Marketing for Release Week – Author Business Plans, Part 4

Welcome back to my continuing series on Author Business Plans! (If you missed a  previous installment, I’ve put links at the end of the post.)

Today we continue our look at Part 3 of the author business plan: the Marketing Summary.

I’ve divided the Marketing discussion into three posts (the previous one, today, and next week’s post on “after the party”) because the Marketing part of an author’s plan has three phases: the push leading up to release, Release Phase, and Post-Release. Successful authors plan for all three, because you won’t have the same publicity needs in all three phases.

Today we’re discussing Release Phase.

“Release-phase marketing” starts when your book becomes available for pre-order and continues through the first 2-3 weeks after release. In most cases, this is the phase when most sales are made – and therefore, the place where having a plan can make the biggest difference.

Your release marketing plan should include personal appearances (talks, bookstore signings, etc), and also virtual “appearances” (blog tours, online articles, etc). If you have expertise in an area that’s relevant to authors, consider submitting a proposal to speak at a writers’ conference near your release (not release week, but within a month on either side).

If possible, you’ll want to schedule at least 5-10 appearances (total – so 2-3 per week) during the three weeks before the book releases, one appearance or event per day the week of release (a “blog tour” is a great way to handle this) and 2-3 per week for the two weeks after release. If you work, or can’t manage that many, that’s o.k. – but for those with the time and ability, it’s helpful to keep yourself visible when the book is a new release.

Many authors panic at those numbers. “But I don’t know that many bloggers!” is a fairly normal response. My answer is: actually, you probably do. And if not, it’s time to form those relationships. That’s why you’re writing a plan.

The platform and relationship growth an author works on in the months before release – interacting with real people through their blogs or Twitter or other social media – is where you make the friendships and contacts that turn into opportunities when your book is the one releasing. The key to this is giving value in advance. Read blogs, make comments, and talk with people on twitter. Find authors, bloggers, and readers you connect with. Form real relationships – not just fakery aimed at promoting yourself. (Note: Trust me. People can tell the difference.) Then, when the time comes, you will have the contacts – many of whom will offer the very opportunities you need.

When drafting a release phase marketing plan, you should keep three things in mind:

1. Provide Value With Your Promotion. Readers want to find new books – and authors – to enjoy, but the new paradigm is less about “BUY MY BOOK” and more about dialogue. When possible, find marketing opportunities that also allow you to offer the reader some value beyond your name and that of your book.

The idea of “giving value” that led your efforts in the early days should stay with you here, and throughout your marketing efforts. People don’t like to be “sold” – but they like to buy, and they buy the things they consider valuable or interesting.

Some examples of how to give extra value:

Blog and Website interviews offer an opportunity for dialogue (always check back in and respond to reader comments!), but you can also offer to write guest posts on topics relating to your novel (for example, I might write something on Japanese history, real-life ninjas, or Geishas in connection with CLAWS OF THE CAT).

On Twitter and other social media, intersperse your “my book is available” sound bytes with real conversations, links to related articles and websites readers might find interesting (things not written by you).

Offer to give away a copy of your book (alone or with other prizes) at events and especially when making online “appearances” during your blog tour. Readers love contests and prizes, and although some authors consider giving away a book “losing a sale” that’s a big mistake – the attention a contest earns your work may generate even more.

When scheduling personal appearances, consider giving short talks or hosting “salon style” discussions in connection with your readings and signings. People may show up to hear something interesting, particularly if you’re offering something more than what they can get from your book alone.

2. Make a Schedule You Can Stick To. Quality over quantity applies to marketing too. If you’re busy during release week, try to schedule blog appearances, interviews and guest posts you can prepare in advance – but remember, you’ll still need to stop in at those websites and respond to comments. Get a calendar and record your obligations.

In the planning phase, take careful note of how much time you can actually spend making appearances, blogging, handling social media, etc. Mark down those times, and when you make commitments, don’t over-commit. Remember that bloggers and other hosts depend on your timely cooperation – and if an emergency arises, COMMUNICATE!

A solid, carefully organized plan will help keep you on track, avoid over-commitment, and help you keep your wits about you during the confusion of release week.

3. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck. If your schedule permits only a certain number of appearances, giveaways, or other uses of limited resources, use them as efficiently as possible – while remembering that human capital is an important resource too. If your best friend owns a small bookstore, the decision to hold your release at Barnes & Noble instead because “I’ll get ten more sales there” might not net you a benefit in the long run. That said, the choice between two neutral bookstores (the two Barnes & Nobles in your town, for example) should go to the one with the greater traffic and better author program support.

Always remember, however, that inchoate factors play a huge part in author marketing. Some people will buy your book because it looks interesting. Others will buy the book because you look interesting. Many will pass you over if you seem rude, self-aggrandizing, or unpleasant. Having a plan for release week activities helps an author in more ways than merely scheduling. It keeps you on track, which reduces stress, and lets your genuine joy in the book shine through.

Do you have suggestions for helping authors with book releases? Questions about the process? Concerns? Please hop into the comments and share. I love to hear from you!

If you missed an installment, here are links to Part 1 (the Overview), Part 2 (Writing the Dreaded Synopsis) and Part 3 (On Pre-Release Marketing Mountain).

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