• December 20, 2011


    By the way… Funds are being collected for author Sandi Rog's uninsured cancer treatments — she was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma on the same day her debut novel released in November of last year. This is the last week to donate, as the fundraiser will close on Christmas Eve, but there is some big stuff going on these last seven days. First of all, all donors will be entered into a drawing for one of four Amazon.com gift cards, which will be awarded on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Every $2 you donate gets you one entry into the raffle. Also (many of you writers will want to click over and learn more about this) one donor will be awarded with their registration paid in full for the 2012 ACFW conference this September in Dallas. And just today, a $1000 matching donation was pledged, meaning that all donations between now and Thursday will be matched, up to $1000! Please consider clicking over to donate and bless Sandi and her family (husband and four children) as she fights for her life. It's been a very scary and faith-challenging year for them. You can help make 2012 a year of blessing and health. Thanks.

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  • December 20, 2011

    Step Nine: Execute Your Plan


    Now that you've done all your research and planning — you've figured out WHAT you need to do, WHERE you need to do it, WHEN you're going to get it done, WHO you're going to be reaching, and WHY you're going to all this trouble — now you need to go do the work. If you created a calendar, this is easy… you simply look at the calendar, figure out what needs to be done, then go get the tasks accomplished. Instead of worrying about what steps you need to take in order to market your book, you can begin working through the plan you've spent weeks creating. No more seat-of-the-pants, no more guessing what activities to do. You've done all the background work; now you need to put it into practice.

    Authors tend to come in two types when it comes to marketing… Some will want to take several weeks and just market full-time. They'll set their current writing projects aside, and suddenly become marketers. Others will want to set aside a chunk of time each day for marketing, leaving themselves with a few hours to continue writing. There's no "right" way to plan this — it depends on what you're comfortable doing. 

    I'm frequently asked how much time an author should spend on marketing each day or each week, but of course the answer lies in what your plan calls for. If you do the things that are on your plan, the amount of time required will become clear to you. Some authors set aside an hour or two each day to do some marketing. That time can increase as you have a new book come out — so you might find yourself spending half your time on nothing but various marketing activities. If you're focused on a new release, and there are a dozen things to do each day, your marketing efforts could suck up your entire day. 

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  • December 19, 2011

    Step Eight: Create Your Calendar and Budget


    At this point, you're probably wondering what else there is to do with a marketing plan. Take heart — we're almost to the end of the process…

    Once you've written down everything you want to do, you need to tie each activity to a calendar and a budget — or, as I like to say, every activity has a date and a dollar sign. So, for example, if you are planning to send out a bunch of copies to a "big mouth" list in order to get people talking about your book, you pick a day when you're going to write the notes, address the envelopes, and get them in the mail. Then you figure out the cost of envelopes, mailing labels, and postage. If you're planning to write several freelance articles to support your book, you mark down the days you're going to write them, the days you're going to query and send them, and the days you're going to check back on them. If you're going to hire a freelance marketing consultant to help you schedule radio interviews, you pick the days you're going to be available for the interviews, you mark the dates you're going to talk with the consultant, and you write down the costs involved with hiring him or her. 

    Again, for EVERY activity, you choose a date and, if applicable, the dollar amount it will cost you. So if you're going to try and schedule a blog tour, you write down on your calendar the dates you plan to fill up with blogging conversations, as well as the dates you plan to contact bloggers in order to schedule those visits. There may not be any dollar amount tied to this activity — that's fine, but you want to make sure to track EVERY date and EVERY dollar, so that you have a record of what you've done to market your book. 

    Why write out

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  • December 16, 2011

    Step Seven: Write Your Plan


    Okay, you've come to the point in the process where you really get into the details… you've done a bunch of research. You know who you are, and what it is you want to say. You've figured out who your audience is, and done some research on how to reach them. You've made choices about the general strategies you'll use to get your words in front of potential readers, and you've decided what your specific plans are — where you'll go and what you'll say. Now you've got to write it down. 

    Put down on paper all the things you want to do. All those tools you were choosing yesterday? Write them down. All those places you want to reach? Write them down. Get down on paper everything you want to do. Force yourself to get everything in one place, since it will make it much more real (and therefore more likely that you'll actually DO it). 

