What’s your plan for your book?
We spoke to over 250 authors book at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books over the weekend. They were at varying stages of completing a book. We asked the question of almost all of them. For some it triggered a spirited discussion of their intended audience, the distribution channels through which to reach them, publicizing the book and marketing. These authors had well thought out strategies for getting their book into the hands of potential readers. It was exciting to talk about how we could help these people to achieve their goals for their books.
Unfortunately, a majority of the authors we asked about their plans for their books looked at us with somewhat surprised expressions. Some said, “I haven’t really thought about it yet. I just want to get my book finished.” Others said, “I want it to go viral.” (Really! One author said exactly that.) or some variation on that theme. Most just said, “I don’t know.”
We spent a lot of time talking to these people about the business side of writing.
Some of the most important ideas we suggested were:
- If you want your book to be a commercial success you need to think about it as an entrepreneur would think about any other business venture. That means you need to develop a business plan for your book. You should develop your plan at the same time you are writing the book. Many of the steps in your business plan are best implemented before your book is completed.
- Successful authors are marketers. If your first inclination is to say, “I don’t want to do that,” you will need to rethink that position. Marketing is a part of commercial success. If you write a good book, put it up on Amazon and sit back, readers will not beat a path to your door. You will have to help them discover your book’s merits.
- Your plan begins with understanding your intended audience. The genre of your fiction often determines its readership. Different people read science fiction, fantasy, chick lit and mysteries. The subject matter of nonfiction appeals to different kinds of readers. Understanding who your book’s audience is likely to be will allow you to craft a plan that targets them effectively.
- Where do you find the members of your potential audience? Understanding the sorts of groups they might belong to, the media they consume, and the places they might hang out on the internet gives you ways to approach these potential readers with the word about your book.
- Begin developing your author platform – the one you’ll use to speak to your future readers – so that they’ll be hearing about your book while you are finishing it. If the readers are anticipating your book’s completion they will be ready to buy when it becomes available. Your platform may include your online presence including an author website and blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, YouTube and podcasting. If you like meeting people or speaking to groups begin to think about where you might get the opportunity to do so. How might you use traditional media to publicize your book?
- If you don’t want to do these things, you can hire others to do some or all of them for you. If you plan to do that, you’ll need to think about creating a marketing budget and researching who the best providers of the services you will need might be.
Each of these things is a subject in itself. If you aren’t thinking about them, researching the best ways to do them, and putting those thoughts into action as part of a comprehensive marketing plan, your book’s chances for commercial success are dramatically reduced. So get started right away. The more you do before the launch of your book, the more likely it is to be successful.