If it wasn’t for schooling being free through my work, I probably would never have gone back. Once I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in English (which I still feel was totally useless for me to get to be an author. All I did was read books and write reports on them, which I could have done on my own.) I swore to myself I was DONE with school for good. Never again would I write a research paper or thesis. But once I dove into the self-publishing world of indie authors I realized that only about 10% of writing actually has to do with writing! The majority of the success of your book depends on good marketing skills! CRAP!
I tried to learn marketing on my own through research on websites, but I just wasn’t soaking in what they were teaching me. About a year and a half ago, I started full-time work at a local car dealership. Ironically, that job is key to furthering my writing job! Not only are the people at my work encouraging about my writing and holding me accountable by continually asking me when my next book is coming on and then scolding me when I say I’m not really doing a lot of writing right now, my work also offers business degrees online completely paid for! After about a year of mulling it over, I decided it was time to further my education in a degree that might actually help me with my author career. I started the Master’s Program at Strayer University for Business Administration and Marketing. I hate the business admin part and could definitely do without, but I am loving my first Marketing class, which I just started a few weeks ago. Our first paper was to come up with the beginnings of a marketing plan for a fictitious business. Since the business had to have employees and my author business does not, I chose the closest thing and made up a fake small independent publishing company called The Quivering Quill Press. For many of you who follow my writing and life, you know this name comes up a lot with me. The Quivering Quill started as a fictitious bookstore in my Chronicles of a Supernatural Huntsman series. From there, I turned it into an online bookstore where I sold used books through Amazon, but it has since been disbanded because I do not have the time, patience, or resources to hunt down quality used books and store them in my home to sell. Would love to! Just not in the cards right now.
Anyway, this first paper was the most fun I had writing a paper in a long long time! For those of you authors wanting to further your own marketing, I have included the steps to this paper so you can apply it to your own writing business, as I am about to do here in a few minutes.
CREATE FIRST PART OF YOUR MARKETING PLAN:
1.) Write an introduction to your company. Describe the company (You as an author), your location, and the products you make (genres of books).
2.) Develop your company’s mission statement. Official definition of Mission Statement: a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual. Example retrieved from Well Storied blog ”
ELEMENT #1: ESTABLISH YOUR IDENTITY.
Who are you as a writer? Get creative! Think about your favorite elements of writing and give yourself a unique title. For example…
“I am a crafter of worlds and an explorer of cultures. I bring the human experience to life on the page!”
ELEMENT #2: FIND YOUR AUDIENCE.
Who do you write for? Try to pinpoint your readership’s demographics, maybe going so far as to build a singular fictional ideal reader that you can name! Here’s my example…
“Fans of my work love to delve into rich new worlds and experience new perspectives on life, love, and loss.”
(Also keep in mind that you may have separate ideal readers for different projects. If that’s the case, you may want to create separate mission statements for each style of work you create!)
ELEMENT #3: CELEBRATE YOUR ORIGINALITY.
It’s time to ask yourself what makes you unique. Is it a special interest or skill? A life experience? A unique outlook or upbringing? Don’t be shy! Celebrate what makes you YOU.
“As a self-professed history and sociology geek, I love bringing readers along into the deep, enticing worlds of my imagination.”
ELEMENT #4: DEFINE YOUR GOALS.
As a writer, what are your goals? Where would you like to take your writing over the months and years to come? For example…
“My passion lies in bringing my story world, Maveryn, to life via a canon of extended series, novellas, and short stories.”
And now for the final element of our Writer’s Mission Statements…
ELEMENT #5: OUTLINE YOUR PLAN.
It’s time to ask yourself how you plan to achieve your writing goals. Now, you’re working with just a sentence or two, so it’s okay to make a broad statement. Just make sure it’s a clear one as well.
“I plan to explore both traditional & self-publishing over the coming years as I begin introducing these stories to the world.”
3.) Decide the main goals you would like to achieve within the next year (short term) and the main goals you would like to achieve within the next five years (long term). Determine the most appropriate ways to measure both those goals.
