Monday, January 7, 2013

Why are you so anxious for the print book to get out? (or, What is your Marketing Plan?)

Happy New Year to everyone!

This blog entry has been updated 1/9/2013 at the bottom.

This is a bit of a marketing entry. It is part of a series, as 2013 is, we hope at New Libri, a year of marketing.

We do all of our books first in eBook, then intentionally wait three months (or so) and put the book out in paper. Without exception, authors chomp at the bit for the paper version. “When is it going to come out?” “Most of my friends/relatives/colleagues/reviewers are waiting for the paper version.”

Why is the author so anxious for the print book to come out?

I ask the question (rhetorically) because the only reason the author at a medium, small, micro, or self-published press should be chomping at the bit for the paper version of the book to come out is because they have an awesome marketing plan ALL READY TO GO. If you don’t have at least a credible marketing plan, round one, sketched out, then WHAT’S THE RUSH?

The eBook is the main proof, if you will. Most of the editing is done (the beauty of an eBook is small edits can be updated to the servers at any time). You should be able to get some reviews from an eBook, so don’t say “I need the paper version for reviews.” Sure, for SOME reviews you do, but what is your marketing campaign, vis-à-vis reviews? No, the truth is, authors want the paper book because there is no marketing plan. Thus, you might as well get the paper version out there too. Get a few more reviews. Hope for the best.

I know this sounds cynical and certainly not confidence inspiring to authors wondering about joining a medium/small/micro press (or self-publishing). After all, isn’t that what a publisher is supposed to do? Market the book? Yeah, sort of. Sometimes. I have commented on this before. The primary benefit an author gets from a small press includes a lot of things, but PERSONAL marketing is not one of them.

An author's marketing plan should include a number of things, below is a short list:

  • Go ahead give it a fun name
  • Goal of the Plan
  • What is your budget? Don’t equivocate. Pledge some money RIGHT NOW. What is it going to be? Now pledge some time.
  • Duration of the plan. Schedule. (Yeah, basically a project plan).
  • List the issues you have to overcome
  • List actual (real and achievable) targets (goals)
  • Main message.
  • Deliverables (e.g. sell sheets, PR packages, pre-canned interviews, etc.)
  • How is it measured?
  • Target audience
  • Strategy
  • Communication channels
  • Are there campaigns within campaigns?
  • Share your plan with the publisher. Will they help ($$$, timing, etc.)

This list should be filled out EVEN IF YOU ARE GOING TO HIRE SOMEONE TO HELP.

By the way, if you are going to hire someone for marketing, think many thousands. ($5,000 to 10,000). This may not include advertising fees, etc. Generally, if you don’t have a basic plan of your own, you shouldn’t be hiring anyone.

It is tempting to mistake an advertising campaign for a marketing campaign. They are not the same.

Big campaign versus small campaign. The truth is, for the first campaign an author does, it can take months to plan out even a small campaign, even (or especially) if your budget is close to zero. Now, many authors I know go fairly quickly to the “zero” for budget. “I am a starving artist.” Is it really zero? Did you spend money on a writing workshop? Did you spend money on an MFA? Why is this part less important than the rest of your education? Or, to put it another way, ON AVERAGE, even at the low end of the income spectrum, Americans spend 5.7% of their income eating out and another 3% of their income on entertainment and then there is that smart phone and all those monthly charges. So, your writing is less important than that latte, eh? By the way, that eating out % does not include alcohol.

You get the idea.

Now, I said that medium/small/micro presses really don’t do any marketing. Of course that is not completely true. But, the marketing they do is generally going to be group focused. Not author focused. There are exceptions, but for now that is the way to think if you are the author. You can try and piggyback on those group efforts, but really, you should think of how to add to those, follow on to those, or simply do your own marketing.

The reason I ask, in the title of the blog, why any author is in a rush for the paper version of a book to come out is: without a marketing campaign to leverage that paper release, you are losing a bit of an opportunity.

This is why the typical medium to large sized publisher takes 2-3 YEARS from acceptance to releasing the book. It is not the editing and printing that drives the release, it is the marketing plan. What many “mid-list” authors figured out is that the plan for them, from the publisher, is “not much” other than some catalogs and a list of people that get the pre-release of the book for review. This is a pre-canned, low budget, plan that most authors get. This is a bit of a crap shoot and is why many authors do self-publish (even if they have been published traditionally in the past) or switch to a smaller press. Faster release. But, those authors know they have to do their own marketing.

Small presses can develop marketing materials for an author, but that is not the same as marketing plan. In future entries, I’ll discuss what a publisher might do for a marketing plan, but I can tell you for a startup publisher, the marketing plan includes “Step one, build a portfolio of good books that you can then market as a group.” This ultimately DOES help the author, but in a group way and over the long term. Some of our authors are content with “help New Libri grow and we will grow also.” We love them. But, you need your own individual plan, even if it is “ride the publisher’s long term plan.” You need that plan simply to satisfy yourself and to answer the question when someone asks you how sales are going.

So, do you really want that paper version of the book ASAP? How’s that marketing plan going?

Update 1/9/2013.

The danger with blogs is that, of course, they tend to be looser and less edited than a formal column. They also tend to be only part of a bigger picture. I have, rightfully, been called to task that this particular blog suffers from both. What is the responsibility of the micro press in the marketing? This entry seems to indicate that ALL of the responsibility is the author’s. Next weeks entry will focus more on the responsibility of a micro-press (one that publishes less than 25 titles per year). Surely, some state, it cannot be all the author’s responsibility!

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