A plan is always a good idea, regardless if you consider it your marketing plan, your promotional plan, or your PR (public relations) plan. Getting your thoughts down on paper and organized will help you to identify whether there are any holes in your effort, or if you have any money or effort tied into areas that are likely to be low-yield.
I like to break my plans down to include major line items like Announcement; Social Media; Guest Blogging; Interviews; Advertising; and
- Announcements: Press releases are free, and let you include whatever you want to say about your book or yourself before you submit it to any media outlets. But remember this, be brief, stay on point, be poignant to your topic (you and your book), and be interesting. I was a writer and producer for three years at my local CBS affiliate, and we got some really great press releases that gave enough information to warrant a story, and we got some horrible submissions that found their way to the trash. Which one do you want to be? When planning on where to send your press release, think about the free press release Web sites (www.newswiretoday.com, www.openpr.com, www.pr.com, www.ideamarketers.com), your local media outlets, the hometown newspapers where you live now and where you grew up. Put your press release on your site, send it to your writer’s group, send it to your publisher. It’s free.
- Social Media: Do you have a Twitter account? I know you’re on Facebook. Be charming and engaging, be a part of the conversation.
- Guest Blogging: what blogs are hot in your genre? Are there any fellow authors with your publisher who invite guests to blog? Most guest blogging spots encourage you to submit an interesting, engaging blogpost that isn’t promotional, but allows you to let your personality shine through; they also allow you to include your book cover and the buy link.
- Interviews: Again, what blogs or Web sites are your fellow readers … and you … reading to get the latest news on your favorite author? Contact them to see if they’d be interested in interviewing you. And if you do get an interview, particularly if it’s more than one, be interesting. Don’t drone on and on about the craft of writing or how great you or your book are. I watch interviews because I’d like a different view of the person, perhaps a behind the scene reason for writing the story. Remember what YOU like to watch.
- Advertising: this one’s stick because funds are involved. Get all of the details before you commit and sign contracts. Will a large number of people see your ad? Will the right people see your ad? Is the amount of money worth it to you?
- Promotions: most promotional efforts cost money, but are much more flexible and forgiving than advertising. You can set how much you’d like to spend and what quantity you want to have in a box at your house. Think outside the box here and be interesting. For my first romance, The Right Words, we had a launch party and I had a handful of door prizes. I made bookmarks on my laser printer at work (though, I should confess that I’m a graphic artist, too, so they looked really good), and I also made notepads with my name and Web site (and hand-bound them into pads). In the story, Jane Porter has a cat named Pop Tart, so I got two boxes of Pop Tarts, which each have four foil-wrapped packets inside. I made whimsical labels as an outer wrapping and used them as giveaways. They were a huge hit. For my second romance, The Penalty Box, which has a central character who’s a retired
hockey player, it would be great fun to get a handful of hockey pucks from my
local sports store and put custom-designed labels on them as giveaways. The
labels could be printed on sets that you get at your local office store. Super
cheap, but with high impact.
That said, it’s important to follow up on your metrics. Was it worth the money I spent on this effort, or this promotional item? Did I spend more time and money on the preparation and execution than was necessary? Since promotional dollars and time are expensive, make sure what your doing is effective.
One final parting thought: in all the years I was the marketing director for a large performing arts theatre, I always generated a marketing plan … I was trained as a marketing project manager at Nortel Networks just before the dot com bust, and planning ahead really works. You’ll find your stride with a comfortable plan that includes marketing and promotional efforts and items that always work for you–but I encourage you to add a “wild card” to the mix. Try one thing completely different each time. If it works, incorporate it into your regular plan; if it tanks, ditch it and move on to another neat idea.