Archive for the ‘Marketing and Platforms’ Category

Thursdays with Amanda: Do Sequels Deserve a Marketing Plan?

July 24th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 1 Comment

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I have a story for you…a story about one of my authors (and yes, I’ve asked and been granted permission to share said story). But to protect the innocent, and to add a touch of humor, let’s call this author DOG-TIRED.

Dog-Tired is your typical author. Dog-Tired has a number of books out and a bunch of writing to do and a few websites to manage and some events in the pipeline and, you know, a life to lead. So it came as no surprise when Dog-Tired emailed me and asked about the need for a marketing plan for his/her third book in the series.

Now, if there is ever a good excuse for not doing a marketing plan, this is probably it. A third book doesn’t necessarily generate sales in and of itself (aside, of course, from selling to readers who are staying on top of the series). That job still rests on the shoulders of the first book. So really, a third book can be thought of as no more than a nudge to buy the first book…and then the second…so that one can get to the third…

Which almost never happens. I mean what sane reader would commit to a series simply because a latter installment looked interesting?

So, Dog-Tired asked me about whether or not he/she had to create this marketing plan…whether or not it would be useful…whether or not it would result in any sales whatsoever…whether or not the publisher would even notice.

And I knew how dog-tired Dog-Tired was. I knew that Dog-Tired needed a break. That he/she had other things in the works, and so ignoring this one task (that always turns into many, many extra tasks) would probably be okay.

But I also had just written last week’s post on book-marketing slumps. And my belief in some kind of marketing plan being better than no marketing plan was fresh in my mind.

So I encouraged Dog-Tired to put something together. Didn’t have to be long or extensive or ground-breaking. Just a simple list, and I encouraged him/her to send it to his/her publisher.

Dog-Tired agreed wholeheartedly, even if not exuberantly. A small plan was made and sent off to the publisher.

And you know what? Within hours, the publisher responded with excitement and happiness. You see, they had no idea that Dog-Tired was going to be attending a certain convention…but now they knew! And they wanted to help! Suddenly, this event that Dog-Tired was going to do, turned into a team effort, thus maximizing the experience as a whole.

And that never would have happened had Dog-Tired not sent that marketing plan.

I know how tedious marketing plans can be when you’re in the midst of a series. I also know how easy it is to fall out of touch with your publisher’s marketing team. But this experience with Dog-Tired was a great reminder of how important it is to go through these motions…how necessary it is to keep your marketing team in the loop (regardless of where you are in your publishing journey). And how profitable it can be to have those teams behind you.

So this week, I encourage all of you sequel-writers to take a moment and put together a simple marketing plan that you can send to your publisher. Doesn’t have to be overly creative or complex. It just needs to show them what you’re doing, what you plan to do, and when. This makes it easier for them to help you! And it prevents the likelihood that they, too, will fall into a “sequel slump.”

Thoughts? What kinds of responses have you gotten when sending your marketing plans to your publisher?

You’re invited to the MacGregor Marketing Seminar, Sunday, August 24

July 23rd, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 0 Comments

On SUNDAY, August 24, we’re going to try something new… The MacGregor Marketing Seminar, a LIVE version of Amanda’s wonderful marketing information, set into a seminar format. Amanda and I will be in Nashville, at the Airport Embassy Suites, from 9 to 4, talking with authors about how to create a marketing plan for their books. Here’s what our outline looks like:

— The New World of Author Marketing — What’s Working (and not working) in Today’s Market
— Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Novel or Nonfiction Book
— Maximizing Your Marketing Reach
— Finding Your Audience and Reaching Your Readers
— Building Your Author Platform (we are bringing in a specialist to offer some advice and direction)
— Choosing the Tools You’ll Use to Promote Your Book
— Getting Recognized in Today’s Market
— The Traditional Marketer, the Freelance Marketer, and the Indie Marketer

We’ll also get into a bunch of discussions on related topics — one of the most fun aspects of doing this type of seminar is the chance to talk with other authors who are going through the marketing process. But that’s our basic outline for the day, and we’d love to have you join us!

The cost is just $99 for the entire day, if you register in July (it will go up on August 1). Again, the focus of this day will be on doing something PRACTICAL — not on theory or on promoting a product. We just wanted to get authors together and have time to explore how an author can create his or her own marketing plan by focusing on ideas that actually work, so the emphasis will on on what an author can take and do, rather than on theory or philosophy. We hope you’ll join us. Please let me know if you plan to come by RSVPing me. Thanks, and we hope to see you in Nashville on August 24.

