Chip MacGregor

March 21, 2016

What’s the tenth step in marketing your book?


It’s been said that some people have twenty years of experience; while other people have one year of experience twenty times. The difference? The former keep track of their progress and learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. The latter keep trying something new, and have to re-learn the process every time.

When it comes to marketing, make it easy on yourself — mark your trail. The last step in creating a marketing plan is to make a point of writing down everything you do, so that you can evaluate it later. Make note of what works and what doesn’t. Which parts you enjoyed and which parts you hated. Who you liked working with, which activities seemed to be effective, and what things actually sold copies (instead of being fun, but not making you any money). As you work through your marketing plan, you want to make notes to yourself. Remind yourself of what people responded to, and what seemed like a waste of time. That will help you focus on the good ideas and eliminate the bad ones the next time you’re doing marketing for a book. Give yourself some evaluations. Figure out if you could do something better next time, or tweak an unsuccessful effort in order to make it successful.

Here’s an example: I represented an author who spent a bunch of money and time on a video book trailer. She worked on the script, shot scenes, and spent more than a thousand dollars to create an ad for her book. Um… it did nothing. Nada. It looked great, and she enjoyed it, but who chooses to look at book ads? For her, it was a waste of time. But I represent another author who really got into making a trailer that fit her book, used it as more or less an introduction to her concept, made it seem like more of a news pieces, and found it got watched and played everywhere. That video set her up, got her interviews, and led to a lot of book sales. For one it worked, for the other it didn’t. That’s the business of marketing — you try a variety of things, do your best, and live with some of them not working (and others working well). No idea works for every book. You won’t be good at everything you try. So keep track, make notes, and learn how to refine your marketing so you’ll be better the next time you do it.

Besides, if you keep track of everything you do in your marketing plan, you’ll discover it moves along much more quickly the next time. So make lists of your activities. Keep track of names and emails and phone numbers. Grab contact information to the producers and hosts and editors you’re in contact with. Make notes of the ideas you tried that actually helped you sell books. Send thank you’s to the people who  assisted you along the way. If you don’t keep track of your work, the next time you have a book releasing you’ll have to do all this stuff over again — you’ll be starting from square one, repeating the same mistakes, and wasting a lot of time. By tracking and evaluating every step, you’ll become better and more efficient the next time.

If possible, after you’re done with it all, talk through the plan with your team — perhaps someone from your publishing house, as well as someone who helped you get the work done. Get their input into the ideas that worked best. By focusing on the best practices, you’ll find yourself improving at the marketing side of the business, therefore allowing yourself more time to WRITE in the future.

That’s it — my ten steps to creating a marketing plan. I hope you’ve found it helpful. Again, I simply pulled out a marketing textbook and went through the process, collapsing a lot of content into some short blog posts. Would love to know what you found helpful, so leave a comment.

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  • Robin Patchen says:

    Great ideas in all ten steps. Very helpful. Thanks!

  • Tim Osner says:

    Great series – very essential.

  • chipmacgregor says:

    Ed Hird commented: “Thanks for taking the time to focus on the achilles heel of many authors. We suffer so often as writers from good intentions. Yes, self-examination and keeping of our goals and progress is vital to moving forward.”

  • suzy vitello says:

    Hi Chip. I wish I knew of this series six months ago! Brilliant. Per your q on 9th step: physical events and networking have worked best for my somewhat crossover contemporary YA. I have some terrific best-seller writer friends and they have been an immense support – even co-reading at bookstores. Setting up co-reading gigs, then social media-ing the heck out of them has worked well. Not so well were the GoodReads callouts to YA bloggers – many of whom were not the right vehicle for crowing about my book. Most helpful in your marketing series was the call to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. So key. Thanks!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Really nice of you to write and share your experience, Suzy. Thanks very much. YA is tough, so it’s nice to hear from someone in the trenches what works and what doesn’t.

  • Ron Estrada says:

    Great series, Chip. Maybe you could put them all in a PDF file for those of us too lazy to cut and paste. Marketing is one of those necessary evils that, when done right, turns into a lot of fun.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Glad you liked it, Ron. I may do something with all of this at some point — a longer, larger, more complete version. But make sure to read Amanda on Thursdays. Her marketing column is the highlight of the blogosphere for a lot of folks in publishing.

  • Rebecca Waters says:

    Chip, I have read every entry. Thanks for the sound advice and great reminder to us all that we need to market our books- and what works for one book doesn’t always work for another. Biggest takeaway in this series for me was the notion I must commit months to this, not weeks.

  • Sandy Betgur says:

    With my first book being released next month, I’m deep into the “how to market” process. I appreciated “permission” to engage in tactics I enjoy, without feeling guilty about not employing every option. Thank you for the nudge to formalize my plan and write down details. Direction I have chosen is to initially utilize trade shows. My launch will be at Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing in April. I’ve contracted booth space at ICRS, International Christian Retail Show in June. Goal is to connect with chain-store buyers and distributors at Ingram to personally introduce them to my product. Hopefully they will purchase or recommend the devotional God’s Song: Psalms in Rhyming Meter.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      A lot of authors skip trade shows, Sandy. The key at any trade show is to DRAW IN PEOPLE. Don’t be content with letting them wander by and smile at you. Go out. Shake hands. Introduce yourself. Have a short spiel to talk about the book. Have some giveaways. Be ready to take an order. Best of luck with this. The Calvin conference is fabulous.

  • NicoleMillerbooks says:

    Such a critical step that authors (and most businesses) tend to overlook as they hurry onto the next thing. 🙂 Great post, Chip!

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