Most writers are beginning to understand that writing is only a small part of the equation when it comes to publishing success. It is no longer enough to be a good writer. One must be a good marketer as well. However, marketing can be learned and practiced. The key is to start early, and use what techniques you know you can master based on your skill set. It is never to early to start forming a marketing plan for your writing career. You may be in the revision stages of draft three or four or already out there submitting your finished manuscript to agents. It doesn’t matter. Every day can be an opportunity to spend five to ten minutes on building a marketing plan. How do you go about it? Read on . . .

Start the wave

According to literary agent Lily Ghahremani, a publishing house will be happy to support and fuel a marketing wave you’ve already started. It is not all that rare for publishers to supply secondary funding pushes based on an author’s own efforts at increasing readership. If you already have a sizable network of possible readers, publishers do take notice, and in the negotiation phase, it can make a difference between signing on or receiving another rejection letter.

Begin with who you know

Buzz begins with a core market and expands. You know more people than you think you do. Take a pen and paper and write down a list of as many friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintences as you can think of. All done? Now think of all the authors, organizations, bookstores, libraries you hope to make contact with when you’ve published your book. Don’t forget to include local newspapers and magazines as well as online e-zines. Keep this list. You’ll need it when you go about marketing before and after publication.

For a few minutes each week, work on researching or recording contact information for these sources. These are the people and groups you will want to reach first when your first book comes out in stores. Easy enough, huh? This is something you can start doing today. As an addendum to this list, think through the major elements that make up your novel or nonfiction book. Does a mother in your novel have to deal with a child who suffers from autism? Then research autism groups on the Net. Here’s another example: my novel is set in the Azores Islands. I have and will continue to research all sites related to the Azores, whether they are travel sites or sites run by Azorean geneology enthusiasts, etc. These are possible avenues for selling books, interviews, and perhaps speaking engagements.

Target your readers

Describe your target reader to yourself, and be as specific as you can. Here is my target audience for my first novel: Women 18-35 who love romance, mythology, and history. Within that target, I will need to create a marketing plan that focuses on each element. Those who love mythology might frequent mythology sites on the Web. Could these be possible avenues for trading links or getting the word out about my novel? Do these groups have links to other groups that could be avenues to explore as well?

Identify competitors

Identify competition, but don’t fear it. Competition indicates there is already a market for you to sell your books to. Read books in the same genre or about the same topic: can you tap those readerships? How do those authors market their work? Read other author Web sites to gather ideas, then see if you can put a new twist on those ideas.

When working on your book marketing, specifically, brainstorm several differentiation statements. These statements are often used in query letters to compare an author’s book to another’s to aid the agent in placing your novel in the marketplace. For example, you could say your horror novel is in the vein of Stephen King’s “Carrie”, or that your mainstream novel is a cross between Michael Crichton and Michael Connelly.

One caveat: don’t make claims you can’t back up. Saying your book would outsell the “Harry Potter” series would merely illicit raised eyebrows and snickers from agents or editors. They’ve heard it all before, ad nauseam. Use the differentiation statement as a quick way to let the agent know what kind of book you are selling, not to make claims of greatness.

You can work on all the above ideas immediately, no matter what stage of writing you are in. Working on your marketing plan, may only take a few minutes of your day or week, but you won’t regret the invaluable lessons you’ll learn, nor the expertise you’ll have once your deep into selling your published book.