A friend recently asked for advice in developing a marketing plan—to submit to a major retailer. Some smaller presses now also expect authors to submit a marketing plan. I’m no expert, but I have developed several marketing plans, and I’m creating a new one for the September release of Secrets to Die For. So I decided to share what I know.

Actually, I have two type of promotional plans: one to send to publishers and distributors, and one for myself to keep me on schedule.  Today’s example is an external marketing plan. I’ll blog about my internal promotion timeline on Thursday.

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My external marketing plan is organized by subject headers such as the following. This example is just a framework and not a complete plan.  It’s important to be as specific as possible, either providing a complete list or giving a specific number of contacts in each database.

Ongoing Online Efforts

  • blog twice a week
  • maintain/update author website
  • collect e-mails for newsletter
  • attend conferences such as Bouchercon
  • social networking through Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Send ARCS (include a complete list for each of these categories)

  • major reviewers (Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, ect.)
  • magazines  (Ellery Queen, Crime Spree, Entertainment Weekly, etc.)
  • newspapers (Washington Post, Register-Guard, etc.)
  • authors (list of authors you know who might read and blurb book)
  • genre websites/blogs  (Reviewing the Evidence, Crime and Suspense)

Prepress Promotion

  • promotional flyers to mystery bookstores (90 in database), libraries (56 in database), and book clubs (75 in database)
  • promotional material to organizations/blogs with connections to book’s content: (for The Sex Club, I listed Planned Parenthood, NARAL, National Organization for Women)
  • send out e-mail announcement to list of 400 readers

Promotional Materials

  • Print 500 bookmarks to give away at signings, conferences, etc.
  • Print 100 promotional flyers to give away at signings, conferences, etc.
  • Other ideas: postcards, pens with book name, buttons


  • October: buy small ads with Mystery Scene, Ellery Queen, Crime Spree
  • Place online ad on The Graveyard Shift

Post-Release Promotion

  • blog book tour (guest blog at 30 sites in 45 days)
  • guest blog regularly after book tour
  • book signings at 10 local bookstores (Borders, UO bookstore, Mystery
  • selling/signing at several local book fairs (Art & the Vineyard, Lane County Fair, etc.)


  • Member of: Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Willamette Writers
  • Send promotional material to each group
  • get book into group databases
  • participate in any promotional efforts available through membership


  • June: send ARCs  out
  • July: prepare and print promotional material
  • August: send out promotional material and e-mails
  • September: blog tour and book signings
  • October: blog tour, book signings, guest blogging

I learned all this by reading, researching, joining listserves, watching other writers (Joanna Slan is an amazing marketer), and just doing it.  My plans always include everything I’d like to do, but in reality I may not be able to afford it all.

What have I missed here? Share your marketing ideas…or marketing misfires.


  1. Thank you so much, L.J.! It is quite helpful. Is this the type of marketing plan that one would send to Barnes and Noble or Borders Corporate offices?

    I have copied and printed it out.

    Thanks again!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this, LJ. I hope that someday soon I’ll have to make use of these ideas.

  3. Lj,

    Great list. I can only think of two to add: bookclubs – the kind that meet in person and the kind that meet online (goodreads groups, yahoo reading groups, amazon reading groups, other?), and free online ad places like booktour.com to let people know where to look for you.

  4. Great list, L.J. Thanks for sharing it. I think it’s so helpful to see how you handle the marketing/platform. It helps to be really organized. Otherwise, it can be overwhelming.
    Straight From Hel

  5. LJ,

    I came across this post from your mention of it on the Murder Must Advertise list. It’s such a helpful post — so well-organized and thorough! Thank you for sharing it. I started reading some of your other posts, too, and I’m hooked. Good luck with your upcoming release!


  6. I’m so glad you’re finding it useful. Feel free to post the link to your writing groups and forums.

  7. LJ, you are so sweet to mention me. I’m loving your Sex Club. What a fast-paced, interesting and well-resarched book.

  8. I’ve struggled with what should be included in a marketing plan for ages. This is the best example and most helpful plan I’ve seen. Thanks. I’m looking forward to hearing about your internal promotion plan.

  9. Great info. Thanks for taking the time to put it all together for writers. I am going to Tweet this.

  10. Great article. I’m printing it out and am going to check on my own promotional efforts. Thanks for doing this!

  11. I’m not familiar with the the term ARC. Does that stand for A Review Copy or something else?

  12. Don’t forget Blog Talk Radio and your book trailer! Have you checked out http://www.modernpostcard.com for pricing. I’ve used them dozens of times and have always been happy with results as well as their prices. I do believe they are the lowest price for smaller print runs, and for color accuracy of artwork, I always found their quality to be more than acceptable. Great even. 😉

    Looking good so far!

    http://blogbooktours.blogspot.com (see the BBAW link for book blogs)

  13. Thank you for sharing this. It helps move my shuffling feet forward. 🙂

  14. Wow – this is a superb resource and has obviously taken a long time to put together. Small businesses and entrepreneurs can learn a lot here. We’ll be recommending these pages to everyone!

    We’ve had a go at producing a generic marketing plan, would be very interested in your comments

    Writing a marketing plan


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