How to Develop a Book Marketing Budget

To launch your book properly, it’s a good idea to sit down and start writing a detailed book marketing budget. The budget is a preliminary task that you should complete before you spend a dime on publishing your book. Some small publishers make the mistake of jumping right in and spending on their newly finished books before they get a full view of how much it will cost to properly release the title. Start typing out your new book marketing budget in a blank Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Here are a few key categories that you’ll want to address in your budget.

Book Editing and Design Costs

Once you finish writing your book, brace yourself. Before your only investment was time and thought—now you have to start spending money to get the word out about your unique creation. You now have to hire a few people to get your book ready for printing and publishing:

  • Book editor
  • Typesetter
  • Cover designer

Book Printing Costs

A major initial outlay for a self-publisher is your book printing expenses. The traditional method is to purchase a set of books (about 250 to 1000 to start out) and then order more when you run out. The costs when you speak to a book printer include:

  • Book printing costs
  • Prepress fees
  • Shipping costs

You can also use a POD service like the one offered by Createspace to print your books on demand. I’m liking the POD option more nowadays because I sell most of my titles online. However, keep in mind that printing with a book printer may give you a lower per-book rate and also open more doors to potential distributors and brick-and-mortar bookstores to carry your book on shelves.

Book Advertising Costs

In 2010 and beyond, I believe self-publishers and small publishing companies will find the most success advertising online. But when you go on book signing events and the like you’ll need some other advertising materials. So be sure to include the following possible costs in your book marketing budget:

  • Putting together and publishing a professional book website. You can simply use a web building tool offered by your web host, choose a professional template, and add your book details, but you may want to hire a professional to handle this (I discuss book websites in my eBook series).
  • Building a newsletter list and using email newsletter services to get the word out about your book
  • Creating postcards, bookmarks and business cards for your book to distribute at events
  • Creating flyers and large mounted book posters to display at your events
  • Hiring a designer to prepare book marketing package materials (like your sell sheet and letterhead)
  • Buying radio ads can be useful for certain types of books

In addition to basic book advertising expenses, don’t forget to list the cost of putting together sales packages for potential reviewers, distributors and small bookstores who may want to carry your books. You’ll have to print professional materials and send them via an express mail service to your intended recipients.

Book Traveling Expenses

When you publish a book that gets some attention either locally or nationally, you’ll have to budget for trips to book signings, festivals, fairs, and other events. That includes:

  • Airfare, rental car, hotel
  • Vending table rental fees (if applicable)
  • Display tables, stands, tents and other supplies for your books if you’re planning on attending book fairs
  • Outfits for your book signings (you’ve got to look good!)
  • Cost of placing a few radio or newspaper ads in the other cities where you plan to visit to promote your books (people who may be interested in your book need to know you’re coming and why—they don’t know who you are yet!)

Book Selling Helpers

One mistake I made when I just started out selling my own self-published books was to try to do everything on my own. I probably could have made longer strides more quickly if I had just hired a few part-time people to help me out! You don’t have to hire on full-time employees as a self-publisher—obviously you can’t afford that just yet. Consider the following ideas for getting book selling helpers and add the cost to your budget:

  • Hire independent contractors, like virtual assistants, online (such as on Elance)
  • Talk to an administrator at a college nearby to see if there is an intern program you can join
  • Pay your working age kids or their buddies to be your helpers
  • Consider the cost of hiring a book publicist to help you get the word out about your book

Educational Materials

Before and after you self-publish a book it is very important that you read up on the process in detail. Gathering knowledge of self-publishing helps you gain an advantage in the self-publishing world. This is a small segment of your book marketing budget, but worth adding:

  • Invest in resources that teach you the basics of self-publishing a book
  • Invest in resources that teach you the specifics of how to sell and market a book
  • Attend seminars at book publishing fairs and major events to hear from other successful self-publishers and network

Use these suggestions as a starting point – obviously you’ll have more items to add your book marketing budget in the near future.

Selling Self-Published Books: It Takes Money (and Planning) to Make Money

I was recently reading a few articles about breakout authors who have managed to sell millions of eBooks despite self-publishing. I noticed one thing that many ultra-successful self-published authors have in common – they had money prior to being authors. They also got into the eBook game early, when the Kindle craze began.

For instance, Darcie Chan was a lawyer prior to selling 400,000 copies of her books. She likely had some money budgeted to promote her work properly.

Of course there are exceptions – Amanda Hocking worked at group home prior to becoming a best selling authoress according to Wikipedia. But in many cases, people who have a solid marketing budget available to invest in their books are more likely to succeed as self-publishers.

There are two reasons why it’s really helpful to already have money in the bank if you want to become a successful self-published author.

  • You need plenty of money to sustain yourself while you’re promoting and writing books. If you’ll notice, most high-selling authors have written 10 or more titles. They can keep pumping them out because they have cash to fall back on and pay bills in the meanwhile. Many other self-published authors don’t have the ability or time to write 10-20 pages a day while still juggling a job and everyday bills.
  • Money opens doors that aren’t open to others in the publishing industry. For instance, a book table at one of the major book expos costs over $1,000. Buying advertising on top book websites costs thousands per month. Professional editors and book designers charge thousands. Some services allow you to pay for high profile reviews.

