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There are two ways to think about book marketing. You can view it as an expense to be minimized or an investment to be maximized.
If you want to reap a harvest, you must first sow the seeds.
When you view marketing as an expense, you’re essentially asking, “How few seeds can I plant in the ground?”
Instead, you should ask, “How can I get the biggest harvest?” The biggest harvest often means sowing more seeds in better soil.
You don’t have to throw good seeds on bad ground. But if you have good soil, you can maximize your harvest by planting as many seeds as possible.
Many people believe that doing things on a budget means spending as little money as possible, but that is mistaken thinking. A budget simply allows you to count the costs of the project and decide how much you will spend before you even begin the project.
Jesus once said:
For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ (Luke 14:28–30 NLT).
Failure to count the costs ahead of time commonly kills a writing career. Authors often run out of time, energy, or money before they find success. Since the book launch comes towards the end of the journey, it often gets short shrift.
Cost to Launch a Book
How do you get the most bang for your buck out of your book launch? How do you invest money in your launch so that you see a return, rather than wasting money on no-return expenses?
Now before we discuss the costs, let’s heed a few warnings.
Warning #1: Only Invest What You Are Willing to Lose
Like any investment, investing in your book launch is risky. Even if you do everything right, you may not get your money back. This is especially true if you are launching your first book.
My dad often reminds me, “Never make investment decisions out of fear or greed.”
An old publishing joke says, “To make a small fortune in publishing, you need to start with a large fortune.”
To make any investment work, you must be willing to take risks. It is hard and unwise to take risks with the money you need to pay your regular bills. If the amount you are investing in your book launch keeps you up at night, cut your launch budget until you can sleep.
Very few books published by traditional publishers make money. At a traditional publishing house, one successful book in ten usually carries the other nine.
While you need optimism about your book to begin the publishing journey, you also need to be realistic. Your book might not be a breakout money-maker.
If you are struggling to fund your launch, you may be launching too soon.
Warning #2: Don’t Go into Debt for Your Book Launch
Predatory companies will pressure you to take on debt to publish and launch your book. Avoid any company that uses high-pressure sales tactics. Success in publishing takes a long time, and you don’t want to be running away from your creditors while chasing your publishing goals.
If you need a loan to fund your launch, you are launching too soon.
Warning #3: Be the Customer
Free publishing tools and platforms abound. But when you use free tools, you are not the customer. You are the product being sold to someone else.
The food is free in the chicken coop when your eggs are being taken away and given to someone else or, God forbid, you are put on the dinner plate.
Companies offering free tools may sell your attention to advertisers or sell your personal data to data brokers. While some free tools can help you with your book launch, others get in the way.
For example, Facebook sells your data to Amazon. Amazon then deletes book reviews left by your Facebook friends and fellow group members. The more time you spend using the free tools of Facebook, the harder your launch will be.
To find out if you are the customer of a free tool, ask yourself, “Do I have someone to contact if something goes wrong?”
No one at Facebook will talk to you because you are not Facebook’s customer. On the other hand, if Amazon has a question, someone at Facebook will happily talk to them because Amazon spends millions of dollars buying Facebook user data.
Authors who use Amazon and Facebook often become casualties of the data war. Authors aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong, but they suffer the consequences of other wrongdoers.
Amazon has a big problem with fake product reviews. Sellers on Amazon often join a huge Facebook group and give away free products in exchange for an Amazon review.
To crack down on the problem and keep the review process legitimate, Amazon has started buying group data from Facebook and deleting Amazon reviews left by people who are friends with the seller or in the same group.
Sadly, authors have suffered because of the crackdown.
The only free tools I recommend are tools that have a free version and a paid version. Even if you use the free version, you are still their potential customer. They want you to upgrade to the paid version, so they’re more likely to care about your user experience.
Warning #4: Save Strategically
What if you don’t have the cash for a book launch?
Do what your grandparents did back in the day. Save the money. In the olden days, if someone wanted something they couldn’t afford, they would save some money each month until they could afford it.
So how do you get money to save? One great strategy to earn money and sharpen your author skills is to work as an editor or an author assistant. The experience and income you gain will help when it comes time to launch your book.