NOTE: consider the following metrics: tracking downloads of website content, website visitors, customer value, retention, rate of growth compared to competition and market, customer engagement.
4.) Develop an environmental analysis that includes competitive, economic, political, legal, technological, and socio-cultural forces. Examples can be found here.
5.) Develop both a SWOT analysis and needs analysis for your products. Each analysis should examine three strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for your company. Read about SWOT analysis for authors here.
Below is my example of this type of report written up for my mock business “The Quivering Quill Press”. This is just an example of how you can apply it to your business as an author. Enjoy! All feedback is welcome in the comment section. (Just so you know you’re using a quality example, I did receive a 194 out of 200 on this assignment.)
Assignment 1: Part A: Your Marketing Plan
The Quivering Quill Press
The name of my company is Quivering Quill Press. We are a small independent publishing company based out of the heart of downtown Chicago, Illinois. Unlike larger publishing companies, we take on a limited number of books to publish a year so we can give the best customer care to our writers. We specialize in fiction in the following genres: science-fiction, fantasy fiction, young adult fiction, and religious fiction. We also take submission in the following categories for non-fiction: self-help, journals, and religion. We accept email submissions through our website from emerging authors and established authors. They are to send a query summarizing the book, more about the author and their background and qualifications, and attach the first three chapters of their book in a Word Document file. Those submissions go to one of our five readers on staff. From there, the reader will write up a summary and review of the book with their professional opinion of the book’s promise of return. We have an Editor in Chief for each of the specialized genres who then requests the entire book’s file attached in an email if they are interested in publishing it. Once they’ve made their decision, we then bring on that author as one of our clients.
The reason we are redeveloping our marketing strategy is because we are having a problem getting the word out to authors about our company to grow our clientele base. We’ve launched the company with our mission statement, short-term and long-term goals, environmental analysis of competitive publishing companies and all other outside sources that effect our company, and developed a SWOT analysis and needs analysis for the company. We hope that the research our team has done will help to develop a marketing strategy that effectively reaches out to new and established authors to show them why publishing with our small, independent company is a positive move for their writing career.
The Quivering Quill Press Mission Statement
As a small, independent publishing company, The Quivering Quill Press wants to reach out to new and established authors in both fiction and non-fiction to bring a well-rounded experience to our readers that they are less likely to receive from larger publishing corporations. With the same resources and technology as the larger firms, our focus is on overall unique and specialized service. For our authors, we provide special attention and care to enhance their work while not taking over the integrity of their creativity. Every step of the way, we keep the author involved in the building of their life’s work, from editing to cover design. We want to be known as the company that values our author’s creativity and input, treating their books as a work of art that we want to share with the diverse literature community. We value our readers as well by carefully choosing our authors to make sure we are putting out quality, unique books that satisfy all their reading desires. And lastly, but not least of all, we value our employees here at The Quivering Quill Press. Each one has a passion for this business and has been carefully placed where their strengths lie, backed by accredited education and experience. We keep our employees happy and engaged through a relaxed environment that encourages individual creativity. We pride ourselves on teamwork and a genuine love for all those involved in the process of a book’s life—employees, authors, and readers alike.
Short-term and Long-term Goals for The Quivering Quill Press
Short-term goals the company has that we would like to have achieved within a year’s time would be as followed:
- We would like to acquire ten new authors with an even mixture of new and established in order to create more of a variety in our line of books.
- We would like to expand our following of readers by 25% and continue a steady growth from there.
- We would like to grow our profitability and exposure by having our books placed for sale in more major retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
- We would like our profitability by 25% and keep it on a steady growth.
Long-term goals the company has that we would like to have achieved in five years’ time would be as followed:
- We would like to keep a steady growth of acquiring new authors, profits, and exposure in major retailers.
- We would like to expand our company by opening two more small offices; one in New York City and one in Los Angeles.
