Author Platform: What Are You Waiting For?

by Joel Friedlander on March 2, 2010 · 68 comments

street preacherA famous and often repeated piece of advice to writers is: The time to start working on your author platform is three years before your book is published.

I’ve repeated this to several clients, and it usually leaves them staring blankly into space. And yet there is a great deal of wisdom in this statement, and a radical remaking of the work of an author.

Many writers have no interest in getting involved with selling their work, or doing promotion. This article isn’t for them.

That’s because a lot of writers have realized that it’s become their responsibility to market their books. Publishers are asking them to do it, authors are routinely submitting marketing plans along with their book proposals. I spoke to a book shepherd recently who told me they were hard at work on a 20-page marketing plan for an author-client.

And it doesn’t really matter if you write fiction or nonfiction. The new reality is that you are in charge of finding, and cultivating, your own readership. Of course, if you are successful enough at it, you will acquire a big publisher complete with a marketing and advertising department to broadcast your efforts into a much larger space.

It’s a Matter of Community

Where I live in northern California, I partcipate in several communities. There’s the community of families at our son’s school. There’s the community in our neighborhood, where we plan street improvements and train for emergencies together. There’s the community of self-publishers, independent publishers and soon-to-be-publishers of which I’m a member.

In each case, within our geographic area, we form communities of interest.

For writers, the internet and its various social media—taken broadly to mean any method for interacting with other people on an equal footing—are how we find our communities of interest. Some of the tools we use are:

  • Author blogs
  • Writing forums
  • Other people’s blogs
  • Facebook groups and pages
  • LinkedIn discussion groups
  • Twitter #discussions and lists
  • Specialized social groups like ning networks

A rational person understands that they cannot do all of these activities at once. What’s needed is a plan or strategy because, faced with all the possibilities, the normal human reaction is to put it off, and do nothing.

Unfortunately, this may not be the best solution.

The Time for Waiting is Over

In a recent blog post, Audience Development: Critical to Every Writer’s Future, Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest said:

Getting a book published does NOT equate to readership. You must cultivate a readership every day of your life, and you start TODAY. Your readers will not be interested in reading just one book; they will be interested in everything and anything you do—and that includes interacting with you online. Audience development doesn’t happen overnight (or even in 6 months or a year)—and it’s a process that continues for as long as you want to have a readership. It shouldn’t be delayed, postponed, or discounted for one minute.

Taking one step, setting up a blog for instance, can start you on the road to finding the community whose common interest is you and your writing. Your audience is out there, but they don’t know it yet. It’s your job to find those readers who are just waiting for a writer like you to come along. They will like you a lot. Some will be insanely devoted. But you have to reach out.

Getting a domain name, signing up for a hosting account, and installing blogging software takes about 10 minutes. And that’s the hard way.

If we are really writers, if we are writers who want readers, the closing of the circle of our own creativity, then let’s write, and find out who reads. That will be the beginning of our community, and it will grow from there. If we are going to be writers for a long time—and I believe it’s a chronic condition—why not start now?

Resources, Tools, Freebies are Everywhere

To get you started, here are a bunch of resources, links, free reports, strategies and information that can help get you going. My suggestion: don’t pay for any programs, tutorials, or anything else until you’ve gotten all you can from the free resources available. There’s a whole education out there just waiting for you.

Although I could go on and on, I think you get the point. The resources are vast. All they require is your participation, your intention to act now.

Writing and Community-Building: The New Job Description

So in this new world, writers who want to write and market their books will find their job is now two-fold: writing, and building community around their writing. Find the social media that appeal to you, share your work, interact with your readers, reach out to the wider reading world in different formats, and start now building the community that will support and nurture you on your writing path.

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p class=”note”>Takeaway: Finding readers is a logical extension of the writing you’ve done, because you wrote for those readers. Social media allow us to build a community of interest in our work, and the time to start building is now.

