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The Importance of a Pre-Publication Marketing Plan

by Jennifer Hollowell

A Basic Guide for Self-Published and Print on Demand Authors

You've written your book, gone through the editing gauntlet and decided to publish the finished product yourself. You've researched all the self publishing options, decided on a company, approved the book's cover and polished the book's final lay-out. All you're "i's" are dotted and "t's" are crossed. Now, you're ready to go to press. Right?

Wrong!

Day after day, week after week, my inbox is filled with marketing questions all centered on the same commonality:
  • "My book was doing really well in the beginning, but sales have fallen off. Do you have any idea why this happens?"
  • "My book has received some great reviews, but they aren't resulting in any sales. Do you know why this is happening?"
  • "I sent out one hundred press kits, but no sales have turned over. Why could this be happening?"
These are just a small sampling of the distressed messages landing in my inbox. How are these situations the same? No pre-publication marketing plans or efforts. Each author felt the impact of "missing the boat" on sales opportunities in one way or another.

What's the solution?

A book won't sell itself. (This is very obvious to some, but not to others.) That's a reality many self-published authors don't anticipate until it's too late. They've spent their entire budget without looking at the "entire picture." The "entire picture" includes setting up a "selling plan" before your book hits the press. These efforts will make or break you. It's my hope that you're reading this piece before you've gone too far.

How do you formulate a selling plan?

Step one: target your audience

Where do they shop? How much do they spend? What's your competition? How can they be reached?

Step two: outline your goals and objectives
  1. Events:
    • Do you plan to do book signings, tours, seminars interviews, radio shows and television appearances? If so, you'll need press materials and enough books printed to substantiate all these efforts.
    • Setting up a workable event schedule for all parties involved is essential.

  2. Pre-pub reviews:
    • Line up pre-publication reviews. These are professional reviews published in newspapers (New York Times) and magazines (Publisher's Weekly).
    • Read all submission guidelines thoroughly and adhere to all schedules, deadlines and policies. If the guidelines states self published books aren't accepted, don't send an ARC anyway. You're wasting your budget and the publisher's time needlessly.
    • Be sure to add the cost of ARC's (Advanced Reader's Copies), postage and supplies to your budget.

  3. Distribution:
    • Research distribution. Remember, brick and mortar booksellers (and some electronic booksellers) won't stock your title unless it's carried by one or more major distribution center.
    • Add the costs to your budget.

  4. Marketing and Publicity:
    • Do you plan to hire someone for marketing and publicity? If so, this needs to be done before the book goes to press. Figure a three to six month campaign into your budget. Explore your options before making your choice. There are a lot of firms following the same "cookie cutter syndrome" as some traditional publication houses tend to follow.
    • Do you plan to do the marketing and publicity yourself? If so, READ! There are mountains of books, reports, periodicals and articles' focusing on the how-to's of good marketing strategies.

  5. Post-publication reviews:
    • Don't forget to obtain reviews even after the book has already been published. Consumers are driven by both professional and unprofessional opinions.
Step three: determine and realistic budget you can stick to.

This is where the most mistakes occur. Without looking at the "big picture," authors don't know how much money should be devoted to what aspect of the game. Organization and prioritizing are very important during this stage. Get quotes and estimates for everything (and be prepared for unexpected costs):
  1. Printing: galleys and finished copies.
  2. Press kits: supplies and postage.
  3. Flyers: design, printing and distribution.
  4. Publicity: what's included and for how long?
  5. Distribution centers.
  6. Print advertising: how long will the ad run? Will it be in color or black and white?
  7. ISBN numbers: is it included in your printing fee?
  8. Web site: registration, designing, maintaining and hosting.
  9. Postal and email address purchasing for booksellers.
  10. Posters, post cards and bookmarks for events.
Rule of thumb: blind submissions are bad. Never ever send out materials unsolicited. There are individuals out there selling lists suggesting authors practice in this way and, in reality, it isn't the way to go. Query first, otherwise your ARC's are destined for used booksellers and your press materials the recycling bin. This is where I see a lot of authors dwindling down their budgets. Avoid this reality by sending to *interested parties. *There will always be exceptions to any rule, however. If guidelines posted to reviewer databases or publications states querying isn't necessary, than adhere to that claim.

There are numerous other points to ponder in regards to formulating your pre-publication marketing plans. (Remember: pre-publication marketing plans aren't defined solely as what you do before your book is released, it's defined as your complete marketing plan outlined in preparation for all eventualities both before and after publication.) Examples of these points include:
  1. Don't overlook the Internet: get yourself interviewed and or profiled for sites both about writing and about the subjects covered in your book. Build a web site to provide another avenue for ordering, a virtual press kit and link exchanges. Position your book with virtual booksellers and establish link partners.
  2. Remember to be sure your book is listed in Books-in-Print. Don't assume it's already there.
  3. Print/Electronic publications provide longevity to your marketing campaign in terms of having something tangible to reference. Radio shows and television appearances are good during the new release phases, but are often forgotten within hours of the broadcast. Focusing time and attention to an enduring effort is key.
Final thoughts:

As the old saying goes, your book is as successful as the efforts put forth by the author, particularly in the cases of self-publishing and print on demand.


Jennifer Hollowell has been in the writing and publishing business for a decade bringing forth 100's of nonfiction articles covering a wide variety of subjects. In addition, Jennifer has made it her goal to provide authors, both traditional press and self-published, the services and resources necessary to achieve their goals in a realistic manner. For more information, please visit http://www.myspace.com/writerjennh.







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