-Chip MacGregor
chip@macgregorliterary.com

Ten ideas for book marketing you (maybe) haven’t thought of…

July 21st, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 6 Comments

Someone emailed me and said, “I feel like I keep hearing the same stuff when it comes to book marketing. What if you did a post where you offered some NEW ideas? What would you say are the things we haven’t thought of?”
Okay, I’ll take you up on the challenge. Here are ten things authors ought to know about book marketing, but many don’t…
1. When selling your book, don’t just limit yourself to Amazon.  Sure, they’re the biggest ebook retailer and the research suggests they probably sell about 60% of all digital books… but that means 40% of the market is buying their books elsewhere. So get your book onto B&N.com, get it into the iBookstore, make it available at the Kobe bookstore (which is just starting here in the States, but a big deal in Europe and Asia). If you work with Smashwords, they’ll get your book onto all those other sites, by the way.
2. Insert ads into the back of your current backlisted ebooks, promoting your new, soon-to-release title. It’s called “cross-selling,” and you need to be thinking about it. Sticking an ad for you new book into the back of your current one helps get the word out to people who are already reading you, and build interest in your title as it launches. Most authors won’t do this because it’s a pain, sticking in a new page in the back of all their old books. But it works – it helps you sell books.
3. If you want to become a smarter marketer, track your current marketing. If you keep track of your blog numbers, for example, you’ll begin to see what topics generate readers. But many authors never really check to see which marketing is working and which is not. They do the things they are comfortable with, instead of doing the things that their research has proven effective. Does your social media activity generate interest? Does offering something for free on your website generate a bunch of requests? Does having a contest create excitement and sales? In my experience, most authors think they know, but many haven’t actually tracked the data to find out what really works when it come to marketing their books.
4. Have a “buy” link for you book on your blog, your website, your social media, and anything that brings readers to you. Giving potential readers a clear path to walk on, a clear method to purchase your book, is part of good marketing, and it’s a part that is often overlooked. Many authors want to focus on getting the message of their book out, but they need to also focus on making it clear to everyone who visits how to purchase a copy. Make it easy for them.
5. Try bundling some books for a short time. Take three of your books and sell a three-in-one for the price of one book. Sure, you’re giving up money on a couple of sales, but those may be sales you wouldn’t make because readers are looking for value. Often “value readers” will buy a bundle because they see it as a deal too good to pass up — so you’ve made a sale you otherwise would not have made.
6. Buy an ad. I know… all those Amazon authors have told you that you don’t NEED to buy an ad for an ebook. They’re all telling you to get onto Facebook and do more social media. But we’re still a visual, ad-based culture. So check out the cost of BookBub or RT or BookRiot. Check out the cost of working with Google or BlogAds. Explore what they’re doing on One Hundred Free Books. Publicity is marketing that is free; advertising is marketing that is paid for. Sometimes it’s worth it to invest in the advertising side of things.
7. Share the facts of your book with your non-social-media network. Yeah, yeah, you’re tweeting and sticking stuff onto Pinterest and you’ve set up a Facebook page. But what networks do you belong to that might be interested in the fact your wrote a book? Have you had done a talk at your church about your book? Did you send something to everybody in your alumni association? Contact your local radio stations to suggest an interview? Propose a “local boy makes good” article in your local newspaper? Offer to speak to the local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs?
8. Work with other writers who you know are completing books and create a sampler. It will have the first chapter or two of your book, and maybe samples of half a dozen other writers in the same genre. Then you give it away for free to as many people as possible. You could even print up copies very cheaply through Lulu and hand them out. But whether digital or print, make sure you have a clear method for the reader to purchase the rest of your book.
9. Drop the price to 99 cents for a few days. I’m not one who is crazy about giving away a ton of copies any more — I think there are readers out there with a ton of unread free ebooks on their kindles. But take your ebook and make it really cheap for a few days… so cheap that readers just can’t say no. Don’t leave it sitting there at one price forever. Do the occasional daily deal. Or do a holiday weekend deal. Mix it up a bit, which will force you to stay on top of it.
10. Throw yourself a party when you  bat .300. (I realize not everybody understands what I’m talking about, so stay with me.) In baseball, every time a batter goes to the plate, they keep a statistic called an “at bat.” If a player goes to the plate ten times over the course of a couple games, and gets three hits, he or she is batting .300. That means they failed seventy per cent of the time, but they succeed thirty per cent. Understand the math? Over the course of the season, any batter who gets a hit thirty per cent of the time, and has a batting average of .300 will be considered a HUGE success. A player who batted .300 for an entire career is almost sure to land in the Hall of Fame. In other words, guys who fail seventy per cent of the time at the key element of their sport are considered heroes. (Think about this: The last guy to hit .400 in a season was Ted Williams, arguable the best hitter ever, and that was back in 1941. He failed at the plate sixty per cent of the time… and nobody has been able to duplicate his record in more than seventy years!) So if about 30% of the stuff you do seems to work, throw yourself a party. Don’t sweat the 70% that didn’t work — focus on the 30% that DID. Then go repeat it.
What marketing wisdom would you have for other authors?

