In this third installment of my post on writing book proposals, I’m going to talk about putting together a promotional plan, or marketing plan for your book. This is the part of the proposal where you outline for a publisher or agent exactly what YOU plan to do to help market your book.

We all know that writers are primarily the ones responsible for helping to sell their book once it gets published, so publishers expect for you to have some plan in mind for how you’re going to do that.

When developing your promotional plan, there are three key ingredients to keep in mind:

1. List as many realistic ideas as you have for how you want to promote your book. This is it. The only chance you’re going to get to sell a publisher on your manuscript. Don’t leave anything out. But, at the same time, make sure your ideas are actually do-able. If you say you’re planning on getting a celebrity to help sell your book for you, you better make sure you can actually do it.

2. Be as specific as possible with the details of your plan. Instead of telling the publisher that you will promote your book through partner websites, state what those websites are and how you have the connections to do so.

3. Be truthful in your claims. Don’t exaggerate on the number of readers who follow your newsletter or blog, and don’t state that you have 100 speaking engagements a year when you only really have 25.

There are probably as many different ideas for what can go into your promotional plan as there are people who wrote vampire stories last year, because everyone has an idea that may be totally unique to their personality or market. So, the following is not an exhaustive list, but rather a compilation of a few of the more realistic and common pieces to a promotional plan.

~ have a dedicated website for your book; should include links to partner websites (more on that in a minute) and your blog or newsletter if you have one

~ any specialty retailers or outlets where your book would be a good fit (include in your plan how you will reach these places)

~ hold speaking engagements on your book’s topic (include how many you plan on doing or, even better, currently doing per month or per year)

~ radio/TV/blog interviews; discuss the number of interviews you would like to have as a goal and in what media markets. Often, the publisher will set up interviews for you, but if they know you will be pursuing your own, even better!

~ hold blog tours; discuss how you’d like to arrange for blog tours for your book along with some specific promotional ideas, such as book giveaways, online book clubs, etc.

~ utilization of other social media; think of as many creative ways as possible to use social media to create a buzz about your book. Again, give the publisher as many details as possible as to what your strategy will entail.

~ book signings; popularity of book signings has drastically decreased over the past few years, and most publishers are reluctant to believe that a non-bestselling author will have much success with them. Group signings seem to work better than when authors show up on their own, so that may be a strategy you want to pursue. Also, if you can get creative with your signings and head to locations where your audience already hangs out (a cookware store for your cook book, for example) instead of the local Barnes and Noble, your chances of success will be greater.

In your promotional plan, discuss what specific places you have in mind to hold signings. These may not all pan out, but at least your giving the publisher an idea of what avenues you’ll try to pursue.

~ magazine articles; discuss what magazines you want to submit articles to that will coincide with your book’s topic; or if you’ve written fiction, what magazines could you maybe send an excerpt of your story to? Magazine articles are an excellent way to publicize your book. Instead of getting paid for your article, you can often work with the magazine editor to allow you a short bio or promo piece at the end of the article to promote your book.

~ book reviews; tell the publisher specifically where you want to send promo copies of your book to be reviewed. Be sure you’re sending them to very influential people, companies, or organizations who have a large following and can really help move your book. Otherwise, the publisher won’t be impressed.

~ promotional partners; these are organizations or individuals who complement your book in some way and who can open doors for your book. If you’ve written a book about kite flying, national kite flying organizations or hobby clubs or groups would be natural partners for your book. You would send these organizations review copies and ask to be linked to their websites, mentioned in magazines or newsletters they distribute to their members, or even have the opportunity to sell your book at their events.

In exchange you could promote these partners on your site or distribute their brochures or other marketing pieces along with your books when you speak or do book signings. If done properly, it will be a win-win for all involved.

To determine what else you can add to this list, think about your style and personality. If you hate speaking in front of large groups and know you’re not going to be able to sell your book this way, maybe you could tailor a speaking engagement to a smaller crowd, where it becomes more of an interactive seminar or workshop. Or, perhaps you could plant small book clubs around your book where you pop in as a guest and join in the discussions!

Also consider your audience. If you write for kids, chances are you’ll need to include the school and library markets, or if you’re writing a cook book, you could try to sell your book at places like Williams-Sonoma or other specialty such stores. This is your chance to show publishers just how creative you can be. You don’t have to–and shouldn’t–limit yourself to what everyone else is doing.

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