Why Have a Marketing Plan?

I know I’m at an advantage here, because I’m a trained marketer, but I can’t help but worry when writers ask me if they can ignore a publisher’s request for a marketing plan.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not blaming the writer for his or her ignorance.  As a first time author, it’s hard to know what’s important and what’s not.  Most writers who are trying to produce something worthy of submission don’t bother learning how to market their work first.

But that’s the problem.  A lot of self-publishing is driven by a fear of traditional publishing and its gatekeepers.  A lot of the fear of traditional publishing and its gatekeepers is a fear of the “extra” stuff that goes along with publication, i.e. marketing, publicity, and the like.  The problem is that stuff doesn’t go away with self-publication.  If anything, it becomes more essential if you really want to succeed and be read.  Now, there are very legitimate reasons to pursue self-publication.  None of those reasons include a fear of marketing or ignorance of its importance.

But let’s go back to that problem.  There is a lot of information, specifically targeted to “newbies,” about the art and craft of writing.  That’s a good thing.  But, there seems to be very little information specifically targeted to those same “newbies” about the importance and relevance of marketing in writing.  And that’s sad, because to succeed as a professionally published writer, you need to have some of all three facets of writing: art, craft, and business.  These writers who spend so much time crafting the “perfect” story don’t get published because they don’t have the marketing tools, or wherewithal, to back up their story.  Their work deserves better, they deserve better, but they don’t know it.

Now, some people might be inclined to blame these writers.  After all, I knew enough to learn, so why didn’t they?  But that’s hardly fair, because all the writers I’m thinking of have been listening to a lot of people, they’ve done their research, their studying, and they’ve made a serious go at this whole writing thing, and yet they DON’T know how important MARKETING is to their SUCCESS!!!  And that’s not their fault.

So, why do publishers ask for a marketing plan?

Publishers aren’t trying to trip you up.  Really, they’re not.  Publishers ask for a marketing plan because 1) they love books, 2) in order to continue publishing the books they love they need their writers to be profitable, and 3) a marketing plan shows that, at the very least, you’ve thought about how you’re going to make your book profitable for yourself and for the publisher.

Basically, publishers want proof that you have invested enough in the business side of writing to believe that you’re worth the risk they’d be taking if they published your book.

So, what should your marketing plan prove?

Your marketing plan needs to prove three things:

1) You have some idea of who your readers are.

2) You have good ideas on how you’re going to reach those readers.

3) You have good ideas on how to satisfy those readers.

What if you don’t?

If you don’t know who your readers are likely to be, then you’re not ready to be published or self-published.  If you don’t have any good ideas on how to reach those readers, then you’re really not ready to be published or self-published.  If you don’t have any good ideas on how to satisfy those readers, then you’re definitely not ready to be published or self-published.

Now, you’ll see that knowing who your readers are likely to be is rather hit or miss.  That’s just the way it is.  Readers surprise even the most informed of marketers.  They make bestsellers out of long-shots and they make unprofitable books out of sure-things.  That being said, you should have some idea of who they will be.

How you reach readers is another matter entirely, because while you don’t get to pick and choose who actually gets reached, you do choose what you do to reach them.  If you don’t have any ideas about what to do, then you either need to find someone who does or you need to research like crazy.  If you don’t do anything or if you don’t do anything with purpose, then you’re not going to reach readers.  That’s the way of the new publishing world.  Sorry folks, the days of hermit successes have passed.

Finally, if you don’t know how to satisfy readers, if you don’t have any ideas of how to turn a random reader into a fan, then you really need to step back and work the business thing, because readers are precious to writers and it’s your job to make sure you “capture” as many readers as you can.  And, for the most part, it involves writing a quality book that readers actually want, which means it’s something you should be thinking about before you even start writing.

But creating a marketing plan is a lot of work, so what’s in it for you?

Now, to me the answer seems obvious, but so often it is not.  A marketing plan isn’t something you have for a publisher’s sake, even though it’s often required by said publisher.  It’s your marketing plan for your book to help nurture your success.

