If you've made it this far into your research and you're reading my article about book exhibits and advertising, by now you should have a solid idea of how to spend your big bucks. Seriously, us self-published authors (99.9% of us) are not rich and are in the red when it comes to capital versus expenses in our writing careers. It's very important for us to spend each penny wisely to ensure we have the maximum return on investment (ROI).
Here's my list of categories or buckets where you can dump your money in for marketing and advertising:
1) Book Exhibits ($500-$5,000 based on Publishers Weekly and iUniverse)
2) Conventions ($2,000 for a spot, based on BookExpo)
3) Newsletters/Website Advertisement (From $149 to +$1,000)
4) Paid Reviews and Tours (As little as $5 + Book & Shipping for Review to $100, Tours around $500)
5) Author Expenses for Sending Complimentary Copies to Indie Bookstores (# of Books and Shipping)
6) Contests and Competitions ($50 to $110)
7) Website and Domain Fees ($120 at Wix, $89 at WordPress)
8) eBook Listings ($500 for NetGalley, $25/month/title at BookGrabbr)
9) Social Media (lol)
The values are rounded and approximate, so don't kill me with a X-acto knife. It's to give you a general idea of how easily money can be spent in each bucket before your bank account is out of funds. The logical approach is to use your budget wisely and have max ceiling per month, if you can. January, March, and June are hot months for contests and due dates, so you'll find yourself spending a lot of copies, entry fees, and shipping then. But for everything else, set aside a limit per month that you can comfortably spend on marketing.
Now, to the juicy part. What SHOULD you put your money into? Based on my research, if you're a new author trying to get out, you need to jump into the bandwagon of getting reviews. Of course, the industry knows that there's money to be made in this part of writing life, so they're out there, trying to get your moolah and all you can do is, besides word of mouth, figure out which service has the best ROI. You want the world to know that people are reading your book and giving you 1 to 5 stars and saying good AND bad opinions about it. At least it's getting read. So, to accelerate that, devote a budget to #4. That should be your priority after your publication date.
Second priority is making sure to sign up for the RIGHT competitions. Check out Writer Beware's article about contests: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/contests/
Bottom line, if you read ALL of the comments, it's up to you if you want to participate or not. For me, I've settled with just entering one JM Northern Media contest (there's like, 15 of them), Writers Digest Self-Publishing Contest, Publishers Weekly Prize Contest, Readers Favorite Awards Contest, and Readers Views Literary Awards Contest. Whether or not it's a scam or not, what I'm looking for is to see how I fare with others who have entered the contest. Heck, if I get placed in the science fiction category and all I get is bragging rights, I think $50-$100 is worth to know that. The only caveat is that these contests also have added charges that can have you spend more to get more, like if you want the judge's written critique of your novel, it's an extra fee. Will I pay for that stuff? I don't know, I guess we'll find out.
With the reviews and contests, you're building up street cred.
Third, if you still have money left, consider trying out getting independent bookstores to sell your book AND/OR paying for the least expensive Newsletters/Website Advertising services, even if it's down the road since you're building up your credibility. For indie bookstores, if you haven't already, it's good practice to network with them and see how important they are as a business to writers and the community. Once you're enlightened, you'll want to be part of them. For advertising, you're paying to have access to thousands of subscribers with the small chance of getting recognized. Will it bump up sales? Will anyone actually click on your little banner on the top of an email? Who knows? Think about it, how many times do you click on stuff like that or buy something that you've heard on the radio? Most of us don't really take the bait and sadly, people have more important things to spend their money on. Don't go too crazy spending your money in this bucket. On the other hand, it's worth a try with the smaller services starting at $150. Also see the article below about newsletter listings.
As for everything else, here are two powerful articles and their comments that will help you understand book exhibits and newsletter listings:
1) Writers Beware - PW Select: Opportunity or Exploitation
2) Jane Friedman - Authors: Think Twice About Paying to Exhibit at Book Expo
It may be lengthy, but read the comments. In the end, we all have different opinions on each service and its agendas but for new authors, reviews and credibility should be your top priority. If your work and marketing are truly worthy, the public will take notice and the rest of the marketing services will follow, which will be a good thing because that means you're doing really well and a publisher will want to sign a contract with you to help you get the marketing attention you deserve. That, I'm sure, is a discussion on its own.
As for Social Media, I put a (lol) in there because I learned so much from just trying it out. I put $20 into Facebook to get likes to my page. I got the likes, but not the likes from science fiction readers. You can tell these people were incentivized to just click on the link. That's BS. Twitter is a numbers game that's saturated with other people trying to market. Market on top of the market? It's not going to work, so don't bother. People follow you just so that you can follow back and make that Follwers number really high, but at the end of the day no one is buying your book. You're preaching to the choir in Twitter and other writers gotta write or market, too. Instagram might be your hope in getting anything out of social media, being that it generates the most activity compared to Twitter and Facebook. I haven't tried Promoting posts yet, so can't comment there.
I'd like to hear if you agree or disagree with my advice. To me, this article is a reminder of lessons learned and what to focus on. Good luck!