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    { 29 comments… read them below or add one }

    betty ming liu March 2, 2010 at 5:51 am

    So interesting….you’ve already got more than half a dozen comments on this post via Twitter. I read through all your Twitter followers, who have copied this link and “retweeted” it to all of THEIR followers. Which in the end, means even more readers for you. Everybody’s happy. Way to go, Joel!

    But of course they would retweet this post. It’s filled with so much useful information. Thanks for laying it all out here. I woke up this morning wondering if I should blog something new and you gave me the incentive I needed!

    I esp appreciate your point that starting up New Media stuff one your book is about to be published is — too late. Because the learning curve can be pretty steep, esp for former luddites like me. I’ve been blogging for more than a year and only feel like I’m getting the hang of it now. But it’s truly rewarding. The blogging is very helpful as a writing tool too!

    Reply

    Bill Quain March 2, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Build a community of Readers, Buyers and Influencers.

    Wow, I love this post. I just finished giving a teleseminar last week on building communities for authors. There are three areas of similarity between what you just wrote, and what we discussed on the teleseminar series.

    1. Building a community is an extension of the creative writing process – bring the same talents of perserverance, idea-generation, wordcraft and communication to bear on your marketing efforts. Authors are naturally gifted in these areas.

    2. Build communities – but not just with Readers. Look for three types of people: Readers, Buyers and Influencers. Book success depends on all three.

    3. Build a platform. However, realize that your book is only one plank in the platform. Joel, you mention in your post that readers (plus Buyers and Influencers) want to know more, read more, and learn more about the author and the ideas. Use every tool at your disposal to leverage your brand.

    I have been a self-publisher/Indie-Publisher since the 1980′s. My parents were in the business before that. My 17 books sold 2 million+ copies, in 20 languages. To promote my books, I regularly travel across the U.S. – and travel to other countries, icnluding China (I have a big following there) It is a lot of work, but it pays off.

    Finally, one other comment you made really hit home with me, probably because it is something I preach. Take the time to develop a marketing plan before spending money. PLANNING to sell costs almost nothing. Selling without planning is extremely expensive – in terms of both time and money. Unfortunately, it can also kill your book dream. I work with many authors who tried a myriad of “the ten top tips for selling your book” or similarly named techniques. Each book is different, and each target market is different. While most “tips” I see will work for some books, they may not work for YOUR book.

    If your readers would like some specific steps to quickly and easily outline a marketing plan, let me know and I will be happy to contribute it to your blog.

    Reply

    Alice Hornbaker April 19, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Today 77 million American baby boomers are retired or coming up on it. My novel, “WOLD In Cincinnati” deals with seniors who live, love, lust and dabble in crime at an affluent retirement community in year 1976. Radio Station WOLD chronicles their stories. Protagonist J.P. Stein, 49, re-invents her career as a reporter to dig into lives of Pleasant Hill Farm retirees and find a new calling in mid-life.
    Those who already read my first novel like it but creating a marketing plan to reach those boomers, and others, remains a mystery to me.
    Any marketing suggestions for me, an 85-year-old award-winning retied journalist who is listed in “Who’s Who In America 2012″ ?

    Reply

    Joel March 2, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Betty, thanks so much for your comment. As I’ve said, your blog is really effective at creating community, sharing your worldview with your readers, and standing out by being completely unique. I think you’ve really “got it” when it comes to the new media idea of interacting with your readers. I always enjoy reading your posts.

    Reply

    Joel March 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Bill, Thanks for your detailed comment. You are a testament to how self-publishing authors can succeed by their own drive and business sense. And yes, I’d love to see your idea of how new self-publishers can craft a realistic marketing plan. That would be great!

    Reply

    April L. Hamilton March 2, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Joel -
    First, thanks for the Vault University shout-out. =’) I’d like to share some free resources from Vault U., to give your readers some idea of the quality of the lessons being provided there. These are pdf documents, with no registration required to access them. Just click the links, and you’re in.

