Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Ch 4.9 Make a Marketing Plan

(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)

Ch 4.9 Make a Marketing Plan

I'm big on making plans (see Writer's Mission Statement and Five Year Plan). 

All plans are meant to change, but marketing plans more than most. Making a Marketing Plan can help organize your thinking, but then choosing the particular marketing activities that are going to work best for you, your book, and your budget, is like going ala carte at the cafeteria: you'll need to pick and choose some things, try them out, see if they work. Then try new things. Or repeat the ones that worked.

Rinse. Repeat. Mix it up.

I'm constantly trying new marketing approaches as well as culling out the ones that didn't work and keeping the ones that did.

Make A Plan
I stumbled through this with my first indie book, and now I do it intuitively (not necessarily writing everything down). But if the idea of making a marketing plan makes your eyes glaze, then this will get you unlocked and moving forward. I've entered information as if I was launching Open Minds - I only wish I was this organized the first time around.

Marketing Plan for Open Minds

1. Motto
{This isn't a slogan or tag line, but rather some guiding words to keep yourself inspired and on track.}
2. Goal
{What are you trying to achieve with this plan?}
a. To launch Open Minds, and start building the base of readers I need to hit my financial goals.
b. To break even.
3. Audience
{Who is your target audience?}
Young Adult Science Fiction, with cross over to Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
4. Promotion Plan
{What are your cafeteria picks from the ala carte line?}
a. Get advanced blurbs to use in descriptions
b. Put book on Goodreads - use in place of "pre-ordering"
c. Send out review requests to Book Bloggers, coordinate Blog Tour after launch
     c.1 Prepare professional looking review request letter (today I would find a blog tour company - see Reveiews and How to Get Them)
     c.2 Offer to do giveaways, interviews, guest blogs (today I would do minimal guest blogs)
     c.3 Carefully adhere to Book Blogger review policies
d. Order marketing materials (bookmarks)
e. Create early buzz - 4-6 weeks out (today I might do a soft-launch instead)
     e.1 Announce on blog, do cover reveal, arrange launch party
     e.2 Do ARC giveaway contest (also: signups for newsletter for releases)
     e.3 Do a teaser 1 day before launch (Chapter 1 reveal)
     e.4 Set up autographed order system through paypal
     e.5 Upload books one week prior to release to ensure ready (today I would upload a day or two before)
f. Virtual Launch Party (with friends/fans/immediate social reach)
     f.1 My blog and friends' blogs
     f.2 Create Goodreads and Facebook events (today Goodreads events are less effective)
     f.3 Send out newsletter
     f.4 HAVE FUN
g. Blog Tour (fishing outside my own pond)
     g.1 Thank bloggers, drive traffic to them
     g.2 (Today I would set up Hootesuite tweets of their blog postings to continue to drive traffic to them in the future, especially if they've reviewed)
h. Local in person signing (local friends, coffee shop) (today, I don't do these)
5. What is my promotional budget?
{How much are you willing to spend?}
a. Remember you want to break even on this book
b. Also remember that some promotion will cost money
c. Decide how much want to spend on blog tours, paid ads, giveaways (including paperbacks, make sure to include shipping)
d. Calculate how many books you have to sell to recover promotional costs
e. Keep track of your spending/sales to see when break even
f. Note: my original plan said "no paid ads until break even" - now I don't think that way. I only use paid ads that are generally low cost or have a high likelihood of paying for themselves, so I plan that into my promotional budget.
6. How will I measure success?
a. Remember your goal.
b. Reassess marketing effectiveness continually as you go. 
c. Track sales with each marketing effort to see which has the most impact.
7. How long will I implement this plan?
a. Give yourself six months to break even.
8. After Action Review (I actually do this continuously)
a. Assess time/cost vs. results
b. Which parts to keep/toss?
c. Consider different cafeteria picks next time.

Cafeteria Picks
Just the act of writing down the plan should help organize your thoughts. But knowing which marketing items to put in #4 is the key, yes? And those cafeteria picks will be changing all the time. When I launched Open Minds, launch parties were a new thing, so it was fun and innovative. Now, they still can be, but you need to always be looking for something fresh and creative to keep people engaged. Here are a few of the cafeteria picks I would consider if I was launching a book today (which actually happens surprisingly often, so some of these are strategies I've used in 2013):

* Organize a Cover Reveal before a release or a Book Blast after one using a Book Blogger Company (I've used and recommend Xpresso)
* Set up a blog for the book series, then feed the postings (RSS) to Goodreads
* Make photo teasers - post on social media (FB, twitter, blog)
* Give away ARCS right before release
* Give away short stories for newsletter signups
* Set up a Goodreads giveaway for paperbacks after release
* Buy ads from Bookbub for free and sale (99cent) books; submit to POI; see what other ads currently have a good ROI on the cost (get recommendations from friends who have used it)
* Make a FB event for the book release; post pictures, teasers, giveaways throughout the day
* Have rapid, limited-time "secret" giveaways for newsletter subscribers
* Have a board on Pinterest for your book with visual inspiration as you write it
* Make a FB page for your series and post exclusive content there
* Put book on NetGalley to make available for reviews
* Offer free review copies to fans prior to launch
* Offer to send out bookmarks to people to distribute to their book clubs, writer's groups
* Post reviews to Pinterest
* Put your book on sale (right away, or later, after release)
* Give away earlier books in the series right before a new release

This sounds like a lot of work. And it can be, especially for your first book, when you're learning everything for the first time. 

Remember: HAVE FUN

If it's exhausting (not just from fatigue but from promo-overload), STOP. And go write. That's what you need to be doing next anyway.

We'll wind up this section with tips on building buzz, and then it's on to the nuts-and-bolts of getting your book out into the world (i.e. What Did You Forget To Pack?).

(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)


  1. I'm already starting to think about these things in preparation for my release next year. Boy is there a lot to do!

  2. Thanks for the outline you shared with us! Many really struggle on starting a business/marketing your indie books, and as we all know, it starts with the effective marketing strategy. I believe there are no standard steps for marketing your books, it depends on the platforms you use in spreading the word about your book. Well, social media and digital marketing lead the top spots as marketing strategies so they will be a great use for us. Maybe you can check out the same article that I found about digital marketing starters. Here's the link:

    Tactics are somewhat the same with yours.