I am grateful to Mick Rooney for the opportunity to share these thoughts with readers of The Independent Publishing Magazine.
Many blog posts and articles have been written about the need for authors to embrace marketing activities as one of their many jobs. To do so, we need to be adept at connecting with readers and others who influence the choices readers make. But how and what does this entail? Where should we invest our time and money?
If, for a moment, we assume that you, the author, have produced a marvellous work, then the rest of the equation comes down to effectively orchestrating every aspect of gaining, retaining and growing readership through building awareness in the market, developing knowledge and liking for your book, and ultimately, securing a commitment to buy.
As I began the tasks required to self-publish my novel UNRAVELLED, I hauled out various planning templates that had served me in my past life as a management consultant. It seemed to me that launching a book was like any other big project—a series of major and minor tasks targeted to your specific objectives. What actually evolved were two plans: (1) an overall plan with tasks for every aspect from deciding what e-retailers to use to creating a print-ready version of the manuscript, and (2) a marketing plan. The purpose of this post is to describe and illustrate the marketing plan with the hope that it might be helpful to others. The plan contains five sections.
(1) You will need several items to ‘wrap around your book’ as you publicize it.
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(2) Without readers your book will fail. You need to find as many potential readers as you can and engage with them. Find out what they like, when they read, who they read and so on.
(3) We’ve all heard the term author platform. In my case, I have a blog that has been running since early 2012 as well as a historical fiction survey conducted in March 2012.
(4) Discovery happens through word of mouth, blogs and websites, recommendations from online resellers, Google search, Amazon (or equivalent) search, sites like Goodreads. You need to be where your readers are.
(5) And finally it’s show time. For at least a month prior to launch you should be finding ways to promote your book and yourself.
These tables are organized in three columns: the main steps, activities within those steps, and comments. I’ve used the comments column in this post to explain some of the tasks. In my actual plan I use it for notes to myself, reminders, sources of information and so on. My plan also has a column called timing (I recommend you use weeks to delineate time rather than specific days) and another one called priority. These two columns help me to quickly see my high priority tasks as well as tasks for a given week.
There is no point in building a plan if you do not track your progress. Once a week or so I look over the plan to see where I am and what needs more or less attention. There will always be something that doesn’t work and takes longer than you anticipate. As well, new tasks will come along so be open to adjusting your plan as you proceed.
Some authors get their book up online within a week or two as an e-book; others take much longer. I am in the latter category and have been working on this plan for two months already with a target release date of mid-September. I’ve spoken to a few authors who took the first route only to pull their book down off sites like Amazon and begin again. I’m a planner at heart and hence more comfortable with a comprehensive approach that by design takes longer.
A book that has been very helpful to my understanding of the self-publishing process is Guy Kawasaki’s Author Publisher Entrepreneur (APE). I would encourage you to invest in it.
And a final bit of advice. Remember two things. First, this is my marketing plan, which I have simplified somewhat for purposes of this post, yours will be different although the same principles apply. And second, you won’t be able to do everything, so pick and choose those tasks that are most appropriate for your book and your markets.
M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two Wars. Two Affairs. One Marriage, will release in paperback and ebook formats in September 2013. To contact Mary, send an email to mktod [at] outlook [dot] com or on Twitter @mktodauthor.