    Facebook for Authors
    http://www.vaultu.publetariat.com/resources/FacebookForAuthors.pdf

    What Goes Into An Author Press Kit
    http://www.vaultu.publetariat.com/resources/AuthorPressKit.pdf

    Basics of Effective Website Design (intended for authors who are building their own sites & already have some HTML/web skills)
    http://www.vaultu.publetariat.com/resources/BasicsOfEffectiveWebsiteDesign.pdf

    Crunching the Numbers: How to Sell Every Copy Of Your Self-Pubbed Book & STILL Lose Money (And How To Avoid That Outcome)
    http://vaultu.publetariat.com/?p=54

    Finally, there’s a link to a page on my author website embedded in my username for this comment, and the linked page contains a BookBuzzr widget where site visitors can view the current edition of my book, The Indie Author Guide, in its entirety for free. The book is currently out of print because I’m working on a revised/updated edition for publication by Writer’s Digest Books in November, and at some point I’ll have to take the BookBuzzr down, but it should be there for a few months longer. There’s a very lengthy chapter on Promotion in the book, so that’s another free resource for your audience.

    Thanks again, Joel. Great site you’ve got here, and you’re very generous with your time and expertise.

    Reply

    betty ming liu March 2, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    thanks, joel! btw, i tweeted about this post of yours too. based on what i’ve seen in both myself and my writer friends, the idea of doing this new media stuff really pushes most of us beyond our comfort zone. tech is a pain to learn, even when it’s easy! so this post is a really good reminder.

    btw, not to hijack this post, but as long as writers are thinking about stuff they must do even before they’ve got their dream book written — i’ve been wondering about something else. as writers look ahead, how are we to weigh the pros and cons between self-publishing and trying to sell our manuscripts to publishing houses? since i’ve been reading your blog, i no longer think of self-publishing as a last resort…but maybe even a first choice? would love to get your perspective on that someday. :-)

    Reply

    Joel March 2, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    April, thanks for your generosity. Those are all great, but the Crunching the Numbers article is worth its weight in gold for new self-publishers.

    Reader, definitely check out Indie Author, find out how April did it!

    Reply

    Joel March 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Betty, you are very practical. So many authors are confounded by this decision. As you can see, April Hamilton, probably the most passionate promoter of indie publishing, is now doing her indie publishing book through Writer’s Digest. She knows that each situation has to be evaluated separately.

    But you know what? I think it’s a blog post. Thanks for your continued attention, Betty, I really appreciate it.

    Reply

    Bill Quain March 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Hi Joel,

    As promised, here is my take on creating a marketing plan for your book. I will probably break it up into a few posts, because I don’t want to go too long in one.

    First, let’s review why it is important to plan. Two major reasons – time and money. Planning takes up time, but not as much as floundering around, trying marketing scheme after marketing scheme. Money – I personally wasted a lot of money by forgetting my plan. The most glaring is the time I paid $2,000 to get 20 radio interviews. They produced no business at all, and laying out that money sung! Worst, the publicist who made the arrangements told me “Of course, you have to consistently do this month after month.” Luckily, I did not. But, the only reason I felt confident in refusing to spend more was that I realized it did not fit into my plan.

    Writing the plan has absolutely NOTHING to do with tactics. Tactics are things like book store signings, advertising, blogging, website development, etc. The tactics come after the plan. You use the plan to choose the tactics.

    Let me give you just a bit of my background to explain how I came to the planning process. My first five books were commercial failures. I lost money on four of them. But, I kept at it, because I needed the money, and I knew that I was a decent writer. I just wasn’t selling books.

    Before I wrote my sixth book, I started looking around and asking a very good question. “Who buys books, and what kind of books do they buy?” Asking this simple question made all the difference. Because I asked that question, my wife stayed home from work to raise ourkids, we lived on the water and had a big fishing boat. We took vacations, and I had the opportunity to help my parents. In short, I was able to reach my dreams.

    Now, you may write for different reasons. For me, it was always about the money. I wanted money to be able to do the things that I could not do on my college professor’s salary. But, that waws my dream. If you decide on a dream, you will start asking the right questions as well.

