Image: Matthew Loffhagen
It’s quite simple really: the work you put in before your book launch determines the success of your book.
Of course you could wait for launch day, but you may be left wondering why the hundreds of sales you were expecting don’t happen.
Writing a book is a good start, but it’s not enough. You need to promote it too.
Promoting your book takes careful planning so you get the most out of your time and effort. And that’s why having a book marketing plan is an essential part of the process.
But first of all, make sure you have a great book. Don’t let all of the work on a marketing plan go to waste because you didn’t hire a competent editor.
If you’re sure your book is market-ready, sit down with a pen and paper, or open up your favorite word processor and get ready to type. Don’t just read this, do it. You’ll be one huge step closer to having a successful book.
Your book marketing plan
It can be a single piece of paper, it can be a complex spreadsheet or a powerpoint presentation. It can be an online to-do list. Whatever you do, write it down somewhere. Trying to keep it in your head won’t work.
Download our free book marketing plan template at the bottom of this page.
1. Define your audience
What? I hear you say, I know who my audience is. Don’t waste my time.
If that’s the case then great, this will be easy.
But don’t be tempted to skip this step. It’s vital and underpins everything else that follows. In a nutshell the rest of this plan is you trying to find these people who need what you have and convince them to buy it.
If you’ve already published books then you might have a good idea of who your readers are. The digital world gives you the opportunity to do amazingly in-depth reader research in a way that authors 10 years ago would have only dreamed of.
Get onto Facebook, Amazon, or Goodreads and look at who is reading your books.
If you don’t have any books out there yet then see who is reading similar books.
Check your email subscriber list, email providers can have amazing amounts of detail on your subscribers.
Ideally after this you will have defined a core group of readers. I understand your book is for everyone and it is possible that 70 year old men will like it just as much as 15 year old teenage girls. However, in the majority of cases, there will be a clear group of people who will make up your core readership…
- 18-30 year olds who listen to dance music
- Stay-at-home moms in California
- Business people studying for an MBA
- New parents who also happen to be vegans
These are all examples of what you might have come up with here. This stage is key. All you have to do now is find these people and sell your book to them. (Straightforward but not necessarily easy.)
Remember to ask:
- Who will be buying my book?
If you sell children’s books, you are actually targeting parents and not children, if you sell legal publications you might be targeting law librarians, not lawyers.
2. Find out where your audience hangs out (online)
What are the key blogs in the area? Are there any particular forums your readers frequent? What associations do they belong to?
Are you selling to legal librarians? Try the American Association of Law Libraries.
Looking for mothers? Try Mothering.com.
Try listing the key influencers in the area you are targeting.
Browse the leading blogs in your area and see whether they accept guest blog submissions or not. A simple way to do this is to see if they have multiple authors and if these author link back to their own websites at the bottom of posts.
3. How much money do you have to spend?
The amount of money you have to spend will determine exactly what else you can do. As with everything else, write it in your marketing plan. If you have a decent budget (and it fits your target audience) you can consider buying adverts on websites and search engines.
4. List some good topics for guest blog posts
Write down a couple of ideas for amazing guest blog posts that are relevant to your book. See this page as an excellent example of relevant guest posts. (‘The Articles I’ve Written’)
Make these as interesting and as full of value as possible. If you’re writing fiction you could write a short story set in the world of your book that introduces the characters. For a non-fiction author writing ‘how to’ articles can be very effective.
Good questions to ask here are:
- What needs do my audience have?
- How will my book affect their lives?
- How can I help my audience solve a problem?
Research the writing style and and length that will suit the blog you are targeting. Read this post by Copyblogger on guest blogging.
Remember, you might not get on Forbes but most small to medium-sized blogs are always looking for high quality content that will drive traffic, if you can serve it up on a plate then they will publish it. It’s a win-win situation.
5. Draw up a list of everyone you know
That’s right, everyone.
You want to get your family and friends involved to start building momentum at the earliest stage so compile a list of who you can ask and how best to ask them.
6. Plan to get reviews, testimonials, or quotes
List all the people who might be willing to give you a review, testimonial, or quote.
One good quote from a person of authority in your field can make a big difference to the success of your marketing campaign. Write down who these people are and how you are going to get your work to them.
7. Get your email list ready
I’m assuming you already have an email list from your website? If not, you need to start building one.
You will want to start sending out nuggets of information to your email list in advance. Because they are already interested in what you have to say, they will be the people most likely to buy your book.
8. Are you going to have a book trailer?
A well-designed book trailer can really make a difference and increases the likelihood of your book marketing campaign going viral.
Write down how much you have to spend on this and who you are going to hire to make the video.
You should also consider what sort of format you are going to use. You could opt for any of the following:
- Still images with text overlays (with or without music)
- Interview format interwoven with still images
- Animated format
- Movie trailer format shot with actors
9. Interviews can make a huge difference
Compile a list of potential interviews you can arrange and interviewers you can reach out to.
Do you have people in your network who do relevant podcasts? Do you listen to podcasts that would be a good fit? What about the blogs that you defined in the guest post section? Maybe consider local radio or newspapers. If you can reach out to these people then you need to time that correctly.
Your book marketing plan needs to know who they are and how you can get hold of them.
10. Conferences / Speaking opportunities
Make a list of any conferences or events you could speak at.
They can be especially useful around the time you launch your book. Do some research and write a list of conferences you can target. This is especially powerful if you are seen as being an expert in your field.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to speak at a conference, consider going as a delegate and networking.
11. Set your market price
You want to have a coherent price plan in place so you can react quickly and adjust your prices without under- or overpricing yourself.
12. How are you going to fulfill orders?
Are you going to direct everyone to your Amazon page? Are you going to set up payments through your own website (and keep all of the royalties)? Do you have all of the necessary options in place? (We can help you if you’d like to sell your book through your own site.)
13. Plan your timings
Write down all of the timings that are relevant to the book.
You don’t want to start getting people excited too far ahead of launch but you do want all of your promotional activity to be peaking at about the same time. This will maximize the impact it has.
Give yourself realistic goals. At what point are you going to pat yourself on the back and open a nice bottle of wine to celebrate? Focus on the word realistic here. You don’t want anything unrealistic in your book marketing plan.
That’s it, you’ve written your entire book marketing plan. Now you have a clear road map to take you through your book launch. I’d love to hear your book launch success stories in the comments. Do you think a book marketing plan is important for authors?
Download the Book Marketing Plan Template in a variety of formats by filling out this form: