Marketing Tips

Marketing Tip: Start with a Marketing Plan

imagesA lot of authors agree that marketing is the hardest part about being an author. I mean, we got into this business because we wanted to write, not because we wanted to market. Unfortunately, one thing requires the other if you really want to succeed. So we put on our brave hats and struggle through the dark cave of marketing, trying to find the dragon’s treasure, the one key that makes our books successful.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. Marketing is tough. It’s a grind. You have to be at it daily, you have to find your niche, your fanbase, and then you have to find some way to expand that. Creativity, originality and resourcefulness is key.

That’s why you need a marketing plan. A marketing plan is your life line. Ideally, you get started on it months before your first book releases, but we don’t all live in an ideal word. Even if your book has been out for months, or years, it’s not too late to get started on your marketing plan.

Open up an empty MS Word document (or whatever you prefer), and let’s start brainstorming. There are some key elements every marketing plan needs, and we’re going to describe them here in detail.

1. Description of your book

Start with a small description of your book. Think about what you are promoting, what genre/market you will promote it to, and what makes your book stand out from the crowd. If possible, add in an elevator pitch as well. Think of an elevator pitch as a 10-second pitch you’d use to describe your book if someone asked about it in line for Starbucks. It needs to be short, precise, and to the point.

I’ll give you an example for my book, “The Doll Maker”.

The Doll Maker is a scary lower grade chapter book aimed at both boys and girls, that can be read as a stand-alone and focuses on young protagonists who do not back down in the face of danger.

Elevator Pitch: A doll shop opens in town, and Derek’s sister wants one of their dolls. However, the doll has strange powers, and Derek grows convinced it’s alive. Is there a tie-in to the mysterious dissapearances in town?

In the first part, the description, I focused on:

  • What I am promoting: The Doll Maker
  • Genre: scary lower grade chapter book
  • Market: boys and girls, lower graders, who enjoy scary books
  • What makes the book stand out: can be read as a stand-alone, focuses on young protagonists who do not back down in the face of danger

My elevator pitch focuses more on the story and content. This is what I want to tell potential readers. The description is what is important for me. Keep your elevator pitch under fifty words, and two-three sentences (preferably).

2. Define Your Target Market

Describe your ideal reader. What are their interests? Who are they influenced by? Where do they spend their time online and offline?

Even though you might consider your book to be a ‘must’ for everyone, you need to narrow your focus. Find your core target audience. For instance, my target audience would obviously be children. But adults may read my books as well – maybe when they’re reading it to their children, or their cousins, grandchildren, etc.

Target Market: The ideal reader for The Doll Maker would be 7-11 years old, and have an interest in scary books and horror. He/She is not easily afraid. The book is aimed at both boys and girls.

Next, describe how you plan to reach your target market. For me, since my target market are children, and they aren’t often online, or if they are, they do not have money to purchase books, I need to reach the parents first.

Parents: I need to target parents who enjoy scary reads themselves, and who want to share their passion with their kids. They need to have kids age 7-11.

Reach target market: Write blog posts aimed at parents (about topics that tie in with the books). For The Doll Maker, write posts about famous haunted dolls, movies featuring haunted dolls, haunted dolls in literature, etc.

3. Analyse the competition

Identify 3-5 books that are similar to yours in genre and content. Once you’ve done that, write down how these books are similar, what the author did to promote them, and what you can use to promote your own books.

4. Build Your Author Platform

Write down the steps you will take to build your author platform. Ideally, this wouldn’t just be for one book – once you have your platform in place, you can use it to promote future books as well. Sit down and brainstorm how you could establish your author platform.

  1. Number one is a no-brainer. Set up an author website and blog. Register your own URL (don’t go for free urls like,, etc.) If you’re not that web savvy, you can get a cheap theme for your website. Or if you want to spend the money, you can hire a professional to design your website for you.
  2. Get yourself on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and just about every social media website you can think of.
  3. Brainstorm content for your website. What blog posts can you write about that will draw in your target audience? Don’t just write about your books – have something else to offer as well.
  4. Establish your marketing budget. If you have a budget, you can get your book on Netgalley, set up book tours, advertisements, etc.
  5. Find places to guest post. Ask people to interview you.

