll still have a focus - whether it be a spiritual theme, an issue or agenda, or purely for entertainment purposes.) Consider this the "mission statement" for your book. You can do this for one book, for a series, or for your writing business as a whole.

Next, look at your book or business from "the big picture." What are its benefits to readers?

Then, identify those readers. Who, specifically, is your target market? As I've shared with some of my editing clients - imagine a customer looking at your book. One reader only. Is that reader in a bookstore? Which one? Where? Is that customer male or female? What age? Married or single? Occupation? Religious beliefs? Political beliefs? Children? You want to pinpoint that reader as specifically as possible, because it will be that reader you target in your marketing.

Yes, you'll pick up many other readers that don't fit the profile at all - but you want to match your original marketing as close to that one reader as you can possibly get.

Detemine a marketing budget. Your budget may be $5, $50, $100, or $10,000. Put it down on paper, and stick to it. You can use it for reference with your next book - so you'll know whether to increase or decrease the budget, and keep track of what worked and what didn't.

Next, you'll want to make a list of marketing goals. You need to figure out how to get your book in front of readers. Think of a variety of ways - and be creative in your approach. Book signings, speaking engagements, blog tours, media interviews, online and print advertising, your own Web site and blog, writing magazine articles about the subject of your book (or subjects mentioned in your book), etc. As you create your original list, write down as many as you can think of - you may not use them all, but you may generate other ideas from that original list.

After you've created a list, break it down. Determine the cost of each goal, how you'll accomplish item on the list.

Then set a timetable. All of your marketing efforts probably won't be very effective if everything is done on one single day. Spread out your marketing. You'll want to start the "marketing buzz" before the book is even published, but you don't want the groundswell to happen until the book is available for purchase - where readers can immediately get their hands on a copy. And to keep people talking about your book, spread the marketing out over several weeks or months.

Putting your marketing plan down on paper helps you stay focused, but just remember, it isn't set in cement. Be flexible, creative, and enjoy the process. It's not nearly as bad as you think it is!

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