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Monday, January 23rd 2012

1:05 AM

Promo ho-ing: have you gone over the top?

Got a budget?  Well, then that should be thing one on your list.  I’ll say my little mantra again – you have to spend some money to make money but only a fool spends more than she earns.  Think of yourself as a business – you are.  You’re a self-employed writer.  You need certain things to hone your skills – computers, paper, ink, toner, paper, etc.  What you don’t need is a tiny bottle of tabasco sauce attached to a bookmark claiming your book is hot.

Let’s pretend that your business is a pizza parlor instead of writing.  You have $10,000.00 (your advance) to open your shop.  Then let’s say you decide to spend $10,000.00 on ads and signage (ads, bookmarks, tabasco sauce, pens, etc.).  Guess what?  Now you don’t have any money to spend on your product (ink, paper, computers, cost of living, etc.).  If you saw someone doing that you’d call them a fool.  Who opens a shop when they can’t afford dough ad sauce because they’ve spent everything on advertising?

So how do you make a budget?  Percentiles.  I personally won’t spend more than 20% of my advance on promotion.  So I pick and choose very carefully.  I start with the free stuff – guest blogging, signings, stock signing, speaking to libraries and schools, twitter, facebook, etc.  Then I may decide to do a paper product – a bookmark BUT ONLY if I can advertise at least two books on that one bookmark.  Let’s face it, indies are a dying breed and Barnes & Noble isn’t going to give up point of sale space for your bookmarks.  Then I go on to conferences.  I evaluate carefully.  Am I going to reach/attract new readers?  If not, is this a budget item that I am marking pure networking?  If so, it better not be a budget breaker.  Right now the biggest tool out there is the Facebook ad.  I’d do that long before I’d advertise in traditional publications.  However, if I did want to do a traditional magazine, it would be RWR or Mystery Scene.  Those are not fan-driven publications and in the case of the RWR, you’re hitting a lot of the same people as say RT at a fraction of the cost.

At 40+ books, I now think a webpage, Twitter and Facebook are my outlets.  I have 24 coffee mugs made and 25 pens made. (I only do things that can be used again and again) The reason?  People know I only do a limited amount of promo and they hurry to see if they can get one.  I guest blog and do exactly two book signings – 1 at a store and 1 in my home (a party for friends with a bookseller who comes and sells the books for me to sign – thank you Joanne!).

So my pro-hoing tip is to stop spending money and start using what is already out there to your advantage.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the USA and NYT bestseller lists and you’ll find a whole group of people who don’t whore themselves.  They simply write good books.

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