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Most of us wouldn’t cook an entree for the first time without following a recipe, and having a marketing plan for your book can make the difference between success and falling flat. The plan establishes how you will find and reach your audience and sets a budget timetable so you can achieve your goals, step by step.

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Whether you’re seeking an agent or publisher or you’re self-published, a well done marketing plan is a vital step that will provide an agent, publisher, distributor and others critical information about your book, market and goals.

Months before your book is published you should be developing the plan. Some elements are going to require you do the work (such as research) pre-publication. Other steps will occur during and after publication. Without any plan to refer to you run the risk of missing key markets or promotional opportunities. There’s nothing like having a written, organized plan to offer a bird’s eye view of where you’re going to go.

But what should a marketing plan look like? Let’s take a look at some components:

1. Start out with an overview of your book and what makes it unique. If you’ve already received some reviews be sure to provide some excerpts of this advanced praise. If you’ve hired anyone to help you promote the book list them, too.

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Don’t forget that your website, blog and any social media accounts you have, including Facebook and Twitter, are marketing properties. Make note of how many website visitors, Facebook fans or Twitter followers you have. If you have a newsletter, be sure to indicate how many subscribers you have.

2. Marketing segments and strategies. Who are you going to market your book to, and how? The how involves figuring out where your target audience gets their information.

Groups to consider include book clubs, libraries, specific demographics (does your book have particular appeal to teens, senior citizens, moms, veterans, etc.). You’ll want to list each group as well as the ways you’ll reach them; for instance, you can contact book clubs and pitch your book. You can hold events at libraries.

When targeting specific demographics, consider how you can reach them via publications, websites, blogs, social media and/or through TV or radio (AARP magazine for seniors, veteran’s organizations for military, mom blogs and parenting publications/websites for moms and so forth).

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In addition, Goodreads and Library Thing have become vital promotional tools for authors and reach large audiences. On Library Thing you can host book giveaways and participate in author’s groups and chats. Goodreads is good for posting podcasts, teleseminars and videos, doing giveaways and participating in Q&A discussions.

3. Events. Are you doing speaking engagements, book signings or other events to promote your book? You can think outside the bookstore, as we like to say. Don’t overlook opportunities at bookstores, but consider the setting and theme of your book and whether it could lend itself to other venues. Perhaps spas, wine sellers, video stores, flea markets, festivals, gift shops… the list is endless once you get creative! Once you have confirmed events you can notify media in the area, and you’ll want to include a list of the media outlets you will contact in your plan.

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4. Reviews, contests, articles. Every author wants reviews of course, and listing the methods for seeking reviews – online and offline – will ensure you don’t overlook any opportunities.

There are professional publications such as Library Journal, Booklist and Publishers Weekly, which tend to review books pre-publication. Peruse their guidelines to see if your book qualifies. Are there media in your genre you can approach for a review or mention? Once your book is out you can still seek reviews; in particular, consider online opportunities for reviews and giveaways. Blog tours need to be set up in advance and may be more effective to schedule pre-publication.

Can you create standalone or spinoff articles that mention the book for women’s magazines (or health, or travel… whatever is related to your topic), writer’s periodicals and other publications that are related to your book’s topics? Do television and radio factor in to your plan? Don’t forget that Internet radio might provide some promotional opportunities! Online article syndication through sites like EzineArticles is also an important promotional tool. You can post articles to Ezine and once they are live, use them on your blog.

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5. Sales outlets. Where will you sell your book? This is not completely dependent on bookstores, and bookstores online and offline may not stock your book if you don’t have a distributor (that’s why we recommend having this plan ready pre-publication so you can supply it to prospective distributors).

While you should seek any bookstore placements you can get, this is also the time to consider if other venues – gift shops, specialty stores, salons, etc. – would be willing to sell your book. Non-bookstore retailers might be willing to sell your book on consignment. (Make sure you have a press kit available to provide them, with a release about you and your book plus a sell sheet).

What about mail order or online sales? Be sure to outline prospective sales, including your website and any etailers who might also carry your book.

A good marketing plan requires a lot of time and work. However, having this outline of your process to guide you, from beginning to end, including goals and budget, is a recipe for success!

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