Building a marketing plan is a big, involved process. It’s more complicated than most people think, and really, I’m sure I’m going to miss or lose aspects here since I’m going to try to simplify it as best as possible. 


We’ve talked about Goals before. Your own personal goals will dictate your marketing goals which will dictate your marketing plan. Because of that, it’s hard to develop a full marketing plan template that can be useful for everyone. It’s also worth noting that some of this is going to change based off what you sell – fiction / non-fiction are different beasts. 

I’m going to use the goal of becoming a long-term, full-time author as the example.

So, the marketing goal is (eventually) making, we’ll call it, $50k a year.

Let’s assume you’re starting out now, so there’s no expectation to hit that $50k this year. But, let’s assume you want to do it in 3 years. That means you’ll need to scale up.

Now, we’re beginning to have to hit a lot of assumptions while going through this process. Things like:

– capital available for advertising

– capital for product development

– speed of product development (how fast do you write, edit and release!)

– knowledge of social media outlets

– advertising platform knowledge & capability

– author physical location

– introvert / extrovert (and in-person sales ability!)

– etc.

In either case, I’m going to skip over those and point out you should be setting your marketing goals in a clear, trackable format for at least 3 years out. That might get longer if you write 1 book a year. This plan might be a 20 year plan.

Environment / Industry

Before you begin to even think about developing the marketing strategy, it’s worth noting you need to have a clear understanding of the environment / the industry before you start. 

Yes, you can stumble around without knowing what is going on. But if you don’t know the terrain you’re fighting in, you’re just as likely to lose the war as not knowing yourself or your enemy.

If you’re a corporation (or have taken management classes); they tell you to use the SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threat) analysis, Within the external environment, you can break it out further use PEST (Politics, Economic, Social & Technological changes) that you are working in. 

Yeah, I’m not going to go into  that. Read about it on Wikipedia. It’s not a hard concept.

I WILL say the one thing people ALWAYS miss with the Strength / Weakness part of a SWOT analysis is that it is a RELATIVE analysis. It is your strength or weakness compared to your competitors.

In our case, it doesn’t matter if you are a good writer – unless you are (by far) the best writer in your specific niche.

And that’s something to consider how ‘big’ you want to make this analysis. If you are doing write to market work; you need to analyse the whole industry. If you are a dedicated Scifi/Fantasy writer; maybe you only need to concern yourself with those writers. And even then, maybe it’s best to look closer – at indie authors only, at indie authors who have published in the last year, etc.

What you want to do is make this useful. Putting together an analysis is to help guide you to develop your marketing plan – whose goal, in our case is to make money. So, reviewing the entire market might make no sense, UNLESS you’re planning to skip between genres and the like.

Some things to consider when you are looking at the above:

– number and number of increases in competitors

– platforms and platform types (web serial websites like Wattpad, Royal Road, etc., retailers like Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Scribd, etc.)

– cover types and cover costs / value (how professional are people, what are the genre expectations)

– trends and their rate of change (I’m looking at you romance. But this also holds true for UF or PNF where vampires might be out and werewolves in, magical academies are the hottest thing for this second, etc.).

– competitor pricing 

– writing competency, generic tropes, tropes in demand, book length (product analysis of competitors basically)

– news outlets & social media hubs (e.g. LitRPG is really focused on a few FB groups and reddit. Not much in terms of reviews. Epic fantasy has a large number of dedicated blogs and reviewers that can help get the word out. etc.)

– industry tech trends (AI voice recordings, audiobook growth, etc.)

– speed of releases / release strategies

– etc.

Once you’ve done that, we can start looking at building out the strategy aspects of your marketing plan. 

Intermission – Word of warning 

I see this happen a lot with people who have lots of school experience and/or have worked in Fortune 500 (or other very large) companies. 

They build out these elaborate 50 page documents, thinking that it is what is necessary. As a small business entrepreneur, it’s likely only you (and maybe your spouse or one other person) is ever going to read your document. So, why bother creating something super professional?

Remember, the point of all these models, all this analysis is to guide your thinking and research. It’s to force you to look at things that you might not have considered. It’s not to make you sit there, wasting time because you have a box to fill. 

The more experienced you get, the less likely you’ll actually need a formal document. Nearly all the actual (start-up) entrepreneurs I know, who go on and do multiple businesses don’t bother with big, formal documents like this. Unless they’re seeing banks / looking for funding (which as an author you are unlikely to ever get).

So. Do the work, but do it so that you understand the environment and yourself. Not because you think it needs to be done up nicely and professionally for… something.

The ‘I Write What I Write’ Justification

So. Maybe you don’t care what everyone else is writing, you write what you write because it’s what you have to do. And this is where the ‘art’ side of publishing / writing comes in. 

I know that I should write 120-150k word books for LitRPG. I ‘d earn more in audiobooks and KU, readers prefer longer books in general. 

I don’t write that, because I naturally peter out at 90-110k. I could add more words, but it would be ‘wrong’ for the books. I know that, and that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make because I know my books are better off the way they are now, than extending them for a few dollars more.

Knowing the tropes, etc is more to see what clicks for you than because you should ‘check the tropes off’. It’ll also help you figure out how to market your books to those groups / people who are wanting the stories you are telling. I am not telling you to write to market, though if you can do that and do it well, well; great.

If you are somewhat like me and just write what you do, the product analysis side of this can be a LOT shorter. You’ll be looking at things like where they market, at the cover types, distribution locations and pricing. Stuff outside that can be ignored for the most part, since you are just going to ignore it anyway.

As above. Do what you need to do for yourself. Just realise that there are tradeoffs.

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