After you decide on your publishing and promotional goals, it’s time to develop your marketing plan, which will include sales and distribution strategies:

What do you want? What can you afford? What are you willing to do? How many books do you plan to sell? What do you need to do to accomplish that? Write a plan with SMART objectives (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based), and then figure out what infrastructure you need to put into place to accomplish those objectives.

This is a step many authors skip, either because it doesn’t occur to them, or because they don’t know how to go about developing a workable plan. If you’ve ever written a business plan or sales strategy, you’ll have a good idea how to do this. If you haven’t, get some help.

The basic issues addressed by a marketing plan are:

  • Who is your audience?
  • How will you reach them?
  • Why will they want your product?
  • How will you deliver your product?
  • How much will all this cost?
  • How much will you make?

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What is unique about your book? Why would anyone want to buy your book when there are millions of others available? What benefit will readers gain from your book?
  • Who is your target audience, and how do they consume media? Are they on Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Do they read a particular magazine (maybe you could write an article for that magazine) or newspaper (send a press release to the appropriate editor, and be sure it contains information the editor can actually use, including a news hook).
  • What other ways can you connect with your audience? Do they hang out at surf shops or natural food stores? What kinds of classes do they take? Could the local diner sell your cookbook featuring grandma’s recipes? Would the ex-pat community be interested in your book about growing up in the Caribbean?
  • If you plan to sell through bookstores, how will the distribution work? (You’ll want to set up an account at Ingram.) Do you understand the implications of returns when selling printed books through bookstores?
  • If you plan to sell ebooks, have you researched the best-selling price points? Where do you want to offer your book, and which format(s) do you need to develop? (Epub and mobi are currently the main formats in the U.S.)
  • Are you planning to sell your book from the back of the room after your speaking events? How many events do you have lined up, and how many attendees do you expect at each? What percent of attendees do you estimate will buy books? (Have you set up PayPal and Square accounts so you can accept payments on your smartphone or tablet?)
  • Is critical acclaim more important to you than sales? (Yes? You want to be one of those “highly respected and widely unread” authors?) Do you have a robust plan for getting reviews? Who will you ask, and how will you reach them? What will you say? Have you determined which are the most influential reviewers for your genre?
  • How much are you budgeting for marketing? (You’ve already spent money on creating your book: editing, design, printing and shipping. I hope there’s some left for getting it out to the public.) Which marketing activities seem most likely to produce results?

When developing your marketing plan, there’s no one right answer — but there is an answer that’s right for you.

Next: One of the most powerful marketing strategies to consider is working with a promotional partner.