Thursdays with Amanda: I’ve Done Everything to Market My Book and No One is Buying It

July 17th, 2014 | Career, Marketing and Platforms, The Business of Writing | 9 Comments

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Ever paid for a book ad that did nothing for your sales numbers? Or maybe you scheduled some book signings that saw only a handful of people in attendance. Or you ran a giveaway only to see a few measly entries. Or you got some big-name Tweeter to give your book a shout-out, but it resulted in … crickets.

Sound familiar?

I wish I could say that marketing, no matter what the strategy, always pays off, but I can’t. Many times, authors find themselves spinning their wheels, frantically trying this or that, hoping that SOMETHING will stick. And you know what? Large companies do the same thing. Sure, they have the money that allows them to have some marketing successes, but for the most part, marketing is a gamble. It’s a risk. It’s time and investment in a strategy that no one can be sure will pay off.

If you’re a self-published author, you have a much better scenario going for you, because you don’t have a publisher breathing down your neck, waiting for those sales to hit.

If you’re a trad-pub author, well… Sure, you get a boost from store distribution and a some other perks the publisher may off you, but if sales are bad you have to deal with the fact that your publisher may not want to do another book with you right away…or they may be talking about putting your book out of print…or they may…just…go… dark…

So what do you do in this time of frustration and panic?

First, remember these things:

  1. It’s likely that your marketing efforts made your sales better than they would have been had you done nothing at all. So yeah, 2000 copies sold probably feels pretty dismal…but it’s a whole lot better than 1200 copies sold.
  2. You’re planting seeds and cultivating relationships. We live in a world in which consumers want to have a relationship with the brands and artists that they enjoy. By being present on social media and doing some other promo things, you’re getting those relationships started. Keep at it, and it will pay off.
  3. A tiny number of first-time authors see great sales. A majority of authors have to get a few books under their belt before they hit their stride and begin to see a fanbase take place. So keep that in mind when you’re beating yourself up over the small sales of your first or second book.
  4. Your publisher is not the beginning and end of your career. And neither is your agent. You may get dumped by either one if you have (and keep having) low sales numbers. But that does NOT mean you’re down for the count. Other agents and publishers may be interested in you! Remember: just because one publisher failed to give you wings, doesn’t mean that it’s a lost cause. All publishers know this. What doesn’t work for one house may work for another. And of course there is always the self-pub option should you want to go that route.
  5. You’re not alone. I think every author feels like they’re failing in one way or another. Like they’re getting the bad end of the deal or like they don’t know what they’re doing. But they don’t want anyone to know this! So when authors get together, they tend to make everything sound great. Greater than great, even. They will say things like “my agent got me blah blah blah” and “my publisher is doing this or that” and “I demanded x and they delivered” and “I found out that if you do y, then you get z!” Basically, everyone acts like they’ve got it figured out and that this publishing thing comes easily for them. But as an agent, let me tell you…every author feels a bit of panic. Every author wonders if they’re doing it right. Every author has a list of things that they’d change or would do-over or are just plain nervous about. And every author is worried about sales…maybe not every moment of every day, but even authors who are wildly successful have a fear that things will suddenly go south. It’s only human. So remember…YOU’RE NOT ALONE. Even if it feels like you are.