    So if you're going to do a blog tour, and visit 30 blogs in 30 days, here is where you write down the goal, the blogs you intend to target, and make notes on what you're going to talk about. If you're going to be focusing on talk radio, here's where you right down the places you want to hit — the cities, the regions, even the shows and stations if you know what they are. Write down notes about what questions you expect to be asked, and how you plan to answer them. Prepare stories — both long and short stories, that will get your point across and entertain listeners. If you're going to be sending out copies of your book, write down who you plan to send them to. 

    Don't leave anything out. In fact, you're better off writing too much, and having to delete some aspects of your plan later, rather than not planning enough. Again, perhaps only one-third of

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  • December 15, 2011

    Step Six: Choose Your Tools


    Now that you've figured out which basic strategies you're going to use, you need to select that actual "tools" you'll use — that is, the actual WORK you will do to help you market your book. For example, if you decided that three of the strategies you were going to use were (1) sending out review copies, (2) writing articles to support your book, and (3) doing blog tours, then in this step you will list…

    1. Who you're sending those review copies to,

    2. What articles you're going to write, and who you're going to send them to, and

    3. The blogs and groups you're going to reach on your tour. 

    In other words, you start to create the details of your marketing plan. Remember, every choice you make at this stage reflects your earlier decisions. The core of marketing is to figure out where your audience is, then go stand in front of them, so you want to go back and remind yourself just where, exactly your audience is going to be. If you're doing a nonfiction book on lowering cholesterol, you do your research to discover where those interested in the topic go to seek information, then you target those magazines, websites, blogs, e-zines, journals, associations, chat rooms, etc. If you're writing an Amish novel, you do your research to determine where those interested in Amish culture and Amish stories go, then you make those destinations the focus of your marketing.

    Fortunately, the world wide web has made this process MUCH easier than it used to be. Instead of having to snail mail things, or go to a marketing research company, or spend your day at the public library (like we all used to do), the information is all available, right there on your screen. It just takes some work to dig it out. So choose your tools to hit that target audience, focus on using your

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  • December 13, 2011

    Step Five: Map Out Your Strategies


    Now that you know what your brand is, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what goals you're trying to reach, and who your target market is, you need to make some specific choices. What are the basic strategies you're going to use to market your book? There are a million things you COULD do. Maybe you've picked up a couple of marketing books that offer "101 marketing ideas," or you've attended a seminar and heard other authors talk about a bunch of ideas they've tried. You can't do them all… so what steps will you choose? 

    Will you focus on blog tours? Give away a lot of copies? Talk with reading groups? Redesign your website? Do some conference speaking? Distribute press kits? Try to get on a bunch of radio programs? Spend a lot of time placing articles with magazines and e-zines? Develop podcasts? Solicit dozens of reviews? Dig deep into the various Amazon tools? Network with key people? Focus on your blog readership? Use your associations or groups to get the word out? Develop a bunch of give-aways? Focus on broadcast media? Spend a lot of time at libraries? Visit targeted groups around the country? Participate in direct mail? Get involved in trade shows and conventions? Rely on key endorsements and recommendations? Do an author tour? Buy advertisements on the best websites? Try to steer sales to your website? 
    You can't do them all. In fact, you don't want to do them all, since they would't all prove effective for your book. So as you think about your target market, what are the basic strategies that make sense? As you think about your strengths and weaknesses, what are the strategies you definitely need to consider? What are the strategies you probably need to forget about? At this step, you're simply picking the basic area in which you plan to work. 

    And remember, most marketing gurus will remind you to
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  • December 12, 2011

    Step Four: Know Your Audience


    If you were taking a class in marketing, this is the process you'd go through in order to create a marketing plan. So once you "know yourself," "know your strengths and weaknesses," and "know your goal," the fourth step you'll need to complete is to know your target audience. 

