Why are agents constantly scheming to make us crazy? Opps, that’s not really my question. It just sorta slipped out.
I recently got a full request. The agent asked me to include a "marketing statement.” Well, I don’t know what that is, and wanted to respond immediately, so I wrote about the special kinds of kids (it’s YA) that might be particularly interested, described some crossover potential, suggested that I was willing to put in miles of shoe leather, and proposed (what I hope was) an imaginative and (I also hope) not too stupid marketing approach. It’s too late now to do anything about it, but I’d still like to know how badly I screwed this up. What do you think the agent was really asking for?
Hearing this makes me a little nutso cause it's bad enough we make you jump through query hoops, but those extra little side dishes of torture are really unfair.
Publishers have a marketing department that is pretty good at reaching general book trade outlets. Depending on the size of the publisher there may be a person whose sole job is selling to Barnes & Noble (or more realistically, solving problems with the orders B&N places); another might be selling to Sam's Club, Walmart, Costco and other big box, non-book retailers.
A marketing plan from an author assumes the publisher knows how to get books to those big vendors.
You can also assume they know how to get books to libraries, and indie stores.
What they don't know how to do as well (depending on the publisher) is everything else. So, if you have a mailing list, that would be a key component of your marketing plan.
If you have a robust social media platform, that would be part of your marketing plan.
If you have established relationships with schools for school visits, that would be part of your marketing plan.
A marketing plan is who you know and how to reach the people/companies/institutions that you think will buy your book.
Now, that funny sound you hear is every single author reading this blog post, falling to the ground and weeping.
While we wait for them to regain their composure, here's a scene from a vastly underrated movie Boiler Room
(it doesn't have anything to do with today's topic, but I love Ben Affleck)
An agent who wants a marketing plan for a novel at the query stage has the cart before the horse.
The time for a marketing plan is when you know you're going to offer representation, and you work WITH the author to develop one.
That's one of the many things we do here at New Leaf: we work with you on this stuff, we don't expect you to know anything about marketing when you query us. If you do, terrific. If you don't, I don't care.
I care about one thing: did you write a novel I can't wait to dangle in front of editor noses and say "read this or live with regret for the rest of your life."
As for your question: If you screwed anything up it's the agent's fault. Asking for a marketing plan without giving any guidance on what it should contain, or what s/he is looking for is arrogance of the worst sort. You can quote me on that.