As Jesus once said, “Until you are faithful with that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”
Delaying your book launch allows you time to save up a pile of money to spend on your launch and learn the necessary skills.
If you want more tips on how to make money as an author, listen to my episode called Yes, YOU Can Make a Living as a Writer, Here’s How.
Count Your Time and Money
I know an author who writes book after book and rarely invests time or money into launching those books. His books only get a few dozen readers and a couple of reviews. I hate to see excellent writing wasted and ignored like that. With a little marketing effort, those books could reach many more people.
Launching a book will cost time and money. Evaluate how much time and money you have to invest in your launch. Be specific about the amounts you’ll spend. Write on a piece of paper how much money and time you are willing to invest in your book.
As you choose the amount you want to spend, remember two things:
You Spent Hundreds of Hours Writing Your Book.
The launch investment needs to honor the time and money you’ve already invested in writing your book.
You Can Never Make More Time.
But you can make more money. Remember that your hours are more valuable than your dollars.
Got your numbers? Excellent! Now it is time to determine the best way to invest.
The amount you’ve budgeted to invest determines which strategy you will use.
Some authors have more time, and some have more cash. Your time-cash surplus (or lack of a surplus) will determine which strategy you’ll use.
Cash Rich & Time Poor
Authors who are cash rich and time poor can have successful book launches. The best strategy is to use your cash to hire professionals to take tasks off your plate and save you time.
- a webmaster to prepare your website for launch
- a copywriter to polish your back cover copy
- a launch team organizer to interact with and motivate your launch team
- a PR person to set up media interviews
- an author assistant to help with email, logistics, and small tasks
- a housekeeper
Several of those tasks require specialized skills, and even if you aren’t cash rich, you may save yourself a lot of time and headache by hiring a professional.
Even if you are time poor, you must still invest some time into your launch. For example, a PR person can get you booked for interviews, but you still need to show up and give those interviews.
Time Rich & Cash Poor
Most authors are time rich and cash poor. These authors are often either retired or living on a spouse’s income. They may not have a day job taking up their time, but they also don’t have the cash from working full-time. They have lots of time, but every dollar is precious. Any money spent must be accounted for.
If you are time rich and cash poor, your best strategy is to invest the money you do have in education. With a little education, you can prepare your own website, schedule your own interviews, and organize your own launch team. But to do these things well, you need training.
The most expensive education is called “trial and error.” It is much cheaper to go through a course like the Book Launch Blueprint to learn how to do everything yourself.
If you decide to hire professionals to help with some tasks, you can help them help you by knowing enough to communicate clearly. Having done part of the work yourself, you’ll know some of the right language to use to communicate your needs.
If you want to test the waters of educating yourself, sign up for my FREE course, How to Build an Amazing Author Website.
Time Poor & Cash Poor
You can’t reap a harvest if you don’t sow the seed.
If you are unwilling to invest either time or money into your launch, you need to get used to disappointment.
Common Book-Launch Expenses
Your book launch will be unique to you and your book. It will highlight your “weirdness.” No two book launches are alike. But some expenses are common for most book launches.
You may not need to spend money on all of these things, and you will probably spend time and money on launch activities I have not listed below.
To guide you in making your budget and counting the costs, I have outlined some of the most common book launch expenses.
- Cash: $799
- Time: 30–50 hours
Training will cost you money, but it will also save you from learning things the hard way.
For example, I recently wanted to add paving stones along my driveway so my wife and I could load and unload babies from our minivan without standing in the mud.
It sounded easy enough, so my brother and I went to Home Depot and bought paving stones.
We worked hard all day installing the stones, but they were wobbly when we stepped on them. I thought, I should look up a YouTube video to see if I am doing this correctly. Spoiler alert, we were doing it all wrong.
We went back to Home Depot to buy more supplies. Then we had to undo what we had done and redo the work. I learned there is always time to do it right but never time to do it twice.
Investing in training makes everything else cheaper since it teaches you how to do things right the first time.
The Book Launch Blueprint will teach you how to run your own book launch. The course requires about two hours per day for each weekday over four weeks. That comes out to roughly 40 hours of work.
