You Need A Marketing Plan: Part 1

Filed in Book Marketing by on July 16, 2013 is the process of making people aware of what you want to sell to them and then convincing them to buy it. Marketing includes all of the steps that go before the transaction when a book is exchanged for money. Marketing includes advertising, but is not the same thing.

You should have a marketing plan—or a marketing strategy, or at least a marketing theory or notion—before you start to write. It’s a bad idea to expend blood, sweat, tears, months and dollars to produce a book and realize only at the end that there is no way to sell it; or that maybe no one wants to buy it. You have to start thinking as a business-owner, not only as a writer or a customer of a self-publishing company. Writing is an art. Authoring is a business.

If you don’t start marketing until your books go on sale, you’ve waited much too long. Start marketing as soon as you have a subject and a tentative title. If you write a blog or a website in a field that’s related to your book topic (baking? Marilyn Monroe? Japan?), show a mockup of the cover and tell a bit about the book. As you get closer to the publication date and your ideas about the book get more concrete, you can say more about it. If you lecture or give speeches, the event program should mention the upcoming book. If you get interviewed because you are an expert on something, mention the upcoming book. If you make online comments or write letters to the editor or book reviews, mention the upcoming book (but don’t be obnoxious about it).

You can have a blog, website and Facebook page devoted to your book, and to you as an author. I’ll talk more about online marketing in the future.

Book marketing has a lot in common with the marketing of other products, but it’s also very different. Unlike food, books are not consumed and then replaced with identical items throughout the life of a customer. Unlike clothing, books are not outgrown and replaced with a larger size. Unlike tires or tools, books are not replaced because they’ve worn out. Unlike handkerchiefs, books are not purchased in packs of a dozen to save money. Unlike cars, books aren’t sold to each adult in the family. Unlike cars or videogames, older books are seldom traded in for the latest model. Unlike televisions, books are seldom returned after people try them and find they don’t like them. Unlike frying pans or screwdrivers, the same books are not bought in different sizes. However, people may buy both “p” and “e” versions of the same book.

For all of its important differences, never forget that a book is a product. It’s not bleach, pizza, a car or hotel room, but the fundamentals of marketing do apply to books. The most fundamental fundamental is that you must identify the customers for your book and find a way to sell books to them. It’s even better if you can first identify a need and then fill it.

The first step in marketing, or in a marketing plan, is to identify your customers and your potential competitors. The more precisely you can define the customers, the more efficient your marketing will probably be.

In book publishing, your customers are not just potential readers.

You have to court, impress and convince other potential “partners.” Your partners include booksellers, librarians and a wide range of influencers. Traditionally the primary influencers were book reviewers working for printed newspapers and magazines. Today, many newspapers no longer review books, and magazines are disappearing. In their place is a constantly growing group of online influencers on blogs, websites and social media such as Facebook. You have thousands of potential allies who can recommend your book—or condemn it.

Unless you are writing in a very new field, you are likely to face competition from existing books as well as books that are “in the pipeline.”

The bigger your potential audience, the bigger your potential income—and the bigger the cost of reaching readers. If you’re writing a dictionary, your potential market is all of the people in the world who can read—or are trying to learn—the language you are publishing in. The potential audience is many millions, and your potential competitors probably number in the hundreds.

If your book is about your not-so-famous mother, you probably have no competitors covering the same subject, and your potential audience may be eight people. Or two. Most books fall somewhere in between. Books intended to help fisherman, amateur mechanics and corn growers probably have potential audiences in the tens or even hundreds of thousands—and dozens of competitors.

If you rely on a publishing company to do all of the marketing for you, you will likely be disappointed. Even authors with contracts from “traditional” publishers now participate in (and may pay for) marketing their books.

Like the Energizer Bunny, you can keep going and going, and going. If you are a self-publisher (of any variety) you have some distinct advantages over an author who’s using a traditional publisher. You get to decide how much to spend, when to spend, where to spend, and how long to keep spending. Many publishers spend a book’s entire marketing budget in the few weeks before and after the publication date. If you are the author and publisher, you can market your books as long as you want to (and can afford to).

More in my One Buck Book Marketing Book

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Michael N. Marcus

About the Author ()

Bestselling author and publisher Michael N. Marcus has written more than 30 books and provided the words for over 50 websites and blogs. He specializes in making technology understandable and humorous. Many of his recent books are about writing and publishing. His writing career started when he published a newspaper in elementary school. Since then he has been an editor at Rolling Stone and has written for many other magazines and newspapers. At the urging of a misguided guidance counselor, he went to Lehigh University to become an electrical engineer and was quickly disappointed to learn that engineering was mostly math—and slide rules were not nearly as much fun as soldering irons. Michael was one of the few literate people in his engineer-filled freshman dormitory and made money by editing term papers for classmates. He became a journalism major in his second semester. Michael lives in Connecticut with his wife Marilyn, Hunter the golden retriever, indoor and outdoor telephone booths, a ‘Lily Tomlin’ switchboard, lots of books, CDs and DVDs. Marilyn is very tolerant.


  1. Dreams Aloud Animal Book Buzz says:

    Sharing – TY! ~ Carol