    Folks, I discovered the Big Selling Secret with my sixth book. Here it is: If you want to sell books, you need to know who is buying them.” Sounds simple, I know, but so many authors are quite unaware of this Big Selling Secret.

    I use a five-step process for planning: Here are the steps.

    1. Break your markets into groups (segment)
    2. Choose the group(s) that are going to be your best customers (target)
    3. Learn how, when, where, and why they buy books, and be there when they are (intercept)
    4. Create a special marketing mix (product, price, promotions, and distribution) for each target group (position)
    5. Create a “to do” list and turn it into a “to sell” list.

    This may seem complicated, but it is not. If you do it once, you will see how simple it is. Let me just give you an example of steps 1 and 2 to get you started.

    1. Break your market into groups. Do not try to be all things to all buyers. Look for groups that “buy and use” similarly. I always use the example of the Best Banana Cream Pie company of Philadelphia. They found two kinds of users of their pies. Some people eat them, and some people throw them into others’ faces. They USE the pies differently. On the other hand, some people buy just one pie at a time (for throwing or eating) and some buy it in bulk (again, for throwing or eating) The Best Banana Pie Company of Phillie does not care HOW people use their pies, they only care if they BUY the pies!
    2. Choose your target markets. Of all the groups you identify, you cannot possibly afford the time and money to market to all of them. Choose your top markets. Both individuals and brokers buy my books. I would rather sell to brokers. I don’t ignore the individual buyers, I just don’t market to them. I choose my targets and concentrate on them.

    Okay, that gets you started. Joel, I hope this is okay. I registered to receive your blog.

    Bill Quain

    Reply

    Joel March 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Bill,

    I want to thank you for your generosity in posting this extensive and interesting comment here. The main point, as I get it, for authors to spend the time to “know their market” is unassailable, and far too often overlooked in the thrill of just creating a book.

    This is really good quality information for writers wondering how they can sell books, or sell more of a book they’ve already published. I look forward to more, and will probably repost the whole thing as a free-standing blog post when you’re done.

    Thanks again for making a unique and valuable contribution to the discussion, Bill.

    Reply

    Bill Quain March 8, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    The continuing story of marketing & selling your book.

    Okay, we covered steps 1 & 2. There is a lot more we could say about them, but let’s move on. (However, if anyone wants some info on targeting the “Gift” market segment, let me know. This is an often overlooked segment, and is ideal for both fiction and non-fiction.)

    In this comment, I want to address step 3, which is understanding how, when, and why your buyers buy. When you know this, you can intercept them, and stop wasting your money on useless promotions.

    Consumers (and bulk buyers) go through a decision process to buy. While it is a little different for bulk buyers, let’s use the consumer model for simplicity. Once you understand it for consumers, you can understand it for bulk buyers as well.

    There are five stages to the buying process:

    1. Problem Recognition
    2. Information Search
    3. Alternative Evaluation (also called “Sampling)
    4. The Purchase Decision
    5. Post purchase evaluation

    Folks, if you understand this model, and how to use it, you can sell anything! Notice that the very first step is Problem Recognition. Nothing happens until someone realizes they have a problem, If your target markets do not realize they have a problem, you cannot sell them anything. This is why we say “selling is problem solving.” Different markets have different problems. For example, if you want to get an article published in an online magazine (a great technique for promoting your book) you have to solve the problem of the editor. I recently helped an author do a pitch for a radio interview. What problem was she solving? The host needed great content and interesting guests for his show so ADVERTISERS WOULD PAY HIM! This was his problem.

    Fiction books solve entertainment-related problems (diversion, romantic needs, excitement, escape, etc. ) Non-fiction solves information, education problems. Don’t make the mistake that so many authors make, however, and focus on the infromation. Focus on the solution! To help you with this concept, answer this question “Last weekend, Home Depot sold customers 3,000 half-inch drill bits. How many of those people wanted a half-inch drill bit?” The answer is “none”. They all wanted a half-inch hole! Sell the solution and the result for non-fiction, not the information.

