“Marketing my book is the hardest part of being an author.”. This is something we hear all the time from authors, and the sentiment is a resounding theme in our annual author survey. Regardless of how long you’ve been an author for, how many books you have published, or how much you earn from your books, more likely than not, marketing is the thorn in your side.
It’s not surprising that marketing has such a bad reputation among indies. It’s rare that someone writes a book with the express purpose of becoming a marketer after publishing. Yet when you’re an indie author, that’s exactly what happens.
“I have written a book, and now I must become a commercial for the book I have written. What is the point of being a writer if I have to say words about the words I’ve already written? Do painters have to draw about their paintings?”
Another thing that makes marketing a challenge is that it’s not exactly easy. There’s always a new hot tactic to try out, a new social media platform to post on, and another author who seems to just be doing it better than you.
Combine the challenges that marketers of all industries face with the fact that you’d rather be writing than optimizing your Facebook Ads, and we’ve got a real recipe for frustration.
Fear not reluctant book marketer! In this post we will explain how to fix book marketing with a marketing plan template that will have you knowing what to do and when, and focused on doing the things that work for you as an individual. Let’s dive in!
How to Make a Book Marketing Plan
At Written Word Media, we are big planners. We find that having a plan helps us be more efficient, improve our output over time, and stay happy and motivated.
However, not just any plan will have this result. To begin, we need to focus on three things that make marketing plans the best version of themselves.
Know where you want to go. Setting Goals is a critical and often overlooked step in creating a marketing plan. In this post we will detail how to evaluate and define goals for maximum success.
Do what works for you
There are two truths in this world: we’re all different, and FOMO (fear of missing out) doesn’t care that we’re different.
Nothing can derail a plan faster than seeing a new shiny tactic that is seemingly turning someone into a millionaire. Yes, it’s great to pay attention to what others are doing and learn, but it’s not always great to drop everything and jump on the bandwagon.
In this post we’ll explain how to evaluate your marketing tactics to maximize their effectiveness and your peace of mind.
A plan isn’t a plan unless it’s organized and easy to follow. In this post we’ll give you a template that you can use to create quarterly and annual book marketing plans.
It’s surprisingly easy to overlook goal setting, especially if you’re the type of person who dreads ever missing a goal.
Well, I’m here to say that if you’ve never missed a goal, maybe you’ve never really tried. Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh, but what I’m trying to say is missing goals can be a good thing.
Having a goal lets you measure what you did, and how well it worked. That’s all. It’s not a referendum on you as a person. It’s a tool to help you do what you want.
Set Goals. Don’t beat yourself up if/ when you miss them.
How you set your goals is a critical part of making a plan. A vague goal can often be the same as not having a goal at all, so we recommend you use the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework to avoid the issues that come when a goal isn’t well written.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Setting SMART goals is a popular framework for goal-setting that can help you achieve success.
Here’s a breakdown of each element of S.M.A.R.T.:
Specific: A specific goal is one that is clearly defined and narrow in scope. It should answer the questions: Who, What, Where, Why, and How. For example, instead of saying “I want to sell more books,” a specific goal would be “Sell 200 books in 2023.”
Measurable: A measurable goal is one that can be quantified, so you can track progress and determine whether you’ve achieved it. For example, instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” a measurable goal would be “I want to lose 10 pounds in the next three months.”
Achievable: An achievable goal is one that is challenging but also realistic. It should be within your reach, given your skills, resources, and time frame. For example, if you’ve never written a novel before, it may not be achievable to write a 100,000-word epic in a month.
Relevant: A relevant goal is one that is important to you and aligned with your values and overall objectives. It should be something that you care about and that will have a meaningful impact on you. If you’re setting goals for your book marketing, they probably shouldn’t include how many different types of tea you want to drink this year.
Time-bound: A time-bound goal is one that has a specific deadline or target date. This helps create a sense of urgency and accountability, and prevents you from procrastinating or getting sidetracked. For example, instead of saying “I want to run three promos,” a time-bound goal would be “I want to run three promos on [book title] between 10/1/23 and 12/31/23.”
To set a S.M.A.R.T. goal, start by defining the timeframe you are working in. Often this can be a quarter or a year. Then brainstorm what you want to achieve, and then apply each element of SMART to refine and clarify your goal. This will help you create a goal written in a way that makes it much easier to decide which tactics will help you achieve it.
Do what works
Now that you have your goals set, it’s time to figure out how on earth you’re going to pull this off.
