Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Is Your Marketing Plan?

What’s Your Marketing Plan?

I haven’t had much use for the MBA I spent way too much money getting. Who would have thought that it would be useful for indie publishing? Well, it is. Because of that experience I knew how to operate…but if you want to be pissed about something—find out that you paid $30K to get knowledge you can Google for free. Sucks…totally! If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again…Google is your friend. If you want to know about putting marketing plans together, just Google it. There are so many free resources it’s not even funny. I used a program called Marketing Plan Pro that I was forced to buy with my student discount in school. If you want to put together a really complex one with financial projects, charts and graphs, that is a fantastic tool. But for the most part, you won’t need that.

Why should you take time putting a marketing plan together?

If you’re an indie author or publisher, you must have a marketing plan. To operate without one is like being dropped in a dark forest in the middle of the night, with a moonless sky, and trying to find your way out. You might eventually figure your way out, but you probably could’ve done it much faster if you bothered to get a flash light and GPS. Consider a marketing plan, your flashlight and GPS for promoting your book.

A more practical reason is that if you plan to try and get your book into major retailers, listed with distributors, or—if you blessed enough to attract the attention of a publisher—they are ALL going to want to see your marketing plan. So, get it done VERY early on in your process. If I had to do it all again, as soon as I finished writing the first draft of my book, in that time that I was taking a break from my novel so I could come back to it with fresh eyes, I’d put a marketing plan together, get a book cover designed and buy and ISBN. That way you can start marketing as early as possible.

What are the elements of a marketing plan?

Your marketing plan should include descriptions of the following:

A description of your audience—if you don’t know your audience, you’re going to be in a heap of trouble when it comes to promoting your book. Your description should include an age and ethnic demographic if possible.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Stands for: Strengths (i.e., you have 50,000 blog followers), Weaknesses (i.e., you’re a first-time novelist, your book has a very small niche audience), Opportunities (i.e., you belong to a fraternity and the national conference will take place around your release date); Threats (i.e., three authors wrote books similar to yours)

This is not analysis that you necessarily want to send to a major retailer, but this is definitely an analysis that you want to conduct for your own edification, so you can minimize the impact of the Threats and Weaknesses.


Here you should list all the elements of your promotional plan. Who are you going to target and how are you going to target them? You must keep in mind your audience—step one.


To whom have you sent review or promotional copies? Your list should include: reviewers (Midwest Book Review); book blogs; book clubs, etc.


Make a list of internet sites where you’ve listed your book. What forums will you participate in? Blog Talk Radio? Ads on Book Club Web sites? Book reader sites like Goodreads, Shelfari? Author websites like Anywhere and everywhere you can find to post information about your book, you need to target it. Most of the time, it’s free and just takes a few minutes. Every single thing you do will increase your internet presence and make it that much easier for people to find you. It doesn’t matter how obscure you think the site is. If they allow you to post on it, post on it!

Blog Tours

A subset of Internet is Blog Tours. You can visit sites like and find a plethora of book blogs. They usually provide email addresses for contact information. Email them and ask if they will feature your book. This is a great way to expand your Internet presence exponentially because blogs are linked to other blogs which are linked to other blogs. Get on one and you’ll get one tens or hundreds depending on how popular the blog is.

Live Marketing

Flyers to bookstores? Attending writing conferences and selling your book at the tables? Attending book festivals and book fairs and author pavilions, conducting booksignings? Press, media interviews? Set them up and list them. Show that you have done the ground work and have a specific plan to get out there.

Direct mail

Mailing press kits, letters, or postcards to indie stores, write letters to major retailers. By far the most ineffective part of your plan. Here you are going for name recognition. You will have to send several forms of correspondence, not just one, before they remember who you are. The great thing is, postcards are cheap to mail.

Book Clubs

We love book clubs. These are people who are looking for books to read. They love free books too. And many love writing reviews for indies like us. Google them, list them on your marketing plan, write them sweet letters or emails, offer them FREE review copies, get reviews, and market market market.


Some libraries will allow you to place promotional materials like bookmarks and postcards but it is KEY that you DO NOT mention any retailers on this material. You can, however, list your website and then list retailers where your book can be found on your website. List the ones that you've contacted that will allow you to leave materials.

Your marketing plan should be a living document. You should be adding stuff to this as you find more places to market and deleting stuff you find that doesn’t work. You also refer to it frequently, keep it where ever you use the Internet so that when you start promotions, you’ll know what you haven’t done and what you need to do. Also keep in mind what retailers want to see when they receive your marketing plan--they want to see a reasonable plan. Not pie in the sky. Oprah might be in your dreams, but it might not be wise to put that on your plan...unless she's your aunt.

Keep in mind that this plan is NOT all inclusive. There are other things you can add. This is ONLY meant to give you a basic framework and food for thought.

That’s all for now!

Keep it real…and keep it real cheap.


  1. Thanks so much for posting on this, Karla. I think the marketing aspect is the one that scares writers the most. I'm in the phase of having my cover designed, so I'm starting to give this some major thought. You've made it all much clearer.

  2. Hi Karla,

    Great list of ideas for an indie marketing plan.

    I really like the fact that your Your marketing plan should be a living document. If I may I'd like to expand on that a bit.

    No marketing plan or calendar should be set in stone! No matter how effective your plan may be, chances are, it will have to be altered at a given time; due to what your competitor(s) is doing.

    We have all been in a situation in which, we feel heavy frustration from the fact that we have to change the plan – that we once considered our ‘baby’ – in order to counter what it was that another company was coming to battle with.

    Even the actions of your clients, future clients or suppliers can take you by surprise – to the point of startling you – and force you to change the way in which you had set out to do things. In other words, you must be ready for anything. You must have flexibility. You must expect the unexpected!

    Now, don’t feel as if you have to be a psychic. Don’t feel overwhelmed at the thought of needing a business and marketing plan so flexible that it takes away from the overall aim and goals that made you ‘hungry’ to run your particular business in the first place!

    There is an easy way to be sure that you can continue to have success in the future – if you just start off with flexibility in mind! The best way to do so is to have a marketing calendar that is flexible and built to adjust itself when the time comes to do so.

    With that said, if it’s OK with you, may I introduce Created for the writers, publishers and business owner who are too busy putting out fires and want a fast and easy way to create a marketing plan & calendar in 7-minutes or less. I even offer a bunch of author marketing plan templates to help your get started fast. Anyway, check out Fast Marketing Plan for a buck for 21-day, you’ll be glad you did.

    Sandy Barris
    VP Marketing
    Fast Marketing

  3. Dear Karla,

    This a really good post I hope every indie author reads. You're absolutely right about needing a marketing plan. While reading your post I imagined if I hadn't created one and it was a scary thought.

    Also, you and Sandy both made a very good point about being fexible. Though I had everything all planned out, I quickly saw the need to be flexible and started rearraging my marketing calendar like crazy. My marketing calendar is definitely a living document and that is a great phrase.

    From one indie author to another - thanks for spreading the word!

    Wanda Shapiro
    Author of Sometimes That Happens With Chicken: A Novel

  4. Hi Karla,
    I hadn't updated my marketing plan in a while and this was the push I needed to make it come alive again.
    Thank you.