    AFTER someone discovers they have a problem (or you point it out to them) THEN they start looking for information. After that, they evaluate alternatives. This is an excellent time to give them a free sample of your writing. Finally, they decide to purchase (or not) and afterwards, they worry about making the right choice. (This is an excellent time to follow-up and stay connected.)

    Understanding your customers’ buying process is imperative. It dictates your timing. Learn to use your website, give-aways, blog, personal appearances and other techniques to intercept your customers at the perfect time, with the perfect promotion.

    Oh, one more thing. Your customers may all go through the process in a similar way, but at different times. For example, a person in an airport with a few minutes to spare may be LOOKING for a book to download to Kindle. (Problem Recognition – they will be bored on the flight without some reading entertainment.) But, they aren’t all on the same flight! Plan your promotions to intercept multiple customers at multiple times with the same message.

    Reply

    Joel March 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Bill, more great stuff that anyone involved in marketing can profit from.

    “selling is problem solving” This one idea can change the whole orientation of a non-fiction author. Great stuff, thanks for your continued contribution!

    Reply

    Bill Quain March 18, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Let’s get on to step 4, which is developing a marketing mix for each target segment. Now, I am certain a lot of authors are saying “Is this guy kidding? Does he think I am from Proctor & Gamble, with a full marketing department? Why should I go to all this work?”

    There are a couple of answers to these questions. First, it isn’t a lot of work. In fact, it will SAVE you tons of work later as you sit in front of your computer wondering how you can sell books! Second, you chose to write a book at the best time in history, because for the first time ordinary people like you and me can publish our own books and get them into the hands of readers. But, that freedom and opportunity come at a price. And, that price is self-marketing. But, if you follow these simple steps, you will see just how easy it can be to create a WINNING marketing plan that helps you reach your goals.

    So, on with the Marketing Mix.

    As a marketer of books, you only have to worry about four things. They are Product, Price, Promotions, and Distribution. These used to be called “The four P’s of marketing” except that you can clearly see that there are no longer four P’s, but three P’s and a D. How and why did this years-old marketing system change? The variables used to be Product, Price, Promotion and PLACE (now distribution). The fact that Place is no longer in the marketing mix is because Place is no longer as important. For example, the “place” where you sold books was the bookstore. For people like us, that is no longer true.

    Now, here is the secret. You want to create a seperate marketing mix for each target segment. That is, each target group needs its own version of Product, Price , Promotion and Distribution. Here is an example:

    One of the authors I help is a native of Ireland who moved to the United States to attend college, and stayed here. He had a very disfunctional family situation in Ireland, and wrote about it quite eloquently. The story is very reminiscent of “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt. Some people have said to me “Bill, shouldn’t he write something different? Isn’t it too close to McCourt’s story?” The answer of course is “No”. Angela’s Ashes was a huge success, and Frank McCourt’s death has left the Irish-American community looking for fore!

    This book will be released late in 2010. Here is some Marketing Mix analysis we already did. The author has several target markets, but let’s just look at Specialty Retail Stores (Irish shops selling clothing, music, etc.) and online sales to Irish-Americans. Both targets have personal buyers and gift market buyers.

    Specialty Stores
    Product – The book, along with a CD of him (in his Irish accent) reading passages and adding comments) The author pre-signs the books.
    Price – 50% discount to the store
    Promotion – CD’s of him reading book to play on the store’s sound system. Point of Purchase posters, Personal visits to the stores to meet with store owners and to do signings.
    Distribution – Print books in bulk and deliver case lots to the stores. Visit stores on a regular basis to get reorders.

    Online sales to Irish-Americans
    Product – same product/CD combination, except he customizes the autograph.
    Price – Full retail plus shipping and handling.
    Promotions – To build a a llist of potential buyers, the author will run an “Irish story” contest. Interested people can submit their stories of growing up Irish. He will work with Irish bands to do Joint Ventures to gather names. Promotions will focus on this list. He will also blog, and create audios for the site, all geared to gathering names through both his Irish Story contest and a newsletter.
    Distribution – Shipping individual orders.

