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Marketing Plan for Religious Titles

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Created on: Jun 7, 2011 7:59 AM by CreateSpaceResources - Last Modified:  Sep 24, 2014 8:52 AM by CreateSpaceResources
Marketing Plan for Religious Titles

By Brian Jud


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The information below provides ideas, examples, and instructions that will help you create a quick, practical marketing plan for a religious book. This plan is meant to get you started, but effective marketing requires flexibility. If something is not working for you after you have given it a concerted effort, try another tactic to reach the realistic goals you establish.


Part One: Description of Current Situation and Goals. Before planning your specific marketing actions, think about your product, potential readers, goals, and objectives for the next year.


1. Product Description

The entire marketing process is based on having a good book to sell. Was it well written and properly edited? Does the cover and page layout look professionally designed? Will you make it available as a printed book, an eBook, or both? Before you price your book or begin distributing or promoting it, describe what your book is about in 100 words or less. Think of it from your readers' points of view. How can your information help educate or inspire them?


Identify books that are similar to yours, and describe how yours is different from and better than competitive titles. A good description may be started by completing this sentence: My book helps________ who want ________ get _________. Then, add your competitive advantage. For example "My book helps people interested in spirituality who want peace of mind get more information on tranquility and harmony. Its unique advantage is that it is based on the author's actual life experience."


Finally, develop a strong mission statement. Your mission statement is a one or two sentence description of why you wrote your book. Reading this regularly will help keep you focused and motivated. For example, a good mission statement for a book about using spirituality to deal with the negative emotions of unemployment would be "Help unemployed people find solace and help in a supportive, faith-based environment so they resolve personal and family issues quickly."


2. Author Biography

As an author, you are also selling yourself as a product, so it is important to start making the right brand impressions early. Think of who you know, and also about your background in terms of how it can help you sell more books. What makes you the expert on this topic? Where did you go to school? In what clubs and associations are you (or could you be) a member? What are you good (or not good) at doing, and what do you like (or dislike) doing? Who are your current and previous employers? Your answers will give you ideas for how to target and present yourself to potential readers. For more information about using your bio to connect with readers, check out this blog post.


3. Target Readers

You cannot market to everybody, so think about who will buy your books. Who is the typical reader you had in mind when you wrote your book? Is the person male or female? In what age group would you categorize your reader? For example, if you are writing a book about helping students maintain their religious perspective in college, your target reader description might include people in these categories: male and female students, age 18 - 22; members of faith-based student groups at universities. Learn more in Guide to Targeting an Audience.


4. Marketing Goals and Objectives

Write a specific statement of what you want to accomplish in the next year. Some of your goals may be hard to quantify, but do so where you can. Do you want more reviews? How many more? Do you want more media attention? How many print articles and broadcast appearances will you seek? How many books do you want to sell? How much money do you want to make? Be realistic in your estimation.


By (date) _____ I will sell (number) _____ books and make $____ by getting ___ reviews, ___ awards and ___ media appearances.


For ideas on goal-setting, read How to Set SMART Writing Goals.


Part Two: Action Plan. Given your descriptions in Part One, what specific things must you do to reach your objectives? It is helpful to group these activities under three major topics: 1) How you will price your book, 2) Where you will sell it, and 3) How you will promote it. The sections below include examples to help you get started. Your actions will vary according to your own content and target readers.


1. Pricing Your Book. The price at which you will sell your book could determine your sales, profits, and opportunities for long-term growth. Your final choice will be determined by your costs, distribution method, and competitive prices. Be strategic in your decisions. Choose a lower-than-average price if you 1) intend to sell directly to target buyers rather than through a distribution network to retailers, 2) plan to limit your promotional expenditures, 3) want to make your book more competitive against other market options, or 4) seek a long-term profit potential. You might choose a higher-than-average price if your content will be quickly outdated or is highly specialized, or if you have little competition. Another consideration is the format in which you deliver your content. For example, eBooks are typically priced lower than printed books because of the lower production and distribution costs. Lower-priced eBooks also tend to attract more potential buyers.


2. Sales Outlet Options. Sales outlets will vary according to each individual title. Be sure to conduct research and think about where your content will have the best sales opportunities when deciding what works best for your book. Some ideas for sales outlet options include:


1) Ask where your typical reader will shop for religious books; that is where you will want to sell it. For instance, CreateSpace offers wide distribution on Amazon.com, your own eStore, and through the Expanded Distribution Channel, as well as a Kindle file conversion service to provide you with Kindle-ready eBook files. You may also want to consider sales opportunities to non-retail buyers, such as specialized schools and libraries, for your book. Approach local, independent retail stores to see if they'd be interested in stocking a title by a local author.