- We would like to be traded on the stock exchange for the chance to acquire outside investment in the company.
In order to keep a measurement of these goals as we work to obtain them, we need to make sure we are watching the success of our advertising to authors to make sure we are accomplishing the goal of reaching more quality authors to sign on with the company. Keeping a close watch on the trends of the company in comparison to others is a great way to make sure The Quivering Quill Press is keeping up with other like companies and not falling short. We need to keep a close watch on our website to track how many people are visiting and what pages they are visiting to figure out if more authors are coming in interest of being published by us, or more readers are coming with an interest in purchasing our books. We also need to take note of what on our website gains the most interest from each of these two categories of visitors so we can better capture their attention while on our site. Staying updated with our voluntary email list is a great way to keep track of the loyalty of our readers and authors and make sure they are up-to-date as well with what is going on with the company. Through the email company we have set up to do this, we can track how many people have opened the email and how many people have interacted with the emails by clicking on our links. We can also determine how many of the emails resulted in purchases of our books or submissions. This is a great way to see what works in acquiring new authors and readers in a controlled environment. Comparing our company with other similar publishing companies in the area and nationwide will help us to gauge just how well we’re doing with our marketing and what areas we need to adjust. We can compare our profits, our stock, our genre sales, and our customer retention. To measure our profitability growth, we need to keep detailed financial records for each year and use them to compare from previous years. This will help us to stay on track of growth and see what areas we can improve upon if we are falling short in a certain area, such as cash flow or debt ratio.
Environmental Analysis for The Quivering Quill Press
“Environmental analysis is a strategic tool. It is a process to identify all the external and internal elements, which can affect the organization’s performance” (Pestle Analysis Contributor, 2015). Pestle stands for political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental factors. All of these can affect the success of a company in comparison to others. I have put together an analysis of all these things that pertain to the company.
It would not seem like politics would have much to do with the success of a publishing company, but that could not be farther from the truth. In reality, much of the country’s interests are based off the political climate during that year period. This can also affect the approach we take in choosing which authors and books to publish. We do not only want to go with the flow of today’s politics, alienating the readers who are opposed to what is going on in the government at the moment, but we also do not want to be too radical in our publishing either, turning off those who are loyal to the current political status. It is a fine balance that we need to constantly reevaluate in order to maintain a healthy balance. In order to do this the company needs to do research of specific political books to see how they’ve survived during the political turmoil we’ve been facing these past few years. We can strive to mirror the ones that have done well by choosing to publish similar-viewed ones and by staying away from topics that failed in the past.
Also, the rules and regulations surrounding publishing, copyright laws, and other laws in effect will play a major role in how we conduct our business and the building of our market plan. As the laws of how we publish information changes, the way we conduct our publishing and the contracts we put together change as well. If an author quotes another author in their book, fiction or not, we have to make sure we are complying, as a publishing company, with the appropriate copyright laws so the company does not get sued for illegal use of intellectual property and published work.
Economic factors that can affect The Quivering Quill Press include equality in the workplace and in clients, diversity issues, and company ethics. Right now in the United States, there is a big focus on gender equality and race equality. We want to make sure that we are taking on new clients from both genders and all races, so we can appeal to the most diverse group of readers. Also, we want to make sure we are running a fair quality that complies with all the equality laws of today, not only to make sure we are compliant, but also because having a diversity of workers is a sure way to produce quality, diverse material that more readers can enjoy (AnyangoOoko, 2014).
Social factors that impact the publishing industry include such things as family, religion, and wealth. We have to study the typical American family in order to figure out what their reading trends are. We know that more than 50% of families are broken or blended, so publishing books that appeal to this topic of new family concepts could be a smart move considering the family environment today. Also, there are a myriad of religions in the United States now, since we are a nation founded on emigration. We do not want to limit ourselves to the viewpoints of one religion unless we only want to appeal to that group. It is safe to say that not many Hindu or Jewish readers are going to be looking for companies that publish only Christian non-fiction. If we want to appeal to a wider variety of readers, we need to appeal to their diverse religions as well. Wealth is a factor that has greatly affected the publishing industry. With the collapse of the economy and its slow regrowth, the eBook portion of the industry has taken off because customers can purchase books at a lower price than going to a store and purchasing a physical copy. As the wealth of the country increases over time, we could see the trend in physical books grow, though many other factors play into the appeal of eBooks, such as the advancement in technology.