    Another author I work with wrote a book called “Following the Drum: the story of women at the Valley Forge Encampment” She was selling this book traditionally through bookstores, but wanted to increase her sales and visibility. She decided she needed a new PRODUCT to reach new customers. She is recording “What Martha told George – lessons for Women from the Nation’s First Lady”. She used the Marketing Mix principles to define her new product, and to come up with new promotions, pricing and distribution as well.

    I use the “Three P’s and a D” marketing mix to differentiate between my resellers and direct customers. It works! Even more importantly, it is completely necessary – or you will spend a lot of money on useless ideas.

    Can you see where this is going? I have now given you four parts of a five part system. The fifth part – creating a “to do” list and turning it into a “to sell” list is next. If you do the first four steps, creating this all important “to do” list is easy. You simply EXPLAIN how you are going to carry out the things you identify in the Marketing Mix”.

    Stay tuned!

    Reply

    Joel March 18, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Bill, thanks again for enriching this conversation. It’s fascinating to follow along as you develop this approach to marketing, and there’s a lot of common sense to it.

    Reply

    Bill Quain April 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Creating Your “To Do” List

    You are now ready for the final stage in the Marketing & Sales process. Folks, you MUST do these things if you want to avoid costly mistakes.

    Let me remind you that the things I tell you in this entry are all strategies I use – for every single book I write. For example, one of my books (actually a program with book/workbook/audios/videos) just got a major sponsor. One of the reasons I was able to secure the sponsor was that 1) it was part of our marketing plan to LOOK for sponsors, and 2) we were able to show the sponsor our marketing plan – making us much more attractive.

    So, let’s finish this article with some very useful strategies!

    Execution – Up to this point in the system, we have talked about planning. However, plans are only useful for selling books if you turn them into actions. Some authors find it difficult to convert plans into actions because their plans are not designed for total market penetration. If you have followed the first four steps in this process, you are now ready to create executable, action-generating, sales-crunching tactics.

    In step 4, you created a Marketing Mix for each target market. Each marketing mix has information for each of the four variables – product, price, promotion and distribution. If you did this correctly, then step 5 is a cinch! All you are going to do now is formalize your plans with specific instructions.

    Creating Actionable Plans
    Here is what you want – you want a series of plans that you “Stick To” for selling your book. In other words, when you write out these plans, they are the plans you will carry out. You will not jump on the next great idea that comes across your email’s inbox. You will not get a “bright idea” in the shower and lose time on the internet while you research this idea. You will not listen to a friend who just heard a great speaker, who says…

    Do you know what I am talking about? How much time and money have you wasted because you did not have a total plan, and executable strategy?

    Your plans should have 8 parts. You need a plan for each action you want to take. Let me share the 8 parts of a plan, and give you some examples for each part. As I said in earlier parts of this process, do not say “This is too much work. This guy is crazy. I can’t do all this work just to sell books”.

    You are going to do the work anyway, so you might as well do it right.

    The 8 Parts of a Plan
    Remember, these are executable plans, part of your “to do” list.

