Marketing in a nutshell : A year in the life of a self-published author – Part III

This is the third in the series of blog posts to celebrate the first year anniversary of the launch of Only the Innocent, and today I’m going to talk about the Marketing Plan.

Yes – I know that I’ve done several posts on this already, and you can find them here and here – but I couldn’t talk about the last twelve months without talking about the marketing plan, and even in this short time, I would change my approach to marketing.

Those of you who have followed these blog posts in the past will be aware that I didn’t actually have any plan at all at the launch of my book. That was a very significant mistake, because I had taken no time at all to build a sales platform and could only rely on friends and family to buy in the initial stages. (A sales platform can be defined by an author’s visibility and reach within their target market.) My platform consisted of nine Twitter followers, and about six Facebook likes – so not a good start.

The truth is, if you launch a book without any sort of a plan behind it, the chances of your book ever being seen are very, very small. Amidst the masses of titles (on Amazon UK there were just under 170,000 new books published in the last 90 days for the Kindle), how can an author expect to be noticed if he or she is not an established name?

I will be honest and say that I find it hard to believe that my next book will be as successful as Only the Innocent; not because one is better than the other, but because the competition is now SO much tougher, and people are working hard to get their books noticed (perhaps I should never have given away my marketing secrets!).

For most authors, the marketing plan will be based around social media – not least because it’s largely free (there may be a few utility apps that have to be paid for), and the reach can be phenomenal. Since I wrote my initial marketing plan, though, things have changed – as you would expect with a plan that is largely reliant on technology for its delivery. The applications and the users are constantly developing levels of sophistication, and beginning to offer (and look for) different types of communication.

Behaviours that were acceptable a year ago are may no longer be suitable, and might work against rather than for an author. I wrote a blog post called “Twitter – are you are writer, a brand or a salesman?” that summed up how things were then. When I first started tweeting, I was definitely a salesman. As a strategy it worked, but I knew it could never carry on working and I don’t believe it would work now. A year on, and people don’t want to still be seeing regular tweets from me about my chart position, number of sales, number of five star reviews. The odd one is fine, but not every fifteen minutes!

Now, I need to become the brand. My tweets need to be topical, so I can’t create queues of repeatable tweets that are stored and sent out automatically. I have had to change and adapt to people’s expectations on Twitter, which is becoming more mature as a platform. I’ve been pretty quiet on Twitter recently, because this type of tweeting demands time and effort, and it rather begs the question ‘is this the most useful form of marketing for me?’

There is a natural assumption that Twitter has to be great as a marketing tool at all stages of development as an author, simply because of its potential reach. I definitely gravitated towards the forms of social media where I thought I could attract the largest numbers of followers and demonstrate the biggest platform. But does that make it the most effective?

There are many other social media platforms, and the numbers and styles are growing all the time. Twitter might be the biggest in terms of ease of reach to thousands of people (I’ll get back to Facebook), but biggest isn’t necessarily best. Would it be better to be involved in a much smaller network where people share common interests? For example, would time be better spent on Goodreads – where we know people love to read?

When I wrote my original marketing plan, I didn’t sufficiently analyse what would ultimately be the most effective forms of communication for me, and for my style of writing. That is one error that I intend to rectify.

Although Facebook was part of my original plan, I was never a huge Facebook fan (although I have my page, and I would love you to ‘like’ me of course). It was low in my list of priorities, and I significantly undervalued it as a means of communication. But I was wrong. On Twitter, I have about nine thousand followers (over two separate accounts). On Facebook, I have just over six hundred. But if I post on Facebook, I get lots of responses and have genuinely been able to build relationships with people whose opinion matters to me. If I post on Twitter – where I might expect that hundreds of people, if not thousands, will read my tweet – I get a big fat nothing. Or maybe a couple of responses from people I know (usually other authors). So whilst I do believe that Twitter was fantastic at raising awareness of Only the Innocent in the first instance, it seems to me to be much less successful at building relationships.

The important thing is, though, that this is only my perspective. If you decide to create your own marketing plan, you need to work out what works best for you, bearing in mind the following points:

  • Who is your audience? What would you think is the demographic of your reader? You may have readers from all types of backgrounds, all ages, both genders, but if you had to do a chart, who would have the largest share of the pie?
  • Where do they hang out? Check out the demographics for various social networking sites. For example, I was interested to learn that the demographic for Google+ is more men than women, and the predominant type of man would be an engineer. Not my demographic at all, so why waste time there?
  • What are their interests likely to be, other than reading? Is there anything there that could lead you to other types of social media sites, where some element of a character in your book might have relevance? For example, if your book is about a woman who loves to do patchwork (not common in my sort of book, it has to be said), is there a social site for patchworkers? Okay – an extreme example – but intentionally so to make the point.

However you decide to formulate your plan, I would strongly recommend creating a schedule and a means of monitoring your success. I’m going to talk a bit more about this in the next post – particularly the monitoring part of it – but a schedule really helps.

I have two schedules. I have a date driven schedule (for example, the first of these blog posts had to be written by 14th November to be ready for release on the 15th, I need to brief the designer for the cover of my new book by the 3rd December, prepare a reviewers’ pack by 31st December, and so on), and I have a daily schedule which identifies exactly which of the various social media platforms I will be focusing on each day of the week, and for how long. This prevents me from focusing only on the things that I enjoy the most (although there is something to be said for that).

So the big lesson is – get organised. And get organised before you launch your book. I already have my plan in place now for book 2, which I am hoping to launch in February.

In the next blog post, I will talk about how I spent my days after the launch of Only the Innocent – ie implementing the marketing plan, and what I will do differently after the launch of the next book.

Just a reminder – for this week only, Only the Innocent is available for the bargain price of £0.99 to celebrate its first birthday from Amazon UK. Versions for other countries and other formats can be found by visiting the website here.