Marketing: Remember writing is a business

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

An author should expect to put time and money into marketing a book. The publisher has a marketing plan and budget for a book release, but the author is expected to market to his or her circle of influence.

I think it’s a good idea for an author to take time before a book release to plan and budget his or her own marketing much in the same way a publishing house would. Set aside a certain amount of money (comfortably within your budget!) and write out a plan of what you will do with that money and with the time you have to put into marketing as well. The key to planning successful marketing is to remember that what you put out should be earned back with interest through increased sales. Marketing should be an investment, so you should focus on what payoff your efforts could have. If you spend $20 on gas and food to drive to a book signing in another town, how many books are you likely to sell by doing this? If we estimate the royalty at $1 per book, I think you’d need to sell at least 40 copies for the $20 trip to be worthwhile.  That doesn’t even take into account the time that was spent on the trip though. A full day is worth a lot. (If you are selling copies you purchased at a large discount for the purpose of resale you will make more than $1/copy. But be sure to keep track of sales for tax purposes, too! Your city/state should have guidelines for this online.)

It’s extremely hard to know what the actual monetary gains will be from a marketing effort. For example, if you are able to gain a few new readers for one book, they are likely to buy other books from you in the future, and they might tell their friends about your books. I suggest estimating your return at the lowest possible payback for your efforts so that you are sure your marketing dollars are being spent well. The extra sales that might come from your efforts will just be icing on the cake at some future date.

If, for some reason or another, your marketing efforts don’t end up paying back what you put into them plus interest, you can console yourself with knowing that your money spent on marketing is also a tax write off.

How do you estimate your investment returns on marketing efforts?

Do you enjoy marketing your book? Why or why not?

8 Responses

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  1. Sales tax? The government could make money off my book?. Wow.

    • Sales tax, income tax, event tax, tire-wear tax, microphone usage tax, oxygen consumption tax, hotel tax, room occupancy tax …
      “‘Cause I’m that tax man. Yeeeeeeeeah I’m the taaax maaaaaaaaan!”

    • Carol Ashby says:

      I have to file the sales tax report biannually with the state even if I don’t make any direct sales where I collect the tax myself. Plus I have to paying Social Security and Medicare taxes to the feds (over 40% of gross income as an indie publisher) because I’ve made more than $400 in royalties in 2017. Plus I have to pay an annual fee for my county business license as Cerrillo Press.
      *The tax man cometh in many different ways.

      • Carol Ashby says:

        That’s a 15.3% tax for SS and Medicare. The extra 25% is estimated regular income tax. The actual income tax will be whatever your federal bracket is plus whatever your state income tax rate is.

  2. Rachel, this is just killer difficult – one of my areas of greatest ignorance. I understand the necessity for it, and am willing to invest time and money, but want to make every effort to ensure that the money (care a lot less about the effort) is not going down a rat hole. Assuming a contract is secured with the publishing company, how much guidance/advice is it reasonable to expect from the publisher in this arena? I suspect there is some level of involvement since they will have a vested interest in a successful venture. If they can point to a task/event and say “Do!” (think Planet of the Apes) then I am very willing to engage the task/event.

  3. Carol Ashby says:

    Estimating the dollar-based ROI of my marketing efforts is difficult. I don’t spend money (except for buying history reference books-not cheap), but I spend a great deal of time on my Roman history site. It’s my main marketing “tool.” Images of my historical novel covers are click-bait in the side panel and at the bottom of the homepage, where I describe why I created the site to share what I learned dong research for my novels. A tab at the top provides links to pages describing my novels. However, most of the site makes no direct reference to the novels. The vast majority of visitors come straight to a particular article, like crime and punishment or slavery or adoption, from a search engine without ever visiting the home page. Between 20 and 40% of the visitors on a given day are international, and my international sales as an indie are more than 10% of my total sales.
    *The cost: time spent writing the history site is time not spent writing my novels. There’s also the cost of the books by academics that provide the in-depth-information, but that’s a deductible business expense. The payback: sales in a market I wasn’t deliberately targeting at a level I never expected to reach.
    *A question, Rachel. Our local Christian and indie bookstores have a relatively small number of customers. From the experience of your agency’s clients, how common is it to sell more than 20 books at an indie store? Even at a large chain store like Barnes & Noble, what would be a typical sales number for a day? What fraction of customers come over to the author’s table, and what fraction actually buy? Does this give a good ROI for established authors with traditional publishers?

  4. book sinnings were fun

  5. Debbie says:

    Insightful, nah, scratch that. Brilliant blog. Simply brilliant.