What’s Your Plan?
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It’s an old saying and cliché yet rooted in truth. What is your plan to market your book?
When many writers get this question, they pile on the excuses and look around for someone else. They have fallen into the trap of someone who has written a nonfiction book. They firmly believe, “If I build it (write it), they will come (buy it).” These writers firmly believe the marketing for their book is the responsibility of someone else—some publisher or some bookseller or some marketing person. Countless times I’ve listened to writers in my role as an acquisitions editor when they tell me about their disappointment in the results of their book sales.
Remember, when you point your finger at someone or something, four of your fingers are pointing toward you. As the author, you have the primary responsibility to continually market your book. No one else can do what you can do.
Let me give you a bit of my background so you see why I’m writing about this issue. I’ve published more than 60 nonfiction books and for five years I was a book acquisitions editor. When I became a book editor, I began to understand the economics of book publishing. It’s important for every author to understand these dynamics—whether they write fiction or nonfiction.
Here’s the financial information that I didn’t understand: for every book (fiction or nonfiction), a publisher is going to spend $50,000 to $100,000 (real dollars) to take your manuscript and turn it into a finished book. These numbers are with a modest advance to the author (say $5,000) and zero marketing dollars. These costs are production, cover design, editorial work, etc. on your book. Publishers receive thousands of submissions from would-be authors. As a part-time Fiction Acquisitions Editor at Howard Books, I was looking for six to eight full-length novels a year—and I’ve received over 250 submissions from individuals and literary agents. I’ve rejected some quality fiction because of the volume and limited spots. Imagine these numbers multiplied on other editor’s desks.
Let’s pretend for a minute that you are the editor and have to wade through these volumes of material to find the books for your list. You have two manuscripts. Both manuscripts are excellent, fascinating stories. One manuscript has a marketing plan and the other doesn’t. As the editor, you will be held accountable for your choices (within the publishing house). It’s a business to sell books. Which manuscript will you choose to champion to the other editors, the publishing executives (sales, marketing, etc.)? Editors risk for their authors. Your challenge is to prove to be worthy (actually more than worthy) of this risk.
Everything that I’m going to write is based on the assumption you’ve learned your writing craft and produced an excellent manuscript that is appropriate for a particular publisher. A big part of you may resist even creating a marketing plan. Isn’t that why you go to a publisher instead of publishing it yourself? No, you go to a publisher to use their marketing efforts in combination with your efforts to sell more books (and to have your books in the bookstore). Publishers love authors who “get it” and understand they need to roll up their sleeves and take a bit of their energy to market the books to their own network. Also publishers always want to do more for their books especially when they release. Yet they have 20 books to shepherd through this process—and you have a single book. Who is going to be more passionate about the book? It’s you as the author—well show a little of that passion in your marketing plans for your book.
Check out PyroMarketing by Greg Stielstra (Harper Business). This book will help you see how you can stir people to purchase your book and why mass marketing techniques are ineffective. To get a taste of this book, read this free introduction (I use with Greg’s permission).
Next learn from bestselling fiction author, Debbie Macomber. She has over 60 million novels in print. Bounce the ideas of PyroMarketing (particularly the fourth point of Pyromarketing: saving the coals or saving the data) against this page in her guestbook. I heard a “rumor” that Debbie has over a million names on her own database. Look at the information she is collecting on her guestbook from each person—including your bookstore information. Debbie understands what most beginning (and many published authors) don’t understand.
Finally can you bring your publisher a deal from the beginning that will sell at least 5,000 books? It’s not a crazy question since 70% of special sales are something that the author begins. For some creative ideas, check out Jerry Jenkins’ site. This is not the Left Behind author but another Jerry Jenkins. Put your own spin on these ideas with your book. Also you can learn more about this special sales idea through a free teleseminar which I hosted at: http://bit.ly/massbks.
Publishers are looking for true partners in the bookselling process. A marketing plan shows that you are actively going to enter into the process of selling books. Yes, publishers are looking for excellent storytellers but they need authors who care about selling books.