by Susan Spann
The business plan section on Marketing Strategies has three sub-sections: pre-release, release phase, and post-release. Creating a specific plan for each phase helps keep the author – and the marketing efforts – on target and on track.
Pre-release Marketing focuses on platform building and making connections. Advertising the book plays a role, but so does managing social media, writing, and connecting with readers, authors, and industry professionals.
Remember: the connections need to be real. You can’t just shout your name and book title into the Internet and expect a horde of readers to appear. (And if they do, they’re probably waving pitchforks, not pocketbooks.)
You need to become an information provider, offering useful, interesting content that people want to read. How do you do that? Think outside the box!
Become an expert in your field and share your expertise in person and online. You can talk about writing, or research, or something totally off-the-wall. (seahorses, anyone?) If you’ve written a book, you have valuable knowledge to share.
Divide the pre-release marketing section of your business plan into three different areas: platform, connections, and book promotion. Brainstorm ways to work on each. Don’t limit yourself to strategies you currently use. Before the book releases is the time to try new things!
Subscribe to newsletters like Shelf Awareness or Author Marketing Experts. Read Publisher’s Marketplace. Pay attention to links and blogs by successful authors talking about their experiences – what works (and what doesn’t work).
Overwhelmed? Break it into manageable steps: brainstorm three ways to make connections or increase your platform and give them a try.
A few ideas:
- Blogging. Guest posts are a great way to ease into blogging, too.
- Teaching and Public Speaking. Libraries and civic organizations love to host engaging speakers for evening presentations. (If you’re not comfortable in front of a group, a public speaking class is a helpful investment.)
- Effective Use of Social Media.Find people with interests similar to your own. Join the conversation, and remember to encourage others as well as talking about yourself.
Don’t forget: traditional authors can learn from Indie authors, and vice versa.
Release Phase Marketing starts when your book becomes available for pre-order and continues through the first few weeks after release. This is the phase when most sales are made – and having a plan can make a big difference.
The release phase marketing plan should include both in-person and online appearances. If possible, you’ll want to schedule 2-3 appearances per week during the 2-3 weeks before your book releases, one appearance per day on release week (a “blog tour” is a great way to handle this) and 2-3 per week for the two weeks after release. If you work, or can’t manage that many, just do what you can. Quality is more important than quantity.
Your platform and relationship work in the months before release will create friendships and contacts that become opportunities in release phase. The key is giving value in advance. If you form genuine connections – not just fakery aimed at promoting yourself – you’ll find that you have the contacts you need to help promote your work around release.
Keep three things in mind when drafting the release phase marketing plan:
1. Provide Value With Your Promotion. The new paradigm is less about “BUY MY BOOK” and more about dialogue. Seek opportunities that allow you to offer readers value beyond your name and book title. People don’t like to be “sold” – but they like to buy, and they buy the things they consider valuable or interesting.
2. Make a Schedule You Can Stick To. Take note of how much time you can spend on appearances, blogging, and social media. Don’t over-commit. Get a calendar and record your obligations – and if an emergency arises, COMMUNICATE with the people hosting your appearances!
3. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck. If your schedule permits only a limited number of appearances, giveaways, etc., use your resources as efficiently as possible – and remember that human capital is an important resource too.
A few weeks after release, the initial buzz and sales decline and the book shifts from “new release” to “available title.” This is the Post-Release Marketing Phase.
Some books stay “hot” longer than others, and there’s no way to tell exactly when a title will shift into Post-Release. A lot depends on whether the book achieves critical mass through word of mouth, effective publicity, and the “X factor” no one fully understands.
For the author, Post-Release Marketing involves a four-step plan:
Step 1: Don’t get depressed! Books, readers, and sales have cycles. The post-release sales drop-off isn’t your fault.It happens to everyone sooner or later.
Step 2: Continue writing, blogging, and social media. Revert to the pattern you established in pre-release: platform building, interacting and forging genuine connections. Continue developing and sharing your expertise. Don’t forget to mention your book when appropriate – but don’t just shout your title into the wind.
Step 3: If you advertise, do so judiciously. Pay attention to returns on investment. Once the initial marketing push ends, many authors don’t find it cost-effective to advertise the book as widely as before. Make decisions based on the way your efforts translate to sales.
Step 4: WRITE ANOTHER BOOK! Never, ever, stop writing. Moving forward helps you worry less about what’s behind. The best post-release marketing for your last book is your next book.
Having a plan helps authors in more ways than merely scheduling. It keeps you on track, reduces stress, and lets your genuine joy in your work shine through.
Homework time! Between now and next month, brainstorm three ways to build your platform and forge connections with authors and readers – and give at least one of them a try!
Thanks for joining me here today at Writers in the Storm. Have questions about marketing or business plans? Do you have a special marketing tip to share? Please let me know in the comments – I love it when you join the conversation!
Susan Spann is a publishing attorney and author who practices in Sacramento, California. CLAWS OF THE CAT, the debut novel in her SHINOBI mystery series featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books in Spring 2013. Susan blogs about writing, publishing law and seahorses at http://www.SusanSpann.com
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