If you want to get your novel into the hands of readers, you need a marketing plan.
Even if you have a traditional publishing contract, unless you're Stephen King or Mary Higgins Clark (in which case you're probably not reading this article), only limited resources–or no resources–will be devoted to your particular book.
When I started self-publishing in 2011, I did an overall business plan. It included some marketing, but all of it quickly became out of date as the publishing industry changed.
Since then, I've been a bit haphazard, though I've had some success. I'll share what I've done this year and the results on Sunday.
My December goals include creating marketing plans for my new Q.C. Davis Mystery Series (first two novels are in progress now), for The Awakening Series, and for my non-fiction writing books.
I looked at two resources to figure out what ought to go into the marketing plans, both of which I recommend.
Small Business Administration Plan
The first is the Small Business Administration marketing and sales page.
It provides a good overview of what should go into a marketing plan, including figuring out your target market, your competitive advantage, your budget, and more.
A few aspects may not be that relevant to your author business. For example, there's a discussion of accepting checks, cash, or credit cards.
That might matter for in-person events, but most indie authors sell primarily online, in which case we're getting paid by direct deposit from Kobo, Amazon, or one of the other ebook platforms. (Some indies are starting to sell direct from their sites now, though, which I plan to research and write about.) If you have a traditional publishing contract, your publisher will be paying you (I hope!).
Marketing Plan Template
I found an extremely helpful article on Forbes.com: Marketing Plan Template: Exactly What To Include. The author, Dave Lavinsky, includes within it a link a to template that's for sale, but I found the article alone perfect as is.
Lavinsky does exactly what the title promises, explaining 15 steps for your marketing plan.
I found nearly every one well adapted to marketing novels. I used his 15 sections to start making notes for the Q.C. Davis plan yesterday. (When it's finished, I'll provide a link so you can download it for reference.)
The article is from 2013.
The only part I thought was somewhat dated was splitting out Section 8, Promotion Strategy, from Section 9, Online Marketing Strategy. Most of my promotion is done online, so at first it seemed to me the two would be duplicative.
As I wrote thoughts on each, though, I realized it might be good to separate these points out. There may be offline marketing and advertising opportunities these days that other authors and businesses are neglecting, which could make it less expensive to use those ways to get a book or series in front of potential readers.
Also, don't let the fact that there are 15 sections discourage you from sketching out thoughts on each one. I did it in about 45 minutes.
While my notes include a lot of blanks and follow up items, doing that got me started on market research last night that I wouldn't have otherwise done. (I found readers of two more authors to add to my target list — Tess Gerritsen and Jonathan Kellerman.)
Also, it brought home to me that I really do need to start planning now if I want to release in Spring 2017, as I hope to do.
Looks like it'll be a busy December!
For quick reference, here again are links to the two marketing plan resources I found helpful:
- Small Business Administration marketing and sales page
- Marketing Plan Template: Exactly What To Include on Forbes.com
Until Sunday, when I'll talk about putting the first book in a series free as a marketing strategy—