Steal My SMART Self-Publishing Marketing Plan (Really!) #MondayBlogs

by Rachel Brookhart

Once upon a time I met Lori in a writing class, and she has been my book guru ever since. I was a baby then and hadn’t done much more than read books, but have moved on to become an editor, an author, and a Marketing & Communications professional.1

When it came time to publish my book, I went straight to self-publishing. It’s a viable avenue for authors these days, and I didn’t want to deal with the hullabaloo of trying to get a publisher to print my book. I just wanted it out into the world. The book, Start Your Engines: Nonprofit Management Made Simple, is the perfect guide for nonprofit folks who are starting up or who are working in a junior role in their nonprofit. I didn’t care about sales or anything, I just wanted it available because it’s helpful.

The thing is, if it’s available but no one knows about it, it’s not helpful.

So, despite the fact that I had been reading posts from and had read Lori’s book about marketing books, I was like, “Oh nooooo!” when I realized it was something I had to do. And I can’t say that I have been amazing at it (my budget for marketing is low3), but I can tell you that the secret to marketing is planning. There is no magic bullet that will make everyone buy your stuff. How do you plan? I’m glad you asked.

  1.  Decide on your goals.


These seems silly. The goal is to sell books, right? Well, maybe not. For me it was. I think my book is helpful, so I want to get it into the hands of people that need it. But there was also the goal of a professional boost. I wanted people to take me seriously, and being able to call yourself an author is one way to do that.

For some people, publishing a book is just a lead generation strategy for their consulting services or training or fill-in-the-blank. For some people, it might be to become famous4, or something else. But you need to decide what your goals are first, so you can develop a strategy.

  1. Clarify your audience.  

My audience is people in the nonprofit industry. And, while I’d like to think that an Executive Director would learn something from my book, I wrote it for beginners. I highly suggest creating a buyer’s persona (get a great template here from Hubspot5) for each type of buyer.

For example, my main audience is the nonprofit newbie, but also college professors who teach classes on nonprofit management, and Executive Directors who need to provide trainings for their Board members. Each persona will have a different reason for wanting my book and will require different messaging.

  1. Develop your strategies.

Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish and who you’re talking to, you have to develop strategies to reach them. Strategies are not the nitty gritty. They are S.M.A.R.T goals that help you reach your main goal. If you don’t know what a SMART goal is, I assume you don’t work in a stuffy cubicle and I envy you. It means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound. So, for me a strategy might be: Get two professors to use my book in their class by June 2017. This goal is super SMART and much more helpful than Get colleges to use my book in their nonprofit classes.

You don’t need a billion strategies. Two or three is fine, especially if you are doing this all by yourself. Your whole plan should be SMART, with an emphasis on R: Realistic.

Strategies usually fall into 3 categories: Owned, Earned, and Paid. Owned is the community of people that already know you: family; friends; professional contacts; and, if you have a following already, your community. These people are by far the most important to pay attention to. They are the easiest to talk to, the easiest to sell to, and the easiest to ask for help selling your book. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THESE PEOPLE. Spend most of your time focused on them. I sent 3 emails to my limited contacts (about 200 people) and sold about 400 books this way.

Earned is the audience you, well, earn, through things like guest blogging, presenting, and various PR efforts. Unless you are already somebody that people care about, this is going to be a slog for you. Your best strategy here would be to ask bloggers that are interested in what you wrote about to do a review. My industry is light on thought leaders, so I have only sent out four request. So far, one has written back. Results are TBD. I also tried earning an audience by doing a Goodreads giveaway. While I can’t pinpoint how many sales came from that, I know that over 500 people have added my book to their “To Read” shelf6.

Paid is often overlooked by authors with no budgets, but it may be easier than earned in some cases. You can do Facebook ads relatively cheaply. My results aren’t the best, but I have certainly gotten a few sales this way. The key is to create a targeted message to your audience. The audience that did best for me were people that “liked” charities on Facebook and bought a lot of books.

  1. Develop your tactics.

Ok, now we’re down to the things you can do. Most people start here and then wonder why their efforts aren’t amounting to anything. Tactics are the things you do to accomplish your strategy. If we take my strategy on getting college professors to use my book in their class, what do I have to do to make that happen? Most strategies will have several tactics. Mine included things like:

  • Asking my college professors to use the book in their classes (owned)
  • Offering to present on my book to their classes (owned)
  • Researching which universities have undergraduate and graduate degrees in nonprofit management (earned)
  • Reaching out to the professors at those universities.7 (earned)
  • Creating Facebook ads directed at University employees (paid)

There is no set amount of tactics you should have. Try a few and see what works.

  1. Do the work.

Congrats! You have a useless plan. To make it useful, you have to actually implement it. Nope, it’s not easy. Sorry. Lori told you, like, a MILLION TIMES. I find it helpful to keep track of everything in an excel sheet. It should look something like this:

Goal: To sell 1,000 books in 2017
Strategy 1: Get two professors to use my book in their class by June 2017
TacticDue DateNotes
Ask Dr. X if I can present at his Nonprofit 101 class1/5/2017New semester starts 1/25/16
Ask the University library to carry my book1/8/2017
Research universities that offer a nonprofit degree or certificate2/1/2017Focus on undergrads first
Reach out to 10 professors from those universities2/15/2017
Reach out to an additional 10 professors3/1/2017
Created targeted FB ads to uni professors3/1 – 3/15Budget $150
Strategy 2: Get 2 Executive Directors to buy the book for each of their board members by Dec 2017
More tactics

In conclusion

If you don’t want to do this work, you may as well not write your book. Because only your mom will buy it. And you might have to reminder her several times8. It’s hard work and that sucks and I’m sorry. But at least now you have a great blueprint to help you out9.

Good luck and buy my book10!

1 No, I am not single white femaling Lori. But you have to admit she’s rad af.

3 Like, pretty much nothing. #Poor #Nonprofit #BuyMyBook

4 Not gonna happen. Well…maybe if you write crappy Twilight fan fiction.

5 I love you Hubspot! Hire me!

6 I read a blog that suggested not limiting your audience to people in your country. So I did that. Every winner was from Europe and it cost a crap ton of money to send my tiny book. I would advise against this strategy.

7 This one is super hard. So, if you know a professor that teaches classes on nonprofit things, help a sister out and tell them about my book.

8 I forgot to mention that. You can’t ask once. Ask your network to buy your book at least 3 times. And when they buy it, ask them to ask their network to buy it.

9 You’re welcome!

10 It’s a quick and fun read – designed to be a textbook for people who hate textbooks. It’s basically a mini master’s degree on how to run a nonprofit. It’s not the tactics, but gives the reader a perspective that is really helpful in running a healthy nonprofit.

Rachel Brookhart is a writer who likes to dream up ways to make things better. She was inspired to write this book by her work in the nonprofit sector. Over the last decade, she’s worked with thousands of do-gooders that have the passion to do great things, but need some guidance on how to do it efficiently and effectively. In her spare time, she likes to write, volunteer in her community, and she is always up for a good glass of bourbon. Rachel has an M.A. in Nonprofit Management from Antioch University, Los Angeles and is a Certified Nonprofit Professional through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.


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