For a nonfiction book-marketing plan to be successful, you have to tailor it to a specific group of people – your target audience. The more targeted your plan, the better the results.
When your book-marketing plan is laser-focused on your audience and their needs, you’re no longer marketing a book. You’re marketing your unique solution to a specific a problem and that puts you in a class of one.
This is an important distinction to make because the job of your book-marketing plan is to connect with people (i.e. the “right” audience), not to sell books – although the better your connection the more books you’ll sell.
In short, book sales should be a secondary consideration, not the primary driver of your marketing decisions. In this article, I’ll show you the best way to plan your book marketing efforts using 5 simple yet very effective steps:
Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience Very Clearly
Since as a nonfiction author you’re in the business of solving a specific problem with your unique solution, you need to be able to clearly identify the group of people who need your solution the most before you start any marketing activity.
Without this intrinsic motivation on the part of your target audience, it’ll be extremely difficult to get their attention.
If you were to try to market your book to the general public, their level of motivation will be so diluted, so “all over the map,” that you’d have trouble making any significant inroads, no matter how hard you work your marketing machine.
So, your first job is to identify exactly who it is you’ll be helping the most and then crafting your marketing efforts for their eyes only. How do you do that? By creating an avatar of your ideal customer.
Create Your Audience’s Avatar
In the context of book marketing, an avatar is a fictitious persona that you create as a composite of all members of your ideal audience.
You need to thoroughly research what people think and feel about their problem, what these people fear the most, their wants and desires, their challenges and goals.
Start with your own business clients. These are the members of your target audience that you know the best. You’ll know a lot about them from experience through your business interactions.
But don’t stop there. Interview them, have a chat, ask open-ended questions to get a more rounded picture of their psyche. Beyond direct clients, identify potential members of your target audience through your personal and business networks.
Arrange chats either face to face or through a video link and tell them that you’re writing a book on the subject of XYZ and that you need their input for your book research.
Here’s another source: depending on your subject area, there’s a treasure trove of information to be found in publicly available online forums that cater to the problem that you’re addressing with your book.
Forums often have an “introduction” thread where people introduce themselves in an anonymous way, sharing their deepest fears, challenges, desires and goals – all there laid out for you.
Once you’ve acquired and catalogued all this information, create the profile of your ideal customer (you can do a separate profile for each gender if your solution caters to both men and women).
This profile has to identify the person’s name (made up by you), age, gender, occupation, income, marital status, where they live, their home-ownership status, any children, pets, status of their children (at school? married?), health issues, other issues, etc.
Then you list the challenges, fears, desires and goals as an aggregate of all your prior target audience research. Finally, you find a headshot in a free stock photo site and paste it at the top of your profile.
This fully fleshed-out profile of an ideal audience member will be your avatar. From now on, you’ll address all of your marketing efforts to this individual (or individuals if you have a separate avatar for each gender).
Step 2: Find Out What Places Your Target Audience Likes to Frequent
Next in the plan you’ll identify the places that your avatar likes to frequent, both online and offline. These are the places where your marketing outreach efforts will be directed.
Members of your target audience will likely frequent a number of places online.
These could be social media sites – depending on the age and gender of your avatar, they could be frequent users of Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn or Twitter.
They could also be online forums, social blogging sites such as Medium, Q&A sites such as Quora and Yahoo Answers, or news aggregation sites such as Reddit.
Your job is to simply meet them where they are at and engage with them with the aim of providing value.
Your audience will also frequent different offline meeting places.
Depending on your subject matter, they may meet regularly through chamber of commerce events, social service organizations such as Rotary International, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs International, trade shows and industry panels, etc.
Many will attend regular meetings at a number of trade or professional organizations, professional conferences, non-profit organizations, events run at various schools for parents and teachers, community events for senior citizens, and so on.
Again, your job is to meet them at the places they’re most likely to frequent, in order to connect with them and help them solve a problem in your area of expertise.
Step 3: Create an Outreach Plan
Once you know the online and offline places that your target audience frequents, you need to establish a number of outreach plans so you can connect with them in a way that’s meaningful to them (remember: you’re not in the business of selling, you’re in the business of solving).
Your ultimate goal is to get them to know you, trust you and like you. You’ll achieve it by creating the following 4 outreach plans:
1) Social Media Plan
Once you’ve identified the social media platforms that your target audience frequents, you’ll need to take advantage of their engagement features to connect with them.
For example, on Facebook you can create and moderate groups, or write long-form posts full of valuable information. On LinkedIn you can publish articles that are meaningful to your audience.
On Pinterest, you can create boards with information that addresses your target audience’s problem, linking back to your blog for a more in-depth learning experience.
2) Public Speaking Plan
Once you’ve identified the offline meeting places that your target audience likes to frequent, you’ll need to create a public speaking plan so that you can get yourself booked into those venues as an expert speaker.
