Before You Market Your Book, Set Your Objectives

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Today’s guest post is an excerpt from One Million Readers: The Definitive Guide to a Nonfiction Book Marketing Strategy that Saves Time, Money, and Sells More Books by author and nonfiction writing coach Boni Wagner-Stafford (@bclearwriting).

The very first thing you want to nail are the marketing objectives for your book. You’re likely familiar with objectives and the key role they play in any business (or personal) endeavour.

The many authors that discount, overlook, or dismiss setting objectives for their books as irrelevant miss out on the key strategic link that objectives provide between dreams and reality.

What Are Objectives?

The objectives are the pillars for everything you plan and do related to the marketing of your book. It’s your why, your goals, your dreams, all wrapped up into an action-focused package.

Objectives describe exactly what you want to achieve through your marketing approach. Here’s an example using a special vacation as an analogy.

Your objective for the vacation might be to unwind, relax, and recharge your batteries. Or, it might be to experience a thrilling physical adventure, such as climbing Mount Everest, rowing across the Atlantic, or some other experience where you’ll push yourself beyond your current boundaries.

Understanding your objectives for your vacation will help you:

  • Choose the location. A five-star beach resort will be perfect for the relaxation objective but not so much for the adventure.
  • Decide how you’ll get there. A direct flight, perhaps in first class, will be perfect for the relaxing beach vacation. Backpacking, hitchhiking, or train might allow you to experience more of the region you’re visiting for your adventure vacation.
  • How much money you’ll spend in order to meet your vacation objectives.

It’s the same thing with the objectives for your book marketing strategy.

Why Determine Objectives Before You Begin

Ideally you will have examined your objectives for the book early in the writing process, as objectives will affect everything including your content, tone, design, and length.

Your objectives are going to help you decide everything you do to market your book and yourself as an author. They will be objectives unique to you and your book.

How to Set Objectives

How do you figure out what your marketing objectives are? It might be easy. You might know them without doing any work at all. If you don’t know them, or even if you think you do, think hard and dig deep so that you can get specific.

In general, the objectives of most authors will fall into these three broad categories: awareness, engagement, and book sales. Start by drilling down into each of these categories.

Here’s what you need to ask:


  • What kind of awareness do you want to raise? Is it for you as an author? For your book, or for the subject you’re writing about? All of the above?
  • Who is it that needs to be more aware?
  • Is this awareness a prerequisite to some change you’re advocating?


  • Do you want to speak at conferences and events?
  • Do you want to engage with readers by doing book readings or signings?
  • Do you want to speak at schools, libraries, or business meetings?
  • Do you want to build an online community of loyal readers, or build an engaged email list of readers who will want to buy your next book, and the one after that?

 Book sales

  • How many books do you want to sell? Be realistic and also bold in your answer to this one. Don’t say two, but also probably don’t say two million.
  • How do you know what’s a realistic goal? It depends on the genre; it depends on the marketing strategy; it depends on the quality; it depends on your marketing budget; and it depends on whether you have a team or you’re marketing solo.
  • Research how other books are selling in your genre. Use tools like KDP Rocket, or KDSpy, or even start with a simple Google search. My search using the term, “global book sales by genre,” led me to statistics where, for example, I re-discovered that more money is spent buying business books than all fiction categories combined.
  • You can also do some manual searching on Amazon, though both KDP Rocket and KDSpy source Amazon data, so if you have access to those tools then your job is a little easier. Get a good sense of what the bestsellers in your genre are doing, be realistic about your chances, and set yourself a stretch goal. Make it something that’s going to make you proud once you’ve achieved it.

Here are two quick examples. Sheila has written a book about her business. Joe has written a memoir about his family’s story. Their marketing objectives are going to be different, even though they will each have objectives in the broad categories of awareness, engagement, and book sales.

Comparing Objectives for Business Book vs. Memoir

If you fail to nail your objectives before you begin to work on the rest of your book marketing plan, you risk including too many irrelevant tactics or not enough of the right ones. And you will have a harder time achieving the objectives you set.

General Versus Specific

At Ingenium Books, crafting marketing strategies on behalf of authors is a collaborative effort. We ask authors to complete a series of questionnaires and we have one or more conversations to get them thinking and to be sure we can extract and articulate clear and authentic objectives.

In this collaborative process, however, most authors do not show up with the level of specificity we want them to reach for, in particular around the objectives. Broad objectives are better than no objectives, but specific objectives are far better than broad objectives.

Why Awareness Always Comes First

Let’s say, for example, that an author’s stated objective at the start of our process is to get hired for speaking engagements. In this case, an author may say they don’t really care about becoming well known and they don’t care that much about book sales.

What has to be in place before they receive offers to speak at conferences and events? The person making the offer must be aware that the author and the book exist. Therefore, awareness must come first. No one will hire an author they don’t know about.

We could leave this author’s marketing strategy with those two objectives: raise awareness and get hired for speaking gigs. However, book sales play a key role.

One Million Readers by Boni Wagner-StaffordGetting hired for speaking gigs—the author’s number one objective—requires awareness on the front end and book sales for credibility on the back end. It’s great if Sam the Conference Organizer finds out there’s an author who has written a book about the specific topic the conference wants to address. It’s better, by far, if there is evidence that people are actually buying the author’s book. If there’s demand for the book, Sam knows there will be an engaged and interested audience at his conference.

It’s this third pillar, book sales, that is the most common objective for most authors. Including tactics in your marketing strategy around awareness is critical for achieving book sales: readers are less likely to buy a book from an author they’ve never heard about.

Note from Jane: If you enjoyed this post, check out One Million Readers: The Definitive Guide to a Nonfiction Book Marketing Strategy that Saves Time, Money, and Sells More Books by Boni Wagner-Stafford.

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