Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Paying for Publicity and Book Promotion

I came across a post today on Book Marketing Buzz titled "Why You Need $10,000 to Promote Your Book" , and I had to click over to see if he was joking. I follow this blog and enjoy many of the posts related to book promotion and updates in publishing trends. But this post shocked and surprised me.

For one thing, very few writers have this kind of money to use on marketing a single book. This is why we're using social media to such an extend, because it's free. And it can be a very effective way to get our names and work noticed while having fun too.

Another thing, there are absolutely no guarantees that any kind of marketing program will bring sales to match. I hired an advertising person when Farm Girl first came out and the one thing she said, and what every professional marketer will tell you, is this: We can promote for you but we cannot guarantee results. 

The subtle warning is, "Let me tell you up front you might be throwing your money away. Are you okay with that?"

At WiDo Publishing, there are books that have been highly promoted by the authors and still don't sell very well. On the other hand, we've seen instances where an author has done very little beyond write and then sit back, not even writing anything else for years if at all, yet this one book will take off and sell consistently month after month.

Throwing money at a product will not guarantee success. If it were so, the big publishers would be spending a specific amount on each one they publish to create bestsellers. All a publisher or a writer can do is put the work out there and go through their promotional plan, whatever that happens to be, and then hope it catches on with the reading audience.

There's no explaining which books at WiDo have been top sellers and which ones have not. It hasn't come down to promotional dollars or advertising or marketing savvy. In the end, it comes down to whether the reading public connects with the book. And this can be a mysterious blend of ingredients involving timing, genre, promotional efforts that hit their mark, cover, price, summary, what's going on in the world at large--you name it.

There are awful books out there that catch on (Gone Girl cough cough, 50 Shades of Gray cough cough) and excellent ones that never go anywhere. A high-powered advertising budget isn't going to determine or create a bestseller.

But what do you think? Do you feel if only a publisher or writer does enough marketing or spends enough money, a book will sell?

While you're thinking about it, let me do my own plug on my cookbook, Farm Girl Country Cooking: Hearty Meals for the Active Family, which is free for a short time on Kindle.


  1. I think some paid marketing helps, but it's no guarantee. There is a lot that can be done for free, which is a good thing. How and why some books catch on is a mystery.

  2. Some might be helpful to get the book in the public eye, but nothing is as good as that connection.

  3. No guarantees in anything in this life. But most publishers have marketing budgets and take this aspect of their role in the life of a book most seriously. To publish means 'to make public,' and so publishers are the best suited to marketing, not authors. Of course, if you self-publish you are the marketing department as well as the manager of everything else. how much should a publisher budget for each book is above my pay grade to know. I agree that few writers can spend ten thousand dollars on such.

  4. Some books catch on because it is who they are or whom they know. I think of all the crap out there and know many could not have written a book (Justin bieber-really??) 50 Greys of porn got big because of the sex and yet it's poor. Every once in a while someone does great but I do think one needs an in. I also think there are great books out there than will never get noticed which is a shame. The great thing is that it did not stop the author from writing their book. Enjoy the moment and have fun and if a few people love it then I think that is great. If it becomes well known-cherry on top

  5. Even the thought of marketing is enought to give me a fit of the vapours. So I potter about a bit on social media, and hope to connect with enough people who like my stuff, who tell their friends they like my stuff, who tell their friends ... And I've not done badly that way.

  6. We can promote for you but we cannot guarantee results.

    That's so true! Marketing is a fickle business that requires persistence, but never provides any guarantees other than you'll be dishing out time and/or money the more you market. I've had my share of marketing flops when I thought for sure I was doing things right. If there were a magic formula then it would be easy.

    I've heard the stories of people paying a few thousand for some high profile reviews and adds and getting mega-thousands returned in sales and big book contracts. Then I've heard the stories of people shelling out even more and getting nothing. Most of us don't have the money to waste on taking chances with no guarantees.

    I guess that's why a good many of us dream of getting a publishing deal with one of the majors and leaving it all up to them. Even there we get no guarantees, but it seems safer.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Road trippin' with A to Z
    Tossing It Out

  7. As a writer and a reader I'm glad that folks cannot buy themselves success. I think it is up to us to decide what makes success in our writing life - then we will be better able to court it. I want to be a writer more than I want to be an author but I know others don't. Fifty Shades of Grey is an entertainment not literature. If we don't want to write entertainments then we shouldn't regard those books as our competition or the 'writers' of them our peers. I think that the publishing contract is a lot like a marriage contract - you've had the big showy wedding or the quiet town hall one - but still you are faced with making the marriage work. Getting published is just the beginning.

  8. Great post, Karen. I believe you are correct. Money doesn't necessarily make a best seller. And who has it anyway? I believe timing helps, as you say. Jan Morrison is correct. Getting published is just the beginning. It's up to the writer--unfortunately--to make it worthwhile.

  9. I appreciate you saying all of this. I do believe we can't tell why a book sells--some do, some don't. When mine came out, I had a plan in place and it sold well for three months, then boom. I think at that point, it probably would have sold more if it was the kind of book that people absolutely loved and told others about. It was my first, Maybe the next one will be better. :) We never know anything. :)

  10. If other writers have ten thousand dollars to waste, more power to 'em. If it makes them feel that they're insuring their success by wasting it, again, more power to 'em. But there are no guarantees, no matter how much money and time someone invests into the endeavor. The reading public is fickle, and there is soooo much competition. Readers can readily get some pretty darned good e-books for free, so they aren't espcially eager to fork over their hard-earned cash to take a chance on unknown writers. Well-established writers, on the other hand, can get away with selling drivel, based on name recognition alone. I haven't done much of anything to promote my book, but it sold fairly well for a while. Now, it sells in trickles. What's frustrating is the number of people who write me to tell me how much they loved it... but they can't be bothered to write a review. Or better yet, you wouldn't believe how many people have written to tell me how many people they've loaned my book to, who also loved it. (And of course, no reviews there, either.) Oh well. The question becomes whether we write to become rich and famous, or for the sheer joy of writing. When push comes to shove, those rosy emails about my book make it all worthwhile. I never expected to become rich and famous. (So far... so good!)

  11. This is interesting and really, I don't know. I'm not currently trying to sell a book but if I was, I'd probably rely on myself and close friends, more than the publisher. But this is something I am not familiar with.

    PS: I just bought Tim a Kindle as part of his gifts, will check out your book.

  12. Hello Karen, One of the reasons I went back to school for my degree in creative writing was to learn more about the publishing world and it has been a real eye opener. I've been blessed to have some amazing professors who are now well known in their circles but have said to us students that there is no magic formula for being published. Write well, write often, write even more and maybe with lots of hard work and a little luck you'll get some breaks. Last month I met Andre Dubus (house of Sand and Fog) who told me "for those of you a bit closer to the exit ramp than others, " my 56 year old self was in a crowd of 20 year olds, "you'll have to work even harder, if you don't LOVE writing, get out now. " I do love it, so I'll keep plugging away, until they put me away.