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Creating your marketing strategy defines what you will do (as described in my earlier post Six Rules for Creating a Solid Book Marketing Strategy). The next step is to decide how you will do it, and then organize your actions to facilitate implementation. That is the process of planning.

Do not think of the word plan as a noun – a weighty document valued by page count. Instead, think of it as a verb, a functional, dynamic series of actions that keep you moving ahead. It could simply be a checklist of actions you can implement to fulfill your strategies and reach your objectives.

Still, some publishers eschew planning for a variety of reasons. Here are the three questions I am most frequently asked about planning.

Why should I spend time planning instead of doing?

There are many benefits to planning, if you think of it as a process, regularly adjusting your checklist to exploit opportunities as they arise. Here are a few reasons to consider.

  1. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Make sure your first step is heading you in the right direction.
  2. Planning maximizes your efficiency and effectiveness as you implement your intended actions. Your checklist gives you an answer to the question, “What is the best use of my time right now?”
  3. At the end of the day you can look back at all the tasks crossed off your “To-Do” list and experience a feeling of accomplishment. When tomorrow comes, each day will be gone forever, leaving in its place whatever you have traded for it.
  4. As you implement your actions other ideas come to mind. This may help you complete a task in a way different from which you originally intended.
  5. Planning makes budgeting more precise as you get a good feel for the cost of each action.
  6. Planning helps you make the best use of your resources of time, money and attitude as you utilize each more effectively.
  7. Planning forces you to consider the interaction among your prospects, products, place, pricing, and promotion decisions.

What form should a plan take?

The best form for your plan is that which makes it easy for you to use. It could simply be a brief description of your strategies with an action checklist following each. At the beginning of each month, make lists of things you will do during each of the forthcoming weeks. Then at the beginning of each week create an easy-to-use list of things to do. [1]

Why plan if I don’t know what is going to happen in the future?

Market chaos is probably the best reason to create your action list. As you perform your tasks you come up with innovative ways to implement each, based on your evolving circumstances. You cannot accurately predict every nuance of change, but your prepared alternatives can help you to be prepared to better deal with whatever happens.

Do not be deterred by the fog of the future. As you plan for the upcoming year, options become clearer. Your forecast of revenue and expenses for the next 12 months could be detailed monthly. Your plan for the following two-to-three years could list quarterly predictions. Then each year your current planning becomes easier as you fine-tune your existing action plans based upon your relative progress and business environment.

The marketing-planning process is similar to using a kaleidoscope. There are a finite number of pieces, but you can create an infinite number of combinations simply by rearranging them. Manipulate available data until you feel comfortable with a given plan, and then take action. As you proceed, new information will be added to the mix and you can re-evaluate your direction and progress. But each turn will give you new ideas and bring you closer to your ultimate, long-term objectives.

This is the second in a four part series on book marketing.  The first post appeared on October 14, 2014 and outlined Six Rules for Creating a Solid Book Marketing Strategy. Look for the third post, The Hidden Power of Book Marketing, the week November 10.

[1] For a sample weekly planning guide go to www.bookapss.org/planpocketguide.doc. Print it out as a two-sided document and fold it in thirds to fit easily in you pocket or purse. Customize it to your circumstances and goals. Complete a new one every week as a constant reminder of things you can do.

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Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (formerly SPAN) and host of the APSS Book Selling University. He is also the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books.