Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
This past week I participated in a number of marketing phone calls that included, among other participants, my client, the publishing house marketing director, the publicist, and the social media marketer. Each call was to discuss marketing plans for upcoming releases.
Not every author has the opportunity to have this type of conversation. If, say, you received a small advance and your career isn’t well-established, such a call is unlikely to occur simply because the marketing department can’t have a conversation with the author of every book releasing during a publishing cycle. All the department would do is conduct such calls rather than actually engaging in marketing activities.
In the best of all worlds, the marketing department will supply you with your book’s marketing plan before the meeting. Read it over carefully to make sure you understand what each part of the marketing plan means. Write out your questions and have a pre-marketing phone call with your agent. During this call, ask your agent the questions you have. Your agent will guide you as to which ones are appropriate to ask during the marketing call and which ones the agent knows the answers to.
Also, ask your agent what he or she thinks of the plan. We see marketing plans all the time. I don’t know about other agents, but the first thing I do on reviewing a plan is to skim through to see what is being done beyond the template. Every marketing plan has a template in which the most basic of marketing activities are listed: that the book will be presented to retail outlets, that it will be part of the publisher’s catalog, that it will be offered for distribution online, etc.
I will know immediately if your book is receiving minimal attention, mid-level attention, or significant attention. If you’ve never seen a marketing plan, you have no context for what you’re looking at.
Your agent will probably come up with suggestions of additional ways your publisher can add to the marketing effort. These items will be part of your marketing conversation.
Also discuss with your agent what you plan to do to market your book. This is a great time to brainstorm possibilities, and from that brainstorm other items to ask the marketing department for can be added to the list.
If you plan a launch party, for example, your publisher probably will provide you with bookmarks or postcards of the book’s cover that you can give out at the party. In one of the conversations I had this week, the publisher offered to check with the four possible bookstores the author had in mind for her launch to see which one had ordered the most copies of her book. That bookstore has the highest incentive to make the launch party a success. And the publisher offered to produce some additional free items the author can give in fun packets at the launch.
Another client of mine is very connected online and contributes to numerous significant blogs. For her, one of the best ways a publisher can support her, which the publisher might not think of, is lots of free books she can give away online as she builds her email subscription list. And she likes to have contests and give away nice prizes to promote her book; so she and I know that in a marketing call we’ll ask for the publisher either to supply prizes or to provide her with a budget to buy them.
If you write romance, you and your agent might decide to ask your publisher if sufficient money is in your book’s marketing budget for your book to receive an ad in a large fiction writing conference brochure–or maybe even a banner at the event, if you have a good-sized budget. And if you have a really handsome budget, the publisher might pay your expenses to a conference or convention and arrange publicity opportunities for you at the event. Your agent can guide you as to what is realistic to expect.
Once the call begins, your job is to be enthusiastic (whining, complaining, or sounding uninformed get you nowhere) and to be prepared to answer any questions they have about your willingness to participate in the marketing (are you willing to do a blog tour? is your calendar open to do as many radio/TV interviews as possible during the book’s release? are you open to writing a booklet connected to your book’s topic that can be offered for free?).
You also should have created ideas of what your marketing plan will look like. This is the perfect time to discuss those efforts with your publishing marketing team. Ask for specifics the publisher can invest in that would help you (postcards, prizes, galleys, etc.). Know how you would strategically use each item you ask for.
Also have an idea of when you would accomplish each part of your plan. This shows you aren’t going to try to pull off a launch party at the last minute or that you don’t expect the blogs you want to be a guest on to agree at the last minute to post your contribution the week the book releases. You don’t need to have full commitments from everyone who will help you to market your book. Being able to inform the publisher of your plan is more important at this point than having started to carry out your plan. Sometimes the marketing staff will have helpful insights as to the best timing for certain activities.
The two most important things to keep in mind during the call are: 1) if you’re enthusiastic about your book and about marketing it, that encourages the marketing staff to be enthusiastic; 2) you need to communicate not only that you’re willing publicize your book but also that you’ve already given the matter considerable thought, and now you have your own marketing plan to share with them. Don’t enter into the conversation with the question, What can you give me? Instead, your question should be, How can you direct me to be more effective in my marketing efforts?
What marketing idea have you seen another author use that looked especially effective? Where do you get your marketing ideas?
How to talk to your publisher about your marketing plan. Click to tweet.
What’s expected of an author in a marketing phone call? #writer Click to tweet.