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.
What’s expected of an author in such a call? How do you talk to your publisher about your marketing plan?
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.
This is a wonderful and informative essay; I am sure it will be printed and posted on writers’ workspace walls ers’ workspace walls everywhere.
There are a couple of things I’d like to suggest, if I may – minor points that may help some people.
1) Play to your strengths and protect your weaknesses wherever possible. If you’re gregarious and comfortable thinking on your feet, organizing something like book club talks might be a great idea. If public speaking terrifies you, look for opportunities like book signings that are more one-on-one.
2) Don’t promise too much, and don’t pretend to know things you don’t know.
3) Remember that you’re probably not an expert marketer, while the publisher’s team has that function as their primary duty. They also have a vested interest in the success of your book, so…listen carefully to that which they say.
4) Make sure you have fun, because this is one trip you’ll take for the first time only once. Savour it, and make memories.
5) Once the plan has been accepted, don’t try to tweak it unless it’s obvious that there is a serious problem with pull.
Please pardon the rather odd error in the first paragraph – I am relearning how to translate thoughts to words, and sometimes the process produces interesting artifacts.
And, again – thank you all for the prayers and kind thoughts.
When writing the above, I ran out of energy before I could close with this –
It would seem to behoove one to work earnestly toward building the framework for a marketing plan long before The Phone Call comes.
For me, it would include familiarity with and consistent use of relevant social media, including the function of such small mysteries as #hashtags;
the location and receptivity of bookstores and book clubs in one’s area to hosting events;
the media outlets which would be open to doing an interview;
scheduling and recordkeeping tools that would help keep it all organized, and keep track of effectiveness;
a Bible close at hand to help keep a measure of perspective.
Yeah, opening up the comments section and seeing your name and comment … just made my day, Andrew! 🙂
Shelli, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here, and a privilege – one can so easily take even the health needed to write coherently for granted, as a right.
It is still difficult – the brain-to-keyboard connection is akin to trying to reason with a Jack Russell Terrier. One can have the best intentions, but the results may be surprising.
We had a Jack Russell mix, and I understand whereof you speak. What I see in you, Andrew, is the perseverance of a Jack Russell. You wear it well, my friend.
Our puppy was a runner. We boarded her when we went on vacation. She escaped from the “escape proof run” by chewing through the interior gate, jumping over a 4-foot stockade fence and opening two doors to get outside. Where she stayed in the yard.
I’m with Shelli. How wonderful to see you back with us, Andrew. I know we need to continue to pray for your recovery, but you made my Monday.
Great tips, Andrew. And it’s so good to see you back. 🙂
Thanks, Jeanne. Being able to come back is wonderful.
It’s great to see your name at the head of the comments again, Andrew. You always add so much to the discussion. Still praying for you.
Thank you, Meghan, and I really appreciate the prayers. And yes, if you could keep them coming…I do need them.
You are right that most of us have not seen a marketing plan or template. Is it ever possible to post or link to redacted documents from which we might learn? Thanks for all the helpful information.
Sheila, it would be pretty challenging to figure out what I could show of an author’s actual marketing plan because so much of what a publishing house does in marketing leans into its strengths. There are some standard elements, but those are helpful only in that anything additional becomes visible. I’ll think about this suggestion.
This is a subject I’ve got no real experience with. 🙂 I would add it seems like you really need to go into the marketing aspect (and every aspect) of seeing a book with the determination to be a team player.
One thing I’ve seen, and I”m not sure it falls directly into marketing, is an author who built a team of people to help her get her book some exposure on social media in among circles of friends. it seemed pretty successful, from what I could tell. Tweets were offered for people to put on Twitter, Facebook thoughts. She also ran a contest to encourage readers to sign up for her newsletter and offered some great prizes. It’s something I think I’d want to do if (when) I have a book ready to market. 🙂
Oh, and she stayed in touch with her team with a private Facebook page.
I think, Jeanne, that your team may already exist, and that it may be far larger than you think.
This is an element of what the author brings to marketing her book and is called a street team. They can be very helpful, sort of like having echoes of the author’s marketing.