Those are just a few short steps of how you can build your platform. Take those ideas and use them on your book – what works for one book, could fail for another book. Don’t be afraid to go into detail here. For instance, I wrote this for The Doll Maker when I brainstormed about possible blog posts:

  • Haunted Doll Posts: Write posts talking about the topic of haunted dolls, like the Annabelle doll (The Conjuring), Robert the Doll, Mandy, and some more obscure dolls. Also focus on movies with haunted dolls and books talking about the subject. Talk about own experience with haunted dolls.

  • Contest for dolls. Do a contest for creepy dolls -> ask people to share a story and post a picture of a creepy doll. Creepiest doll and story wins!

  • Search for games of dress-up dolls. Do a post about dress-up doll games. Maybe search for Dollmakerz (like I used to play) and link to those.

Describe how you will build your author platform by using strategic action steps. Describe what you will do, and what the purpose is. Make sure to set realistic goals. Trying to get 100 reviews for a book before it’s released, is an unrealistic goal (unless you already have several resources in place).

Another good tip is to write down what you can control as goals, as opposed to what you cannot control. “I will contact 20 book reviewers and ask them to review my book” is a better action step than “I will get 20 reviews for my book.”

5. Break your list down in a to-do list

Now look back at the strategy you developed to build your author platform. Create a to-do list of those strategic action steps. Break the list up in weeks, or days. Here’s an example for The Doll Maker:

Week One

  • Set up automatic tweets for The Doll Maker including review quotes and Amazon links.
  • Write four blog posts that tie in with The Doll Maker.
  • Write two guest posts that tie in with The Doll Maker.
  • Create a database/research potential blogs where I can post guest posts for The Doll Maker.

Week Two

  • Write two guest posts that tie in with The Doll Maker.
  • Submit guest posts (also, the ones for last week) to blogs.
  • Write three blog posts that tie in with The Doll Maker.
  • Create Pinterest page for the book.

Week Three

  • Create a database / research potential blogs where I can submit the book for review.
  • Update Goodreads page to include audiobook version.
  • Write three blog posts that tie in with The Doll Maker.
  • Set up contest related to the book.

Week Four

  • Search top amazon reviewers that review the genre, and submit review request.
  • Contact five bloggers and ask them to review the book.
  • Promote contest on social media and websites.
  • Write three blog posts that tie in with The Doll Maker.

I want to keep the list limited to four items a week, because I also have tons of other stuff going on. Make sure you don’t go overboard. Ideally, you’ll start your marketing several weeks (6-8 weeks) before launch, so then you can start including plans for the launch, building a launch team, etc. Since The Doll Maker has been out for a while, my plan doesn’t include any of that stuff, instead it focuses on how I can continue building buzz for the book.

If a to-do list isn’t sufficient, you can also work with a calendar. I usually combine both.

6. Update often

Your marketing plan should be updated often. Have you tried something, like advertising, and it worked wonders for your book? Why not do something similar again then – and update your marketing plan to include the new advertising. Or if it failed miserably, and you have another round of similar advertising planned, you might just want to scratch it from your marketing plan.

Marketing is ups and downs. Some things will work, others won’t. You don’t have to hold on to your marketing plan at all cost. Change it, update it. Think about new ways to put the focus on your book, and update accordingly.

1 thought on “Marketing Tip: Start with a Marketing Plan

    • Author gravatar

      Good advice. So many authors think they can write a book and… Presto! Job done. Or they think the publisher will handle everything. Then they awake one day to the realization that, because they’ve done nothing to build their personal brand (it’s their brand, after all), they’ve not connected with an audience. That means, of course, they’re not selling books.

      It’s such a slow grind, requiring lots of time, patience, perseverance, frustration, and just plain hard work. A good publisher will help to spread the word and promote their authors’ brands, but the author is still the primary source of that brand-building.

      Furthermore, a funny thing happens when an author really engages in this process: a good publisher takes note, and works even harder to help. 🙂

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