Technology factors have affected the publishing industry in major ways over the last few decades with the emergence of eReaders. More and more, readers are turning to digital material rather than print material. This is why so many publishing companies are turning to publishing their content in a variety of forms such as eBooks, physical books, and audiobooks. Readers are busier than ever and want to be able to take their books with them wherever they go, whether that means reading on a compact eReader while taking the subway to work or listening to an audiobook in the car on the way to pick up their kids from school. The publishing industry has to stay up-to-date in new technology to make sure it is appealing to the readers many ways it wants to stay involved with books. This also has been affected by the wealth of the country. As people lost their income, they turned to downsizing their homes. With less room in the home for sprawling bookshelves to house their physical books, many turned to compacting their library into digital form, where it can all be stored on their mobile devices.
When analyzing the research from the environmental analysis, The Quivering Quill press has made the decision to focus more of diversifying its selection of books to appeal to a bigger pool of readers. We also are going to keep up with technology and make sure that we are offering a variety of formats of our books, not only physical copies. Our readers also are going to need to have the option of buying a digital copy or an audio copy. With the economy rebuilding after a collapse we need to keep in mind that buying books is a luxury and not a necessity for most people, so we have to keep our prices competitive and make sure we offer discounts and special sales events to attract new readers.
SWOT Analysis for The Quivering Quill Press
The strengths of our company are we have excellent customer service for our authors and our readers. We take the time to respond quickly to complaints and take the constructive criticism to better the company. We are a diverse company that employees different genders and races in order to appeal to the large diversity of authors and readers out there in the United States. Because we are a smaller company we can provide our author clientele with specialized care, allowing them to be a bigger part of the publishing process than larger publishing firms allow. Each one of our staff has been trained in their field by an accredited school and has on-the-job experience either from employment or an internship. A majority of our staff has been involved in some level of the publishing industry for over twenty years. We currently have all the same resources as the larger publishing companies and have the means to distribute an author’s work in most of the same places, with our focus being online to keep up with the digital trends.
Our weaknesses are our clientele base. We need more authors in order to reach a larger audience of readers. Right now we only have twenty authors we currently publish, but we would like to double that this year and grow further. We also do not have the established connections yet with larger bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, to be guaranteed a spot on their shelves with whatever books we may publish, though a few of our books have been featured in those stores locally in the Chicago area. We also do not hold the on hand cash flow of a larger company in order to expand. Gaining investors is another area we are lacking that we would like to improve in to be able to support our goal of expanding to the west and east coast.
Opportunities for our company include a large cultural home-base in Chicago with a variety of opportunities through colleges, festivals, and conferences to get the word out about our small, independent company. Many of the people who come to these places are also tourists from other parts of the country and world, so there is the opportunity to reach more than just our local base of readers this way. We have opportunity to reach more people through our presence on the internet through our website and social media. If we create a larger presence with more interaction, we will be able to get the word out more and establish ourselves as a valued part of the publishing community. We also have the opportunity for unique and grand press coverage through being located in Chicago. Many of the newspapers produced here are read nationwide through subscriptions and internet. If we advertise in those publications we can reach a larger amount of people to build our clientele and readers alike. We also have national television broadcasts willing to sell us advertising space, or even interview us as an emerging company in the city. There is great interest surrounding the publishing world right now with all the changes from physical to digital books and also with the preconceived notion that publishing is a dying art form with the emergence of self-publishing through internet companies like Amazon.com. This give us the opportunity to tell our side of the story and how we’re making it and succeeding as a traditional publisher in a self-publishing world.
