While some Christian authors plan to give their book to only friends and family, we know that many Christian authors hope to share their book and message with the masses. To make this dream a reality, you’ll need a plan of action – a marketing plan.
Without an effective marketing plan, you might end up wasting a lot of time, money and effort in a frenzied, unorganized attempt to sell books.
Now, that’s not what you want to happen at all, is it? And we want to help you avoid that. So, sharpen your pencils and open your notebook because here comes your crash course in book marketing 101: how to create a marketing plan to successfully launch your Christian book.
What is a Book Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan spells out the actions needed to achieve your marketing goals. Before you start planning how to get somewhere, you should first know where you’re trying to go. So, let’s start with your goals.
Now, you may have lofty dreams and aspirations about your book, such as appearing on Oprah or hitting the top of the bestseller’s list. These aspirations are yours to have – we’re not suggesting that you give up your dreams.
But it’s time to think about a realistic, attainable and definable goal, such as selling X number of copies, or making X amount of money – it’s fine to set the bar high, just make sure that they are goals you can realistically achieve.
Once you know what goals you’re shooting for, you then know where you’re headed, but now you’ll need a plan if you want to get there. The marketing plan encompasses all aspects in the life of your book, from the first inspirational idea for your book to the last promotional effort you’ll make. A marketing plan is all encompassing, so it’s best to start with the basics, including defining your market, identifying your customers or target audience, identifying your competitors and outlining a strategy to attract customers. You’ve got to start somewhere, right? Starting with the basics will not only help define these traits for you personally, but they will help define your book for your audience as well as focus your marketing efforts later.
Get Started Early: Research the Christian Book Market
It’s never too early to begin thinking about your marketing plan. Before you even type the first sentence of your book, you can begin the first step to developing a marketing plan, which is to conduct market research. This research will help you become familiarized with the condition of the market and plan your approach. Check out the types of Christian books that are currently selling well. Visit bookstores to see which books receive the best shelf space and decide into what markets your book fits. Start networking and making connections with other authors to gain knowledge and advice. Connect with media members and begin compiling a list of contacts for future promotional opportunities.
If you’ve already written your book, don’t worry; EverFaith Press has a slew of marketing resources to help you jump into the game prepared. Plus, even though you’ve already written your manuscript, you can still conduct research as well as analyze and define your manuscript from a marketing perspective. Start by making a few basic decisions regarding your book regardless of the stage of writing.
Five Crucial Elements to Your Book Marketing Plan
1. First, clearly identify your target audience. If your first thought is, “Well, that’s easy: Christians!” then you might need to reevaluate your approach. Really get specific: Christian mothers? Grieving Christians? Disabled Christians? Christians who love healthy cooking? Christians who are teachers? Perhaps there are multiple groups of people that would be interested in your book, but it’s best to narrow your focus from the start so you have a clear target.
Consider characteristics such as age, gender, career, income, residence/location and education. By clarifying your targeted audience, you’re finding a niche audience, which will make marketing much easier and effective later down the line.
No matter your writing style, there’s undoubtedly an audience for your work, an audience just waiting for your new, rich and inspirational material. All in all, once you have your target audience(s) defined, you can then search out the means of reaching them and begin your marketing endeavors.
2. Second, identify the competition. The Christian book market is large and thus, highly competitive; but you can use this to your advantage. Find out what kinds of Christian books are selling the best. Identify experts or leaders in the field. Scrutinize your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Record the selling price of other books based on the subject, binding type, book size and page count. Determine the market demand for specific types of books within your genre.
Take some time to browse through bookstores and note how Christian books are marketed on secular bookstores. Now, how are different styles of Christian books marketed within the Christian genre? For example, what is the topic of top selling Christian book? Are they fiction? Non-fiction? Christian lifestyle? This research will help you better understand the current trends in the book selling marketplace and how your book can fit within it.
3. Third, research how best to reach your targeted audience(s), whether it is through a particular magazine, Web site or geographic location. Search online for blogs, forums and other social networks through which you can reach your audience. Does your audience listen to a particular radio station? Attend particular events? Does your book have a direct connection to a particular city or region? Are there cultural ties that map directly with a certain cultural areas? Do members of your targeted audience represent a higher percentage of the demographic in particular cities?
For example, if you’re targeting young-adult Christians, you could research the location of the largest Christian colleges in the United States. Or, perhaps your book relates more specifically to Catholic teachings, in which case you can narrow your search to Catholic schools. If your book is more general in location, not tied to a specific region, then it’s best to start locally, and then expand outward as you saturate the market.
4. Fourth, develop a statement to position your book within your targeted audience. This statement should highlight your book’s unique selling position, or what separates your book from the crowd in a bustling book market. If you’re not sure exactly how to answer, consider this situation: a reader is browsing a shelf of Christian books and has the chance to ask you directly, “Why should I buy your book? Why should I take the time and spend the money to read your book in particular over all of these other books on the shelf?” Try to answer thoroughly yet briefly. Be persuasive and engaging.
5. Fifth, develop a budget for your marketing plan. How much can you realistically spend on marketing over the next year? Over the next two years? Consider the type of media you will use, promotional services and all other costs associated with marketing. Some marketing efforts are extremely affordable, while others are outrageously expensive. Your budget will ultimately affect which promotional strategies you can afford, but remember: a higher price tagged promotional strategy does not always produce a better result.
Once you have examined these important broad-based fundamental distinctions, the next step is to really narrow in and develop your marketing strategy. Using the “Four P’s of Marketing” you can create a detailed marketing plan along with the specific steps needed to meet your particular marketing goals. Just remember to always keep these five essential aspects in mind, and you’ll be sure to reach your readers with success.
Check back next week for the next installment on Christian Book Marketing, The Four P’s of Marketing!