2) Think about which retail outlets may consider stocking religious books. Examples of retail outlets for religious books would include bookstores (your book is listed with Ingram and Baker & Taylor through CreateSpace's Expanded Distribution Channel), religious bookstores (find a Christian bookstore in the U.S. at The Association for Christian Retail), discount retailers through Anderson Merchandisers, and religious bookstore chains (such as Parable Stores or Cokesbury). STL Distribution is a faith-based company you may consider for book distribution.


3) Gift shops at relevant museums may be interested in stocking your title. Use your creativity to identify religious museums and gift shops appropriate for your book's topic.


4) Examples of non-retail buyers could include corporate buyers, schools, associations and catalogs. These opportunities require direct selling since there are no distributors that sell books to non-retail buyers. Find prospects through online searches after reviewing the following:


a. Religious catalogs may be appropriate outlets for your books. Examples include the Catholic Family Catalog or Dan Wyman Books.


b. What associations could use the information in your book? For example, can your content help counselors? If so, contact the American Association of Christian Counselors. If it can help people with addictions, contact Christian Recovery International. Find all the Jewish Community Centers in the U.S. and Canada through the Jewish Community Center Association. If it can help people in job transitions, consider reaching out to the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services. Find names of more associations and contact information for each at Weddles.com.


c. Books on many religious topics can be sold through religious departments of colleges. Just a few examples are Hebrew Union College, Earlham College, Hope College Religion Department, Muhlenberg College, and Colby College. Most universities have religion departments, and you'll also find a variety of faith-based colleges.


3. Promotion Actions. How will you reach and tell your target buyers about your book so they can buy it? Use a variety of promotion tools as described below, and promote regularly. Prospective buyers may need to see or hear your message multiple times before it drives them to purchase your book. Also, choose the promotional techniques that are consistent with your personality. For example, if you are not comfortable performing on television, deliver your message through radio, print, or the internet.


There are promotional tools to fit any budget. Most public relations actions are free or low cost, while advertising, trade shows, and sending direct mail packages are more expensive. Finally, there are even some promotional actions for which you could be paid, such as public speaking or conducting webinars. Find the best combination of those listed below that fit your target audience and your goals, personality, and budget.


For a quick reference, read 10 Ways to Market Your Book.


3.1 Publicity. Public relations activities entail reaching the most people in your target markets as frequently and inexpensively as possible. Most media exposure is free so you can get maximum coverage on a limited budget. Examples include TV and radio appearances, letters to the editor, publishing informative articles in magazines, producing a newsletter, or reading/speaking at schools. Here are some things to try or consider:


1) Write a one-page press release, focusing on what makes you and your book unique and important to readers. Begin your press release with a simple statement or question (your hook) that will get the attention of the reader. Your hook is the key concept that makes you or your book unique and beneficial to your audience. Your press release should fit on one page, be double-spaced and written in a way that is interesting and informative to the recipient. What can you say that will get the readers' attention quickly, help them understand how your information can benefit them, and get them to take some action to buy your book at the designated sales outlet? Check out Worldwide Faith News for examples of official news releases from faith groups. For a free analysis of your press release, go to PressReleaseGrader.com.


2) On what TV and radio shows could you be a guest? Choose shows that people in your target audience will listen to or watch. For links to print and broadcast religious media, visit Radio-locator.com for a simple means of contacting radio stations, and check out Kidon Media Link for a list of TV outlets and other media. Keep in mind that your broadcast media opportunities will be greater for local, regional, or niche shows rather than those at a national level.


3) What newspapers could review or write about your book, or to which you could you send articles? What newspapers does your target reader read? Examples might include Baptists Today, Jewish World Review, or Our Sunday Visitor. Visit Bizmove for a list of local newspapers.


4) What magazines could review or write about your book, or to which you could you send articles? For example, World-Newspapers.com has lists of magazines for many world religions. Remember, getting media coverage online is just as good, if not better, than coverage in print. Check here for lists of national media organizations and magazines.


5) Who could review your book?

a. Pre-publication reviewers like Library Journal, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Bookpage

b. Media outlets and bloggers. For media reviewers, search Literary Marketplace and trade publications for those with an interest in your niche.

c. Post-publication reviewers such as Midwest Book Review

d. Fiction and non-fiction Christian books are reviewed at Crosswalk.com and Focus on Fiction.

e. Newspapers such as the Baltimore Jewish Times and the Jewish Review of Books write reviews for books related to the Jewish faith.

f. Paid reviewers such as ForeWord Clarion and Kirkus Indie

g. You may also find general religious reviewers online at multi-faith sites, such as at Beliefnet or CrossCurrents.


6) What award competitions would be right for your book? Examples include Christianity Today Book Awards, the Christy Awards for Christian fiction, and the National Jewish Book Awards. Search online for award competitions for books on your topic. For more ideas, read the Resources article 2012 Competitions for Self-Published & Independently Published Books.


7) Seek advance sales from target buyers or by conducting pre-publication promotion. Consider arranging a launch party, and include a special offer on your website.


