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?
Day after day, week after week, my inbox is filled with marketing
questions all centered on the same commonality:
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.
- "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?"
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
- 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
- Setting up a workable
event schedule for all parties involved is essential.
- Pre-pub reviews:
- Line up pre-publication reviews. These are professional reviews
published in newspapers (New York Times) and magazines (Publisher's
- 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
- 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
- Add the costs to your budget.
- 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.
- 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):
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.
- Printing: galleys and finished copies.
- Press kits: supplies and postage.
- Flyers: design, printing and distribution.
- Publicity: what's included and for how long?
- Distribution centers.
- Print advertising: how long will the ad run? Will it be in color or
black and white?
- ISBN numbers: is it included in your printing fee?
- Web site: registration, designing, maintaining and hosting.
- Postal and email address purchasing for booksellers.
- Posters, post cards and bookmarks for events.
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
- 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.
- Remember to be sure your book is listed in
Books-in-Print. Don't assume it's already there.
- 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.
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.