Self Publishing 101 – Optimizing Your Book Marketing Plan

To market your book successfully, you don’t need a book full of jargon and buzzwords – but you do need a marketing plan. For most authors, and many large publishers even, a marketing plan will produce rather underwhelming results. There are numerous opportunities for a marketing plan to go awry, so I’ve outlined a few of them below that are the most common and fundamental – hopefully this will help you avoid them!

Common Marketing Plan mistakes:

Missed your target

Quite frequently, a book’s marketing plan is designed to appeal to an author’s ego, or spouse, or an ideal of what a “book marketing plan” should be – not for the ultimate consumer of your book, the reader. Remember to think about where your target audience spends their time, and how they are likely to be looking for your book. What appeals to you (or anyone who is already familiar with your book) isn’t necessarily the same thing that will appeal to an uninitiated reader.

Remember, for your marketing plan to be effective, it needs to concentrate on presenting those things that are most important to the end consumer – not how great you are as an author, nor even how amazing your book happens to be – concentrate on what you know your reader needs most.

Lost your focus

If the word “everyone” is anywhere in your marketing plan – or even in your brain while writing your marketing plan – you probably lost your focus. As with most things in life, trying to do or be “everything” is a pretty sure formula for failure. Successful marketing is all about targeting and understanding the unique reasons consumers will buy your product – and finding ways to reach those specific individuals who are most interested in what you have to say.

Targeting a specific segment of a market (called “niche marketing”) – and tying your marketing activities (“Plans” and “Actions” from last month – remember?) to these niche segments will guarantee far more success than a broad, vague, “shot-gun” approach. Large companies need huge volumes of business to succeed – so they can spend tens of thousands of dollars on broad, sweeping marketing. Most likely, you don’t have those resources and need to compete intelligently – niche marketing allows you to develop a strong market position against other competitive product.

Thought you were superhuman

Going right along with being “everything to everyone” is “doing everything all the time” – and it’s a great way to go broke and get exhausted. Don’t let your marketing plan become some behemoth tome – 4 effective, targeted, and achievable things are far better than 40 items, of which 39 you’ll never get to or have the cash to perform. Be very very honest with yourself on how much time, money, and energy you have for your book marketing. Then, when your plan is done, take out half of what you set as Objectives and rewrite 2 more Actions for each Plan.

Remember – your marketing plan is a “living” document, and for it to thrive, it must be put into action, and for you to take any action at all your plans must be realistic.

Forgot you wrote a marketing plan

Every weekday should have something you are attending to on your marketing plan – and you should be making notes or checking check boxes on at least a weekly basis.

The vast majority of marketing plans fail because they got written and forgotten.

KEEP IT IN YOUR FACE! On your desk calendar or to-do list, in your daytimer, in Outlook Express, email yourself reminders, whatever – but you should be taking some sort of action almost every day. Put your Actions on a pocket calendar and carry it with you – this really is about “concerted effort”. It needs to become second nature – a way of thinking!

Made it vague and full of buzz-words like “paradigm shift”
(which is probably why you forgot it up above…)

Your Goals need to be aggressive – they also need to be concrete. “Sell 5000 copies in 1 year” is a heck of a goal, but you can build something around it… “Be A Bestseller in 1 year” is pretty much meaningless. “Create a shift in the attitudes towards toe-nail fungus” doesn’t work either – there is nothing there…
It is quite normal to struggle with creating a marketing plan that has Goals that seem achievable – but if the goals are vague, you’ll never be able to create “Actions” to support them. In fact, if you find yourself unable to create “Actions” to support your Goals – then you most likely are off track somehow.

Didn’t make it measurable

For any marketing plan to be a success, there must be a way to measure that success – and items must be completed, follow-ups created, and Objectives obtained. You need to be able to see if you are making progress – even if it’s just ticking off to-do items. Your marketing plan succeeds from the bottom up, not the top down – that means it’s ticking off the little items way down in your “Actions” list that begin to achieve the bigger things farther up the food chain. These are the little items you need to think about each day.

Thought you’d never change it (or, are resistant to changing it)
Marketing plans are a living thing – and they need to be updated and modified as market conditions change, new ideas arrive, or old ideas are proven impractical or useless. Always be looking for better ideas – but work them from the bottom up. You should update, modify, and change “Actions” far more frequently than your Goals and Objectives. However, do not pursue a path just because you wrote it down – give everything a chance to succeed, but bail if you feel you are spinning your wheels. Cut out the offending part of your plan and replace it with something new and fresh.

..and last, but not least…

Figured you should only use your own ideas

Guess what? Nothing’s new… and everything out there can be adapted to fit your situation in some way. Read every book, newsletter, forum, web site that you can get your hands on – and borrow ideas from everywhere! Ideas can come in from all sorts of directions – be open!


That’s it – avoided all these common traps? You now have the world’s best marketing plan for your book. Get moving!

Let us know if we can answer any questions, and thanks for reading. As always – if you like this information (and found it helpful) please feel free to post it on your site, put it in a blog, toss it in your newsletter, or in general spread it around. Please just give us credit here at

May you have success in your creative efforts!


Ray Robinson is a partner in Dog Ear Publishing a self publishing services company specializing in delivering “high touch” services to the author community. His company provides a full range of services to authors, from editorial to page layout to marketing and fulfillment. Visit the web site for a complete discussion on marketing your book.

Author: Ray Robinson
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