Marketing strategies – and why you need one…

Midway through last year I had a crisis of confidence. I’d already published Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry and was about to publish Wish You were Here. I was proud of what I was doing, but at the same time aware that no one knew my books were were out there. That had to change. I had to start getting my message out…but how?

Did I need to find an agent? Maybe start the run around of publishers again? Or, was there a part of the publishing cycle I was missing? There was: marketing.

The way I figured it, if I had a contract with a traditional publisher, they’d do some marketing for me, although as a newbie author, I’d also be required to do quite a bit of it for myself too. It followed, then, that if a publishing company had a marketing department, then I’d need one too.

Why invest in a marketing strategy?

Because I wanted to sell more books.

As I’ve mentioned before, this business of writing is, for me, a business. I do it because I love it and I do it because I want to be successful at it – and success for me is measured in terms of sales and, therefore, income.

Besides, what’s the point of writing a book that’s as good as I can make it, and spending the money on a great editor and a cover I’m proud of to have no one buy it?

What to expect from a marketing strategy…

It really depends on who you use and what you want to achieve. If you want to sell more books, a good marketing strategy should give you the tools and the information to help you do that.

I chose Mel Kettle, from Mel Kettle Consulting, to help me with my strategy. Mel and I had got to know each other (virtually) though various forms of social media and, despite having been in weekly fitbit challenges with each other for a couple of years, we’d never met in real life.

Mel broke my strategy down into 3 parts:

  1. What do I want to achieve?

First up was an introductory session. This was where Mel got to know me, my motivations, my background and my goals – all of which were important for the next step. Mel is based in Brisbane, so rather than do this by skype, we arranged to meet when I was on the Sunshine Coast last July. I won’t post the photos because I think I had dreadlocks…ok, I know I had dreads.

Anyways, this was the most challenging part of the process for me – it was also arguably the most valuable. Why? Although I’d said that I wanted to sell more books and be successful as a writer, when asked I had absolutely no idea what that looked like.

Mel asked me questions that I couldn’t answer – not properly. Questions like:

  • How do I measure success?
  • How many books do I intend to sell this year?
  • Next year?
  • The year after?
  • How do I see my business looking in 5 years time?
  • How much am I prepared to invest?
  • How much work am I prepared to do myself?

Answering questions such as these was a huge step for me. From this I was able to develop my business strategy to complement Mel’s marketing strategy.

  1. How do I want to achieve it?

The second part of the process was a brainstorming or planning session.

We worked through strengths and weaknesses; examined opportunities; and looked at where I tend to waste my energy (I didn’t tell her about my procrastiwatching, procrastibaking or Midsomer obsession…but I think she knew). We also identified issues that were obstacles to me achieving my goals. In my case these were summarised into just 2 areas:

  • Limited time – I work 4 days a week (sometimes 5) and they are long and full days involving me being away from home for over 12 hours a day (3 of which are spent commuting).
  • I have competing priorities – As well as my partition job, I also dabble in some freelance astrology writing, and maintain a content-hungry astrology blog.

The key take away for me was learning to prioritise the time that I have available, and committing to set aside a particular chunk of hours each week to focus on marketing activities.

  1. What do I need to do?

From this planning session we agreed some actions – some of which I could put into place immediately, and others that would require a little more thought and commitment. These were clearly outlined in a strategy document for me to follow.

We then agreed to catch up in three months to see how I was going against these actions. This too was a super valuable part of the process as it kept me accountable for my results.

Was it worth it?

Yes. Without a doubt.

Mel came up with ideas I hadn’t thought of, and simplified concepts I’d thought were too complex or time-consuming. Before writing the plan, she’d taken the time to understand me – and my goals – and tailored the strategy accordingly.

I’ve completed a number of the action items on the list, but others I’m yet to do. A few more will be appropriate for when I publish I Want You Back. Most importantly, the strategy Mel devised for me can also be used to grow my readership and email list on the astrology blog – and sell product through there as well.

The bottom line is that paying for a marketing strategy is a little like reading a diet book. It’s not enough to read it – and just having it won’t guarantee you success…you actually need to live it and commit to it. Nor will it bring overnight success – it takes time for improvements to be seen, but when they are, if you’ve been keeping a track of your sales before and after, it’s relatively easy to measure the impact of your strategy.

The way I figure it, I’ve paid for a tool – if I sit on my arse and don’t use or refer to it again, I’ve wasted the money.

When should you do this?

There are some marketing actions that you can do from the start – before you even have anything published. These are things like:

  • Creating a website
  • Creating a blog – and creating regular content for it
  • Establishing your presence on social media.

For other actions, it’s best to already have some books out there. Not only do you have something to measure your results against, but you can also spread the expense across each of those books – rather than attributing it to just one.

The biggest message though? It’s all very well having a marketing strategy, but you have to have something to market. Speaking of which, I have today’s word count to finish!