It’s important to remember that buying a course won’t help you if you don’t do the work. Commit to spending the time your book deserves.
Launch Team Organization
- Cash: $100–$200
- Time: 20–40 hours
Organizing a launch team is mostly an investment of time. It will take about 40 hours to organize your launch team if you’re doing it yourself.
If you are time poor, you should hire someone to help. Paying a launch team manager will be more expensive than doing it yourself, but I recommend hiring this out if you don’t have the time.
- Cash: $120–$600
- Time: 1–3 hours
Giving away ebook copies of your book can be an effective way to generate buzz about your book during your launch. It costs between $120 and $600 to do a Goodreads giveaway.
A Goodreads giveaway may also generate early reviews for your book, and those reviews may increase your visibility on Goodreads.
- Cash: $250–$5,000
- Time: 10–100 hours
I have a guide on how you can build your own WordPress website for less than $250. If you hire a webmaster to build a site for you, it will typically cost between $1,500 and $5,000.
If you’re hesitant to build your website yourself, I recommend taking my course. Get it started, and then hire a webmaster only when you get stuck. You don’t have to hire them to complete the whole thing.
The benefit of learning the basics of building a website is that you give yourself an advantage when communicating with a webmaster. If you can articulate your problem or what you need, your webmaster will probably charge you less because it will take him or her less time to figure out what you need.
A webmaster may charge $25–$100 per hour, but you may only need a couple of hours of help.
- Cash: $200–$1,000
- Time: 10–50 hours
Copywriting is expensive in terms of time or money. Top copywriters will write your back cover copy for $1,000–$1,500. Some will rewrite your blurb for as little as $300.
That may sound expensive for only a few paragraphs, but copywriting is often the hardest writing you will ever do, especially if you’re writing your own copy. Since you’re so close to your book, it’s hard to identify the aspect that will be most interesting to a stranger who picks it up.
Additionally, it can take a shocking amount of time to select the right words, cut extra words, and make your blurb exceedingly clear.
Most novelists hate writing a synopsis because they have to distill a 90,000-word book into one page. Imagine distilling that one page to 150 words. Copywriters like James L. Rubart have honed the skill through 25 years of experience. With training and practice, you can learn too. It will help you in every aspect of marketing.
You can, and in many cases should, hire someone to help you with copywriting. Hiring a copywriter will reduce the time you spend on it and increase the quality of the writing as well as the cost. But if you give your copywriter good text to start with, you’ll get a better product from them in the end.
Advanced Reader Copies
- Cash: $0–$500
- Time: 2–10 hours
An ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy of your book. This is a special prerelease copy of your book that you send to influential people to help generate buzz about your book before it releases.
It takes time to read your book, and if no one has access to your book until launch day, there will be several awkward days of silence while you wait for readers to finish your book and finally leave you a review.
If you are traditionally published, your publisher will send out ARCs for you. You only need to compile a list of addresses so the publisher knows where to send them.
If you don’t get this list to your publisher early enough, they may ship the ARCs to you in one big box. Then you will have to pack, label, and ship each book. It’s much better to let your publisher do this work since they have machines that can do it in a few minutes.
If you are indie published, you will need to pay to print and ship the books, but it is well worth the investment. Be strategic. Don’t send copies to your friends for free. Send complimentary copies to influential people who can talk to their audiences about your book.
Some influencers prefer to read the ebook version, so be sure to ask which version they prefer. It could save you time and money in printing, packaging, and postage.
- Cash: $50–$500
- Time: 3–10 hours
Your launch party can be as simple as punch at your house and as fancy as dinner at an event center. Your launch party doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to be fun for your readers.
Launch parties will vary depending on the book. I actually hired someone to throw my launch party because throwing parties is not my strong suit.
Since my book was about dating and relationships, we hosted a 1950s style dance. I paid for a dance floor and punch, and I sold a ton of books.
As we are emerging from this pandemic, people are eager to see other human beings in real life. An invitation to your launch party might be just what your readers need.