Feel better? I hope so. Though I know there are a few of you who are like “okay this is great and all, but tell me what to DO.” So for those of you who are practical to a fault (myself included!), here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if perhaps your marketing train is a bit off track:

1. Have I been limiting promotions to friends and family? If yes, then this is a problem. Friends and family will make the decision to buy (or not buy) your book within the first months of release. So if you are still targeting them four months after the book has come out, you’re wasting your time. It’s now time to find new audiences. New readers.

2. Have I been spreading promotions out over time instead of hitting it hard? If yes, then this is a problem. Some authors do an ad here, a radio spot there, a blog post here, an event there. This can lead to low sales, because consumers rarely buy books on impulse. Instead, they buy books that they have heard/seen/read a lot about. So you want your marketing to hit it hard, providing lots of potential touch points with your readers. This will get them to buy.

3. Have I been too quiet about my book? If yes, then this is a problem. Tell people you have a book! Most are really excited to hear such news.

4. Have I been “creating” more content instead of promoting what I already have? If yes, then this is a problem. When marketing, it’s tempting to create materials in an attempt to use them for marketing…but then you discover that you have to market the materials that you created! Videos, digital short stories, PDF downloads…all of these require their own marketing plans. They aren’t a marketing plan in and of themselves.

5. Have I been ignoring the data? If yes, then this is a problem. Sometimes it’s impossible to know what has succeeded and what has failed in terms of marketing. But by analyzing sales rankings and Google Analytics, you’ll get a pretty good idea! If you aren’t monitoring these things, then you run the risk of spending time repeating tactics that don’t work.

How do you deal with these kinds of author burdens? Any tips on handling the pressure?

Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Musts for an Author Website

July 10th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 11 Comments

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Websites…every author should have one. They are your central hub; your validation point. They are what will tell the world that you’re up and running and serious about this writing thing and that you aren’t going anywhere soon. All because you have a website.

It may seem silly, but that’s how we view these online spaces. They have a way of making everything OFFICIAL in a way that Facebook and Twitter and Google+ can’t. Weird, yes. But it’s true. I mean how many times have you googled a band, a company, a service provider and winced at the fact that while they may have a million Yelp recommendations or a slew of Facebook follows, they don’t have a site?

There’s something about a website…it’s like an online stamp of approval. And so yes, every author should have one. In the past I’ve talked about the components of a website, and I also touch on this in my book, but I wanted to provide a down and dirty list of 5 MUSTS FOR AN AUTHOR WEBSITE.

My hope is that you’ll spend the weekend adjusting your site to hit on each of these five things.

  1. LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA. Take a look at your site’s home page. Is there a clear way for visitors to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram? Do you have those buttons clearly displayed? This is important, because you don’t know how your fans will want to interact with you. When they show up to your site, it’s an opportunity to get them to connect on a more intimate level. So, you want your social media links front and center.
  2. PLEASANT IMAGES AND DESIGN. It doesn’t need to be expensive or overly fancy, but your site should be a space that is pleasing to look at. The colors and fonts should be up to date (don’t be like Joe Lando), and your author photo should be somewhere within the site. These days it’s easy to find beautiful site templates that can be used on WordPress and other similar sites. And many times, they’re either free or less than $100 to purchase.
  3. AN ACTIVE SITE. I have a weird opinion on blogs…I think they are the single most time-consuming, difficult thing you can do to try and grow a platform. So no, I don’t recommend that your blog be your sole marketing focus. BUT! Blogs come in handy when it comes to getting your site ranked well on Google (SEO), and they also do wonders for making your site appear lived-in. By updating your blog at least once a week, you’re proving that you actually spend time on your site. You’re a living, breathing author and you want to interact with fans! Another way to keep your site looking alive and well is to adjust the text from time to time. Keep an updated calendar of events, and adjust the home page wording to reflect different times of year, or different promos/events. This will make your site come across as an active space.
  4. INCENTIVE TO VISIT. While updating your blog and making your site feel lived-in will give some incentive for visitors to return, you really want to have other dangling carrots. Consider your audience and your brand, and determine what you have to offer that will get people coming back for more. For some, having a great blog will be the key factor here. For others, they may find success with offering PDF downloads that are updated every quarter or so. Or maybe their speaking schedule/tour is enough to get people coming back to check in. OR, maybe for the nonfiction author, the site could have video curriculum that can be used in conjunction with the book…thus giving readers a reason to visit over and over again. The idea is to keep them coming back, and to avoid having a site that can be visited once and then forgotten about.
  5. GOOGLE ANALYTICS. All of the above will be for naught if you aren’t tracking your numbers. I can’t stress how important a program like Google Analytics is to an author site. It will not only tell you how many visitors you’ve had, but it will show you how the visitors got there…what search terms they’re using to find your site, what social media programs they’re using to connect with you, and what kinds of posts have received the most hits. Google Analytics provides an unlimited source of knowledge. You can truly know your visitors, thanks to this program, and in turn, you can cater your blog and site to better meet their needs. Thus increasing traffic and, yes, GROWING YOUR NUMBERS!