Do you want your work to be published and read?  Then you need a marketing plan.  Do you want to write and publish more books?  Then you need a marketing plan.  Do you want a writing career?  Then you need a marketing plan!

A marketing plan is a tool you use to get your work in front of reader’s eyes.  A marketing plan is a tool you use to prove you are worth publishing.  A marketing plan is a tool you use to build your writing career.

It’s your plan.  It’s your tool.  And it’s your future.

All the publisher wants to know is that you have one.

About Stephanie Allen Crist

Stephanie created and produces ComeSootheYourAchingSoul.com in answer to a call from God to use her experiences and gifts to help others. Stephanie is also the author of www.StephanieAllenCrist.com and two books that can be found on that site. Stephanie strives to share her love, faith, and talents in an inclusive manner to help others who know spiritual pain and who know the bitter taste of the dregs of despair.
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2 Responses to Why Have a Marketing Plan?

  1. acflory says:

    -sigh- I sort of know the theory and I am trying to promote myself…in a roundabout sort of way but I’m still light years from having even the hint of a proper plan. I did do a course many years ago on how to run a small business but the whole venture did not last long enough for me to gain the real life experience to make a success of it.

    All I really know at the moment is that I am NOT going to be spamming FB and Twitter with crap about how wonderful my book is and how everyone should read it. I hate that kind of hard sell in others and won’t do it myself. The trouble is I hate any kind of a ‘sell’.

    Ok you can tell me I’m a hopeless case now 😉

  2. Not at all. “Selling” is a marketing approach that works for some things, and not so well for others. Books don’t “sell” well, so any kind of hard sell is more likely to be off-putting than it is to be successful. Essentially, your instincts/aversions are right on target.

    The problem is that most people see marketing as selling, and don’t think beyond that, but marketing is really so much more than that. Imagine an umbrella. On one side of the umbrella you have the pre-product things, like market research and product development. In the middle you have the stick to hold up the umbrella–we’ll call that “outreach.” On the other side of the umbrella you have the post-product things, like public relations and selling. The whole umbrella and everything underneath it is marketing. The thing that holds up the umbrella is outreach. Now, a lot of things go into out reach, and it varies depending on your product, but the main purpose of it is to make sure people know you and your product exist. Having a blog is outreach, being on Facebook is outreach, writing an article is outreach, getting exposure through guest posts and blog tours is outreach, and so much more.

    Outreach is the key, not selling. You don’t have to say, “Buy my book.” You certainly can say that, but you will probably never have to. But you do have to be present. You do have to let people know, in all the ways that you are present, that you have more to offer than mere presence.

    I’ll use a personal example to illustrate. I have never once “sold” this blog. I’ve occassionally told people about it. I’ve put links up in appropriate places. But I’ve never sold it and I haven’t done much to stir buzz about it. It’s just sort of here. It’s present. In the first year I got more than 1,000 hits. In the last three months I’ve more than halved that again. No selling. No publicity. Nothing but outreach. Now, granted, my numbers aren’t particularly impressive, nor do they need to be. This blog achieves its purpose. This point is that outreach accumulates. There’s an exponential factor to it.

    I also have an older blog, social media sites, a main website and a business website, plus publishing credits and contacts. When I have a book to sell, I can use all of this presence to make people aware of the book. I can create marketing materials (book trailers, web pages, ect.) to attract people to the book. All of this will generate sales, without me doing any actual selling.

    You’ve started doing the same exact thing, whether you know it or not, whether you intended to or not. And that’s all you need to do now, in the pre-product phase, at least in the sense of “sales.” You need to be aware of the marketplace and you need to be aware of readers and their interests (i.e., market research). You need to develop your craft and create a book that meets the needs of the readers you’re targeting (i.e., product development). But, you already know that. Expand your reach, little by little, let the cumulative, exponential factor of outreach work in your favor. Produce a book that deserves to be read and that satisfies contemporary tastes. And then, when you’ve got a book, a few months before it’s published, you’ll need to start producing marketing materials. See, you’re not at all hopeless. In fact, you’re right on track!

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