Online Launch Party Prizes
- Cash: $50–$250
- Time: 2–5 hours
The money you’ll spend for an online party will go toward “door prizes” for your online attendees. You can partner with fellow authors and ask them to donate their books as prizes. This can reduce your costs.
Don’t go crazy buying prizes, though. Sometimes online launch parties turn into money losers if attendance is poor. But if the online party generates hype, it may be worth the financial loss. Weigh your options.
Nonfiction writers have the option of hosting webinars, and there is a whole suite of tools to host launch-related webinars.
Media Tour Audio Gear
- Cash: $100–$250
- Time: 1 hour
If you want podcasts and radio shows to book you as a guest, you need to sound professional. You can sound good for as little as $100 if you know what gear to buy.
That gaming headset your son bought you won’t cut it. You need an actual microphone if you want to be a guest on a popular podcast.
This will only take you an hour to purchase, plugin, and set up.
Media Tour Video Gear
- Cash: $200–$1000
- Time: 1–3 hours
No one looks good on the built-in webcam that came with the laptop. A good video setup will make you look less wrinkly and more professional. We’ve all been on enough Zoom meetings to know that your laptop camera is not your friend when it comes to video quality.
This year, one of our new additions to the Book Launch Blueprint is a guide to better video quality. The gear isn’t hard to set up, and it makes a big difference in the quality of your video. It’s all about the lighting and a good camera.
- Cash: $5–$50/month
Your website needs to live on a server, and web hosting is how you reserve your website’s home. When searching for web hosting, remember that you want to be the customer. The advertisements a “free” website provider places on your website can ruin your reputation and spoil your brand.
If you use free hosting, you appear to be broke. Readers assume that if you’re broke, no one is buying your book, and they shouldn’t either. Signal your success by paying for decent hosting.
Email Service Provider
- Cash: $5–$50/month
- Time: 1–3 hours/month
MailerLite (affiliate link) and ConvertKit (affiliate link) have a free plan if you have less than 1,000 subscribers. If you follow the Novel Marketing method, you will quickly have more than 1,000 subscribers. Choose your email service provider based on where you plan to be in the future. Go ahead and start planning on paying now.
As your list grows, you’ll start making enough money to pay for an email service provider’s plan.
- Cash: $5/month–$50/month
- Time: saves you time
Productivity tools have a negative-time impact. Most of the previous tools we mentioned cost time, but this tool saves you time.
The one thing better than sharpening your ax is buying a chainsaw. One of the best things to spend money on is your own productivity. For only a few dollars per month, you can find a bunch of tools that can save you from a lot of unnecessary work.
I use Text Expander, which reports how much time I’ve saved. Since I’ve owned it, it has saved me 63 hours, and that is worth $5 per month. Value your time by spending money on tools that will save you time.
If you’re overwhelmed by everything involved in launching your book, the Book Launch Blueprint will break the entire process into actionable steps you can accomplish one day at a time.
The Book Launch Blueprint is a 28-day, interactive course developed by Novel Marketing host Thomas Umstattd Jr. and Christy Hall of Fame author James L. Rubart. Originally launched in 2018, the course is updated annually according to student feedback and the constant changes in the publishing landscape.
Each session includes a highly-produced video training and a live offices hours session where you can ask questions and get input from your instructors as well as other students.
By the end of the course, you will know exactly what you must do to make your book launch a resounding triumph.
If you’re serious about your career, check out the full curriculum, testimonials from past students, and the added bonuses at BookLaunchFun.com.
Deborah Raney author of Bridges (Affiliate Link)
Facing an empty nest for the first time since the death of her husband, Tess Everett immerses herself in volunteer work for the Winterset public parks, home of the famous covered bridges. But when a former resident .W. McRae shows up with paintbrushes, sparks fly. J.W. was once married to Tess’s late friend Char. As their friendship grows, Tess and J.W. must discover if what they have together is worth rearranging their entire lives for. And whether they can build bridges that will mend broken relationships.
- Where to Spend Your Marketing Dollars
- How to Create a Written Book Launch Plan
- Painful Book Launch Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way
You can listen to this episode How to Launch Your Book on a Budget on Christian Publishing Show.