A common theme at the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Publishing University I attended this spring was that marketing a book was just as much work—if not more—than actually writing it. The strategies available are endless, and marketing could easily become a full-time job. But for those of us with limited time and money, a detailed book marketing plan of attack is essential.
In one educational session, “Build Your Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan” by Stephanie Chandler, she recommended creating a table, divided into rows and columns, listing each marketing tactic, a description, cost, priority, and target completion date. This appeals to my Type A list-making personality, but more artistic souls may find this a new experience. If you consider yourself the latter, be assured it’s a skill you can easily learn! Your table can be created in Microsoft Word or Excel, then printed off and hung above your computer or workstation so that it can’t be ignored.
As previously mentioned, marketing tactics are endless, so I’ll keep it brief here. A blog, website, social media, email marketing, print materials, publicity and outreach, reviews and endorsements, a book launch, other speaking and signing events, book awards…each should have its own row on your marketing plan.
In the description column, get in depth about each tactic. What tasks will you have to perform, who do you need to ask for help, what do you need to write or design or coordinate? In creating an author blog, for example, can you set it up yourself or will you need to find a web designer? Who is your target audience? How frequently will you post, and what will you post about? How much time will you set aside weekly to write for your blog?
Your cost and priority columns will help you when you are running low on time or cash. After looking at the costs associated with each marketing tactic, you might decide you want to spend the majority of your budget on a nice website and devote the rest of your time to free social media marketing. Alternately, if you have a book targeted at a niche or location-based market (like a book about a specific region of the U.S. or a book about antique cars), you can spend your money on local advertising or ads for special-interest magazines or websites.
The last column, target completion, is essential because that pesky publication date always sneaks up on you—trust me. For some things like a blog and social media, there is no such thing as starting too early. If you’re asking for reviews or endorsements, keep in mind people’s busy schedules and the time it will take them to read the book. Websites, too, always take longer to get from development to go-live than you expect. Certain venues for speaking and book signings have schedules that fill up early. Check book award deadlines.
Of course, a plan is only the first step. Keep an eye on our blog for future articles going in depth on implementing different marketing tactics.