3 Marketing Scenarios Where Authors Need to Pay to Play

Despite what the glamorous life of J.K. Rowling may imply, being a writer does not a rich person make. It is a profession of passion, with an average salary at best.

So when you are faced with the personal expenses of promoting your book, you have to get choosy about where your dollars will be spent. An abundant budget would be nice, but most authors are faced with the strategic decision of where to put their marketing money, and when to do it.

While there are free ways to grow an audience, some scenarios call for cash to get to the next level.

Timing is Crucial

Before you decide how you should spend your money, start by considering when you should do it. You could spend the same budget tomorrow or three months from now and get completely different results in the writing world. Unlike more traditional businesses, your book’s impact is tied heavily to its publication date.

The reality is that thousands of books are independently and traditionally published every day, and the more recent your book’s release, the more relevant it is to readers and the media. So while you can gain ground at any time of the year, being thoughtful about your marketing timing will help your investment deliver better results. Try to start your planning (or hiring) four to six months prior to your pub date. This gives you time to strategize, hone your message, drum up interest, gain followers, and strike the day your book goes on sale.


Social Media

Social media is supposed to be fun and free and wide open for opportunity, but the ability to thrive on these platforms without an investment is becoming increasingly difficult.

Social media has the power to connect you directly to readers, but if you can’t get anyone to follow you or interact with your posts, it can be a waste of time.

If you would like to gain ground on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, paid promotions are a great way to build those platforms fast and in a targeted way. This is great because on social media--especially Facebook--your regular posts may only be seen by a fraction of your followers. Through a paid investment of as little as $20, you can more than double the reach of your organic posts.

You can do everything from growing your audience to targeting messages to a specific demographic to creating a sales-driven ad when you're willing to spend money on social media.

Consider how you would like these platforms to contribute to your marketing efforts and decide if it’s worth getting a professional social media expert involved.



Public relations tends to get a bad rap in the book world. It can be expensive, it can be difficult, and the results are often misunderstood.

The reality, however, is that few books experience significant success without the help of a professional publicist. Reporters, editors, and producers are virtually unreachable to the everyday citizen, but one of the few ways you can prove your book’s value is by having media coverage to back it up.

Your website may get a few thousand visits a month, but there are few authors that have the millions-of-members strength that a national media outlet has. Not to mention, being featured on a globally recognized news outlet is like giving your book a giant gold star.

If you’re serious about building your writing into a business, you’ll need an expert PR team who can ensure your book gets coverage.



Cliché as it may be, your website truly is the window into your work. Readers are certainly one user, but agents, media outlets, and publishers also need to see that you have a professional presence.

If you are operating on a self-created blog or an out-of-date, off-brand website, you could be sending a loud message that you are not to be taken seriously.

In 2015, it’s no longer acceptable to have a quickie website. However, for most writers, designing and coding a website is in the complete opposite direction of their skill set. So identify what your site needs, and try to find a company that can help you build a better platform that is based around your books.


It would be fantastic if books could just fly off the shelves without any additional time and money invested, but today's marketplace requires authors to put in a lot of work.

Make sure that when you are investing in your marketing strategy that you do so with an understanding of which elements require a budget to truly thrive. 

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  • Jane Hanser

    Christelle, Thanks for writing back.

    "4-6 months before" is much easier if a person is not self-publishing. And if the indie writer misses that mark? What's the next best?

    Re: date to determine the effectiveness of social media, one author/book/PR campaign does not a study make. And also, how long was the social media campaign? One week? One month? I had one really good week with my book and my ranking rose to 72,000. Then right back down the next week. There are thousands upon thousands of authors tweeting out there at any one time. What I'm requesting and not finding is real statistics that measure, in a meaningful way, the effectiveness of PR campaigns, and social media campaigns, so that authors can make smart decisions.

    It is undeniable that PR does lead to exposure - but the magic words "can" lead to sales, "more likely to" lead to sales aren't statistically supported in any meaningful way. An author is still left wondering if the price of hiring a PR firm like yours, or hiring expensive advertising, would ever pay off, or even close to it. I'd like to see a PR company that provides actual data such as 'on the average, our customers' sales rose X percent, or from x copies per month to y copies per month, for an ad campaign that lasted such and such duration; and if the ad campaign lasted y duration, etc.' I don't think these are unknown.

    I understand I'm not being perfectly agreeable but these days a lot of companies are trying to make a pitch our way and not providing data to support the effectiveness of their product.

  • Christelle Lujan

    Hi there Jane, 

    I'm happy to address some of your questions here. As for the "when," in the "Timing is Crucial" section I mention that coordinating your efforts around your book's publication date is one of the best ways to get the most out of your paid efforts, but I do recommend planning begin 4-6 months prior to your pub date so you can be sure you're encouraging preorders, book sales and also growing your following.

    And you're right, a Tweet or a Facebook post does not necessarily convert into a book sale every time. It can drive sales, but it takes very intentional call to actions and the ability to measure while ads are running. The way we measure the impact of social media marketing on sales is by tracking the Amazon ranking throughout the duration of the ad's run time. We've seen great results with this. For example, a recent author of ours saw their Amazon books ranking drop from #112,354 to #6,517 during the course of her social media campaign. Now that her ads have ended her ranking is #45,334. And when you use paid ads to grow your followers, you're doing this to create an audience you have unlimited access to that can grow to be a lifelong purchaser of your work.

    As for publicity, the reason why you don't see sales attached to PR efforts is because the intention of PR is create awareness and drive exposure. That can lead to sales of course, and the better coverage you get the more likely readers are to buy your book, but the truth is, PR is intended to drive the "why" behind book sales. Why should someone purchases your book - because Redbook magazine said it was a top summer read. This is also a big driver in the entire scope of your career as it can get the intention of agents, publishers, awards judges, libraries, bookstores and more. Media coverage is typically measured in terms of how much it would have cost you to pay for an ad on that publication and then that value is amplified by the fact that it wasn't an ad, it was the editor's choice to cover your work. It can give your work a lot of legitimacy that readers and industry folks alike require in order to pursue your work further. 

    Sorry for the long-winded response, but you addressed some very important and relevant questions that are frequently asked within our industry. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis and very poignant questions. I hope I was able to help answer some of those unknowns. 

  • Michelle Cox

    Great advice, Christelle!  Thanks!

  • Jane Hanser

    I'm having some problems with this post and here's where I'm at:

    The post doesn't say when "when" is. So when is "when"?

    Social Media and Tweets:The post says that paying money can extend the "reach" of our Tweets. Yes, but does that translate into sales? That's the million dollar question, and there is no data to support that tweets generate book sales. Of course if my local bookstore that is also selling my book tweets my book, that may make a difference, but that people actually purchase books just based on random tweets, and to what extent? I've never seen any data and I'd like to.

    PR FIrms: I've looked onto PR websites. There are testimonials about how writers have gotten media coverage, writers saying they never could have gotten onto that radio program etc. by themselves.... But there is very little date about how that media coverage helped to generate sales.

    I may be cynical here but it seems to me to be an advertisement for SparkPoint Studios.

  • Gail Priest

    Valuable tips! Can you share any suggestions on selecting a PR team? Thanks, Christelle!

  • Lisa Thomson

    Thanks for these valuable tips, Christelle. Converting social media presence into book sales is a true challenge but there are other rewards as well, like meeting new connections. I think the promo budget also depends largely on whether you publish a physical book or solely an e-book. IMHO. Great article, thanks for sharing!

  • nicole meier

    This is a great reminder to really plan ahead on this portion of a writer's budget (I use this term loosely!) I am bookmarking this! Thanks for sharing.