Here are two ways to write a promotion plan for your non-fiction book:
- The simple way: If don’t have promotion or speaking experience, and you will be approaching small or medium-sized houses about your book, just list what you plan to do to promote your book and mention your eagerness to do what your publisher asks of you.
- If you are writing a book aimed at a wide national audience that you want published by a major house, you will need a promotion plan that is as long and strong as you can make it. To create one, list in descending order of importance what you will do to promote your book during its one-to-three-month launch window and after.
For most books with a wide potential audience, this list is far more important than the content of your book in determining the editor, publisher and deal you get for your book. We have found the following list effective in selling books:
- The author will match the publisher’s consumer promotion budget up to $XX,000.” You can use your advance for promotion, but don’t mention it because nobody knows what it will be, and you have to cost out your promotion plan. As important as having a budget is proving that you know the best way to use it.
- If it’s $10,000 or less, don’t mention the amount, just list what you will do. Making a financial commitment is the best way to justify one from your publisher, but there’s a good chance your publisher may not match your budget. If you find a publisher who will, ask them for the plan they will carry out with their budget.
- If you will hire a publicist to arrange for your publicity, mention who it is and how he or she will help you. If you can, aim for a firm like Planned Television Arts that is well-known to New York editors. Google, Literary Market Place, and your networks will lead you to the publicist you need.
- Publishers know that most writers can’t afford a budget, so that’s OK. Publishers won’t buy your book because you have a budget or reject it because you don’t. It’s the next three numbers that are crucial.
- On publication, the author will give talks and do publicity in the following XX major markets:…” Follow this with a list of the large cities and their satellite cities that you will get yourself to. If you can’t hire a publicist but you can give yourself a national tour, your publisher’s publicist may piggyback on your travels.
- The author will continue to give XX talks a year.
- The author will sell X,XXX books a year.” Assume that 25% of your listeners buy a book. A paradox for you to resolve: First-year sales may be higher than those in succeeding years because your book is new, and you’re promoting it. If your book is published as a hardcover, sales may be higher after it’s published in paperback. Later sales may also be larger as you become well-known or as your future books build the market for your previous books.
- If you can establish a partnership with a business or nonprofit organization that will commit to buying a large quantity of books, sending you around the country as a spokesperson, or lending its name to the book, make the last page of your proposal a letter from your partner with as long a list as possible of what the organization will do to promote your book.
- List what your media/speaker’s kit will contain.
- Give round numbers for the lists of media people to whom you will send the media kit. Indicate which of these people will receive a promotional copy of the book. Your publisher will supply a certain number of promotional copies, a number that is negotiated on signing. If possible, say that you will provide those that they can’t.
- List the ways that you will use your Web site for promotion.
- List trade and consumer conferences and conventions at which you know that you will be able to speak during the first year after publication and, if impressive, the number of people who will attend them.
- List your contacts at media that will impress publishers who have told you they will do a review, an article or an interview on publication.
- List opinion-makers whose names will give your book credibility and salability in fifty states two years from now and thereafter who, based on reading your proposal, will give you quotes for your book.
- Consider doing two promotion plans: one for when and after your book is published and a lifetime plan.
- Mention special-interest magazines that will trade stories you write for ads.
- Mention magazines that will do per-order ads for which the magazine supplies the space, your publisher the books, and they share the profits.
- Mention a commitment to run a column you will write that will give your book as much exposure as possible, online or off, for cash or in exchange for a bio you will write to promote your book and yourself.
- End your promotion plan like this: “The author’s promotional efforts will be coordinated with those of the publisher.”
There are more ways to promote books than ever before. You are only limited by your time, energy and imagination. Keep in mind that you will be carrying out your promotion plan eighteen months to two years from now when your book is published.
The bottom line: the greater the continuing national impact you can give your book, the greater its chances for success.
Adapted from the third edition of How to Write a Book Proposal (January 2004) and Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons for Selling Your Work by Jay Conrad Levinson, author of Guerrilla Marketing; Rick Frishman, president of Planned Television Arts; and Michael Larsen, AAR.