First, let’s begin by writing down every way you can think of to achieve a given goal. I recommend using a spreadsheet for this, but paper also works. The important thing is to just get all of your options written down. You should end up with a list of tactics that could help you achieve your goal.
For goals involving selling more books, these could be things like running Amazon Ads, Email Promos, posting on social media, and much more.
Now that you’ve written down all your options, it’s time to decide which ones you are actually going to do. Doing everything won’t work, so we have to have a way to narrow down the options.
A great way to do this is to rank tactics on how effective they are for you, and how much effort or time they take. So, make a grid like the one below.
Along the left side we have the vertical axis which shows how effective a tactic is for you. Tactics that work well, will be higher up on the chart, ones that are less effective will be lower down.
Along the bottom, on the horizontal axis we have the time investment or effort involved with a tactic. Tactics that take you less time will be over to the left side, whereas ones that take lots of time will be further to the right.
Take the tactics you’ve written down or put into a spreadsheet, and place them on the grid. Choose their locations according to your best guess on how effective they will be and how much time or effort they will take.
By then end, you will have sorted your tactics into different buckets. Some will take lots of time and be more effective, others will take little time and be less effective. The sweet spot to look out for is the top left corner. These are highly effective tactics that take little time. If you can get a lot of these going, you could be in a good spot. But don’t worry if you don’t have many.
This grid will look different for different authors, and it’s important to not take too much time on this. Just make your best guess and go with it.
Now that you’ve sorted our tactics by effectiveness and time commitment, it’s time to decide what you’re actually going to do to meet your goals.
First, make sure you know your timeframe. If the goals you’ve come up with are for the quarter, then make a plan for the quarter. If they are for the year, make a plan for the year. This template works for any timeframe. You can even make an annual plan, and then use the same template to make plans for each quarter.
Here is an example of one-page marketing plan for authors:
You can make a one-pager yourself, or click here for a Word doc that you can use.
After you have your template ready, it’s time to choose the tactics from your grid that give you the best chance to meet your goals. Tactics that are high in effort and low in effectiveness probably won’t be the best choice. But if you think they could be a good future investment or will get easier with time, they are worth some consideration.
Don’t do too much
It’s easy to get excited and create a massive list of what you’re going to do to meet your goals. Then, life happens, you fall behind on your to-dos, and you lose motivation. A great way to avoid this? Make a plan that, like your goals, is attainable.
Consider limiting yourself to 4-5 tactics per quarter, and only one tactic on that right side of the grid that denotes lots of effort and time. Of course, you know yourself best, so use your best judgment to make a plan that is attainable for you.
Stick to your plan (within reason)
Not every plan works perfectly, but bailing on the first sign up a challenge isn’t always the best move. When you hit a low, take some time before you rip everything up and start over. Giving things some distance can give you some much needed perspective. You made a plan you believed in, so give it some thought before you bail.
What getting organized means
Making a marketing plan is a decent amount of work, but it can be one of the most important projects you’ll do. When you have a plan you give yourself several advantages:
When you make a plan, you know what you are supposed to be doing. If something isn’t on your plan, don’t do it. This sounds easier than it is, but it’s very important.
Distractions, even deciding whether or not to do something, take mental energy. Having a plan keeps these to a minimum, and allows you to have positive momentum moving forward.
Focus on what works for you
When you evaluate your tactics and make a plan, you are making a plan that works for you. Not anyone else. This can give you the confidence to ignore the outside noise and keep going with what you think will do the best for you.
By setting S.M.A.R.T. goals you will know how you are doing against your goals. By having a plan, you’ll be able to look back on what you did, and evaluate how those actions impacted results. This will help you improve your marketing over time, and reach loftier and loftier goals.
Author marketing plans are a vital part of building a business as a writer. The template in this post may not be the ideal version for you, but you can take parts of what we’ve talked about to help you set goals, evaluate tactics and make plans to build your author business the way you want to.
Questions about marketing plans? Do you have a plan style that has worked well for you? Let us know in the comments!
20 comments on “How to Make a Book Marketing Plan”
I can’t agree that it is a fantastic idea to set specific sales goals because sales are something you have *no* control over. I can set a goal to finish three novels this year, get my newsletter out on schedule, or run a reduced-price promotion every month. Those I can control. How many people decide to buy my books is will be influenced by those things I control but are still beyond my control.
That’s a great point. Specific sales goals can be harmful for some people, so goals, like you mentioned, that are most under your control are a great way to keep yourself motivated and make your goals attainable.
