I continue to meet authors who believe that a spend, spend, spend philosphy will make them an instant bestseller. Usually, I see these same authors a few months down the road and their excitement has waned into stress over burgeoning credit card bills and few sales to make up for the cost of doing promotions.
Unfortunately for most, throwing money at your published works and hoping it will create bestseller glue just doesn’t work. Buying into every promotional gag out there is NOT the answer to being a successful author. Doing a targeted campaign using free social media, free library visits and free bookstore signings focused on readers in your genre is the ticket.
There are, of course, a few things you should budget for. Below is a bare bones list for authors who have – at most – a few hundred dollars to play around with. (When I say bare bones, I meant it. This list is anorexic, but includes exactly what you need to get started.) I also include a list of things that – I believe – you should NOT pay a dime for.
What you should pay for:
- Domain name (I personally prefer 1and1.com because they are affordable and automatically make your information private without an extra fee.)
- Web hosting. If you have a WordPress.org blog or a Web template, you must be hosted somewhere. Blue Host and HostGator are two of the most popular.
- Web design. A quality design comes when you have the budget for it – or when your publisher plans to pay for it. Until you are financially able, use a blog program like Typepad or WordPress, which allow you to create pages within a blog. Be sure to ask your publisher if they have the budget to hire a designer for you before you pay anything.
These are the basics. Here are two other suggestions for authors who sell through their Web sites and for the not-so-social media savvy who have a little more play money:
If you are selling eBooks via your Web site, you may consider adding a subscription to Are My Sites Up? or a similar service. When your Web site goes down, you lose revenue. AMSU immediately notifies you when your site goes down. This is essential to the nonfiction author and business owner who is using a Web site for to generate revenue.
Depending on your experience with social media – and your budget – you may consider hiring a virtual book tour consultant to arrange a targeted tour. If you don’t have that kind of cash, talk to authors who have done tours and get pointers from them before you begin. Also, read this Market My Novel article on virtual book tours.
What you should NOT pay for:
- Reviews. No legitimate site will charge to review your book. Period. They may ask your publisher to purchase ad space, but NOT to pay a reviewer. See this story on Slate.com. Others feel differently. Check out this string at BookMarket.Ning.com. Kirkus Discoveries is extremely popular, but not cost effective. If I had to chose between a $400 review and putting that cash toward a Web site design, I’d go for the latter.
- Virtual book tour slots. I don’t believe author’s should have to pay to be featured on a blog or Web site as part of a virtual book tour. You can pay someone to organize and implement your tour, but not pay individual blogs for slots – not matter how good they say their SEO is.. I know this is extremely popular right now – especially with blogs that get a lot of hits. If a blog is that popular, however, then it can generate revenue from Amazon aStore sales or Google AdSense – NOT on the backs of authors.
- Radio interviews. As I blogged earlier, no legitimate broadcast program is going to charge you to be a guest on a program. Most programs need guests or are desperate to fill a last-minute cancelation. Think very carefully before you pay any radio program – especially those online.
- Online ads. Facebook’s got ’em. Companies are creating them for Twitter – especially on programs like Tweetie for Mac. Hundreds of online users evangelize the use of pay-per-click and other online advertising techniques to make you a millionaire. It simply is not worth it. If you establish serious branding (i.e. name or series recognition) this might pay off. But doing this right out of the gate is a budget buster for most authors.
What promotional items do you pay for? What promotional tactics worked and what did not? What is the best use of your promotional budget funds?0