An engineer can look at the foundation of a building under construction and tell you its eventual height. The deeper the base, the higher the structure will be. Similarly, an independent publisher must create a strong foundation to support a title's future growth. This preparation is performed in five phases.
1) The Planning Phase
Focus on creating a strategic marketing plan for your title at least six months prior to its publication date. Begin by precisely defining your target readers. Then outline your strategies, describe the tactics you will perform, and establish completion dates for each, in four functional areas:
* Production. How many pages and what size should the book be? What type of binding? Will you use illustrations or halftones? Ideas for cover design.
* Distribution. Will you distribute your books through the traditional distributor – wholesaler – retailer channels? If so, which ones? What special markets – mass merchandisers, book clubs, associations, schools, corporations, foundations, catalogs or home shopping channels – are suited to your title? What about sales through your website?
* Promotion. Plan your strategies in four areas (online and offline): 1) publicity (reviews, awards, releases, media appearances), 2) advertising (including your website, trade shows, direct marketing), 3) sales promotion (bookmarks, coffee mugs), and 4) personal selling (telephone marketing, sales calls, networking).
* Financial. Determine the list price and potential volume and velocity of unit sales and revenue. This will help determine your initial print run. Calculate expected costs and create your preliminary cash flow statements and other financial reports.
2) The Production Phase
The next month or two (four to five months before pub date) are devoted to the production process. Complete the editing, front cover design and internal layout, which presupposes all registration information (ISBN, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number or CIP data, copyright, bar code) has been compiled. Finish all charts, illustrations and photography.
Once you have all the production information, submit Requests For Quotation to several printers. Each RFQ should list the quantity to be printed and book's trim size, number of pages, colors (on the cover and internally), number of halftones, type of binding and the weight of the cover and paper.
3) The Distribution Phase
During the two to three months prior to publication, your objective is to create dual distribution (through bookstores and non-bookstore retailers, as well as to non-retail buyers). Research and contact relevant wholesalers and distributors. Separate distribution partners may be required for marketing to libraries, bookstores and non-bookstore retailers (airport stores, supermarkets, discount stores, etc). When you contact a prospective distribution partner, describe the comprehensive marketing plan you have in place and how your promotional efforts will support their sales efforts.
4) The Promotion Phase
“Perpetual promotion” begins here and never ends as you continuously work on building your platform. Three to four months before publication date, begin contacting book clubs and catalogs, inquiring into serial or other rights' sales. Prepare ARCs to send to reviewers as well as for peer review and endorsements. When you receive testimonials, add them to the rear cover copy and all your promotional material.
Create and place prepublication announcement advertisements (some trade papers have 90-day deadlines). Produce sales-promotional items. Decide upon the trade shows at which you will exhibit. What direct-mail letters and sales literature must be written and printed? Plan non-traditional publicity programs that will stimulate as much attention as possible. Finalize your website and produce podcasts and blog articles.
Prepare press releases for relevant newspaper and magazine editors. Do not overlook the broadcast media as a source of low-cost, high-yield publicity. Develop a list of television and radio shows suited to the topic of your book.
5) The Introduction Phase
The final month before publication is devoted to following up and catching up. Follow up with your printer, editors, producers, buyers and reviewers to consummate your programs. And make final arrangements for your store events.
At the same time, implement last-minute promotional programs. This may entail mailing literature to buyers at major chains and independent stores, sending book covers to distributors, participating in cooperative mailings, and getting your website up and running.
When your book is finally released, the real work of sustaining its momentum begins. However, the publishing process is more rewarding and productive if it begins well enough in advance, building steadily upon a strong foundation of strategic planning and effort. The Association of Publishers for Special Sales created a timeline that you will find helpful in planning your pre-publication marketing activities. See it at www.bookapss.org/PrePubTimeLine.pdf
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org), and the creator of Book Selling University (www.booksellinguniversity.com) He was the host of the TV show The Book Authority for 13 years, a guest on over 1200 shows, and is a media trainer. Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.bookmarketingworks.com