Those are my five tips on having a great author website.

What are your tips? Or what are your website struggles?

The MacGregor Marketing Seminar – In Nashville on August 24!

July 9th, 2014 | Conferences, Marketing and Platforms | 3 Comments

On SUNDAY, August 24, we’re going to try something new… The MacGregor Marketing Seminar, a LIVE version of Amanda’s wonderful marketing information, set into a seminar format. Amanda and I will be in Nashville, at the Airport Embassy Suites, from 9 to 4, talking with authors about how to create a marketing plan for their books. Here’s what our outline looks like:

— The New World of Author Marketing — What’s Working (and not working) in Today’s Market
— Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Novel or Nonfiction Book
— Maximizing Your Marketing Reach
— Finding Your Audience and Reaching Your Readers
— Building Your Author Platform (we are bringing in a specialist to offer some advice and direction)
— Choosing the Tools You’ll Use to Promote Your Book
— Getting Recognized in Today’s Market
— The Traditional Marketer, the Freelance Marketer, and the Indie Marketer

We’ll also get into a bunch of discussions on related topics — one of the most fun aspects of doing this type of seminar is the chance to talk with other authors who are going through the marketing process. But that’s our basic outline for the day, and we’d love to have you join us!

The cost is just $99 for the entire day, if you register in July (it will go up on August 1). Again, the focus of this day will be on doing something PRACTICAL — not on theory or on promoting a product. We just wanted to get authors together and have time to explore how an author can create his or her own marketing plan by focusing on ideas that actually work, so the emphasis will on on what an author can take and do, rather than on theory or philosophy. We hope you’ll join us. Please let me know if you plan to come by RSVPing me. Thanks, and we hope to see you in Nashville on August 24.

-Chip MacGregor
chip@macgregorliterary.com

Thursdays with Amanda: Attend a “Thursdays with Amanda” Workshop!

July 3rd, 2014 | Conferences, Marketing and Platforms, Resources for Writing | 2 Comments

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

_____________________

If you love my Thursday posts on marketing, and if you’ve ever wished for an in-person “Thursdays with Amanda-type” event, then you’re in for a treat.

You’re invited to come hang out with me (and Chip, of course!), for a marketing intensive on Sunday, August 24th, in Nashville, Tennessee.

HERE ARE THE DETAILS! And no, this will NOT simply be a rehashing of the info found in my book, The Extroverted Writer. Sure, we’ll touch on that a tiny bit, but we’ll also be bringing to life the content found in my blog posts, as well as new material. Plus, there will be plenty of time for you to ask questions, share your marketing struggles or victories, and learn from others in attendance.

Questions? Sound off in the comments below! And please share with your friends!

 

Thursdays with Amanda: Who Schedules a Book Signing?

June 26th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 1 Comment

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I’m at a young writers conference this week, so to make for a shorter blog post, I’m going to answer this question that came in response to my post on The Book Marketing Process.

“…does the author schedule bookstore signings and readings or is that something the agent/publisher does?”  - Sara

First of all, signings and readings and in-store events aren’t what they once were. Authors who pursue these marketing options are many times lucky to see a dozen people show up. When you take into consideration the time it takes to plan and put on such an event, it’s clearly not a worthwhile strategy.

HOWEVER, some authors have the “in-store event” gene, and they can do it quite well. For these authors, the planning and scheduling falls on them. They can ask their publisher to create posters that they can use to advertise each event. (The posters shouldn’t have dates and times, but rather a space for the author to fill that info in on their own…this allows the publisher to send a large amount of posters that the author can use for all his/her events). They can also ask for other simple promotional materials, but other than that, the publisher doesn’t play a role in this kind of marketing.

