To paraphrase a well-known quote. ‘It takes a community to market and sell a book’. The simple fact of selling self-published books  in 2016 is that it takes a community. In the pre-digital economy the marketing and selling of a book was handled by the publisher. Best-selling authors would be promoted through launch events, book readings and book signings. They’d write the book and then turn up to promote it.

It’s completely different now. While anyone can write and publish and book, not everyone does. It takes commitment, time, persistence, attention to detail (so much detail) money and lots of effort, and that’s just the writing part!

The real game changer in self-publishing is knowing how to effectively market and sell you and your book WAY BEFORE you even publish and launch it.

If you already have a community of followers (you might even be an Influencer in your area) OR if you’re new to the whole social media marketing universe, you should start engaging or creating your community when you are in the early stages of the design step of your book.

The reason for this? You have the one thing most people don’t. CONTENT, and lots of it. You also have a passion and a plan to spread it as far as you can.

As the father of transmedia storytelling Harry Jenkins said ‘If it doesn’t spread it’s dead.’

There are three distinct phases for the marketing and selling of your book.

Pre-marketing, launch and leveraging and they cost money and time. The amount of both depends on how much work you are prepared or want to do. For the purposes of this overview I am assuming that as the writer you are prepared to put in 1-2 hours a week on social media 3-4 months out from the launch date of your book, that you will need someone to help you organise a launch and that you want to and can be available for media, book signings, talks, presentations etc after the launch. (BTW, If you’re not willing to commit to this…you really shouldn’t start writing your book).

1. Pre-marketing

Essentially this means creating a database of people you are connected with and that you can start marketing to. This should cover everyone on your phone, across your social media accounts, industry organisations you are linked with etc.

If you don’t have time to do this pay someone. It might cost you $500 but it’s worth it.

Develop a content marketing strategy and plan. If you don’t know what this is you need to find someone who does, and specialises in books (business books) and pay them. The cost of this will vary depending on what level of plan you want and what you want the content marketing specialist to do, and how much you can do in terms of creating and posting the content across the various targeted platforms you identify. It would be reasonable to expect to pay between $1,500-$5,000 for this with the higher end of the range being for a content marketing plan, some regular analytics, support and advice over a 12 month period.

If you spend money on nothing else THIS is where you need to spend it. A clear strategy and plan for your marketing across key platforms WILL propel sales of your book and exposure.

Website upgrade

I covered the cost of a website in my previous post. It’s worth noting here though that as part of your pre-marketing you should review your website and make sure it has all the elements you need for promoting, marketing and selling your book. You may need to upgrade plug-ins to enable you to sell your book directly, (eCommerce functions), take orders, special offers, auto respond to queries.

If you’re going to sell through Amazon or other sites, you’ll need to add widgets and links to their sites.

Most of us don’t build/maintain our own sites so there’ll be costs associated with this from $300 for minor changes to maybe $1,500 for more significant ones as well.

2. The Launch

The cost of your book launch will vary greatly depending on what sort of launch you want, how many people you can/want to invite, where you launch it and how. You might choose to have an on-line launch only if you’re totally focused on selling your book rather than selling it AND providing a platform for exposure of yourself, your book and ideas.

Either way a launch costs. Items that are common to both are:

  • Free review copies for media, industry commentators, key clients,
  • Cost of attending media interviews
  • Cost of developing or buying a targeted media list, developing media releases and media packs, sending the media packs out, follow up, support advertising . . .
  • Developing advertisements (online and print media)
  • Videos of you being interviewed about the book, talking about the key elements of the book
  • Developing smaller eBooks for promotion
  • Developing and implementing an on-line campaign, SEO, monitoring and posting.

All up these elements might cost between $1,000-$3,000 (or more).

The online launch

An on-line launch is significantly cheaper for obvious reasons but there are still costs associated with it such as spending money on building a database and followers, sending out free review copies, creating eBooks for promotion and marketing, buying adWords, upgrading LinkedIn, Twitter, buying advertising on social media channels . . .

All this could cost anywhere between $500-$3,000 depending on how far and wide you want to go and how much work you are prepared to do.

An actual book launch

Many people want to have an actual book launch/and event to mark the completion of their book. This requires all the planning and attention to detail of a wedding with the overlay of a focus on the commercial aspect . . . book sales and exposure.

A book launch will cost as much or as little as you are willing to spend.

The only guidance I’d provide here is to focus on WHY you are having the book launch. Is it to promote the book, promote you, thank all those who have supported you through the process, get as much exposure as you can . . .? All these are relevant outcomes it’s just important to be very clear what you want to achieve.

I would recommend that if you want to have a book launch you focus really clearly on what it will deliver for book sales on the evening itself and as a vehicle to promote the book (using your content marketing, media and sales campaigns you have developed beforehand).

If you focus on book sales this will substantially change who you ask to launch your book, who you invite, the media coverage you aim to achieve, the special offers you make, where you have it and when.

$3,000-$4,000 is not an unrealistic budget for a small, targeted book launch.

And, of course, you might have several. Think of it as a reverse Nellie Melba. The more launches the better, if you can stay excited and energised for them all.

If you’re going to spend this level of money you would want to be sure you can sell books on the night and leverage the launch to sell more books. At an average book RRP of say $30.00 you’d need to sell 100 books just to cover the lower end of the book launch cost alone.

3. Leveraging your book

Essentially these are the costs associated with you getting out there in person and online to promote and sell your book. In the ‘real’ world this means being available to present at industry events and association events, seminars etc, being available for radio, maybe television, interviews, webinars, podcasts etc; speaking at conferences, attending ‘meet the author’ events and book signings etc. This takes time and money. How much money depends on how much you want to spend on marketing and selling your book, how far you are prepared to travel to do so and for how long.

Obviously on-line channels are significantly less expensive in terms of actual costs, but there’s a significant time cost.

Also, one of the reasons for undertaking your book may have been to create a mechanism to generate greater exposure to the professional speaking circuit, so the cost of this is really an investment.

This said, make no mistake, if you are not prepared to invest in marketing and promoting your own book, no-one else will.

So, adding up approximate costs for the three phases we end up with a marketing/launch/leveraging cost as follows

1.    Pre-marketing

Database $500

Content marketing plan $1,500-$5,000

Website upgrade $300-$1,500

2.    Launch

Advertising and support $1,000-$3,000

Online launch $500-$3,000

Physical launch $3,000-$4,000 (of course you can spend a lot more than this if you want)

3. Leveraging

Completely variable.

Total: $6,300-$14,000

How many books do you need to sell then to cover these costs?

At an average sale price of $30.00 per book you’d need to sell between 210 and 467 copies to cover these costs.

Now, you start to understand the importance of having a clear goal, focus on specific target audiences and a realistic commitment in terms of your time to promote your book from the outset.

It’s also critically important to set specific goals in terms of how many books you want to sell and in what timeframe. What does success look like to you?

As with most of my blogs in this series, success is all in the planning and the execution. Creating a successful book is just the same.

Best of luck writing and if you need help or advice ‘on all the other bits’, many of which I have outlined in this series How much does it REALLY COST to  you know where to find me.