The dreaded word: promotion. For many writers, promoting your book is its own form of torture. By nature many of us are introverts so the idea of trying to promote our book is a little terrifying. Others love it. I'm probably somewhere in the middle.
One of the biggest stresses about promo is knowing how much to spend and where to spend it. The biggest thing to remember is that everyone is going to have a different answer based on their individual situation. Whether you're traditionally or self-published will play a role. If you're traditionally published, the amount of support you receive from your publisher will definitely factor in. But regardless, everyone will spend some money on promotion. Where that money will be spent and how much is spent is up to you.
I'll be honest, one of the biggest things that always surprises me, is hearing writers say things like, "If it were me I would spend $1,000 on a book trailer." Well, maybe. Maybe if you're a big author with a huge advance and a huge promotional budget (although in that case your publisher may do it for you). But the thing is--maybe that $1,000 book trailer doesn't seem like it's that expensive, but as with many things (weddings come to mind), expenses start to add up quickly and you soon find yourself juggling lots of promotional costs.
You have to weigh the value of that $1,000 that you could spend on a book trailer versus spending it somewhere else and you have to ask yourself if the return is going to be worth it. Personally, I don't think you see huge results on something like a trailer but that's a call everyone will have to make themselves. Ideally we would all love to have the best, fanciest, top-of-the line promo but realistically, just like everything in life, you will have to sacrifice in some areas. It can be easy to go overboard, so it's always a good idea to track your expenses in a spreadsheet and come up with a realistic budget that you're comfortable spending (and maybe losing). There's no guarantee on promo so you have to be comfortable with the idea that you may not see a return on what you've spent.
Whenever you're setting your promo budget, I definitely recommend looking at what that particular item costs and asking yourself if you would get better mileage with that money if you used it somewhere else. As a debut, that can be a tough assessment to make. Without a track record it's difficult to determine this, but you can look at what others are doing and what seems to work for them as well as your individual needs. Do you have design skills? Then maybe you can save some money and design your own bookmarks, etc. Are you strapped for time? Consider hiring a blog tour company to organize your blog tour and take that off your plate. Look at places you can save money and focus on the areas you want to splurge.
Promo can be fun and it can be easy to get carried away but it's important to remember that in many ways our writing careers are similar to running a small business. You want to be able to justify your expenses and see rewards. Like any small business you may find that the first few years your expenses match or even exceed your income. When you're building a promotional platform there is an element of starting from scratch. Getting your name out there initially can be a challenge. But the important thing to remember about promotion is that ideally you're looking at a long-term career rather than just one book.
I always think of marketing and promo as the rule of three. It takes someone seeing your name (or book title) three times to make it stick. So instead of chasing an immediate sale, sometimes it's better to focus on promotional efforts that get your name out there and help to establish you as a brand. Some of those efforts will be free (things like guest blog posts) whereas others will require a financial commitment. While you might not see immediate results in your efforts, you're building a platform to establish your career and you have to budget accordingly.
Chanel writes New Adult contemporary romances. Her New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, was released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, on July 7, 2014. She is represented by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her own website.