Fortunately, with the help of your book this won’t be hard to achieve. A word of advice: begin with free speaking events in order to get enough experience to qualify for paid events later on.
Keep in mind that in most venues you’ll be allowed to sell your book at the back of the room, so you’ll have some revenue to cover some or all of your expenses.
3) Earned Media Plan
The next outreach plan is to get interviewed as an expert by a number of media outlets, such as radio, TV, and print on the mainstream side of things, and news blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels on the alternative media side.
Most media derive the bulk of their revenues from advertising so they constantly need new content to fill the airways and pages with relevant information from experts just like you.
4) Influencer Plan
The online information revolution has spawned a new breed of influencers with large audiences who operate blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels.
Not unlike the world of traditional media, they derive most of their revenues from online advertising on their channels so they also are constantly looking for fresh content to keep the interest of their audiences.
Your plan is to establish mutually beneficial relationships with these influencers so that that they offer you the opportunity to be a guest on their platforms in exchange for links back to your website.
Step 4: Create Your Distribution Strategy
Now it’s time to shift to the nuts and bolts of the book trade: distribution. As you set up the various book marketing outreach plans, you’ll also need to make sure that your book is widely available for purchase so that your target audience can easily get it.
In order to enable wide distribution for your nonfiction book, you’ll have to use the two largest channels for self-publishing authors: online bookstores and offline bookstores and libraries.
Online Distribution: Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
KDP is the gateway to Amazon for your book. Once you’re set up on the KDP platform, you book will be available for purchase in the biggest online bookstore in the world.
Not only will your printed book be available for purchase in North America but also in Europe, Japan and Australia/New Zealand through their wholly-owned, on-demand printing facilities, allowing Amazon to fulfill orders cost-effectively using local shipping rates and without storing inventory.
Offline Distribution: IngramSpark Distribution
For offline distribution, you’ll need to set up an account with IngramSpark, a subsidiary of Ingram, the world’s largest book distributor for brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries.
Like Amazon’s KDP, IngramSpark has their own on-demand printing facilities located in North America, Europe and Australia, allowing your brick-and-mortar book orders to be fulfilled locally into the most important book markets in the world.
Step 5: Lead Conversion Strategy
Once you have all of the above channels in place, you need to post links back to your website and your blog articles in order to drive traffic to be converted into leads and customers.
Every time you contribute to a forum, online group, write an article on LinkedIn or answer a question on Quora, you’ll be leaving backlinks as breadcrumbs that allow your target audience to follow you back to your author website.
Once there, you’ll encourage members of your target audience to leave you their email so that you can build an email list of people who know you, trust you and like you. Over time, your email list will become your most important marketing asset.
You’ll use email to create a deeper bond with your target audience, by sending them frequent, relevant information of genuine value to them and the occasional offer for a paid product or service.
Using this method, many nonfiction authors have grown their email lists into the thousands and tens of thousands of followers over the years, creating a trusting audience that becomes an on-going pipeline for added business revenue and book sales.
In order for this lead conversion strategy to work you’ll need the following pieces:
First of all, you’ll need to create an author website where you’ll showcase your books and other business services, courses, consulting, etc. You’ll also use this website to host your author blog.
You’ll use your author blog to drive traffic to your website from Google searches performed by your target audience when they’re looking for solutions for the problem that you want to help them solve.
Through the use of keyword research, you’ll develop articles that focus on those search phrases or keywords, with the goal of having your blog posts appear on the first page of search results.
When they click on your search result, they’ll land on your blog post. Once there, you’ll encourage them to leave their email in exchange for a “lead magnet” that appeals to them.
Your lead magnet will take the form of a valuable piece of free information that you’ll offer your target audience in exchange for their email. It must be something they perceive to be very valuable.
Some authors use mini eBooks as a lead magnet, some others use an infographic, others use a white paper, depending on your audience and your subject matter.
Opt-In Page and Autoresponder
Your lead magnet will be offered through the use of an opt-in page. This is a small webpage that pops up after a certain amount of time has elapsed (say 15 seconds or 30 seconds after landing on one of your articles). This time delay is there to ensure that they already started reading your blog post.
The opt-in form will contain special code that’ll capture their email address and place it in an autoresponder. This is the tool that you’ll use to build and maintain your email list, including the unsubscribe function which is required by law.
You’ll also use this tool to broadcast emails to your list regularly so that you can continue to build on your relationship with your target audience.
With this book marketing plan specifically tailored to nonfiction authors, you’ll be able to develop your two most important assets for your long-term success: your blog and your email list.
Over time, these two assets will become powerful engines of revenue that’ll work tirelessly for you for years to come, while costing you very little to maintain.
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of publishing or promoting a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.