Creating a marketing budget

December 16, 2009

Hey all,

As many of you know, I self-publish some of my work through Amazon.com’s CreateSpace venue, and I’ve noticed a lot of discussion lately from folks concerned about  the up-front costs of publishing and marketing their books here on CS.

While I believe that we’d be hard pressed to find a better deal than CS (CreateSpace) offers, in these economic times it’s certainly understandable (believe me) that even the minimal cost of the pro-plan ($40), some business cards, bookmarks, a few review copies, etc, etc…can quickly outgrow a self-publisher’s budget.

Especially if, like me, you don’t have any budget to start out with, lol.

I had some ideas on this when I started my first CS project, but wanted to wait to judge my success with them, before I passed along any “pearls of wisdom.”

Most of what I’ve learned, I’ve learned the hard way, over the last decade of self-publishing my novels (let’s not even go there, okay?) Still, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way to support my writing when my bank account couldn’t.

(If you DO want a crash course on how easy it is to sell a self-pubbed non-fiction book, publish a novel and spend a couple of years trying to market it yourself, lol. Make sure to budget for anti-depressants.)

Starting at the beginning, I wanted the Pro Plan and 25-50 copies to send out, complimentary, to reviewers, and business owners in my nitch (outdoor sports.)

My purchase price for Elk Hunters Don’t Cry is around $3.00a copy (pro-plan rate, incl shipping.) This was based on a 70 book order. I didn’t spend a penny out of pocket. What I did do, was create a “honey list” of folks that were pretty much a shoe-in to buy the book. Friends, family, co-workers, etc. I created several potential covers (free with CS software and my own photos) and posted the best six to my blog. Then I emailed everyone on my list, and posted the link to my Facebook friends, and Twitter followers, announcing a contest. Which ever cover got the most votes, based on comments to my blog post, would be chosen for the final cover.

Of the winning votes, I would draw one name for every hundred votes, and that person would get a free, personally autographed copy of the book. I ended up with over 120 votes for the winner, and gave away two copies. I also then added everyone who voted, for any of the covers, to my honey list, expanding it from around 50 to over 300.

Once the cover was chosen, I wrote up a “Pre-order” promotional email, with an embedded PayPal link (including estimated shipping cost from me to them), allowing everyone on my list to order an autographed copy of the book in advance. In this email/blogpost I included a link to a page that had the cover, a synopsis, a sample story, the PayPal link (again) as well as a printable order form for anyone who wanted to order with a check or money order. I also printed several color copies

I still hadn’t even ordered my proof copy, or upgraded to the Pro Plan yet. Total out of pocket was Zero.

Well, okay, maybe a few bucks worth of ink and paper for my printer. :^)

Within two weeks, with an occasional Twitter/Facebook reminder & and personally responding to EVERY comment on all three venues, I had 41 paid pre-orders. After a celebratory dinner at Taco Bell with my wife, that left me about $600.00! (remember, I pre-charged $2.50 for shipping.)

This covered the cost of the Pro-Plan ($40) a new box of VistaPrint business cards which included my eStore address ($10), 70 books ($210.00), a handful of Starbucks gift-cards (to give away in future promotions) and plenty left over for shipping and materials, and maybe some professional bookmarks with the cover and eStore address.

It also left me with 25 copies of the book to send to reviewers and business owners. (2 copies went to winners, 1 copy I kept as my promo, and one went to my Mom.)

All, with almost nothing out of pocket.

I’ve had several more orders roll in since then, and plan to see a goodly number when my pre-order customers start showing their copies around (oh, and a sent out a detailed review request, printed and folded into each book, as well.)

Those books don’t count either, because all proceeds of my “direct sales” are ear-marked for my, now-expanding, marketing budget. Only the online royalties are gravy.

Gotta spend it to make it, right?

The next batch of book I order will go with me to the Northwest Sportsman’s Expo, here in Portland, where I plan to spend a VERY long day schmoozing store owners, magazine editors, and guides, and giving them copies of my book. Each book will have a flyer inside that explains how they, or their clients, can order books directly from me and 30% off the cover-price, for resale. It will also have the Amazon and eStore links.

All I’ll ask them for in return is a business card, and the possibility of selling and/or reviewing my book to their own customer base.

Sure, I’m losing some cash-in-hand (but still nothing out of pocket) by doing this, but I’m also potentially growing my marketing base to numbers I couldn’t hope for on my own.

And, of course, I’ll still be hitting all my socialnetworks, answering (non-book related) questions, engaging in conversation,laughing at jokes, and making sure that the sweet little eStore link alwaysappears under my name.

I’m not allowing myself even the hope of seeing a serious profit for at least the first six months. By then, if the book is saleable, it should have gotten in front of enough eyeballs to start the ball rolling, and word of mouth will (hopefully) begin to surpass my direct marketing efforts.

So, anyway…I’m only a couple of months into this process and it seems to be working well so far. I’ll keep you posted.

I plan to add some posts in the next few weeks on using social networks for marketing, and creating eBooks for marketing, as well.

If you’re looking for ways to get started on a shoestring (or barefoot) budget, I hope some of these ideas will have value for you. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned above, I’m happy to answer what I can.



PS – Not to beat this into the ground, but if you didn’t read my previous review of “The Step-By-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit!” by createspace authors C. Pinheiro and Nick Russell, do yourself a favor and go buy the book. It is the Jedi Masters Guide to marketing, lol!

PPS – If you didn’t notice, there’s another marketing gem right there. If your book is awesome, like theirs is, there will always be guys like me out there who can’t keep their big mouths shut about it! LOL



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