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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Giovanni

Book Marketing Plan: Part One

Marketing Plan Part 1: Defining Objectives for Your Novel

You may be thinking 'I'm an author, not a marketer.' Why do I need a marketing plan for my book? Whether you're traditionally published, self-published or a hybrid, you need a marketing plan. I happen to be both a marketer and a hybrid author.

You're a storyteller, right? Well, marketing is all about telling a story -- that may be the story of you as an author or the story of your book and your characters. Either way, you're a master storyteller, so there's no reason you can't be a master marketer.

A marketing plan is one of the fundamentals -- a building block to getting you to be that master marketer. The process of creating a marketing plan for a product or service can easily be adapted to your novel because, after all, your book is a product that someone is going to be buying.

To help get you started, I'm going to do a five-part series where we talk about the steps in drafting your marketing plan. You may be thinking, wait, drafting? Like the first step in writing my book?


The first step telling the story of your novel or series is defining your objectives.

Defining objectives means you decide what you're going to promote, what your goals are, how profits will be measured, and finally how failures will be measured--yes, I just said failures. We won't be sugar coating anything here. A good marketing plan is unbiased and truthful. You need these two parts to ensure your integrity and success.

1. What are we going to promote?

This may seem obvious--your book of course, but is it that obvious? You have two roads to go down--promoting yourself and your book. Your book is a part of you. So, when you're promoting the book, you should also be promoting yourself. You can do this through author interviews that focus on you just as much as they do your new book. You can take an even more basic route and make your author marketing and book marketing plans separate.

I promote my author brand through the same channels as my books, but in slightly different ways. Promoting yourself doesn't mean spamming (AKA painting yourself across the internet heedlessly, which looks much like bragging. It's annoying. Don't. Do. It.). Concentrate on adding value with your presence--let your readership get to know you on a professional writer level, with some personal information, but only to the point with which you're comfortable. Be real, just not so real that people cock their heads and go, huh, and why are you telling me this?

To start, write a concise sentence about what you're going to be promoting. We'll add to this sentence in the next step. An example would be

'Promote <Insert Book Name>, a 60k word adult contemporary romance novel.

2. What are the goals of the promotion and the product?

Goals need to be specific, challenging and measurable.

  • What do we mean by specific? The goal needs to be black and white. It can't be vague. The best goals are set with numbers. This makes them both specific and measurable.

  • What is a challenging goal? It's one that's still realistic, but stretches the limits. Goals are made to motivate. If a goal is unrealistic, it burn you out, upset you and push you off track.

  • What do we mean by measurable? Either you get there or you don't, period. You reach 100 or you don't. Simple.

Sample Goals:

  • Sell <Insert Number Here> per day for <Insert Number Here> of days.

  • Sell <Insert Number Here> by the end of <Month>.

  • Break the <Insert Number Here> rank on Kindle e-book sales for three consecutive days.

  • Make a profit of <Insert Number Here>.

Now, it's time to combine the goal statement with your objective:

'Promote <Insert Book Name>, a 60k word adult contemporary romance novel, and sell <Insert Number Here> by the end of <Month>.

It's important to note that most marketing plans have more than one goal and measurement. For each goal, you'll need a separate measurement and tactic. The more goals, the more complex your plan is. If this is your first time out, start with one goal, like the one above and go from there. Think of this as more of an action plan in that case. Just as an example, the marketing plans I write for the bank are 20 pages long per business unit. I report to three business units, so our strategic marketing plan borders on 60 pages long. That's just the marketing plan, within each year, numerous action plans go into more depth about tactics, personas and measurements. We tend to call those 'tactical plans.' But that's semantics, it's all about knowing your products, goals, target market, tactics and measurements of success.

3. How will profits be measured?

This may sound obvious, but the reason I mention this is for you to make sure you're doing the mathematics on what your breakeven point is. You need to look what whatever your sales are and subtract your hard costs. These expenses will include any promotion you plan on doing, marketing materials, giveaways, travel costs, administrative costs, etc. Any money that leaves your bank account to develop or promoting your book needs to be subtracted.

Writing a book isn't just an investment in your time; eventually, whether you're traditionally or self-published, it will become a monetary investment as well. Being smart with your money will help you continue to write and promote your books.

A word of caution -- while digital marketing can be highly cost-effective, there can be significant ramp-up costs and a learning curve. Do not just say 'I'm going to spend $3,000 launch week' and not monitor what you need for sales to make that pay off. Figure it out beforehand so that you can step back and re-evaluate before you dump all your money and never see a return.

And make sure you're not using your sale price as your starting point -- you need to use your estimated royalties per book.

3. How are we going to measure failures or losses?

Failure. It's the worst word ever. For some reason, marketers love to use that terminology. We failed because we didn't make a goal.

That statement is merely shortsighted because it's so negative. It's a formula for giving up.

First, you wrote a book. That is a success in itself — Pat yourself on the back.

Maybe your masterpiece didn't sell like you thought it would. That's why you should consider building in a few numbers into your goals -- think of it like this minimum, threshold and maximum. Reaching minimum is most likely going to be just hitting your break-even, the threshold is a bit higher, and the maximum is hitting what you wanted to. A natural formula is to start with your maximum -- what's the dream number that is still within reach based on past sales, or if you're starting out, based on similar books' sales. From there, choose a percent for minimum and threshold. The minimum may be reaching 75% of max, and threshold might be meeting 90% of max.

Now, back to that original statement 'how will we measure failure or losses -- ick. Let's change it.

How will we measure what worked well and what didn't?

This is where things can get a bit complex and involves your specific marketing strategies. You'll need to consider if you're doing tours, digital display ads, search ads, email ads, giveaways, and your organic methods such blog and social media posts and newsletter announcements. Below are a few sample measurement statements depending on your tactic.

Digital measurement examples:

  • What was our CTR versus our conversion rates?

  • What were the impressions versus CTR?

  • What were entries versus conversions?

(Notice I didn't put likes or follows here? They're not good metrics. We can talk about that later. But it has to do with thinking like a CEO, and if you just cringed at me, then you're in the wrong mindset. You are the CEO of your book empire.)

Other measurements:

  • Books sold at a book signing.

  • Potential customers spoken to at book signing.

  • COI (centers of influence -- i.e., booksellers, librarians -- anyone who can help get your book placed or sold) contacts made.

  • How many books purchased by libraries.

  • Sale of rights (foreign, movie, etc.)

Keep in mind, if you have multiple goals, you'll need to align a measurement with each one.

You've probably noticed I'm as passionate about marketing as I am about writing. Is your head spinning? Don't worry, I'm here for you. Next time, we'll launch into selecting your target market and creating personas.

*rubs hands together*

This story is just starting to get good, don't leave me now!

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