8) Time the introduction of your book with special marketing periods (key dates, anniversaries, etc.) relevant to your title. Find examples of these at HolidayInsights.com.


9) Get testimonials and endorsements. Sometimes called "blurbs," these are statements by people attesting to the quality of writing and the value of the content in your book. A site with free background information about celebrities you may want to target for your book is Who2.com.


3.2 Internet Actions. In today's internet world, it's important to market your book online to reach the widest possible audience. Websites, blogs, social media, and online forums are all important channels for promotion and building your brand.


1) Consider purchasing the website address with your name or book title and build a website. Search for websites that you like and then go to Web.com or Wordpress for step-by-step instructions for creating your site. Or, you can have someone design it for you. Once created, for a free analysis of your website, go to WebsiteGrader.com.


2) Start blogging to build an audience and your personal brand. You can create your own blog for free at sites such as Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. You may also want to make connections with other bloggers to see if you can write guests posts for them. Go to Blogtoplist.com to find appropriate blogs for your topic.


3) Create an author page on Amazon.com, Facebook and Twitter where you can highlight your current and future books and build your image as an expert. Also, join LinkedIn to network with like-minded people and prospects. Join groups relevant to your subject matter to start building awareness. Participate in the conversation, but don't overtly promote your title.


4) Join other online websites and forums relevant to your title. Some have discussions of general religion topics, while others focus on specific religions (ex. Grace Centered Christian Forums or iVillage's Jewish Family Life).


5) Check out MeetUp.com to find relevant groups to network within your area.


6) Record a podcast or consider hosting a webinar on your topic. Visit BlogTalkRadio.com for instructions to do it yourself, or have them create it for you.


7) When internet users search for your book, you want your website to be the first one they find. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) helps the search engines, such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, recognize your relevance to specific keywords that people search for online. This process includes researching keywords, creating content, building links, and making sure your website is visible in search engines.


3.3 Personal Selling Actions. As an independent author, you aren't just selling your book - you're selling yourself. You might find in-person selling and networking beneficial for connecting with potential readers face-to-face.


1) In what bookstores or other retail outlets could you conduct an in-store event or book signing? Focus especially on museums, churches, youth centers, libraries, or colleges.


2) Is your topic appropriate for speaking events? Prisons, retreat centers, re-employment groups, local ministries, bible clubs and others often seek speakers on appropriate topics. Visit DMOZ.org for an open directory of faith-based outlets.


3) Attend or exhibit at trade shows, conferences, or appropriate events

a. Book Expo America

b. Regional bookseller exhibits (Search the American Booksellers Association site)

c. Tradeshows where your buyers would attend (Search BizTradeShows.com)

d. Find the major players in the Christian market at the Christian Booksellers Association's annual retail show


4) Throw a launch party, inviting local media, friends, family, and people in your target market. Have copies of your book available to sign, as well as print materials with your website and social media information. Get the emails of attendees to start building out a targeted email list.


3.4 Direct Marketing Actions. These give you targeted and personalized contact with potential buyers. You can reach many more people through a mail or email campaign than through personal calls. You may find that the U.S. Mail (letter or postcard) may deliver to more people than email with the likes of SPAM filters. In either case, your results will be better if you conduct tests before you send to an entire list. Test the creative offer, the timing and the list itself before sending your package. The package you send (or email) should include a cover letter, descriptive flyer, and some response mechanism (business reply card). Consider some of these direct marketing actions:


1) Send a postcard or letter and brochure to potential buyers. Visit DirectMail.com or InfoUSA.com for one-stop places to purchase a list or have them produce and mail your package for you.


2) Purchase the subscription list for magazines reaching your target buyers and mail to them. Find targeted mailing lists for religious organizations at USA Data.


3) Purchase opt-in email lists and send email blasts.


4) Order bookmarks, stationery, and business cards to present a professional and consistent image among your target buyers.


3.5 Advertising Actions. Advertising can be costly, but some authors may choose to pay for ad placements in online and print channels relevant to their titles.


1) Advertise in local or niche newspapers or on radio shows if appropriate. Offer to provide your content in exchange for free ad space. Contact the advertising departments of your target outlets directly to examine your options.


4. Evaluation. Every few months after you begin marketing your book, compare your actual sales results with your objectives. Are you on target to reach them? If not, what changes can you make to meet your goals?


For sales goals, create a simple Excel spreadsheet with your forecasted sales for any period in one column. Then, insert your actual sales figures and automatically calculate the difference. Have a line for retail sales, library sales, corporate sales, etc. to point out where your revenue may be below that which you projected.


Have a means to objectively evaluate progress toward all your goals. If you planned to get a certain number of reviews or media appearances, keep tack of your progress toward them. The important thing is to think about why you are above or below forecast, and make necessary changes in time to reach your annual objectives.

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