If you’ve dreamed of having your book in bookstores, enrolling in the traditional distribution program at Mill City Press, where your book marketing plan for distribution will be presented to book retailers and wholesalers, is a great first step.

But enrollment in traditional distribution doesn’t guarantee your book will be picked up. One of the most common reasons why book buyers decline to carry books in stores? Insufficient marketing plans. Think of it from the book buyer’s perspective: if people don’t know about your book, they won’t know to buy it. Would you stock a book in your store that no one knows about?

The burden on getting the word out about your book falls on you. This is especially true for self-publishers, but it’s even true for those who are traditionally published. Yes, even traditional publishers put the bulk of the marketing responsibility on their authors. At Mill City Press, we offer services for self-published authors that provide a great start for your marketing efforts. You and our book publicist can discuss which services are right for you as part of a marketing consultation.

When you receive your dashboard step to begin planning your marketing activities for distribution, you’ll want to brainstorm a list of possible activities, from book signings and speaking engagements, to social media efforts and advertising, to an author website and blog. It sounds like a lot and can definitely be overwhelming, but well-marketed books have a greater chance of being sold—in bookstores and online.

How to Set Up a Successful Book Marketing Plan

There’s no single right way to market a book. In fact, the best marketing plan is one that’s tailored to yours. Fiction and nonfiction books can and should be marketed differently.

If your book is nonfiction, for example, having a blog that’s focused on your book’s topic is a smart strategy. If you write fiction, however, your blogging options—if you choose to have a blog—won’t be so straightforward.

When it comes to book marketing, you have a number of options, which we’ll outline below. These aren’t all or nothing—you’ll have to determine your budget (in terms of time and money), what you can commit to, and what makes the most sense for your book.

Social Media and Blogging

Although blogging is often not thought of as social media, it is—only in a longer format. Just as you would sign up for a social media platform like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you have to set up your blog, which includes your domain name and hosting platform for your author website.

You’ll want to be posting on your social media platforms and blog leading up to your release date. It’s not enough to have social media accounts or a blog; you must be actively using them. Remember, your goal with marketing is to spread the word, so connecting with your blog or social media followers is a must.

The more people who follow your social media accounts or blog, the larger your potential audience is. By the time your book’s ready to be released, you’ll be able to announce its debut to your followers—who will already be excited to buy it.

Publicity Campaign

Think of a publicity campaign in the traditional book marketing sense: in the two to three months leading up to your publication date, a book publicist pitches your book to the media. This is called a media outreach campaign, and for the right type of book, this campaign can be an excellent option to gain coverage in the form of book reviews or interviews.

While you can also conduct a publicity campaign yourself, most media professionals expect these pitches to come from book publicists. If you decide a publicity campaign is right for your book, make sure you have the necessary lead time (and money, if you plan to hire a book publicist).

Book Signings and Events

You can also set up book signings and other in-person events, such as conferences or a launch party, to help market the book. If you’re using a book to showcase your expertise on a topic, for example, speaking at an organized banquet or conference can promote your book, too.

But how can you set up events if you don’t know your pub date?

This is a common question and a completely valid one. The answer is, do everything you can to set up the event, minus confirming the date. Contact bookstores to learn their procedure for setting up signings for self-published authors. Research conferences on your topic, and look into the process for becoming a speaker.

How to Fill Out Your Marketing Plan for Distribution

Once you’ve got a marketing plan, it’s time to fill out your marketing plan for distribution. How is this marketing plan different from a general marketing plan?

A marketing plan for distribution is a list of specific marketing activities with precise details. This plan is given to the distributor, who includes your plan when presenting your book to retailers like Barnes & Noble Small Press and wholesalers like Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Your marketing efforts can weigh heavily in their decision as to whether to carry your book, and activities like scheduled book signings and secured media coverage suggest to these book buyers that you’re likely to sell books in a specific geographic market.

When the marketing plan for distribution step appears on your dashboard, you’ll see three text boxes: author platform, traditional publicity agenda, and online and social media agenda. If you’ve purchased marketing services from Mill City Press, such as Goodreads ads or Facebook ads, these services will be pre-populated in your marketing plan for distribution.

Author Platform

Your author platform consists of two parts: (1) where you can be found online and (2) your involvement in the writing community and/or the community surrounding your book’s subject matter.

Where you can be found online would include your author website, blog, and social media accounts. Because the marketing plan for distribution needs to include precise details, try to include as much information as possible. “Actively posting on Twitter with the handle @username with over 100 followers” is a stronger response than “Has Twitter account.”

Your involvement in the writing community and/or the community surrounding your book’s subject matter is about what makes you unique. As much as this process is about selling your book, you’re selling yourself as the author, too.

What type of information you include here depends on your genre. If you write nonfiction, you’d want to include awards you’ve won, your qualifications on the book’s topic, and any other credentials you have that relate to the book. If you write fiction, you could talk about your connection to the subject matter, or even your connection to the writing community, whether that’s a degree in writing or a professional role working with writers. Editors who’ve helped other authors hone their stories, for example, could show that they have expertise in crafting fiction.

Traditional Publicity Agenda

Your traditional publicity agenda covers actual planned events or press coverage. The best pieces to add to this section are your plans involving publicity campaigns, book signings, and in-person events from your marketing plan.

If you don’t have a specific event date yet because you’re waiting on your pub date, include “to coincide with pub date.” For example, “A book signing at ABC Bookstore to coincide with pub date.” For press coverage, you could detail your plans to secure press coverage—whether that’s hiring a publicist to pitch media or pitching your own contacts. (Just be sure to detail who these contacts are and how they’d help spread the word about your book.)

Online and Social Media Agenda

Although you’ve probably already included information about your online and social media presence in the author platform section, the online and social media agenda section gets into your more detailed plans.

Where before you might have had “Actively posting on Twitter with the handle @username with over 100 followers,” you’d want to describe what actively posting means to you: “The author tweets links to relevant articles daily, participates in a weekly Twitter chat with target audience, and posts two to three times per day.”

These details help retailers and wholesalers determine whether you’re likely to sell books. The online and social media agenda section is also the place to include information about any paid advertising you plan to do.

How Mill City Press Helps

All authors with traditional distribution will create a marketing plan for distribution that’ll be sent to Barnes & Noble Small Press. Our marketing department reviews each plan to make sure they’re formatted correctly before submitting the plan to the distributor.