Writers in the Storm

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November 28, 2012

The Three Stages of Author Marketing

We welcome back contributing guest, Susan Spann, with Part 3 of her Author Business Plans series.  If you missed  Part 1 or Part 2, they're just a click away.

by Susan Spann

Today we continue our trek through Author Business Plans with a look at Part 3: Marketing.

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

0 comments on “The Three Stages of Author Marketing”

  1. Susan, This is perfect timing for me - my first book is due out in May of next year. I'm tacking this up on my bulletin board and getting to work! Thanks so much.

    1. Glad to hear it was helpful, Laura! I know from my perspective I feel much better when I have a plan, it keeps me on track and reduces my stress a ton!

    1. I completely understand it feeling overwhelming. Everyone I know - from my clients to my author friends to me - finds the idea of marketing more overwhelming than writing the book itself. The good news is, being a helpful, outgoing person is actually some of the best "non-marketing" you can do. Plus, breaking the process into smaller goals does a lot to relieve my stress, and I think most other people's as well.

  2. Susan, it might be some time before I can put your great plan into action for a book release. In the meantime, I enjoy introducing my blog readers to the wonders of NYC. Since all my mysteries and women's fiction (actually all my writing) uses NYC as a backdrop ... I love taking my readers on unexpected trips to those little known parts of The City. It's my way of giving back to my beloved City and my way of letting readers know ... NYC is so much more than Time Square 🙂 I'll continue to save your posts for the future when (from my lips) I will have a book to shout out about !!

    1. This is exactly the kind of blog development that builds readership, and a lot of those readers will naturally want to read your books because they like your blog and your style. After hearing you describe it here, I'm planning to head over and check out your blog myself!

  3. Fabulous series Susan and so needed in my world right now.
    Question on organization in general, and maybe I can just throw this to this group at large:
    What sorts of tools do you use to stay organized, especially if you have more than one title?
    For instance, you start with the mktg plan and then transfer some of those goals to say, iCal or whatever your dayplanner tool is, so you remember to blog when you've committed to.
    What about tracking the finances of a title. (database?) What about tracking deadlines on the next book? (spreadsheet?) If you're self-pubbed and on more than one platform, do you track your freebies here and there and how successful the mktg plan was?
    I'm just looking for some suggestions on tools that you and other authors find helpful for keeping their career (and sanity) in tact.

    1. Hi Dani, great question!

      I know, for me, I use my iPhone calendar and reminder settings to schedule appearances, calendar blog entries (including guest slots on my own blog and when I blog for others), and keep myself on track. I also find the iPhone helpful for keeping up with Twitter.

      I use a combination of desk calendar, day planner and iPhone - with the iPhone being the "constant point of contact" and the old fashioned handwritten day planner as my at-home fallback. I know a lot of people prefer going exclusively digital, but I like being able to consult a handwritten book - especially when I'm planning things far in advance.

  4. Susan, I see my author friends fret about this all the time - what to do when. I love that you've broken down the important pieces of each stage: pre-release, at release and post-release.

    I do have one question though. I've watched people do a ton of marketing in the 3-4 weeks before a book comes out and I don't see it being effective in building that buzz for the new authors. People want to be able to get excited and GET THE BOOK, like now. I think if they have to wait for it, they are less likely to buy unless you're a big name author.

    What are your thoughts?

    1. This is a great question Jenny.

      I think pushing the release marketing 2-3 weeks out is probably a little far. The heaviest marketing push should start 1-2 days before release - much more than that and you're definitely jumping the gun.

      That said, publicity should be a slow burn that gradually increases to a peak right at release. Rather than pushing a ton of publicity in those 3-4 weeks before release, I'd say the author is better off working on developing connections and a platform over the 5-6 months before release - an interview a month, or an interview and a guest blog - things that get the author into the public eye but without the high-energy focus of launch marketing. The key is building momentum over time.

      I think the idea that an author can pop onto the scene 3-4 weeks before release and generate big buzz, while not totally impossible, is not nearly as effective as having a plan and making real connections slowly ahead of time. That "instant buzz" is better held off until release.

  5. Great post, Susan. I just went back and looked at the first two and made sure I had them all saved where I can find them. 🙂 A constant problem for me. Still waiting for that first call/email someone wants my book, but this is invaluable advice.

    1. Glad I could help, Marsha! Even before the call, it's not too early to start making connections and blogging and using social media. Commenting on blogs like this one is a really good start because it gets you in the conversation!

  6. Excellent column, pointers, follow-up questions everyone! I'm in the throes of planning three book releases back to back and this will help me focus for sure. Thanks so much Susan and everyone who commented.

    1. Thank you Mary! I love hearing the columns are helpful. You're going to be busy with three back to back releases! I'd love to hear how you're organizing your time and what you find works best for you.

  7. On target post, Susan. Thanks for sharing with us. About to race up to the top of this post to click on Parts One and Two. Writing is a business. The muse inspires us, but if you want to feed your family and make it your career, you need to be professional.

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