Developing a Plan for Your Book – Dan Heaton

Developing a Plan for Your Book – Dan Heaton

My first grade teacher just bought my book.

She’s hardly my target audience and I hadn’t seen her at least since I left elementary school more than 30 years ago, but I was happy to make the sale. I even charged her full price, rather than the insider’s “friends and family rate.”

A few simple Internet searches and a plan – developed in large part through guidance from fellow WritersWeekly writers – helped me make the sale.

My first book, published this past summer, is a military biography. Like many writers, I had initially thought writing the book and finding a publisher would be the biggest hurdle. Wrong! Marketing and selling the book is where the real work begins. Guided by my WritersWeekly peers, I developed a plan. First, I researched media outlets in every location where my subject had lived. Then, I worked up a free feature story – quoting myself as an expert! – on the local boy from long ago. That story, along with a photo or two, was sent to media outlets in several markets, each tweaked slightly to highlight the local angles. This was no routine news release, rather this was a free story, with photos, including quotes from several sources, that could easily fill a hole on a slow news day. It eventually ran, with a mention of the book’s title, in media outlets in three states.

Next, I did an internet search of every military museum within a reasonable driving distance of my house. I put together a Powerpoint presentation with a number of historic photos. I offer the presentation (or lecture, for the more high-brow museums) for free, in exchange for the opportunity to sell my books afterward. Once scheduled, I work up a news release about the various happenings at the museum, including a quote from me and the appropriate museum volunteer. As a writer, creating and sending out a news release is an easy thing for me. The museum volunteers I’ve worked with are eager for this type of publicity help and love the fact that I include their general information, as well as my stuff. This also helps get it into local newspapers and on-line news & event listings.

Which is how my first grade teacher came to be at the small, new military museum I didn’t even know existed, but is only about two miles from my house. She saw the news item in a local weekly paper and recognized my name. She and her husband attended the presentation and we chatted a bit before. Since they were purchasing the book along with the general public afterward, it would have been too awkward to give her the discount.

Having made several presentations at smaller museums, which are always eager for programming, I’ve developed something of a positive track record and am now in talks with several far larger, more regional museums. One of my museum presentations also led to an invitation to speak at a fairly large Rotary Club gathering.

The lead time for scheduling presentations at museums can be several months long. I recently booked a speaking engagement for about six months out, but I have a sense that I will be just as eager to sell my book then as I am today – and in fact my second book just may be out by then.

There is a plan waiting to be developed that matches the niche for your book. Developing and sticking to that plan, utilizing the gifts and skills you have as a writer, can pay big dividends the next time you see your first grade teacher.

Dan Heaton is a public affairs specialist for the Michigan Air National Guard. His first book, “Forgotten Aviator: The Byron Q. Jones Story” was published in June 2012. His second book, tentatively titled “Aviation Namesakes: Thomas Selfridge, Phelps Collins and Those Who Led the Way” is expected to be published in early 2013.