As this WSJ article confirms, authors who already have a large following are the ones who are most likely to succeed.

So where do these authors get that following? It’s either from time served (they’ve been writing for years and developed a large fan list over those years) or money (they purchased ads or reviews and gave away plenty of books to develop a following). Not to mention, their writing has to be pretty good to keep people interested.

So if you’re a brand new self-published who no one has ever heard of, with little to no following who doesn’t have much money, is it really a mystery why you’re not selling any books?

I’m Pretty Broke — What Can I Do?

The first thing to do is to be realistic as a brand new self-publisher. This is one of the top points I try to get across in my eBook and articles. Be realistic and take measured steps toward your own personal success. Stop looking at the success of others as a gauge of whether you yourself are successful.

Some people look down on this advice as pessimistic, but I call it realistic optimism. You have to be realistic yet determined about the approach you take to self-publishing if you want the best results. About 130,000 books are self-published each year. According to Para Publishing there are about 86,000 self publishers. Only 12 self-published authors have sold over 200,000 copies of their books as of the first publishing of this post. That’s roughly .01 %.

The other 99.99 % of indie authors don’t get these stellar results. In fact, the vast majority of self-publishers sell about 150 copies total.

So What About the 99.99%?

It’s best to be realistic about what you’ll sell and invest accordingly. Then if you happen to join the ranks of million-selling authors (which is largely a matter of luck and partly due to writing an amazing story), party like it’s 2099!

The next thing I would suggest is to consider taking time to hone your craft and save up some money to invest in your book if you’re really serious about self-publishing as a career. Or at least as a consistent source of residual income.

Finally, invest in affordable, effective advertising. Avoid places that are just trying to rob you of your money as an eager self-publisher. You know, the $5,000 a month retainer publicity agents and $5,000 tables at book conferences. Find your niche audience and advertise to them with inexpensive yet well-placed promotions, reviews and free copies of your book.

Of course I have more tips for self-publishers which I detail in my eBook. Your book is a product, and you have to become a bit of a marketing genius in addition to a writer.

You have to think of this as a business—selling isn’t very fun. Making money is fun. And the old adage rings true—it does take (some) money to make money.

Raise Money to Get Your Book Printed as a New Self-Publisher

Looking for a way to help pay for your first run of book? Sell advertising at the back of your book.

If you’re a new and fairly broke self-publisher who’s trying to raise some money to get your book printed, you may have to get a little creative. If the bank isn’t biting, low on cash, and your cards are maxed out, why not try to sell some advertising space at the back of your pre-published books as a way to get your book printed?

Think about it—you’re going to be printing multiple hundreds of books and pushing them to a highly targeted group of consumers. For instance, if you have a book printed about starting your own small business, you know that there are a whole crop of advertisers out there hoping to reach new small business owners.

How this Idea to Get your Book Printed Can Work

This idea for getting your book printed will work best for a non-fiction or self-help book that provides valuable information. For instance, if your book is about relationships, tap local matchmakers and the countless dating services (both off and online) that are trying to get off the ground. A real estate agent might also pay to advertise in the back of your printed book offering advice on buying a new house.

As you can imagine, this plan to raise funds to get your book printed will work best if the advertiser has a website and ships products or provides a service to people all over the country. But if you plan to push your book heavily in your own town or city, a local brick and mortar business can benefit from this type of advertising.

Ask Your Buddies

What about other authors? Many self-published and even traditionally published authors have an advertising budget (don’t you?). Ask your author buddies if they’d like to advertise their books in the back of your printed book.

And what about your other buddies? Surely you have a friend or family member who is trying to get a new business idea off the ground or works for a company that places local advertisements. Instead of asking him for a cash investment to help get your book printed, sell him ad space in your printed book instead.

Be reasonable with your advertising rates, especially if this is the first time you’re trying this method of gathering funds to get your book printed. About $100 per half page ad sounds reasonable. Once you start to see a positive result from these book ads, then you can raise your rates and make it a more exclusive situation for possible advertisers.

Additionally, offer to include the ads on your book website as well. Even if your printed book doesn’t sell well off the bat, this will at least assure that the advertiser gets some online exposure from your book project.

Cross Promotion Opportunities After You Get Your Book Printed

Now before you say, “I don’t know if that will work,” think about the cross-promotion opportunity as well. If an advertiser knows you’re pushing his company name and maybe even his picture in the back of a published book, he’s going to be even more fired up about getting his own friends, family, and contacts to buy it—maybe even in bulk. Always off two free copies of the book for the advertiser to keep.

One last thing before you get the book printed—make plans with the advertiser to offer a discount to the customer if he mentions that he saw your ad in the back of your book. If the advertiser’s product or service is on a website, arrange to have the advertiser set up a special landing page or discount code so that he can tell where the traffic came from. This way the advertiser will see the value of promoting in your book, and possibly pay for more ads in future book printings or releases. Always think ahead.

Can’t Hurt to Give This a Shot!

So if you’re struggling with how to get the cash you need to get your book printed, consider taking a galley of your pre-published book and the cover around to your local businesses to try to sell ad space. If you’ve got positive reviews in already, bring that along with you as well.

Good luck to you on your self-published book. When you finally do get your book printed, then comes the really hard part — selling them!