This is a very basic overview of marketing strategy and the marketing plan. Please understand, you could cover entire textbooks on this topic and I have literally written a book about marketing strategy for authors. What I’m covering is both a refresher and to orient people who might find this book out of order. I seriously recommend reading the other work first though, because I will not be going into detail here.

So, a marketing plan should have a few key things.

  • an objective
  • a timeframe
  • the individual aspects of the plan, specifically; the 4 P’s.

While you can (and sometimes, it’s useful to) break up the 4 P’s into further sections, it’s often easier to make use of the basic four. For those who don’t know, the 4 P’s are – Price, Product, Place (or Distribution) and Promotion. 

Most authors focus entirely on Promotion, forgetting aspects about Price or Product or even Distribution which can severely affect the way the marketing plan play out. It’s like playing with play dough. You can pay all the attention you want to one aspect – like say, the details of the item you’re creating, but if you don’t have enough play dough, if you don’t have the right colours or if it’s too old or dried out; you likely won’t get the best results.

As you manage any one aspect, you still have to keep in mind the rest. Even if it’s just the occassional check-in that no one has stolen from your pile.

Objective and Timeframe

There’s lot of business talk about making your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound). Do pay attention to that, especially the realistic and timebound portions because those are often missed. Knowing what your goal might be – sell a 1000 copies, make $1000 dollars, get a 100 reviews – will dictate how you go about achieving your goals.

Because this book is about managing your backlist, this is about the time when you should begin thinking about how this SMART goal is going to be broken down for each of your series.

I almost always recommend you think of your work in series; for a number of reasons. We’ll get into the calculations and mathematics and all that in the next few chapters, but the simple fact is that if you’re a good – or even adequate writer – books in series sell one another, as readers push through works. As such, it’s actually easy to calculate your average customer value when a reader starts reading a series and from there, use that number to guide your promotional budget.

If you write a series of standalones though, that becomes much more difficult. Not just your customer acquisition cost but your average customer value. We’ll discuss all that later, of course.

As a practical example.

You wish to make (gross revenue) of a $10,000 in a year from all your series. You have 5 series, 4 series complete, 13 books in total. You write in trilogies, and just started your fifth series. 

Of those series, a few do really well, a couple don’t. Knowing that, and looking at previous income statements, you decide you’re going to assign $4,000 and $3,000 to the two good completed series, $1,000 for your on-going series and the remainder to the other two series to earn in a year.

This might, of course, be adjusted as you dig deeper; but you at least have a start.

Marketing Plan

I won’t go into how you’re going to make use of the marketing plan for each series here, that’s what the entire book is about. Instead, we’re going to talk (briefly) about the four components.

Product – this is the easiest component it seems. It’s your book, you think. Except, of course, you’re wrong. It’s your Intellectual Property that is the product, the core idea and how you’ve managed to sell it that is important. Your book can easily be – and should be – in some ways transformed into other product types. 

For example, translations of the book into other language. A movie or TV show (or at least, optioned out to one because that’s much more realistic). A comic book, perhaps. Maybe it can be divided up and sold in chapters to a web novel app. Then, of course, there’s the latest hotness – audiobooks. Or could you do a Kickstarter to create special editions of your book? 

How about merchandise? That’s a completely different use of your IP but if you have rabid fans, it could be incredibly lucrative especially since a lot of merchandise can be done print-on-demand.

Other product options – are you making omnibuses or collections? How do those look in terms of your publishing schedule and how you promote things? Who are you targeting and how are you going to promote them?

Place / Distribution:

There’s a lot of places  you can sell your product. As indie authors, there are different countries, different retailers, different websites. Of course, the biggest discussion is often if you want to be exclusive (generally with the market leader which in most cases is Amazon or Audible) or if you want to go ‘wide’, which can mean lower royalties or lack of access to Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the only discussion though, because you can also sell in bookstores – not just via Print on Demand, but also using other strategies like a Kickstarter to fund production of a print edition that can then be warehoused to sell onwards. 

Distribution often has to be reviewed not just on a series basis but by product type basis. You might choose to be exclusive with Amazon for Kindle Unlimited for a series but wide with audiobooks. Or vice versa. 

Distribution as audiobooks, on webnovels, in other countries or different places. How much effort do you want to put into being wide? Does it make sense to move some older series wide, to tap into different markets? Or should you double-down?

Price:

I place pricing below place / distribution and product, because you can’t make pricing decisions without relating to the above two. How you price for libraries – if you are able to access them – will be different from how you price for retailers. How your prices might be affected for audiobooks under the credit system will differ from Spotify’s all you can listen model. 

What kind of strategy you want to use might vary too, depending on the specific market segment you’re trying to reach. For example, you might have your audiobooks free for Youtube because those listeners might never pay for your work, but price higher for Audible.

In addition, looking back at your overall strategy and the series you have, you might start considering differing tactics like Promo Pricing, Time-based pricing decisions or Loss Leaders (free or $0.99 books) to drive readthrough. Particularly important when you have a series that is very long (5+ books), whereas trilogies are harder to manage in that sense.

On the other hand, if you have a lot of books, what happens if you give away a full trilogy? Is this entire trilogy now a loss leader to your writing (you)? 

Another area that you can play with pricing and discounts and promotions is if you’re selling on your own site. It’s possible for you to drive readers to your own site by making it significantly cheaper to buy on your site. Considering at times you earn only 25% of the product price (or less with paperbacks!); this might even make sense.

Promotion:

The biggest question here isn’t so much what kinds of promotions you’ll be doing (the tactics) but the budget. How much of a budget are you putting into each series? Assume you want to only spend 10% of your expected revenue on promotions, then you only have $1000 for 4 product lines. Are you pouring it all into 1 product line? Or splitting it into multiple lines? If so, what can you do with only $400 in a year?

Does that mean you’re ignoring Facebook Ads entirely and focusing entirely on AMS ads? Or perhaps you’re going paid newsletters? Maybe you only have $100 for the smaller series, so you’re going to have to focus on category ads in AMS to drive sales. Perhaps you can only afford to push promos for your own newsletter and then, using the larger newsletter, join author promos and author swaps throughout the year to generate income.

Budget will dictate your promotional decisions on each series, so split the budget first and then start looking at what you can do. Suggestions on how each of the series and how they fit into the sales matrix and thus the overall guiding strategies will be coming up next.


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