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A Sample Marketing Plan

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Since Ingram’s new policy of accepting many more independent press titles is contingent on the publishers submitting a marketing plan, many PMA members have asked for a sample of a plan that would strike a wholesaler or distributor as being plausible and effective. Such plans, of course, need to be custom-tailored to each book, but here is a pattern you might find helpful.

Marketing Plan for Easy Do-It-Yourself Plumbing

January 1

Bound galleys or page proofs sent to:

Library Reviewers
Booklist, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Choice, etc.

Long Lead-Time Reviewers
Publishers Weekly, New York Times, Washington Post, etc.

Magazines for Review or Excerpting
Ladies Home Journal, Plumbing Today, etc.

March 1

Printed Copies on Hand

April 2

Official Pub Date

Press Release and book sent to:

Print Media
Chicago Tribune (Life Style Editor)
Chicago Sun times (Book Review Editor)
Evanston Review (“Who’s in the News”), etc.

Special Interest Publications and Organizations
The Plumber’s Friend (newsletter)

Historic Homes Restoration Assn., etc.

Electronic Media

WBEZ radio
Book Blather, WXXX radio

NPR, Cokey Roberts
Oprah, etc.

May 1-15

In-Store Author Events or Signings

The marketing plan sketched out above should convince a wholesaler or distributor that you understand the following crucial elements about the book business:

1. The Importance of Lead times. Library reviewers, some newspapers, and most magazines need prepublication versions of your book three or four months ahead of the official pub date. The official pub date must be at least a month after the books are printed, and the PR and publicity must not hit until after the book is in the stores or at least until it is available from the wholesalers. It takes time to ship books and time for stores and wholesalers to process a shipment and have the books ready to sell. In-store events must not be scheduled if there is any chance that copies will not be available in time. Books always take longer to produce than you think they will. When in doubt, pad the schedule.

2. The Importance of Local and Regional Media Attention. Wholesalers and distributors understand that most independent press books (in fact most books, whoever publishes them) do not get reviewed in the big-time media. Your review copies should mostly go to the publications that might actually review the book, and the more specific they are to your subject or your author’s hometown or region, the more likely it is that a review will be published.

3. The Importance of Specialized or Niche Promotion. If you have a plausible and extensive list of organizations that should be interested in your subject, wholesalers and distributors will know you have done your marketing homework, and they know how effective such organizations are in generating sales.

4. The Importance of a Broad but Realistic Effort. A plausible marketing effort for most books will involve sending out between 100 and 300 press releases along with copies of the book. Take some long shots but, again, send most of your review copies to publications that you know, through your research, actually review books like the one you have published.

Your Marketing Plan should be orderly in appearance (including correct spelling) but you do not need five different types of fonts and a fancy binder. Skip the airy generalizations and marketing buzzwords. While it is impossible for you to state that certain media will for sure respond (this, after all, is just a plan), you can and must be very specific about the contacts you intend to make. Name names.

If you want to work with a distributor (not a wholesaler but a distribution company that will put your book in its catalog, send its reps to the stores and wholesalers to generate orders, and ship, bill, and collect), you will need to have a contractual agreement in place by August if your book is to be published in the Spring/Summer season (March through July), or by March if your book will be published in the Fall/Winter season (August through February). There are exceptions to this, but only for very high-profile books.

Yes, do send copies of the book along with the press releases rather than asking the reviewers to request a copy. (An exception might be a very expensive book.) The most convincing mailing piece you can send is the book itself, and the reviewers may very well not take the trouble to ask for a copy. It costs a fair amount to publish a book. Don’t be a cheapskate when it comes to your publicity or you may risk your whole investment.

The press release should be no longer than one page. Reviewers are busy people and you need to catch their interest in the first sentence of the release. Follow up with a phone call.

And finally, be sure to do what you say you will do. A marketing plan is not a wish list; it is a promise to your wholesaler or distributor that you need to keep. If this work is not your cup of tea, hire a publicist to get the job done.

This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor August, 1997, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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