Janet, I do have a question – should contact with churches (speaking at ministry groups, events at church bookstores, etc) be part of a marketing plan, or would this make one seem to be something of an amateur, or hobbyist?
Andrew, churches are an important avenue through which to market your book. One of my clients is arranging to speak at churches with significant-sized congregations around the country as part of his marketing–and have his book available in the church bookstore.
Thanks, Janet, that is good to know. It did seem like churches would give something of a focused and receptive group, right out of the box, so to speak.
And it is GREAT to be here again. Not out of the woods by any means, but this community lightens both the load, and the path ahead.
Janet, what a tremendous amount of marketing information and a great follow-up to last week’s blog when so many of us wished the publisher would do more marketing. Thank you! I’m keeping this in my files for THAT day.
I am so weird. I’m maybe more stoked about the idea of marketing my books than writing them. Remind me I said this when I get published someday and my marketing ideas face-plant 🙂
Jaime, I had to giggle! This excites me, too! 🙂
Jaime, a certain percentage of every marketing plan is experimental. If the publisher and author aren’t trying some new ways to reach readers, how will they ever discover surprise avenues? Of course, one’s entire plan shouldn’t be guesswork; reading about marketing online can inform any writer about some elements that are pretty likely to work.
I laughed out loud when I read your comment, Jaime. I get excited about marketing, too. I’m afraid I’ll never get the chance to market a book of mine, though!
Janet, one of my favorite ways authors use marketing is aligning “like minds” early. I’m not a professional book reviewer, but I LOVE spreading the word on my blog and throughout social media about a great book. Excitement is contagious, which means more sales!
For instance–when I mentioned on social media that I couldn’t wait to review a particular book–The Waiting by Cathy LaGrow with Cindy Coloma–I was generously offered a copy. Thanks to the marketing rep’s quick response, I read the book and gave my honest review here —>http://authorcynthiaherron.com/the-waiting-the-book-that-will-leave-you-breathless.
In other words, it was a terrific example of on-the-ball marketing. Also, the authors involved were helpful in providing media to include prior to my review. Little things make a big difference and create a life-long impression.
My own marketing ideas for the future? (They involve my college alma mater and a Christian, family-owned and operated theme park, which both happen to be in the middle of a huge tourist mecca. Think faith, food, family, and fun!)
Cynthia, yes, word-of-mouth (or word-of-blog) is the most effective way to sell books. All of us readers can’t wait to tell other readers about a book we know they’ll enjoy as much as we did. Figuring out how to generate the spark to get the fire going is the challenge. I’m sure you’ll be great at it, when the time comes.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Thank you for this informative post. It answers so many questions and helps prepare us all just a little. A writer friend of mine just did a radio spot, which I thought was a great idea. And I’ve always imagined that eating some yummy food from the book at a launch party would be fun. Perhaps not practical…but fun.
A radio spot is a good idea if your book is one that offers helpful tidbits to listeners. For example, if you wrote a book on finances and did a series of spots with tips or you wrote a book on helping kids understand the meaning behind holidays, a tip or two might be a great way to find readers.
I’m the opposite of Jaime: I would rather write than talk about what I wrote! To get the hang of this before my first book comes out in May [!!!!], I’ve been on a couple of launch teams for the industrious and oh-so-awesome Kathi Lipp. I’ve learned so much from her, and hopefully been a help to her as well.
Amy, you’re so smart! What a great way to learn how one author puts together and then works with her street team. Nothing like seeing an example (and helping the author simultaneously) to figure out how you want to function with your own team.
Amy, your blog is sweet. I enjoyed listening to your speaking engagements. Your voice is so sweet.
Best wishes on your book. 🙂
Janet, this post is full of solid, helpful details. Thanks so much for helping us get prepared ahead of time for the business end we’re so likely to avoid thinking about.
You’re welcome, Betsy. I’m glad the info is helpful.
Thank you, Janet!
I would love just to get to this point… 🙂
Wonderful! Thank you!