    1. Plan name – Give every plan a name, such as “Selling to Specialty shops”. This will come in handy when you have LOTS of plans and want to keep track of them. Also, when you want to integrate one plan into another, having names is convenient. For example, if you have a plan to create a CD with readings from your book, you might want to use that CD for Specialty Shops to play on their audio systems to promote your book. In the “Selling to Specialty Shops” plan, you will say “Give each store two copies of my CD from the ‘I Read My Book” plan”. This allows you to build plans upon each other. The same CD might show up in another plan, or it could even be a product you sell.
    2. Plan Number – Give each plan a number, and seperate them into the Marketing Mix Categories. For example, all Product Plans could be in the “100″ series, Price Plans in the “200″ series, etc. Again, many of you are going to think this is overkilld. I understand. But, if you want to be successful, you will take my advice here. I am going to get you organized to sell! You will thank me for this later. For example, just yesterday, I received an order for 144 books from a distributor. (I have quite a few distributors.) I went to my plans, and looked up the number of books per case (a distribution plan) and suggested that they make the order 160 books, because my books come 80 to a case. They also wanted a special discount, and I was able to look them up in a Price Plan to verify that they were eligible. This was a small order,but I still sold an additional 14 books. In the past, I have done the same thing with larger orders, and sold additional books. It all adds up.
    3. Target Market – Be specific. If this plan is aimed directly at the “Specialty Shops selling Urban Romance Novels in the Philadelphia Area” then make sure you write it down here!
    4. Objective – This is incredibly important. Each plan should have an objective. Each objective should be Timely, Measureable and Attainable. If you throw out everything else I tell you, and just use this one thing, you will make more money, and save more money, than you ever imagined. This is so critical. When was the last time you took an action and knew, in advance, EXACTLY what it was supposed to do for you?
    5. Person in Charge – If you are doing everything yourself, you can skip this part. If you use ANYONE – either paid or volunteer – to help you, use this part. Here is a big clue – write down his/her name, and ask him/her to initial it. This will change your life forever.
    6. Plan of Action – Here is where you list the steps to carry out the plan. Are you doing a book signing? Great, write down all the things you are going to need, and when you will need them. After the book signing, review and revise, then use the plan as a checklist for the next one. Are you creating a squeeze page to capture email addresses? Great, write down the steps, then review and revise. Use it as a checklist. How many times have you done the same task, or a similar task, and discovered you are missing a critical element? Can you remember everything you did, on every task, for your entire book selling career? Of course you cannot. Learn to write things down. AND BY THE WAY, make sure the things you write down will reach your objectives for the plan.
    7. Cost – How much will this plan cost? Folks, this is another big one. If you write all your plans FIRST, and assign measureable costs to them, guess what you have? You have a marketing and sales budget! Wouldn’t you like to know your budget in advance? Wouldn’t you like to say “I can’t buy that program to get booked on radio talk shows for $595, because it is not in my budget. I am already close to break-even. If I spend another $595, I have to sell an additional 100 books.”
    8. Method of Evaluation – How are you going to measure the effectiveness of this plan? Don’t wait until the plan has been carried out to decide how you will measure it. Do it in advance! Again, this is going to save you BIG TIME.

    Once you have ALL of your plans written out, THEN you can start selling books. I am telling you straight up, this works. Go through the steps, one at a time.

    1. Break the market into groups (segment)
    2. Choose the groups yo want to go after first (target)
    3. Understand your targets’ Buying Process and patterns (intercept)
    4. Create a Marketing Mix for each target segment (position)
    Turn your marketing mix actions into specific plans and carry them out (execute)

    A Final Word
    Are you disappointed that I did not give you a list of specific actions like “Call 5 Specialty Shops each day” and “call _______ at Radio Station _____ to get an interview?” Let me explain. NO ONE can successfully give you specific steps because your book is different than anyone else’s ook. Each author has different trget segments, a unique budget, etc. However, if you read this entire article, you now have the ability to select specific methods and determine if they apply to the target market, objectives and specific strengths you are selling. The information, and the SYSTEM I just gave you is far more valuable than any series of “tips, tricks and tactics”.

    Folks, I can only tell you one thing. This worked for me. I sold 2 million+ books, in 20 languages. But guess what? I sold the first book using this system, and the last order I received (yesterday for 160, I was STILL selling them this way. This system works for fiction and non-fiction, workbooks and regular books, ebooks and print, everything. In fact, it works for any kind of product or service you want to sell.

    I learned this system in graduate school, and have used it for more than 30 years. By using this system, I was able to leave my job and become a full time author/publisher. I traveled to Europe, Asia, and all across the United States, Canada and Mexico by using this system to get speaking engagements. Will you have the same kind of success? No one can say. It depends on your drive and your target markets. It took me 16 years to sell all those books. I did it with consistent application of the same system.
    I will make you a promise. If you use this system, you will sell MORE books and make MORE money than you would otherwise.

