Every spring I begin the tedious process of collecting all of my expense receipts so that I can send a packet of information to my accountant, who helps me wrangle the massive mountain of relevant and irrelevant data into a tax return. Like New Year’s, this can be a great time to reflect on the previous year: what worked, what didn’t, things I might do differently, etc. This week, I’m sharing my thoughts. Experienced writers, I’d love to hear yours! New writers, feel free to ask questions. Readers, these posts might not be wildly entertaining, but at least they give you an honest, behind-the-scenes peek into what authors do to support their work.
My Top Ten Writing Expenses In 2013
- Promotion costs
- Website and related online expenses
- Mailing costs
- Stock photos
- Office supplies
- Books (fiction and non-fiction)
- Writer’s Group membership fees
- Everything else
Under this broad category I included:
For 2013, I purchased a “Featured Book” spot for Fiery Edge of Steel from Fresh Fiction for the month of October. To be honest, I don’t recall why I picked October as the month to do it. According to my BookScan numbers, there was a slight uptick in the number of mass market copies of Fiery Edge of Steel sold in October. Was it due to the Fresh Fiction ad? I don’t know. But I do think a healthy promotional plan includes some advertising. Fresh Fiction is a high traffic site and I had a lot of fun blogging there when Dark Light of Day was released.
In 2013, I also started experimenting with Goodreads “self-serve” advertising. Did it work? I’m not sure. I’m STILL tinkering with this. I like that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad and the fact that you can set daily spending caps. I like the fact that you can try to target the ad and, while I didn’t have thousands of people add my books to their Goodreads TBR lists, I did see an uptick in “adds” from the ads. :-D I suspect that combining the ad with a giveaway (as Goodreads suggests) or possibly adding an excerpt link (which I’m looking into), as well as continuing to tweak the target audience and the ad message, may help.
LESSONS? First, I need to be more purposeful about my ad choices. The fact that I don’t recall why I picked October as the month to run the Fiery Edge of Steel ad at Fresh Fiction isn’t good. Ideally, my ad dollars should be spent with a promo plan in mind (i.e. spreading the word about a release or taking advantage of the December shopping season). Second, I should keep at it but keep my advertising at a manageable level. I don’t think ads – and ads alone – can ever sell something. But I do think they can be effective pieces of an overall marketing strategy. The key to success is probably continuing to experiment, while keeping in mind that my primary job is to be a WRITER, not an advertising exec.
Blog Tours and Cover Reveals
I’ve blogged before about the fact that I’m a fan of blog tours. So much reader and author interaction is done online these days that blog tours are almost a MUST. Yes, you can plan your own. And there are benefits to that (namely, making more personal connections with the bloggers who host you). On the other hand, there is A LOT to manage when planning, promoting, and touring. Some publicists will help authors line up guest post spots. And, of course, some authors are lucky enough to have personal assistants, who can also help set up and manage a blog tour. For me, hiring someone on a limited basis is a nice, happy medium among all the choices authors have. I stop by all the sites that interview me or host me as a guest blogger (I try to even hit the “spotlight” stops just to say thanks). I offer prizes, review copies, and lots of gratitude.
I think cover reveals are worth it if you have a cover you’re excited about and want to share it. For me, it was a no-brainer. I’ve loved my covers – and I love offering prizes when I have something fun to share and need help getting the word out about it. They also give authors a chance to talk about their covers and share pre-order and Goodreads links with a wider audience than they might reach on their own.
LESSONS? Keep on keeping on. No change here.
I like business cards. Probably because I used to be a lawyer. I like having them so that I can slip them into signed books, notes that I send to people, or packages. But do writers absolutely need them? Probably not if you have bookmarks. I recently posted about the fact that I finally got around to making bookmarks. I don’t know why I waited! And push cards? Eh… they’re okay. I love the fact that your covers are bigger on push cards than on bookmarks. I’m a fan of cover art so that’s a nice plus. Problem is, they’re an awkward size and not many people save them.
LESSONS? Expenses will likely stay the same, but I’m switching to bookmarks!
Facebook “Promote Post” Fees
I only did this for two posts (I think): the one announcing Fiery Edge of Steel’s release and the one announcing White Heart of Justice’s cover reveal. Would I do it again? Probably, but only because I don’t have that many Facebook followers so the cost is relatively inexpensive. If it were to go up, I’d have to think carefully about whether or not spending more money there was worth it. But then again, maybe I just feel that way because, out of all of the social media platforms, Facebook is the most challenging for me. (It boils down to a lack of fun, interesting, relevant pictures to share… I think FB is very picture oriented. Am I wrong?)
Buying My Own Books
Yep, I buy my own books – but only to give away. (And, though most of you know this already, there’s no way my small purchases make any difference to my overall numbers. I don’t buy that many of my own books (nor would I). Still, the small amount I purchase to give away is an expense that needs to be counted.)
LESSONS? Facebook doesn’t get much of my money now and may get even less in the future… and I’m going to continue to buy my own books to give away. I LOVE giving away copies of my books! (Of course, I love it even more when people BUY my books! So if you receive a free copy, please consider reviewing it wherever you hang out online. That helps other readers who may like it, find it. And that helps me, booksellers, and books in general. :-D )
Okay, so those are my Monday morning thoughts on promotion costs. Now, how about you?
Did you promote a book recently? If so, what things did you pay for that you’d pay for again? What promotional expenses did you incur that you hope never to repeat?
New writers, have any questions?
Readers, do you pay attention to ads? Has an ad ever introduced you to a writer you’ve never heard of before? