Workshop: Marketing for Writers in 15 Minutes a Day!


Vision 72



Marketing for Writers in 15 Minutes a Day!


Russell Gifford

Copyright © 2013, Russell Gifford, All Rights Reserved




Your First 15 Minutes – What is Marketing and What's a Marketing Plan?

 How badly do you want to sell your books? Is it worth an hour a day? A half hour? 10 minutes?


Most writers quickly say, "Oh I'd spend hours!" But then comes the next question: What if you had to spend that hour doing something you don't like to do? Making phone calls? Speaking in front of crowds, or small groups? Or worse yet, asking someone to buy your book? Suddenly, the "I'd spend hours a day" dwindles to minutes - or more likely, no minutes at all.


This workshop is to help writers start the process of learning how they can market their book, and I am asking you to invest 15 minutes a day. That's less than two hours a week, and while I am serious about the 15 minutes as a daily concept, I am ok if you want to spend two hours instead. However, as you will see going forward, it is the continuous investment of some amount of time on at least a weekly basis that will make a difference in your marketing efforts!


When is the last time you spent any time considering the marketing of your book? For some people, it is just not something they want to consider. For many, they would gladly consider it, but have no idea what marketing actually is.


This workshop is meant for both groups. It is a step by step process to get you started on marketing, and in later issues, we will move further into marketing specifics. Along the way, I will try to explain some marketing principles as well, so you can apply them as new situations arise. But to get there, we have to get started, so let's go!


Developing a Marketing Plan

 We are going to ask a series of questions to help you decide what is it you want to achieve, and then lay out steps and actions based on that goal that can help you make your goal happen. The idea is to find a number of different choices so you can pick the things you don't mind doing, and find workarounds for the ones you won't do.

Before I get to the questions, here are the actual steps we are going to execute. These mirror any problem solving exercise, and are the basis for all the marketing plans I developed in business over the years:

  • Define the Goal
  • Define your Assets / Tools / Budget / Timeline
  • Define the (Measurable) Steps to Reach the Goal
  • Execute the Steps!

Simple? Yes. But don't overlook what comes after you execute the Marketing plan!

  • Examine the results / Understand the Reasons for Success or Failure
  • Adjust the Goal (or Create a New Goal)
  • Retest the Assets
  • Redefine the Action Steps

This is marketing - you will continue to loop through this process for as long as you want to sell your books.


Thus, we hit the first principle of Marketing:


Marketing 101: There are no magic bullets for marketing. No matter what you do, you will need to do it again. And again, and again, and again.


Is that depressing to you? It is actually good news. Marketing is not magic, nor does it require special skills. What succeeds is consistency. The good news is, writers understand consistency – you didn't write your book in one sitting. You returned to it over and over again, writing, analyzing the results, fine tuning it, and then adding new pieces to it, until you finally achieved your goal.


Guess what – you've just described the marketing process. Let's get started!


The Next 15 Minutes: What is Your Goal?

 This first part is designed to help you set your goals, and get started in the marketing process. At the end of this workshop, you will have a goal, and a set of steps to practice to move you toward that goal. You will also hear a few marketing principles so you can apply the things you learn when tackling a marketing problem on your own.  


The first step in getting started is knowing where you are going. As in all things, if we want to get somewhere, we need to start with the end in mind! What is it you want to achieve?


My Strategic Goal is to _________________________________________________________________



At this stage of your marketing career, your goal is likely very simple: Since you are reading this article, I expect it is something like, "I want to sell more books." That is certainly a strategic goal and also something that can be measured with no difficulty. So it meets most of the important criteria for a marketing Goal.


Marketing 102: Goals must be easy to understand, and easy to measure.


However, this is a perfect example of a strategic goal because "Sell more books" is not a road map, it is a dream. I say that because one of the first things we have to learn is we can't control sales. The customers' control sales. So though our goal is to sell, our steps are the actions we will make in an effort to stimulate sales.


Marketing 103: Marketing is about awareness, and marketing makes it possible to sell. But it will not sell anything.


Through marketing, you can make people aware of your product. Your marketing can point to things about your product, and if those things fill a need for the audience, they will buy it if there are no added complications. Those complications include price, implementation issues, compatibility points, etc.


Our Marketing Plan are the tactical steps we will take to achieve our strategic goals. These tactical steps must be things you can do, and that you measure both the implementation and the results. The implementation measurement is usually when or how long it took us to perform that tactical step – very important since we may need to repeat steps in another marketing plan sometime later. Also, it helps us realize if we should have moved more quickly, where can we trim time from our process?


Measurement of the results are more easily understood: Did it work? Generally, we are looking at 'how many people did we contact?' or 'how many people responded to our survey?' and of course, the ultimate question, 'how many books did we sell?'


These measurements will show you how effective your marketing was, and allow you to fine tune the message, or fine tune which audience gets your message.


Marketing 104: Marketing is sending a message to an audience. All actual marketing revolves around the continuous fine-tuning of the message, and choosing the audience that receives that message.


The best marketing is when you are reaching only people that have a potential need for your product. Efficient marketing is when you do that for the lowest cost in the least amount of time, meaning, only people who need your product hear your message, and it is the correct message to move them to purchase.


Of course, just starting, we do not know who our optimal audience is, or what will move them to buy. If we did know who they were, we might still have trouble figuring out the best way to reach them in this era of sensory overload and fractionated audiences! Of course, with a book to sell, we are part of that sensory overload, so we can't complain!


And, also be aware that things change – what worked the first time may not work the second time – and almost certainly won't work every time.


Marketing 105: Marketing is about being innovative in your message and your methods, yet consistent in your efforts.


But our main interest right now is more general. If my strategic long term goal is to sell books, what short term tactical tools do I have that can attack this problem? Obviously, our first steps will be to 'get the word out' about your book, and get you some practice talking about your book to people. These choices should be aimed at influencing people in order to achieve your strategic goal. But you should be thinking, 'I have no idea what my time frame, budget, or my options are. How do I decide what I can do?'


The Third 15 Minutes - Listing Your Assets

To decide your action plan, you need to know what resources are available. It is time to inventory your assets. These assets are things you own, things you know, things you have access to, or items you can utilize.


Two of the most important assets in any marketing situation are normally the assets of time and money. Frequently one of these is in short supply, and we trade one to gain the other. Think about Fed Ex™ – you might trade $30 to $50 to get something across the country in a day – when if you had plenty of time, a stamp costing less than 50 cents will get it there.


In marketing, it works the same, but at our level, our needs will generally find us trading our personal time to avoid paying cash for specific marketing needs. For example,

  • You could pay someone to create a brochure – or you could do one yourself.
  • You could buy a mailing list of people with a shared interest from a company – or you could research the internet to find people with that interest.
  • You could hire a firm to make a press release – or you could write it and mail / email it yourself.

The list goes on and on.


Ironically, though, in the early days of your first marketing efforts, time can be much more valuable than money, since there may be few proven marketing programs you can purchase that will actually meet your needs. You need the time to research and develop the contacts and connections and marketing pieces you think will push your sales.


Now we see the connection to my original question: how much time are you willing to invest in getting your books to sell?


Let's get started cataloguing your assets, so you know what you have to offer. In an effort to help, my list has time and money already in place. (Do not worry about putting a hard number on the money question. As I said above, in these early days, the issue of money is far less valuable than the time you are willing to invest in promoting your book. )


Assets for _____________________________ 's Marketing Campaign.


Time - ____ (minutes per day) x 7 / 60 = ____ hours a week.


Money: I'd be willing to spend $____ per week.


I can write. I have experience writing _________________________



(possible items include: thank you cards, commercials, fund raising letters, web sites, tweets, email requests, etc.)


I have a computer and ______________________________________



(possible thoughts: I am a pro with Word, Excel, or Email. I am great with Adobe, HTML, or InDesign, and have made brochures, or post cards, or web sites, etc.)


I have internet access and ______________________________________



(Possible thoughts include: I am a wizard at finding things on Google or YouTube; I am good with Facebook; I like using Twitter, or I am a member of these specialty groups, etc.)


The above items are all important, and will help. In these early days, though, we should also think about 'Who you know.'

I am part of these groups or organizations:

School / College _______________________________________________




(Some ideas to get you started: Forward Motion, Facebook, My Space, I have a website, a drama club, a sf group, a gaming group, Toastmasters, I am a teacher, etc.)


Your story can also have some connections. If you are writing about something that certain groups feel strongly about you might be able to get free help spreading the word about your story, or they may have a newsletter that reaches their members.

My story is (genre / subject): _____________________________________



(Some ideas to get you started: Science Fiction / and deals with space travel; Or about the American Frontier, and has local history; is historical fiction, but I based it on the Greek myths; etc. Any of these could give you a subject that might appeal to specific groups of readers. For example, perhaps the local history club would like to hear what you learned researching the locale for your story set in the Pioneer days of our country. Or horse breeders might have an interest in your research on how far horses of the mid 18th century could travel, etc.)

One last set of assets to consider:

My profession is: ______________________________________________

My hobbies include: ____________________________________________



(What you are skilled at, or where you work, might give you credit with some readers. For example, you are a history teacher and you have written an historical novel. Or your hobbies may provide you with connections or insights that others will find interesting: such as, you are a re-enactor on over 20 major American Civil War battles, and you've written a novel based in the Civil War era. Or your hobby or your job has given you experience speaking to large or small groups of people, or you have connections with news media and have been on television or radio many times; or you are an acknowledge expert on some subject that can be connected to your book. Write these down! These are certainly assets that you can trade on to promote your book!


Take some time with all these questions. When you get most of them filled out, we'll continue.


One important point: if you did not list your book as an asset – go back and add it to you list right now. First and foremost among your assets is the book or books you are trying to sell. If you do not see it as an asset, why should anyone else want to own it? That book and the fact that you wrote it is your passport to many places – groups and organizations, conventions and roundtable discussions, mailing lists, academic standing, book groups, and much more.


Defining Your First Marketing Plan – the next 15 minutes.


Now that we know what our assets are, we can start to craft our tactical 'action plan' to promote our book! This is a Marketing Plan – something that will help achieve our goals, with a roadmap of tactical steps that will help move us toward our goal.


Now that you have your assets listed, think about how these can work together. Many of these will not be important for our first action plan – but some will. And as you learn how to craft your marketing plans, you will see how your skills, experiences, and your abilities will shape how we choose the tactics to get our promotion started. But think about additional promotions and possibilities while we create this simple sample plan! Our marketing efforts will eventually be many different separate action plans, some running at the same time, some designed to run one after the other. We will do our first promotion as a 'big deal' reaching out to a lot of people, but there are not many times we can command a wide audience for little cost. We want to be thinking about a next potential promotion, too, so we can get it ready to go while people still remember the first promotion, too.


Marketing 106 - Marketing experts tell us it takes at least seven 'touches' to move someone to action. And in today's saturated media market, that number may be rising!


While this article will focus on only one or two major action steps that are interlocking and promote each other, realize that you will have other items on the list. Be considering the steps and tactics your skills will offer!


The Next 15 minutes x 4 - The Marketing Plan

We said above we want our marketing plans to be about something we can control – and that we do not control sales. So what is it we do control?


We control awareness. We do that by deciding, how we will reach people, and what we will say to them?


Marketing is about creating awareness – both of the item, and what it offers. If we do that correctly, we will see sales. But due to limitations of time and money, we can't simply buy ads. So we want to leverage media that already exists, and attempt to get them to talk about us and our book.


This isn't easy. Newspapers/TV/Radio stations like to sell ads, and if they feel you are not 'news worthy' they will not but you in a story on their airtime. Our job, then, is to convince them you do have something they could do a story on that would intrigue people. To do that, you have to intrigue the staff first, with your press release.


This is why we catalogued your skills and your assets. You, as much as your book, are the story for the news outlets. That needs to be clear in the press release you are going to send them!


Turning back to your list of assets, we see I listed a few items that as writers I know you possess – writing skills. So we are going to do three action items that utilize your writing skills first and your internet research skills as well.


This is the homework assignment for your next issue: Complete this action plan!


Action Plan for __________________________________


Projected Completion Date


Date Completed


Compile list of all media in your region: Newspaper, TV, Radio. Find out how they wish to receive press releases, (email, fax, website) and include this on your list. Also include preferred contact and their title.


Use your internet search skills to find a website that tells you the proper method to format a 'Press Release'


Create two press releases. One for electronic notification, and one 'short form' to be emailed to different media asking for interview.


Compile list of other places your press release should be posted. For example: your Facebook page, your blog, your school or alumni page, any groups that might have a similar interest in this topic. Local library? Others?


(Don't release yet) Schedule date to email press releases. I suggest you avoid Fridays, and some people swear you should never send a Press Release on a Monday. (My jury is still out on that one.)


Same day as release is sent, be certain the release is on your website, your Facebook page, etc. Add a link to the release in your email signature. Add a note to your Tweets.


Once your release is out, schedule a phone call one to two days later and follow up confirming they got the release. If they say yes, ask if there is any interest in a story so you can confirm your schedule is flexible. (If you dropped it on Thursday, call Friday!)


Compile list of return contacts and news stories filed.