    And, of course, Keep reading Joel’s blog.

    Reply

    Lynne Spreen May 23, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Joel, thank you for your generosity in posting this with all the useful links (and the comments are incredibly helpful too). I sometimes feel like a squirrel, working so hard for my product when it’s not yet done, but you’ve reinforced that it’s important to get started early. Best wishes.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 23, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Sure, Lynne, it’s my pleasure. It was great to have so many resources added by readers, it’s what makes the conversation more than the sum of its parts. Thanks for visiting.

    Reply

    Christina Katz July 29, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Hi Joel,
    Don’t forget everyone…that piece of advice about starting your platform three years ahead of time, originally came from marketing genius Seth Godin. I know because it’s the lead quote in my book, Get Known Before the Book Deal (Writer’s Digest Books).
    Not to continue with the picky stuff, but the link to my post is coming up as an error.
    And finally, just wanted to mention that I’ll have an article in the Nov/Dec issue of Writer’s Digest on self-promotion for fiction writers based on advice from some of the best and brightest (Meg Cabot and other bestsellers).
    Platform on!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 29, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Hey Christina, thanks for that. When I wrote this I actually thought everyone knew Seth Godin said it, but I’m glad you gave the attribution.

    I’ve fixed the link, thanks for letting me know. I’ve linked to the beginning of your Nine Things to Clarify About Your Platform posts. They are great.

    Reply

    Lynne Spreen July 30, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Hey, Christina, way to shine a light on your book :) – signed, Your #1 Fan
    PS Joel, this post was great back in March and still resonates.
    Lynne

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 30, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    That’s generous of you Lynne. I rarely go back and re-read these posts, but when I do I’m usually surprised, but this post is just as timely and important today. Thanks for visiting.

    Reply

    Katherine Quimby July 30, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I can see why jongibbs included this in his weekly round up. Excellent advice. You had me believing with the word community. That’s really what it’s all about, because we humans are social creatures.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 30, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    There’s a reason people have taken to avidly to social media, I think, and it’s exactly because we are social creatures. Thanks for visiting and contributing, Katherine.

    Reply

    Wendy Naarup April 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Joel, I’m so happy to find this post about platform as well as the amazing resources. After reading all the comments, I feel like I should thank Bill as well. I’ve had a random approach up to this point and it’s not productive. There are so many small things I don’t understand that can make a huge difference.

    Let the education begin :)
    Wendy

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander April 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Wendy, glad to help. It’s just building one plank at a time, it’s impossible to do it all at once, so don’t get overwhelmed.

    Bill wrote an entire marketing course in the comments to my post, and I collected them to make it easier for readers:

    How to Market Your Self-Published Book by Bill Quain

    Reply

    Ressa Empbra February 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Hey Joel:

    I couldn’t find the ‘just right’ place for this, so I’m kinda jumping in here. I need to know about something I haven’t seen a topic for, yet. I’ve come up with a name for my own publishing company (as I’ve seen so many self-publishing writers do), but now what? Is it a Trademark thing? Need I Register it somewhere? Please point me in the right direction, and I’ll be forever grateful!

    BTW: I’ve been posting for this site all over the place, lol, since it’s one of the first ones I went to. I’ve always been well received and replied to in a timely manner, even for my sillier questions. Thank you, and thanx for all of your brilliant info! You’re amazing! :D

    Reply

    RVG September 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Wow… food for thought here. I started a blog tonight to keep track of/provide impetus for my writing, went trawling the internet for writing prompts, and stumbled on this. I’ll have to rethink what I started the blog for!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 7, 2012 at 11:40 am

    RVG,

    It’s pretty exciting to start a new blog, so good luck with it. You might want to take a look at the many articles here on blogging. Here’s a good place to start:

    Author Blogging 101

    Reply

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