    Who are your readers? What are they like? What is their age? Their sex? What are their interests? What do they like and dislike? What do they find interesting? If you could describe your readers, what words would you use? What do they all share in common? What you're trying to do here is to identify the similarities among those who will be interested in your book. Beginning writers tend to say, "Everyone will like my book! It appeals to young and old, men and women, Republicans and Democrats, religious and nonreligious…" Except marketing has proven that's not true. Groups of people tend to like a product, while other groups tend to ignore that same product. So who is your group? How would you describe them? As your grandma used to say, "Birds of a feather flock together." So… who is your flock?
    And where are they? (Geography can have a lot to do with marketing your books.) Where do they congregate? If they tend to reside in the South, that dictates where you'll market. If they tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, that helps you know how best to market your work. If they tend to travel a lot, that says something about where you'll find them, and how you can reach out to them. So don't skip this part of the plan — spend time thinking through who your reader is, what he or she is like, and where they tend to go. 
    Think through the question, "What are their needs and wants?" Most fiction is written to entertain, so
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  • December 10, 2011


    Three quick notes on my weekend…

    First, I finished Sara Miles' book Take This Bread. Wow. What an AMAZING read. You won't agree with everything in her theology, but what a powerful, thoughtful book. This may be the best spiritual book I've read since Blue Like Jazz. It's not for everyone (she tweaks the "WWJD" phrase to be "WTFWJD," which may be a bit too salty for some), but it reminds me of Anne LaMott's Traveling Mercies — one of those fabulous books no Christian bookstore will carry because they don't like the language. 

    Second, I heard great news on longtime friend and fellow literary agent Lee Hough. Lee, who has been battling a brain tumor, got great news from his doctor this week — he's cancer free. Yes!

    And third, yes — to answer the questions of those who have been writing, I have a new book out. It's called 40 Ways to Get Close to God, and it's published by Bethany House. Be aware that it's written under my given name — Jerry MacGregor. And no, I don't just do religious books… this was something I had wanted to say for a long time. Thanks for asking. Buy a copy and make my Christmas!  :o)

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  • December 9, 2011

    Step Three: Know Your Goal


    With all this marketing you're going to be doing for your book, what are you trying to achieve? What's the goal of your marketing plan? 
    My experience is that many authors have a vague goal… sort of a sense that "they want people to hear about my book somehow." 
    That's won't cut it. When you create your marketing plan, you should have some specific, measurable goals in mind. So don't just say, "I want to speak at conferences and retreats." Instead, say something like, "I want to be in front of 100,000 people total over the course of the next year," then start looking for venues that will add up to that number. Don't just say, "I'd like to do some radio." Instead, give yourself a number of interviews you'd like to do, a number of cities you'd like to reach, a number of listeners you'd like to be in front of. Then start working toward that goal. If you set a firm number on things, you'll discover you've turned your plan into something measurable, rather than something ethereal. 
    It's amazing how a number turns vague ideas into crystal clear plans. What are you trying to achieve through your marketing? If you can answer that question, you'll be much more focused. Of course, eventually marketing should lead to sales, so I encourage authors to also set a reasonable sales goal for their book. I think one reason so many authors struggle with anxiety over book sales is because they haven't defined "success." They don't really know what a successful book would be, or what a failed book would be. So what is success for your book, in terms of sales?
    For more than a decade now, people in publishing have talked about "selling in the teens." If you could get your trade paper novel or nonfiction book to sell somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 copies, it

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  • December 8, 2011

    Step Two: Know Your Marketing Weaknesses



    I was talking to an author a couple years ago who said she was going to hire a freelance publicist to help land her a bunch of radio interviews. Knowing she (1) hates talking in public, and (2) has what could charitably be termed a shrill voice, I simply asked her, "Uh… why?" She rolled her eyes. "Because that's what everyone EXPECTS, Chip. I need to be on the radio, blathering about my book!"  I suggested that was a lousy idea. She's uncomfortable with the whole thing, it wouldn't put her in the best light, and I didn't see how it was going to help her sell her book, which was a traditional romance novel. The author remained unconvinced, so if you were driving down the street and listening to an author blather uncomfortably in a voice that sounds like fingers on a chalkboard, you'll know who it was….
    Why do some people seem to think they must do some marketing activities just because some other author did those marketing activities? Look, once you know what your strengths are (both the strengths of your book as well as the strengths of your marketing abilities), you need to take an honest look at what your weaknesses are. Who does your book NOT appeal to? (You can skip those websites and e-zines.) Who will NOT find your topic fascinating? (No sense trying to get in front of them.) What are you not good at? (Maybe you could focus the bulk of your efforts on areas in which you shine.)
    Strategic planning types used to do what they called their "SWOT" analysis — where they would make a list of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Doing this while creating a marketing plan simply helps you remember what NOT to do. Where are you weak? Where will you struggle? What threats are there to your overall plan? By looking
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