Friday, January 13, 2006

Sample Business Plan for a Writer--Part IV

This is the fourth in a series of blogs on a sample business plan for a writer.

In my first blog on the subject, I pointed out that you, the writer, will be wearing a lot of hats in your quest to establish a successful business. Among these is publicist. Don't kid yourself; your publisher is not going to be spending big bucks on marketing your first efforts. Think ahead about how you will publicize your book and yourself.

J.A. Konrath, mystery writer, is one of the persons who takes his job as a publicist seriously. He is also someone who has been remarkably successful in creating a name for himself. One of his early moves was to create a blog he called "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing"
( in which he shared information about his journey as a writer. In an interview with Mark Terry, Konrath was asked about promotion. He responded, "Twenty percent of my time is spent writing. Eighty percent of my time is spent marketing. At least a third of my income goes toward self-promotion . . . I visit a dozen conventions every year. I travel all over the place. I travel locally. Web site, of course ( And advertising and simple promotion like flyers or printing up chapbooks, which I give out for free. … I spend a great deal of my income on self-promotion, but that's an investment. I'm investing in myself."

Invest in yourself. Be thinking ahead to what kinds of things you can do to promote your books. How do you want to "brand" yourself? The big brands are easiest to identify. Stephen King is almost synonymous with horror, Nora Roberts with romance. And Roberts is a great example of protecting her brand. When she decided she wanted to experiment with harder-edged romantic mysteries, she didn't publish them under the Nora Roberts label. She understood that doing so might confuse her readers. Instead, she published them under the name of J.D. Robb and began developing a new brand. As the Robb name became more popular, Nora became more comfortable in acknowledging that those books were actually hers. Now she has one website on which she lists both brands, but readers are very clear about what to expect from each.

On a writers' loop, I recently mentioned an unpleasant experience I'd had with a brand. I had been buying mysteries by James Patterson for some years when he came out with a new book entitled "Where the Wind Blows." I plunked down my $25 for the hardback, expecting to curl up with a solid mystery. Instead I found myself reading a sci-fi/paranormal. I was seriously torqued. And I LIKE paranormals. My problem was that I felt I'd been a victim of bait and switch. I returned that book to B&N and haven't bought a Patterson book since. THAT'S an example of what violating your brand can do.

Give some thought to the brand you want to develop. Do you have a hook with a particular market? Is your heroine a gardener, a cook, a nun? If so, you can market to gardening groups, cooking classes or religious organizations. You can give lectures that combine your speciality with promoting your book.

There are publicists-for-hire available. They don't come cheap. There are also lots of companies that create advertising tools like bookmarks and chapbooks for you to mail or give away at conferences. Conferences are another good marketing opportunity. Think about conferences where readers will attend instead of only conferences populated by writers (although most writers are readers, too).

Consider taking out ads in the magazines that your target audience reads. Or a banner on a website like Romance Junkies (if you're a romance writer). Remember to push reviews of your books with the websites that do reviews. A good review is worth its weight in diamonds in attracting a new audience.

Are you shy? Get over yourself. You need to learn to put yourself forward, talk to strangers and not be embarrassed to mention your book's title as well as your name. Offer to do a talk at your local writing group or library group (of course, it helps if you have a subject in mind to talk about ).

Is it beginning to dawn on you why so many writers have set up websites and blogs? For the money, websites and/or blogs are a very inexpensive marketing tool that gives you the widest audience possible. But make sure your readers will remember YOUR name. If you give your website another name, make sure your own name is prominently featured as well. Don't confuse your target audience with too many names, too much to remember. You want them to remember YOUR name so that when they walk into a bookstore and see your book, they'll connect the two and buy it. Marketing 101.

More tomorrow . . .

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