Some people can estimate a general idea of sales based on past sales etc, just to support your point. It depends on the person, genre, history, and many other things I’m too dumb to point out. 😉
One way I do this is to base my specific numbers on my past numbers. For instance instead of saying I want to sell 200 books in 2023, if I sold 150 in 2022, then I would make it my goal to sell 150 (last years total) by the end of the summer- then everything for the rest of the year is like a cherry on top, and that includes Black Friday and Christmas sales! So then I have my new goal number for next year, which will hopefully be over 200- but will for sure beat the sales number from the year before. Or set smaller goals for each promo. Like if I do a .99 e-book sale over a weekend, say I’ll be happy if I can get at least _ number of downloads. I’ll consider this campaign a success if I get _ or wont bother with this again if its under _… Hope this helps. But I am a huge advocate for setting specific goals if for no other reason than it gives you a solid line to know what YOU consider personally successful.
Totally agree, and I would add that a specific sales goal can be a prompt to add/implement another sales tactic to improve my numbers. To some extent, more exposure can add up to more sales. Sales numbers can be prod.
I have found Facebook ads a waste–you are not selling to buyers, you’re just spraying buckshot. Amazon ads target people who are on the site to buy books.
I have found FB ads to be the ONLY thing that has actually worked for me so far.
The ability to target your audience (even though new restrictions have been put in place), plus having enticing visuals and text has proven to be very fruitful (mostly due to having other books in the pipeline that readers purchase after reading one).
Initially, I had someone from the UK helping me (for a cost) and then, because I’m a bit TYPE A and wanted more control, I think he fired me. Didn’t matter because I took what I learned from him and ran with it. It’s definitely paid off.
This is a long way of saying: try not to give up on FB yet… you might be missing one small thing that can make all the difference. 😉
Facebook and Instagram Ads haven’t worked well for me. I would recommend BookBub since its already only targeting readers who are looking to buy books. Half the targeting is already done for you- then from there you just narrow down by genres, categories and comp authors. You can set your budget too, so you can get more bang for your buck with the same dollars you’d have spent on Facebook.
Is there someone in the business of doing all this and charging me for it? Someone who can come up with a plan, set up a mailing list, and prepare weekly or monthly emails to the list? I want to write books but I don’t want to organize an email list. I don’t mind writing posts to keep people up to date. Can’t a lot of this be automated? How much would it cost to find someone to the mechanical part for me?
I want this too!
I feel like this is probably out there, but may cost you a pretty penny. You could also just look into getting a personal assistant and make these a part of their allotted tasks. A marketing assistant if you will… If I had time I would totally offer to do this for you! I got my degree in business, so I actually enjoy doing this part of the “author life”.
There are statements in this article that resonate with me as an indie author and there are a lot of good structural ideas. The things that are missing are the elements that would make up the “Do what works” section. You give examples of Amazon Ads and email marketing. How, for example, do you conduct an email marketing plan from a fresh start when you don’t have a mailing list.
Hey Geoff, that’s a good point, this is the bones of a marketing plan, without the tactics that make one up. We’ll see if we can put together a post of essential marketing tactics for authors in the future.
I, too, would like to see more information about starting a newsletter, best practices, etc. It’s difficult to find information about this without going down the rabbit hole of sales pitches that promise the world, for a cost. Talk about time wasting!
Check out Jen over at Mixtus Media- she has a super affordable bundle starter pack for newsletter templates, practices and everything that might be just what you’re looking for! https://www.mixtusmedia.com/newsletter-starter-kit
Good point. It also seems to me that with every new avenue to promote our work, it’s a learning curve. It takes time, effort, and frustration when things fail. Which they inevitably have for me. I have found that networking face to face with people more effective. I even spoke to a woman who ran her own business who said word of mouth works.
I feel like that needs to be (and may already or be in the works) a whole post on its own. Keep an eye out for it!
This is super helpful! I just asked a question about marketing a book release to an author group on FB and no one knew what to say. LOL. I’m hoping to figure out a strategy that works for me and then go back and share! Thanks!!
yes, I wish someone would start talking about traditional marketing a little bit more. It’s the only thing that has a proven track record —not like TikTok. and I don’t know how email marketing works at all because I usually delete emails that are from people that I specifically reached out to.
I write memoir-writing books and memoirs. I have found speaking to be a major source of sales. Not bookstores but libraries and groups (genealogy, heritage). Speaking offers a publicity opportunity to both people who attend and who don’t attend. Also, my newsletter, my blog. I’ve done blog tours but have not found them to be effective for book sales, but I still see references to post when I do SE queries—so perhaps they continue to produce sales.