The only time when this doesn’t ring true is when the publisher has decided to send an author out on tour. In this case, the publisher will schedule and pay for everything.

So there you have it!

Have you done in-store events? What was your experience like?

 

 

Thursdays with Amanda: The Book Marketing Process

June 19th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 8 Comments


2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke
 is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

It’s nice to think that there’s some kind of publishing instruction manual that you receive once you get a book deal. It’s even nicer to think that your agent or editor, are on top of every detail, ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks and that you can proceed with confidence every step of the way.

But as with any part of life, there’s no manual. First-time authors many times feel as though they’re fumbling through their book release, and try as we may, we agents and editors aren’t always able to stay ahead of the curve. Things get missed. Time slips away from us. And what’s even harder to admit is that this is the kind of business in which the squeaky wheel really does get the grease.

In some cases, so, so much grease.

Marketing departments operate in a similar fashion. They try their best to plan a head and give every book time and thought. But their focus is largely spent on only a handful of titles. These are the titles guaranteed to make the company money (meaning everyone will be able to keep their jobs and continue to take risks on new authors while continuing the careers of mid-list or low-list authors). So, these titles get the team’s focus. And the result?

Marketing teams tend to be reactionary. Their days aren’t spent brainstorming strategies and researching the market. When not in meetings, their days are spent doing a few things for the big-release books and then responding to the dozens if not hundreds of authors who have books releasing in the next six months and who NEED TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE STAT.

Like I said…the squeaky wheel theory abounds in publishing. And it’s so easy for an author who doesn’t want to be a bother…who doesn’t want to create enemies…to slip through the cracks.

So how do you prevent becoming a crack-dweller? How do you get attention and results without ticking anyone off?

First, you must understand the process. Then, you must understand when and how it’s acceptable for you to step in and get things moving.

1. Eight months before your book releases, you should start to think about what YOU are going to do to promote your book. List out people or organizations you’re connected with. List opportunities you could create for yourself. List ideas, no matter how ridiculous.

2. Six months (though sometimes four if the publisher is being particularly slow), you should get on the phone with the marketing department. This is something that your agent can easily set up for you (don’t expect the publisher to set it up!). All you need to do is email your agent and ask about how you can start work on your marketing plan. They should offer to get a call set up with the publisher’s marketing team. If they don’t, demand that they do so. If they insist that you wait a bit, hold off for a month and then make the request again. You don’t want this call to take place less than four months from release (though if you’re in a pickle, ANY kind of call is better than no call).

3. Before the call, talk with your agent about your marketing ideas. Your agent may be able to offer insight and help you refine your strategies. They may also be able to tell you what has/hasn’t worked for other clients. When you have your plan finalized have your agent email it to the marketing team in preparation for the call.

4. During the call, go over your marketing ideas and see if there are places in which your publisher can come alongside you to maximize your efforts. Maybe they will cover the cost of materials? Maybe they will do a social media push in anticipation for an event you’re throwing? Maybe they’ll buy some ad space if you have a big-time interview lined up? Your agent can help with this…they can be the one to make these requests. REMEMBER! A publisher is much more likely to throw money at something than they are to agree to take on any sort of work load. The only time that this isn’t true is when the request includes design work. Publishers and marketing teams seem very open to adding to their designers’ work loads.

5. During the call, ask them about their plans. Ask about review copies, ads, radio spots, blog tours, special sales, and other common strategies. You want to know what they’re doing and when.  Maybe there are opportunities for you to piggyback on their efforts.

6. Ask what they need from you. This is very important because it positions you as a team player. At the very least they may want a “Big mouth” list from you. This is a list of possible reviewers. At most they may want to check your availability for events, etc.

7. After the call, your agent should follow up on any commitments the marketing team made and/or press for answers on any unresolved requests.

8. Four months before book release, you should get serious about nailing down your plan. Start contacting people and create a calendar. You want firm commitments and you want clarity. There is no use for someone who says “Sure I’ll help!” but then never says what they’ll do. Fill in the blanks FOR them. Tell them what you’d like from them and give it a deadline. But also make it as easy on them as possible. For example, if you want to be featured in their newsletter, provide the text and images. The less work they have to do, the more likely they’ll be to say yes.

