Chip MacGregor

Chip MacGregor is the President of MacGregor Literary. In 2010, he will be hosting several marketing and writing events for Christian novelists, including a fiction marketing workshop and a writing retreat with two bestselling novelists. You can find out more at

How To Create A Marketing Plan

I had a chance to sit down with a marketing specialist at the recent ACFW conference. This wasn’t just a publicist who knows a bit about the industry, but a marketing consultant who works with some top companies (Apple, Disney, HP, etc.) to design their marketing plans. His name is Jim, and he has a proven track record of success.

I told him, “I have the privilege of working with some great authors who create wonderful books, but it often feels like the publishers seem to do the least they can when it comes to marketing a book.” Then I went on to explain the frustrations for authors trying to create marketing plans when they are not trained in marketing.

Jim’s response: “I think every entrepreneurial writer can learn to do more effective marketing.” While he admitted that some will come to it more naturally than others, he also noted that everyone should think through certain steps in order to create a full-blown marketing plan. When I asked him what those steps are, here’s what he said (and he gave me permission to share this with you).

STEP ONE: Do a business review of your writing and career.

He suggested each author write down the strengths and weaknesses of their work, think through their audiences, and make a careful analysis of what their marketing capabilities are. (It’s probably realistic to think you can create a blog . . . it’s probably not realistic to think you’re going to buy full-page ads in USA Today.) But this part was helpful, because he said authors should also do an analysis of their publishers: What do they do well? What do they do poorly? What do you want to let them do? What do you need to take away and have someone else do? What are their covers like? How good is their pricing? How good is their distribution? Is the sales force on board with your books? What are the trends in the industry—toward your work or away from it?

Jim believes we need to do a complete competitive review in order to recognize how our books are going to do in today’s market with today’s competition. And he said the most important part of this is a clear understanding of our own marketing capacities. What do you like to do in marketing? What do you do well? What seems to work for you? What is unique? How many people are in your database? How many names and e-mails and addresses have you captured? How many people visit your site? How are you in contact with your readers? “It does no good for an author to say she wants to connect with a hundred thousand people,” Jim told me, “if she has only two hundred names in her database.”

STEP TWO: List your roadblocks and your resources.

In other words, what are the problems you’re facing, and what are the opportunities you have? Write them down so you can identify them. It does an author no good to say there are “a million opportunities” if, in fact, you can’t identify what those opportunities actually are. Is the roadblock a lack of money? A lack of names? A lack of exposure? A lack of time? A lack of media? A lack of originality? Too much competition? Jim explained that a good business review will make clear what the roadblocks are. He also noted that an even-handed review of your resources will help you form the basis of your marketing plan.

STEP THREE: Set a sales goal.

You may laugh at this, but it’s reasonable to think that an author

can set a sales goal. It certainly would help you determine things like your budget and your time investment if you knew you were going to sell a certain number of copies. So this will mean talking to your editor (or having your agent talk to the editor) to see what the publisher’s sales goal is for your book. This step, in Jim’s words, is “critical—it sets the tone for the entire marketing campaign.”

STEP FOUR: Clarify your target markets and marketing objectives.

In other words, determine who you’re going to sell your book to, where and when you’ll contact them, and how you’ll reach them. Then clearly state what behaviors you want from the target markets. The big picture here is that you’ll be setting up quantifiable goals—which activities will sell books and how many they’ll sell. (And at this point, I’ll admit that I have never done this. I don’t know that this was a new thought for me, but it would certainly be a scary step for me to take.)

STEP FIVE: Plan your overall strategies.

After you’ve defined your target markets and established your objectives, you begin to think about positioning—“creating the desired perception of your book with the target markets relative to the competition.” Jim stressed that this step cannot be skipped. It provides overall direction for the specific strategies. (And he had a lot more to say about marketing strategies . . . but I’ll wait for another newsletter to share all of that.)

STEP SIX: Set your communication goals.

At this point an author writes down what he or she wants the target market awareness and attitude to be. It gives you a way to provide direction for each marketing tool.

STEP SEVEN: Develop tactical marketing tools.

This is where you think about branding, packaging, pricing, events, media, promotion, advertising, and publicity vehicles. Most of us start here, but the marketing guru says this comes near the end of the planning process.

STEP EIGHT: Set a budget, a calendar, and an analysis.

Determine an amount of money you’re going to invest in your book, then the amount of time you’re going to invest. In other words, don’t just rely on the publisher for this. Then do an analysis: Ask yourself if you go through with the plan, do you stand a good chance of earning that money back?

STEP NINE: Work the plan.

Now that you’ve done all the basic planning, you get to do the work. This is where you start working through all those steps you set up in your plan.

STEP TEN: Evaluate.

Once you’ve worked through it all, go back and do an evaluation. What worked? What didn’t? What can you take and repeat on your next book? Ask questions and write down some clear answers. Be honest with yourself about the results.

There you have it, an expert’s thoughts on how to create a marketing plan for you book.