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Marketing 101: Product

We are looking at the basics of book marketing. If you missed the first post in the series, you can find it here.

When considering marketing, the first and most important element is the product: your book.

The single most important thing anyone can do to succeed in any job, in any profession, is to do the job to the best of their ability. Before you release your product, your book, onto the market, it needs to be the best you are able to produce. No excuses.

Keep working at it until you get it right. This means revising, editing, getting assessments and critiques from people you trust, more revising, more editing, getting more feedback from readers, still more editing, proofreading, editing those changes, then proofreading again to make sure the editing and proofreading hasn’t added any more errors. When you are 99% sure that this is the best you can do – that’s when you seek publication, either directly or through a literary agent.


If you are self-publishing, you are going to be responsible for making the decisions about everything:

  • Developmental editing
  • Copyediting
  • Proofreading
  • E-book conversion (it’s not enough to simply take a Word file and upload it)
  • Cover blurb
  • Cover design
  • Format: paperback, hardcover or e-book?
  • Print-on-demand or offset?
  • Organise an ISBN
  • Register copyright (where required)

Nick Thacker wrote an excellent blog post comparing the products and services of the three main print-on-demand companies: CreateSpace (owned by Amazon), Lightning Source (owned by Ingram, a major print and distribution company), and Lulu. It’s an excellent article, complete with photographs which illustrate the relative quality of each product (unfortunately, they also illustrate that Thacker’s interior design isn’t up to industry standards).

Self-publishing is a lot of work, but the rewards can be huge.

Small Publisher

If you are working through a small publisher, they may require you to go through one or two rounds of editing and proofreading (at your own cost) before they accept your manuscript, or they may do it all in-house. Be aware that not all small publishers understand what good fiction—and good fiction editing—looks like. They may simply proofread and not comment on issues like insufficient character development or lack of conflict, and they may not correct inconsistencies in point of view. I’ve seen books from small publishers with these faults. The books look professional—until you open them.

However, a good small publisher will take responsibility for all aspects of book production, and will produce a book you can be proud of. They will do all this at no cost to the author—remember, the first rule of publishing is that money flows to the author. If you are asked to pay for cover design, ebook conversion or for an ISBN number, the chances are this is a vanity publisher. If you are asked to pay a contribution towards marketing, your publisher is probably a vanity publisher. And if you are required to purchase a specified number of books, your publisher is certainly a vanity publisher (a real publisher allows you to purchase books at a stated discount, but does not require it).

Large Publisher

A larger trade publisher will take full responsibility for all tasks to do with the design and production of the book, although you (as the author and the person who knows the book best) will need to assist by completing the manuscript on time, completing all edits on time, and returning the final proofs when required. You may be given some input into cover design and back cover blurb, but this will depend on the individual publishing house.

Marketing 101: Introduction

Anyone who has ever done a course in marketing will have heard of The Four P’s that form the basis of marketing strategies – Product, Price, Promotion and Place. But how does that apply to publishing? Over the next few weeks, my Saturday posts will look at what you need to know about the Four P’s and what you can do to successfully market your book.

I’ve read several current books on the subject of book marketing, and I’ll be reviewing each of them over the next few weeks, with my posting on Wednesdays. While most of the books are aimed at those who are self-publishing on Amazon and other sites, some of them have information that is useful to all writers, regardless of where they are on the publishing journey, and whether they are trade published or self-published, as there are many common principles.

As the author, your level of input into the development and implementation of the marketing plan will depend on whether you are self-publishing or have a publishing contract. Different publishers will have different levels of expectation of their authors, and this should be covered in your contract. However, all publishers expect their authors to participate in marketing to some extent, and having established relationships with readers should improve your chances of getting published.

Have a Marketing Plan

The first step is to have a marketing plan (to echo Stephen Covey, begin with the end in mind). What do you want to achieve? Do you want to sell lots of books? Do you want to make lots of money? Do you want lots of people to read your books? (Those goals might be mutually exclusive.) What must you do to achieve that goal?

In my view, it’s never too early to begin thinking about marketing. For example, one of the first decisions an author needs to make about their book is what genre it is. Is it fiction or non-fiction? Is it a devotional or a self-help book? If fiction, is it contemporary or historical, romance or action? If you’re not sure what the different fiction genres are, I suggest you reread my series on genre.

Know Your Genre

Knowing your genre will help you understand your target market: an essential piece of a marketing plan. If you don’t know who your target reader is, you won’t know how to connect with them. This is one of the key points in Karen Baney’s book, 10 Keys to Ebook Marketing Success.

Knowing your genre will help you determine your author brand: the way you want readers to see you and your work. Understand what you are, and ensure all your marketing efforts (including tweets and Facebook posts) reinforce that brand. You don’t need a fancy tagline (although a tagline is a way of keeping your marketing efforts on track), but you do need to consider and manage your brand. Joanna Penn discusses this in How to Market a Book.

Understand Your Author Brand

It’s never too late to develop and implement a marketing plan, but the earlier you understand your author brand, the earlier you will be able to begin developing and implementing a marketing plan (including that all-important platform) that introduces and reinforces that brand. An established platform will be an invaluable asset if you are seeking traditional publication, as agents and commissioning editors are more interested in authors who understand the need to be active on social media. And an established platform is essential if you decide to self-publish, as it gives you a built-in group on which to focus your marketing efforts.