Marketing plan for fiction

Dear Miss Snark,

I just read the submission requirements for a newish, small genre publisher, and they want a marketing plan to be included with every submission. 1) I know authors have to promote themselves. Is this requirement going too far or is it the wave of the future/present? 2) To what extent does a potential author's marketing plan affect the publisher's decision to buy? 3) How much money do publishers expect an author to spend on marketing? I don't expect to ever make much money writing, but I'd rather not go into debt with it either.

Sorry to ask so many questions, but once I started they all came pouring out.

First, you said genre, so I'm going to assume fiction. Marketing plans for non-fiction (also meaning platform) is absolutely the norm with all publishers great and small. However, fiction is a Norm of a different color.

The first thing I notice is you said they want it with submissions. Yuck. I'd look to make sure they have decent distribution before I'd lift one well-shod toe. By decent distribution I do NOT mean "available on Amazon and through Ingram and Baker and Taylor". That is code for "we're listed and someone can order it at the store but we don't have any sales muscle".

You want to see the actual word "distribution" or "wholesale". You want to see a website that offers booksellers information on how /where to order. If the website is ONLY directed at consumers, you know you're gonna be on your own to move this puppy.

It's quite normal for me to work with marketing and publicity folks to promote a title once it's been accepted for publication. I do that every day of the week. I might discuss an author's rousing success in the market place when I pitch a book to an editor but I've never written a marketing plan for a piece of fiction as part of the submission process.

As for how much to spend, there are a lot of ways to build visibility without spending a lot of dough. The trade off is time. You spend one or the other but not neither.


down_not_out said...

Sending in a full-on marketing plan with a submission seems a bit much. However, as we know, writing is a business and marketing is how business gains prospective clientele. I realize writers want to stay locked in the vacuum-- but educating yourself on your market (i.e. market research for your niche) should only prove helpful.

The more you know about what is out there-- to be read: who your competitors are-- the better. Take that knowledge and hone your campaign. Figure out who you’re reaching for and learn how to tap them on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I think you’d enjoy this read.”

Of course, writing to spread your words on the world with no aspiration for success is O.K. too. It’s not, and shouldn’t be, all about the money. If you want your financial success and writing success to mirror each other you’re gonna have to dig into the business aspect of wordsmithing.

At least that’s what I hear as a writer and understand as a businessperson. Could be I’m dead wrong; I’m not a wildly successful author—yet.

fooled once said...

I can speak from recent, unhappy experience. It isn't a great deal. My book just came out through a small press publisher and it's "available through Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com" etc. The 'self promotion' is a rip-off. It's expensive! Unless you have a couple thousand dollars to spend on advertising, don't do it. I've spent $250 on ads and sending review copies, and my first 'royalty' check was $35. I'm working on a novel now that I believe has more potential and I won't waste my time with small publishers and a plan for self promotion! I advise you to keep submitting your work to reputable agents and/or major publishers. That's my opinion.

domynoe said...

So, if the author has to suggest a marketing plan, what kind of plan does s/he send along? Not being on the marketing end of things, how does an author know how to create a plan?

Hmmmm . . . quite the manged question, but I'm sure you understand what I'm trying to ask here.

Thankees. :)

Anonymous said...

A great book on this subject: Publicize Your Book! by Jacqueline Deval. It includes a detailed how-to for writing a marketing plan, plus advice on when self-promotion makes sense, how much, what to do for NF v. fiction, etc..

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I believe I know this small publisher (having read a great many guidelines) and my advice is give this one a pass.
Ms. Snark hit the nail on the head when she spoke about distribution, and I believe their print runs are only about 3,000.

down_not_out said...

domynoe asked...
Not being on the marketing end of things, how does an author know how to create a plan?

There are entire how-to-books dedicated to marketing plans just as there are for query letters, resumes, etc...

Research, self-education, asking for help from those who know, and digging in. That's how.

Sam said...

A marketing plan can be this:

I (the author) have (or plan to have) a website, and I plan to attend literary conventions within the limits of my budget.
I plan to contact local bookstores and organize signings. I plan to contact local libraries and schools and send them flyers about my book.

That, for example, is a small marketing plan from a new author with a limited budget.

Anita Daher said...

I could see the publisher asking for marketing input, but the fact that they are asking for an actual plan worries me. Do they not have at least one marketing person on staff? Marketing and distribution are major. If you take on that yourself, you might as well take on the editing and printing of the book. Pass.

down_not_out said...


You HAVE to know the market for your work.

Are you trying to sell your work? Then you need to understand who you're selling to, how you're going to sell it, figure out a good reason why they would want to, and THEN make plans to reach those folks to let them know your work is available.

Leave it up to the publisher if you like, you're doing yourself and your book (your product) a grave disservice.

No... I don't agree with the request for a marketing plan up front. That smells like the dock. I do, however, know that to sell you have to understand your market. To be financially successful in any industry, you have to sell.

Marketing is important, don't brush it off.

Dakota Knight said...

I decided to start writing marketing plans for my books in the hopes it would show potential publishers how serious I am about making my books successful. Currently, I am trying to push two YA series and I drafted 13-page marketing plans for both of them. Now, it did take some time, but I'm hoping in the end, it will give me an edge with an acquisition editor. We'll see.

Richard said...

I recommend reading The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell). Then learn as much as you can about the Bloggersphere. New writers can't afford to use conventional marketing wisdom. Use the Internet to its fullest, give away lots of books to mavens, and go viral. And indeed, understand your market.