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  • Florence Osmund

Marketing Plan

The work required to become a successful author doesn’t stop with

the book launch—you need to do ongoing promotion. Having a

marketing plan in place before you publish, even a simple one

that evolves over time, is an essential part of the process regardless of

whether you self-publish or go the traditional publishing route. (If your

book is traditionally published, your publisher’s marketing campaign

will generally not be enough.)


Elements of a good marketing plan include the following.


Goals


Written goals help you to see where you are going and what changes

you need to make if you are not progressing the way you had planned.

Defined targets put you on a direct course of action. Set reasonable goals

for the following:


HOURS SPENT EACH DAY ON PROMOTION. I commit full-time

to publishing novels. I wish this meant I could spend all of my

time writing, but it doesn’t—far from it. I can commit four

to six hours per day writing. I spend the remaining hours

of the day promoting myself and my books, responding to

e-mails and other correspondence, maintaining my website,

and dealing with other book-related activities.


NUMBER OF BOOKS PUBLISHED. Some publishers claim you

will not be considered a serious novelist until you’ve published

at least six books. I think this is a reasonable goal.


NUMBER OF BOOKS SOLD. The truth is that most self-published

authors sell fewer than 100 copies of their books, and that’s

because they write mediocre books and then sit back and

wait for people to buy them. I didn’t want to be part of that

club, so when I published my first book, my goal was to sell

more than 100 copies. Now, seven books later, if I haven’t

sold 1,000 copies in the first three months (or had 1,000

pages per day read via Kindle’s lending library), I look to

see where I failed. It’s difficult to set forth any guidelines on

this, as each author will have his or her own specific goal

depending on the situation.


AMOUNT OF MONEY EARNED. Some writers begin with how

much money they need to earn to break even (number of

books you need to sell before realizing a financial profit). In a

very simple example, let’s say you price your paperback book

at $12.50, your fixed costs (editing and formatting services,

cover design, etc.) come to $4,000, and your variable unit

costs (the cost to print the book plus shipping) are $7.50.

Assuming you are able to collect 100 percent of the royalties,

you will need to sell 800 books to break even. If you publish

in e-format and price the e-book at $3.00, the number of

books sold to break even will increase to 1,333.


AMAZON/GOODREADS REVIEWS. As mentioned earlier, online

reviews are among the main things that attract customers to

your books. My goal is to receive at least 100 reviews during

the first year of publication with more five-star reviews than

four-star reviews, more fours than threes, and so on.


WEBSITE TRAFFIC. If you decide to sell your books primarily

from a website, the amount of traffic you get is extremely

important. Statistics say that on average, 10 percent of your

visitors will buy your book. So, if your break-even point is

800 books, you’ll need 8,000 website visitors to break even

if that is your only point of sale.


SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS. The number of followers you

have on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the like

can strengthen your brand by establishing connections and

building relationships that may result in selling more books.

Check out authors you admire and see how many followers

they have for an indication of where you stand against them.


GUEST BLOGS. Exposure helps to sell books, and contributing

solid content to blogs that are followed by avid readers is an

excellent way to get exposure. My goal is to contribute at least

one post to a blog, website, or social media page per month.


Target Groups


To reach multiple readers who might be interested in your book, consider

connecting with groups or associations who can identify with your

protagonist and/or story line. For example, let’s say your protagonist is

biracial and has a difficult time fitting in. There are probably thousands

of people out there who have experienced the same thing, and many of

them belong to the Association for MultiEthnic Americans (AMEA) or

subscribe to MAVIN magazine. On AMEA’s website, they list recommended

books (fiction and nonfiction) for their members, and MAVIN

magazine has an e-library available for their subscribers. This would be

a good opportunity to offer some freebies or a discount for members.

Since there’s a group out there for just about everything, this avenue is

worth pursuing.


I signed up for a Google Alert whenever the title of one of my books

appears on the Internet, and that’s when I discovered there are quite a

few restaurants around the country and in Europe named The Coach

House, which is the title of my first book. This got me to thinking about

the possibility of making connections with entities or people who have

something in common with my books to pursue joint ventures that could

benefit both parties. Don’t be afraid to try ideas that seem a little far out

there. You never know when something will stick.


The Competition


Gaining a greater insight into who you are competing with and how

they succeed is a key strategy for improving your own results. No matter

the genre, the competition is stiff in today’s book market. I pulled these

figures from Amazon to show what authors are up against for a few of

the common genres.


  • Romance: 80,000+ books for sale on Amazon

  • Historical fiction: 50,000+

  • Mysteries: 70,000+

  • Fantasy: 70,000+

  • Coming of Age: 60,000+


It pays to know your competition and understand what they’re doing,

as you can learn from them what to do when it comes to your own books.

If you go to the Amazon website and type “books” in the search box,

what comes up across the top of the screen is a list of genre categories.

Click on one of them to see on the left-hand side of the screen how many

books are in your category. On the main section of this screen is a list

of all the books in that particular category. You might want to look at

each one’s page and figure out which are most similar to yours and will

tend to attract the same readers.


You can tell a lot about authors and their books from their Amazon

author page (their profile, book descriptions, how they rank), website

(the types of pages they’ve created), social media pages (what they post),

and by Googling them. Join their mailing list if they have one—see what

they offer their fans. See where they price their books—to be competitive,

you don’t want to underprice or overprice your own. Check out

your competitors’ social media pages too. What do they do there that

catches your eye? (Warning: If you check these pages for celebrity or

best-selling authors, be prepared for very little content or content that

has been prepared by someone else. It is better to focus on other authors

for more instructive pages.)


Where Amazon ranks a competing book will give you an idea of

that book’s popularity, at least in the eyes of Amazon. The Amazon

Sales Rank is a number that reflects a book’s popularity—the smaller

the number, the better the product is selling. The algorithm Amazon

uses is proprietary, and while many have speculated on what factors

Amazon takes into account to determine the sales rank, no one outside

of Amazon knows for sure.


You can find rankings on each book by scrolling down to the bottom

of the book’s page. Lower rankings mean Amazon will give a book more

visibility, which will result in more sales and an even better ranking.


Learn everything you can from your competition—without becoming

a copycat, of course. What strikes you as helpful as well as what turns

you off can both be beneficial.


Genre Categories


Choosing the genre category for your book is important on Amazon and

many other sites, as it is in these category sections that many prospective

buyers browse for books. One strategy is to choose categories that are

as narrowly defined as possible because they will have fewer competing

books in them. Consider this example on Amazon:


Historical Fiction: 50,000+ books listed

Medieval Historical Fiction: 437


Obviously, you’d rather compete with 437 other books than with

over 50,000.


The success of your book, whether you traditionally publish or

self-publish, rests heavily upon you, the author. You will reach your

intended audience by building a strong marketing plan and modifying

it as needed.

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