Marketing Plan–You Be the Judge

Cynthia Ruchti

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

Marketing plan–two words that shiver the timbers of many a writer, both published and published-in-waiting.

marketing planIt’s a topic that deserves more than one blog post. But it doesn’t have to call for antacids and prescription painkillers. Putting together a meaningful* marketing plan may seem like felling a mighty redwood. Perhaps a bad example, since 82-90% of redwoods are protected against harvesting. But any tree can be…pardon the pun…whittled down to size using the right tools and techniques.

*Meaningful in this case means a plan that makes a positive impression on an acquisitions editor or marketing director.

Just for today, everyone reading this blog is an acquisitions editor. You have forty thousand (only a slight exaggeration) proposals waiting for your decision. A hundred of the forty thousand are good. Twenty are excellent. You have publishing slots for five of the twenty. Which ones will move forward in the process? Note: May substitute temporary agent for acquisitions editor for today’s discussion.

You open the proposal. Hmm. Interesting concept. Nice job following the guidelines. Intriguing author voice. Platform? Not bad. Comparables? Adequate. Marketing plan?

The debut author wrote:

     If asked, I’ll be more than happy to appear on the Today Show to talk about my book.

     I will go on a book tour of all the bookstores in my county.

     I’m pretty sure all the authors in my critique group will purchase a copy of this book.

     The book is likely to be purchased in bulk by most churches.

     And, yeah, I’ll cooperate with whatever the publisher’s marketing department creates for me.

You–the acquisitions-editor-for-a-day–sigh. Deeply. And slide the proposal to the Rejection Pile. Why?

marketing tv showIt borders on arrogance to assume a book will interest any television producer, much less a major morning show. Does it happen? Yes. Often? No. What if the author had said (truthfully), “I discussed the book with the producers of the Today Show when I served as an intern at the studio last year. I’ve received endorsements from two of the directors. And I was invited to appear on the show the week the book releases”? Bingo! Specific. A supportable assumption. And a legitimate invitation rather than a pipe dream.

The author assumed a tour of the bookstores in his/her county constituted a marketing plan. But editors are looking for wide-reaching endeavors. They expect to see efforts that are likely to net significant sales of the book, not six here and twelve there. What if the author had said, “I speak to audiences of 500-1,000 several times a month”? What if the author included this: “Because of my connections as president of the National Association of Grief Counselors, I can reasonably expect to promote the book at our annual convention with 14,000 in attendance”?marketing plan bookstores

The author used sales to a critique group as part of the marketing plan? Publishing houses look for plans to reach readers, not other writers, unless the book is about the craft of writing. And unless the critique group is 10,000-strong, mentioning them in the plan is counter-productive.

marketing booksAssuming a book will be purchased in bulk by “most” churches fails as a plan on multiple levels. A writer’s own church isn’t a guaranteed sell. Churches rarely buy in bulk unless their pastor or a renowned leader in the Christian community (or C.S. Lewis) wrote the book. The statement again borders on arrogance and presumption. Only a handful of authors have that kind of clout.

Listing “I’ll cooperate with the publisher’s marketing department” is a sure sign of an amateur writer. Cooperation is expected. The marketing plan section of a proposal is an opportunity for the publisher to see what the author will bring to the table.

So, taking off your paper acquisitions editor hat and replacing it with your bad-hair-day-writer’s-best-friend-baseball-cap, how can you make strides in strengthening the Marketing Plan section of your book proposal.

THINK CREATIVELY in your marketing plan.

Don’t assume the creative work is only reserved for writing the book. Allow yourself to think creatively when putting together this element of the proposal. What talking points from your book would make interesting guest blog posts, speaking topics, interview subjects? How can you capitalize on your networks, your built-in audience, your unique gifts? Is your theme tied to an upcoming major anniversary or event? How can technology’s advances play into your designs to reach a wide audience?

BE SPECIFIC with your marketing plan.

List your upcoming speaking events. If you have significant connections on a regional or national level, name them. If you plan to use downloadable images related to the book, get specific about their purpose and who you can reasonably expect to reach with that offer.

BE REALISTIC when preparing your marketing plan.

Dream big. Pray big. But don’t make empty promises. Make your plan grand, but doable.


If after reading your proposal, the editor and marketing department feel like you have a good grasp of what it takes to reach readers, that you’re invested, and that you’re a team player, your proposal may hopscotch over others that are less likely to impress marketers.

You’re an agent or an acquisitions editor again. What advice would you give an aspiring writer about creating a meaningful marketing plan?