9. Schedule your calendar for marketing efforts to hit 1-6 weeks following your book’s release. It’s okay if some efforts spill over. It’s not okay if efforts happen before your book is available.

10. KEEP IN MIND that release dates are always subject to change. This is why I suggest that you don’t schedule anything to happen during release week. Chances are, bookstores won’t have the book yet. And of course there are horror stories about releases being delayed by months on end. This is where your agent comes in handy. They can get to the bottom of any debacles, and when you’re in the planning mode, they can be in touch with the publisher, letting them know the great things you’re planning, and following up on the marketing team’s efforts.

11. When the book releases and you move through your big marketing push, keep your agent informed of any noteworthy developments. This is important because you want your agent informed, but you don’t want them to feel like they’re being overwhelmed by small updates and tidbits. So in other words, your doing radio spots and a blog tour isn’t news. But what IS news is if you see that your book is climbing rapidly on Amazon’s lists or if you managed to get a mention on a large-platform program or website. These are the kinds of updates that your agent will gladly share with your editor and publisher so that they can see how much success you’re having.

12. Four months after the book has come out, you’ll find that your publisher’s marketing team will be less excited to spend time marketing your book. Don’t take this personally! It’s the ebb and flow of publishing. If you have a clear request, then you can feel free to ask your agent to make that request (many publishers are happy to do what they can to assist your ongoing strategies), but the days of talking strategy and brainstorming with your publishing house are over. It’s on you! Which is scary, but it’s part of publishing and you can do it!

Bottom line? The author should get the ball rolling about six months before release by contacting their agent (if they have one) or going to their editor. It’ll be 8-10 months of crazy marketing focus after that, and then it’ll be over. Just like that. The best part is that you’ll know that you did your best to promote and make your book a success!

Okay, what questions do you have about this process? Ask away!

Can a novelist market herself?

June 16th, 2014 | Career, Marketing and Platforms | 1 Comment

A woman I met at a conference wrote and asked, “Is it really possible to market yourself as a novelist?”

I definitely think it’s possible for a novelist to market himself or herself. Over the past couple years, I’ve tried to share some thoughts on how novelists can market themselves, so you may find it helpful to meander back through my posts in order to look for ideas. But here’s the big picture: In my opinion, a novelist has to begin seeing herself not just as an artist (which you, as a writer, most certainly are), but also as a brand name or commodity that deserves marketing. And that means creating a well-thought-out plan for marketing yourself and your work. (Okay, I’ll admit that part of me hates writing that. I don’t like talking about words as “commodities,” and treating the writing arts as though they were cans of corn. But let’s face facts — I’m talking with writers who want to make a living writing, and that translates to selling books.)

Non-fiction writers find it easier to do some basic marketing, since they have a topic or hot-button issue that is clearly discernable. If you were to write a book on losing weight or making money or raising kids, the potential audience for such a topic is easy to recognize. You can go onto radio programs and talk about the problem and the solutions you’re offering, or write articles for magazines and e-zines that explore your particular approach to the issue. With fiction, it’s tougher. Good stories are not about one topic, but explore numerous threads. And no radio or TV program wants to invite you on to re-tell your novel. So instead of focusing on the story, most fiction writers find they have to focus on the author or the genre. In other words, you and your voice becomes the focus of your marketing. This is why it’s essential that a novelist has a clear style.

Or, sometimes, the focus of marketing is on the issues or topics raised in the novel. Think of the marketing of successful novelists — it’s not always the story that is the focus, but the fact that there is another great book from John Grisham or Elizabeth George or Janet Evanovich. Or it’s about the fact that someone has written a novel that deals with identify or spirituality or suicide or… whatever. Sometimes the focus is a bit more on the genre — the publisher wants readers to know this is an Amish story, or a techno-thriller, or a cross-cultural adventure story. But that’s much less frequent than focusing on the author or issues. Again, great literature springs from a story that explores the great questions of life. Those questions reflect our own lives, and the characters make choices about them. We, as the readers, may like or hate the choices, but at least we get to see what someone else would do with those choices. So in many ways, a novel offers us a vicarious exploration of the great questions of life. We learn, we are moved, we grow. The greatest novels I’ve read have changed me.
Looking at today’s market, what’s the lesson for novelists? Discover your voice. Write a great novel. Market yourself hard.

What advice would you add?

(This is a repeat blog — I posted this a couple years ago, and wanted to say it again.)