Threats the company faces are just as I mentioned above. So many authors can go out on the internet to companies like Amazon.com and retain full control over their book’s material and design. Through that company they can publish their work in a variety of formats and only give up 30% of their sales to Amazon as their publisher. This can be appealing to authors because it can be hard for a creative person to give up control over something they’ve put so much heart and soul, time and effort into as their book. When you submit to a traditional publishing company, as an author you could be yielding all rights to approval of edits, marketing decisions, distributing decisions, and design decisions. Essentially, the book could end up being extremely different when it comes out of a traditional publishing company than when it came in. We try to combat this by keeping the author involved with every step of the process. If we were a larger company, taking on a larger clientele, we would not be able to provide this service for our authors. Another threat for us as a small publishing company is the emergence of online shopping for books. It used to be that in order to get a book on major discount, you had to wait for it to go on sale in the store or find a small used bookstore locally to purchase it second-hand. With all stores being online now, readers have the option of ordering their book new or used and/or discounted through endless choices of bookstores and companies, making it harder for publishers to sell directly on their website at full-price. The profit in books is dwindling because of how discounted people can get their books now online. The last threat we face is that customers are changing their attitudes of traditional publishing companies. Not only do authors want to self-publish their works, but more readers are looking for a unique and individualized reading experience that they seem to find easier through self-published work. Writers who would not normally be signed on by a traditional publishing company can put their work out there themselves and gain a fan following through self-promotion. Readers are turning over to this reading experience more and more, which means we have to get more creative with the books we publish and the authors we sign on. “Every year we conduct a survey of authors to identify what high-earning authors are doing to achieve success. In 2017 the number of authors who reported making over $100,000 from writing grew by 70% over 2016. The percentage of authors making between $5,000 and $10,000 per month doubled year over year. Indies who persevere and continue putting out books slowly increase their earnings over time” (Ricci, 2018).
In summary, with the research our company has done on the publishing industry, environmental analysis, and SWOT analysis, we have come up with a marketing strategy that we hope will help us achieve our short-term and long-term goals. We want to take advantage of the local opportunities in the city of Chicago to reach a larger diversity of people, also getting the word about us out there on the national broadcasting and publishing outlets available to us. We want to grow profitability by diversifying our staff and diversifying the authors we sign on and the books we publish, so we appeal to a wider variety of readers across the country. We also want to take advantage of local events that draw a national crowd, such as campus events, publishing conferences, and author and book festivals. By growing our company’s presence and sales, we hope to gain investors who will ultimately help us achieve our goal of expanding to the east and west coast, as well as growing our on-hand cash flow through growth in sales. In order to make sure we are keeping on top of these goals, the company is going to make sure to put together quarterly and yearly financial statements that can be compared to previous years. If we see we are lacking in growth in area we can easily and quickly go back and reevaluate what we’re doing in order to improve on it. We are going to keep a close eye on the traffic and interaction on our website and our social media sites to see how engaged our readers and authors are with the company. In order to keep up with the competition of larger publishing companies, we are going to make sure we are formatting our books in all different ways; paperback, hardcover, audio, and digital. We are going to work to harder to establish a networking relationship with larger bookstores so we can have a guaranteed spot on their shelves nationwide, not just locally, based on our positive sales and good relationship with them.
AnyangoOoko, G. (2014, December). The Environmental Factors That Influence Implementation Of. Retrieved from IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS): http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol19-issue12/Version-4/O01912495102.pdf
Pestle Analysis Contributor. (2015, February 23). What is Environmental Analysis? Retrieved from Pestle Analysis: http://pestleanalysis.com/what-is-environmental-analysis/
Ricci. (2018, January 8). Top Ten Publishing Trends Every Author Needs to Know in 2018. Retrieved from Written Word Media: https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/2018/01/08/publishing-trends-indie-publishing/
If you’re an author, you’ll want to check out my Novel Notes guided writing journal. It is also available in a series edition that holds up to 3 novel’s notes!