Unhappily, every writer out there is not a household name and worse, they’re not going to land the major book deal. This means that the only way to make money as a writer is to sell books, and if you’re going to sell books, you have to promote them.
This is where you have to be very realistic. You either have the money, or you don’t. The good news is that your promotional budget can actually be relatively minimal and completely focused on advancing your book in the marketplace. Unless you are planning on doing a direct marketing campaign which would require you to invest in a mailing list, mailing materials, and extra postage, you can keep the costs low. If you are looking at doing a release party, a paid blog tour, buying ads (print or online), or listing your book with a major book promotion site, your costs will increase accordingly.
When considering how to promote your book, you are going to find plenty of events, ranging from book fairs to reader/writer conventions. Be very aware of the costs for everything from attendance fees and the cost of tables or program announcements, when you plan on which events to take part in. Understand up front that book signings and public appearances are primarily a chance to network. Though you will need to have books available, you won’t always sell many. But, making connections is a great way to build a platform that may later lead to book sales, though it may not deliver immediate results.
Unless you are Oprah or someone with an amazing following, don’t count on event planners or media paying your travel expenses. Remember that whenever you agree to make an appearance you will have to get there and back, sometimes overnight stays will be involved. With that in mind, always consider what the event will cost you in terms of food, travel, hotels, books, and potential time away from work. If you cannot count on your book sales covering all of your expenses, you might do better to opt for a different marketing activity.
If you are looking at a low-to-no cost, no-frills approach, where you do a simple presentation at your local libraries and schools, and single-mindedly focus on free publicity (and it DOES exist), your budget can be as low as $100.00, but you will have to do all of the work on your own.
Keep your stationary simple. You don’t have to use fancy presentation folders – they may look pretty, but media reps don’t pay them any attention. Better you should have a complete and concise presentation of your material on good quality (22 -28 pound) white copy paper, and spend the money you save on the books that you will need to send to reviewers.
For most authors, though, your biggest expenses will be for things like postage, mailing supplies, a P.O. Box, promo copies of your book, ink and paper. The good thing about spending this money is that every dime of it is tax deductible when you itemize your taxes, so remember to hold onto your receipts.
The other good thing is that if you work smart, you can make the postage work for you. Make your book cover a part of your mailing labels. Go to Stamps.com and have your book cover made into a postage stamp. Didn’t see that coming, did you? The clever part of doing that is that not only will your postage have done its job, but everyone who sees your stamp will also be exposed to your book cover – free publicity!
Write down your planned objectives and the item you need to complete those objectives, and then stick to your plan as you decide how and where you will spend your money (to get the most “bang for your buck”). Watch how the numbers add up because as you add other line items, your expenses will increase. Again, there will always be unforeseen items, so be both realistic and careful in considering what you want to do to promote your book and how you will spend your money. You are going to need to become acquainted with local and traditional vendors and their pricing. Now is as good a time as any to begin.
While you are researching vendors, don’t forget to use the internet. Often, you will find specialty items like the nice foil stickers that say, “Autographed Copy,” or “Local Author” at prices that are far more reasonable than you might get them at your local print shop.