A marketing plan for a book release should be second nature. I shouldn’t even have to think overly hard about it. And yet, I draw a blank.
I started my career in Marketing and Communications in 1992 (arguably in 1986, but high school jobs probably don’t count). This experience is, in large part, how I ended up a professional writer, editor, and designer. I’ve written and designed content and promotional material in newspapers and magazines, for billboards, packaging, point-of-purchase, and dozens of other formats; created and disseminated countless press kits and releases; managed events with thousands of attendees; and done an inordinate number of various non-traditional marketing campaigns. I have written at least 50 business/marketing/strategic plans in my time, and no conceit intended, I am very good at this kind of work.
At least I used to be.
This new indie publishing marketplace? Incomprehensible. Every author I know—every author I hear about—is just flailing about in the dark, shouting the title of his or her book into the Twitter-verse void. There are a lot of reasons for that, not least the quality of work that is being self-published (another topic for another day), but there are two primary, to my mind:
Art has always been hard to sell.
— AND —
Artists aren’t salespeople.
One reason the publishing/recording/gallery industries exist is in acknowledgment of the fact that writers, musicians, and artists just don’t have the sorts of brains that are wired for promotion—especially self-promotion. It is a foreign concept at best, terrifying at worst. Even for someone like me, steeped in the juices of (self-)promotion my entire adult life, this new Bazillion-Book Marketplace, with Amazon in the center, is a behemoth of a problem to be overcome on the road to near-impossible literary success.
Not just selling, but selling:
- An art form (the seventh circle of sales hell);
- A relatively new technology (e-readers);
- A relatively new product (e-books);
- A relatively new purchasing paradigm (download and cloud storage);
- A relatively new market (millions of competitors, almost all in the same half-dozen distribution channels online);
- A relatively new marketing toolbox (Not just social media, but hundreds of new “author support sites,” all with their own fledgling ideas of what will sell your book.);
- A relatively small marketing budget (at least for every author I know); and
- Most likely, with little knowledge of marketing in general.
I’m lucky. I can at least start a marketing plan. I know the right section titles (though for the first time in 20 years, guessing at sub-headings). I can distinguish between cross- and co-promotion, strategy and tactics, consumer and trade audiences. I have a good eye for design and can do my own print and web work. I started building the ubiquitous “author platform” some time ago, so have a minimal following slightly larger (and more responsive about my writing) than my real-life friends and family. And, I’m still young enough to make the transition into a new type of marketplace. (I hope.)
That said, like everyone else, I am at sea. In the next few weeks, I will be writing marketing plans for my own release, Royal Regard, and Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra, author of The Coin, who will be releasing the sequel, The Book of Hours, the same day, November 26. As I work through this process, I will be sharing tips, tricks, and ideas that occur, especially those about which I do have some expertise.
Watch this space. But more important, never, ever miss an opportunity to promote yourself or your product:
November 26, Royal Regard and The Book of Hours!
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