Self-Publishing Books or Self-Publishing Ebooks?
Create a Marketing Plan

by Dave Smith

Self publishing books or ebooks can be a great way to earn a living. Indeed, as book publishing options go, it might be your only realistic choice. Getting a traditional publisher isn't easy. If you are writing for money and want to escape your 9-5 drudgery, I have some important news for you.

To be successful, you must treat your writing activities like a business.

Whoa! A business? Yes, that's right. If you're writing for fun, that's fine. Hobbies are great, and writing can be a wonderful creative outlet. But if you want or need to make money writing, you need to start thinking like a business person. Writing and publishing a book is hard, time-consuming work. To make it pay off, you'll need a marketing plan.

I know, total bummer, right? Chin up, amigo. I'm going to cover some important information right here. You probably don't have a business background, so let's talk about the most important stuff you must know. This isn't rocket science, although it might be new territory for you.

Marketing Basics for Self-Publishing Books

Let's keep this simple.
  1. Every business must have customers.
  2. The process of getting customers is called marketing.
That sure sounds simple, right? Like most things, the devil is in the details.

Create a Marketing Plan

Before you start self publishing books, you'll need a plan to get customers. You have to be able to answer these questions.
  • Who is likely to buy your book?
  • What should you say to them to make them want your book?
  • When is the best time to talk to them?
  • Where can you reach them with your message?
  • Why should they buy your book instead of someone else's book?
  • How should you deliver your message?
That is the basics of a marketing plan, your plan to get customers.

Answering all these questions is practically a book in itself. In this article, I'm going to help you understand who your target customers are and where you can reach them.

What to say to them and how to say it are just as important (Hint: I'm not talking about advertising). Those are topics for another time.

Self Publishing Books
Define Your Target Market

NOTE: Some people explore self publishing books because being a published author is a big boost to their credibility. This is why many of the popular self publishing companies like Lulu and Create Space are called "vanity presses".

Are you self publishing books for you, or for someone else? If you're writing for money, you are writing for someone else.

That "someone else" is the person you want to buy your book, which we call the target. Who wants to buy your book?

If you said "everyone", please give yourself a well-deserved (but gentle) smack in the head. Seriously though, even if everybody needs your book, only a tiny fraction of the world's population will actually buy it. Big publishers consider a book wildly successful if it sells 5,000 copies.

So let's start talking about your target market. These are the people you think are likely to buy your book.

NOTE: If you're self publishing books to make money, you should figure out who will want to buy your book before you start writing it. For example, sales of "The Unabridged History of Pocket Fluff" are likely to be dismal.

A book can have more than one target market. The best way to think of a target market is to describe all the important attributes of a representative person (sometimes called a buyer persona) that will buy your book.

Consider the well known book, Goodnight Moon. We'll assume for the rest of this discussion that you are the author of a similar book, just as well written but not as popular. Who will buy Goodnight Moon?

It's a children's book, so do you try to sell it to children? No, you try to sell it to parents of children. Or people who know parents of children well enough to give the book as a gift on a birthday or a baby shower. Or teachers, schools, or public libraries. You get the idea.

Is it for all children? No, it's for babies and children under 6. We also know that it's written in English, so the buyer will probably speak English.

Free Marketing Tip: Children's books are sometimes read by adults learning to speak English as a Second Language (ESL).

Now we know a few facts about who will buy this book. We can dig deeper to answer more questions, like:
  • Who usually buys books for children? Mom or dad? Grandparents?
  • What kind of income does the book buyer have?
  • What other demographic information do we know, or that we can find out?
  • Does the book appeal more to boys/girls, or is it for all children?
Once this information is gathered, we begin to target very specific markets. Please read this page on creating a buyer persona to learn how to do this effectively.

Self Publishing Books - Final Thoughts

When you're self publishing books and doing your own marketing, you have to know who is buying your book (see the buyer personas link above) and where you can sell it to them. We know some places where we can talk to Jamie, our sample buyer persona. You can see how creating a buyer persona helps answer both of these questions.

These steps are critical, but they are just the beginning. Knowing what to say to Jamie, how to say it, and where to deliver that message are the next steps to make the sale. If you're writing for money, you must do these next steps.

As I said earlier, discussion of these topics is a book in itself - one that I don't have time to write here. If marketing is new to you, you can either learn how to market your book or work with a knowledgeable marketing professional.

©2011 Dave Smith Used by permission

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