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Book Marketing Wizardry: Fundamentals of a Successful Marketing Plan

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So often I am amused while chatting with a publisher who has
achieved remarkable success with a book, when he or she sort of
points his or her toe in the sand and says something like, “Oh
shucks, I was really lucky” just like a shy old cowboy or
cowgirl. In reality, however, a successful publisher is far more “sly” than “shy”!! Indeed, many achieve success
accidentally. But most publishers who achieve success do so with a “book marketing wizardry”that’s certainly
not accidental, but one that is earned by mastering the fundamentals
of a successful marketing plan.

Let’s review the elements needed in a successful marketing
plan. I’m going to put these elements into an outline form,
adding a few comments as I go along. I suggest that you also begin
the marketing plan for your next book by following this outline. Note that I will be happy to e-mail you any of the forms below
that are marked with an asterisk.
These forms are free to you,
so you can begin your own successful marketing plan. Contact me at BobErdmann@aol.com and I’ll send
them promptly.

*Profit and Loss Analysis:

Prior to the entire process,
complete a comprehensive P&L on the book. Include all the
expenses you will incur and forecast your expected sales over the
first, second, and third year. Use several price points to determine
acceptable profitability. This is a time and place to be
conservative in your sales estimates, not overly aggressive. <¸rd3E

*Basic Marketing Planning Form:

First, define your market.
Answer all the “who’s, what’s, when’s,
why’s, how’s, and where’s” as they relate to
how you are marketing your book. Establish your budget and interface
this data with your profit and loss analysis. Your Basic Marketing
Planning Form should clearly identify title, author, publication
date, list price, unique features, national/local appeal, audience,
sales revenue plan for each of the first three years, first
printing, marketing budget for each of the first two years, trade
channel(s) emphasis, strongest selling features, marketing
strategies, strategy statement, ad budget, direct mail budget,
publicity budget, direct sales, promotional material, special sales,
and subsidiary rights. The information that you include in each of
these categories should be comprehensively expanded to include
several sub-categories. The Basic Marketing Planning Form should be
quite detailed, as it is from this vehicle that you will create your
overall marketing strategy. But placing the horse before the cart by
completing this exercise immediately after the Profit and Loss
Analysis confirms the wisdom of publishing the book in the first
place.

*Author Questionnaire:

You probably wonder why completing a
form like this is important. Here’s why. At this very early
stage, the author will most likely be your best source of marketing
information since he or she is an expert in the subject of the book,
right? So why not extract as much data as you can from your leading
expert, your author. I have always insisted that an author must
complete the Author Questionnaire fully as part of entering into a
publishing agreement with the publisher. In addition to the basic
information about the author, the AQ should ask/answer: Define the
content, purpose, and audience? Why did you create this book? Who
are you targeting? What significant features/benefits does the book
offer? List other significant books on the topic? How would you
answer the question “Why should I buy this book?” What is
your experience/expertise on the subject? Are you a regular
contributor to magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, Internet? What
other books have you published? What recognized experts would be
willing to write an endorsement? List of potential reviewers,
columnists, opinion leaders? List of business organizations that
should be purchasing your book in large quantities? Authors will
procrastinate doing this, but be firm and insist that it be done by
the time the contract is to be signed, or no contract!

Distribution:

You’ll need to determine the distribution
channel(s) that will be suitable for your book. It’s always a
good idea to have all these in place prior to publication so that
you can immediately fill the pipeline and establish accounts
receivables and cash flow quickly. Keep in mind that you’ll
want to have several options. Try to imagine what are the most
likely choices your audience will want to use to purchase your book.
Is it bookstores, the Internet, gift market, gourmet stores,
educational market, catalogs, and various other non-book trade
channels? Indeed, all of the above channels could be appropriate and
nonconflicting channels of distribution. Consider also the
international marketplace. Very few, if any, of the above options
would include the international marketplace. As an example, many US
distributors have “working relationships” with similar
type distributors in Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and/or
Australia. These seldom are good choices for you. You should seek to
make your own distributive arrangements internationally.

Publicity:

In my opinion, this is one of the most important
parts of book marketing… creating consumer demand. All
of your efforts must be focused on your audience, the consumer. The
most effect way to do this is through publicity. I will always
recall executive Steve Riggio of Barnes & Noble recommending to
me several years ago to always make certain that authors, and
publishers, become “tireless promoters of their books.” In
no uncertain terms, that simple statement has tremendous
implications and importance. Don’t expect that all that is
needed is to set up distribution. You must drive consumer demand to
make your distribution effective. Publicity and distribution work hand-in-hand and therefore must occur
simultaneously.

Pricing:

Naturally your book must be competitively priced.
But also keep in mind that there is nothing unique about
price. Your product is what must be unique. Remember that
your customers will always be able to find a lower cost option than
your book so create the value in the content and packaging of the
product, not in the cost for those who only consider price.

Subsidiary Rights:

Seek first and second serial rights and
book clubs. And don’t overlook the vast potential of foreign
reprint rights in English or translations. These are wonderful
sources of revenue at little or no cost to you. Develop a plan to
secure these profitable transactions.

*Spreadsheet:

Now once you have completed and are satisfied
with all the aforementioned steps, transfer them into time-lined
action items on a spreadsheet over a 12-month period which starts
with the author contract and ends with the publication date. I
recommend running the spreadsheet at one-week intervals. However
two-week intervals will also work, such as the 1st and 15th of each
of the 12 months. Show targeted and actual completion dates of each
of the tasks required by your marketing plan. Then work your hardest
to achieve those targets to launch a successful book.

Does all this sound like a lot of work? Well, indeed it is! Trust
me, however, it is considerably more work, as well as extremely
costly, to figure out how to correct mistakes made by errors of
commission or omission by having a poorly conceived marketing plan,
or worse, none at all. Take the time early in the game to do your
homework. A well conceived marketing plan should be in place at
least a full year prior to the publication date of your book. A long
lead-time? You bet! But you’ll soon discover it’s the
smart way to do business.

OK, now you have the fundamentals of a successful marketing plan.
Put them to effective use in creating your own “book marketing
wizardry.”

Publishing Consultant Bob Erdmann is a veteran of over four
decades in the publishing industry. A two-term President of PMA, he
created several successful marketing programs for the association.
The highly successful Trade Distribution Program is one of them.
Erdmann’s consulting services cover all phases of publishing
including (but not limited to) planning, marketing, foreign rights,
and distribution. He can be reached at 707/726-9200,
e-mail BobErdmann@aol.com.

 

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