I can’t help but quote the late and great James Brown … “Please, please, please … (Please don’t go)”.
Please do not take your book to market if you have not developed a marketing plan. That includes:
– define your target audience (visualize specific individuals who plan to buy the book)
– make a list of specific organizations that could
– organize a book signing or speaking engagement
– development of promotional materials – sales sheet, website, postcards and bookmarks
– write an attractive description of the book
– determine the ideal outlets to sell your book (internet retailers, your website, independent bookstores, talks, etc.)
What is the worst that can happen? You could be one of those authors who never sells more than 99 books!
Marketing shouldn’t start after the book is produced; it must start before the book goes to press. Why not wait until the book is printed? First of all, you will miss out on several crucial marketing opportunities. Second, if you wait until the book is in your hands, you will feel under pressure to sell it and planning will probably not be a priority for you.
Another good reason to think about marketing before printing or publishing your book is the book cover. After all, you can’t expect your readers to judge a book without its cover!
Regarding the cover of your book, the marketing plan will help you determine the appropriate layout, keywords, and content for the back cover. When developing a marketing plan, you will be forced to consider:
○ specific target markets
○ your interests and wishes
○ your frequent and reliable information resources
With this information, you will be able to write a description of the back cover that will entice potential readers to open and purchase the book.
Once you understand your target market, where they buy books, and whose opinions they trust and admire, you will have enough information to identify the right outlets (Internet retailers, bookstores, conferences, etc.). I have included a sample target market analysis at the end of the book.
Here’s an example: I mentioned to the client that he is writing a young adult fiction novel. He told me that his target market was teenagers and young women between the ages of 15 and 35. That’s a great start, but it’s not enough. With my help he was able to expand this description …
○ Primary target: single black women and single mothers ages 23-30;
○ Secondary target: young black adult women and college students ages 18-22
○ Tertiary target: Black high school teens ages 15-18
Note that we didn’t just say readers, we were specific about their gender, age, marital status, and education: single women, single mothers, college students, and high school students.
We also consider geography. The author lives in Atlanta, GA, therefore this is her primary geographic target. We expanded this to include the Southeastern region of the US, as it is easy for her to travel to neighboring states to sign books and participate in conferences. It also has extensive contacts in New York, which is why we include the Northeast as a secondary geographic market. Segmenting the market in this way does not mean that the author does not seek domestic sales, it only helps her focus on specific regions.
Don’t worry if the thought of writing a formal marketing plan causes some apprehension. Instead, consider using a tool that my clients and I have found extremely helpful: the book proposition. Traditionally, book proposals are only necessary for authors looking for a traditional agent or publisher, however, I have found the proposal to be an immense help for all authors.
In the process of writing a book proposal:
○ Clarify the hook of the topic (short and compelling description of the book)
○ Present the book hook (title, sales handle and length)
○ Identify specific features and benefits
○ Identify competitive titles
○ Address marketing strategies and tactics
While writing God is my consultant, I felt a bit confused about how to position the book, how to make it different and better than other spiritual / self-help books and the main selling points of the book. After two rewrites, I still like that it’s not quite right. So I stopped working on the manuscript and started writing the proposal. When I finished writing the proposal, I was able to remove a lot of superfluous information from my manuscript, I had a complete marketing and promotions plan, and I knew exactly what to include in inquiry letters to agents and publishers.
I also used the book proposal format to help a client edit their novel and write a description of the book to use on the back cover and promotional material. To solve this problem, we wrote the thematic hook and the target market sections of the book proposal. In doing so, she was forced to focus on the main theme of the book and why it appealed to her target readers.