We'll discuss these more next time, after you have tried your hand at creating them.


Will that increase sales? Perhaps, but perhaps not. It does lay the foundation for your book to be noticed, reviewed, and perhaps purchased, which is the first step in the process. And consider this: as small an effort as this section seems, in a small to medium-sized city, it is possible that these press releases could result in more than 60,000 people hearing about you and your book.


While it might not increase sales, it should increase interest, and make subsequent marketing efforts fall on prepared ground. And that was our real goal!


Also: note on the press releases below - if you have a book to sell at the presentation, you will have a much better chance of selling them. But if not, you still have a chance to sell them at your website, or whatever link you add to the release.


Next time: Beyond the Press Release; Grouping your efforts to achieve maximum impact; understanding Twitter; leveraging Facebook, and what about sales inducements?





Below are two examples of press releases I've used:

Press Release: July 11, 2002

For more information: Thomas Ritchie, (phone) (email)


The Weekender magazine joins the Lewis and Clark Expedition!


The Weekender will publish a series of ten articles tracing the Voyage of Discovery's progress through the Nebraska/Iowa/South Dakota region, beginning when they enter what is currently Nebraska on July, 1804, until they leave the tri-state region in late September.


These articles will recount the journey "as it happened" week-by-week, 198 years ago. The articles start in the July 19th issue of the Weekender.


"We'll share their successes and discoveries as they explore not just the river, but the surrounding areas as well," said Russ Gifford, writer for the project. "We'll also share the near disasters, the two desertions – and the only death among their crew during the 28-month expedition."


In a weekly companion article, the Weekender will take readers through the same region today, and point out the locations and the items Lewis and Clark describe in their journals. This article will also showcase the best of what today's world offers the modern traveler, including shops, restaurants and historical displays along the route.


This series provides a detailed look at the adventures of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in a region that is largely ignored in the popular books on the subject. The first article will cover background information for the voyage, and follow their trek from the current Nebraska border to below the mouth of the Platte river.


Join one of the most important adventures in the history of America, and the defining moment in the history of this region.


The Weekender is distributed at over 300 locations in the tri-state area. The first article in the Lewis and Clark series will be on the stands July 19th.


Russ Gifford is a freelance writer and guest speaker, with more than 100 articles in local and national publications.


The Weekender is a weekly magazine published in Sioux City, Iowa. Extra copies of each issue will be available for the featured regions.


Make certain we know about your business or historic location. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Advertising is also available in these issues. Call (402) 494-8746.


Note on the above release:

  • Date of Release, who is releasing it, and contact information. All vital.
  • Who-What-Where-When are covered first. The Why is the story.
  • The bigger moment here is the 'companion article'
  • Note the credentials at the end.

To electronic Media:

A look back at the decade of the 1970's at WITCC!


Attention: News Director Duane Kraayenbrink


Hi Duane!


On April 21st, I'm delivering a free event looking back at the decade of the 1970's at Western Iowa Tech Community College. The program is part of WITCC's Lifelong Learning series, hosted by Fiona Valentine. The program is in Cargill Auditorium, and starts at 7 P.M.


The program will be fun, with a look at the culture and the times, but it will also certainly note the roots of some of today's major issues.


Along with the well-known national happenings (Viet Nam, Nixon, Watergate and the Iranian Hostage Crisis) I'll devote time to local notes: IBP labor clashes, the beginnings of Siouxland's Hispanic minority population, and the Zenith plant closing - all items with ramifications for today.


We'll also visit the ever popular Lake Brandeis! I hope you'll come along!


I'd certainly be happy to do any sort of interview with you prior to the event. You can reach me at on my cell at (phone), or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


I'm posting the press release on my website at


Thanks for your interest. I look forward to hearing from you!


Russ Gifford

Training Specialist


(phone) (cell)


Notes on the above example:

  • This was a personalized email, not the full press release. I boiled it down to cover only the pertinent items.
  • Title tries to capture interest in case person is scan reading.
  • Letter is personalized to the person at the station we want to receive it.
  • First paragraph has 4W's. Next paragraph has 'why' it might be of interest to the news director – 'local as well as national issues,' with 'ramifications for today.'
  • Lots of contact info everywhere, and the explicit offer for an interview.
  • Link to Internet location of the complete Press Release. (no longer available – sorry)



And this one, created by the college recently, sent to Facebook, also picked up by local newspaper. But because the college made no attempt to write the article as the press release, the item in the newspaper is just a 'blurb.'