A marketing plan is an important tool for a writer with a book on the horizon. Like many of the other marketing tools we talk about, this tool is only effective when it’s done right.
In the business world, an effective marketing plan is often a visually appealing document with a lot of bells and whistles, like graphs and visual timelines and research studies and the like.
You can do that with a writer’s marketing plan, but most of it simply isn’t necessary. You see, the primary purpose of a marketing plan—any marketing plan—is to plan the actions the business entity will take to market its product. To drill that point down to its most simple: A marketing plan needs to be actionable.
If I say I have a blog, social media connections, and a website, I’m talking about my marketing assets. If I say I’m willing to give talks, do media interviews, and go on tour, then I’m talking about my marketing hopes. If I say I’ve got contacts, have been published, and already have some tour events lined up, then I’m talking about assets.
None of this amounts to a marketing plan.
A marketing plan is actionable. It’s a step-by-step process that leads you from one piece of marketing into another to produce a network of communications that have more power together than they have as individual pieces. A marketing plan is progressive, meaning it pushes the marketing efforts forward in cumulative fashion. A marketing plan recognizes the phases of a book’s life and the initial marketing plan addresses the three primary phases (pre-launch, launch, post-launch). A marketing plan is accountable, meaning that you create a promise to yourself and to your publisher in regards to what you’re going to do (and what you’re going to require from your publisher) that enables you both to hold each other accountable for doing these things. This means that a marketing plan must list actions, not outcomes.
Let’s look at some examples:
I have a blog. = BAD
I’m going to sell 1,000 books through my blog. = BAD
I’m going to post one original post about my book per week during the pre-launch phase. I’m going to post one original post about my book per day during the launch phase. I’m going to post one original post about my book per month during the post-launch phase. = GOOD
The first example lists a marketing asset. The second example lists a marketing hope, one for which you cannot realistically hold yourself accountable. The third lists marketing actions you can take and for which you can be held accountable.
Let’s take a look at another example:
I’m going to give speeches. = BAD
I’m going to give speeches and sell my book in the back of the room. = BAD
I’m going to work with a Speaker’s Bureau to develop the marketing materials and contacts I need to contact 20 potential speaking opportunities per year, ensuring that each opportunity allows back-of-the-room sales. = GOOD
It’s great that you’re willing to give speeches and sell your book in the back of the room, but opportunities to do so don’t just happen. You have to work for them. If you don’t realize that, your publisher does, so saying you’re going to give speeches but not saying how you’re going to accomplish the feat actually discredits you, instead of boosting your perceived worth as an author.
When you sit down to create your market plan, you need to start with your marketing assets and your marketing hopes, but you don’t stop there. You’ve got to create a plan that lists or describes how you intend to use those marketing assets to achieve those marketing hopes.
Then, you need to follow-through on your plan. And that’s a topic worth a few posts all its own.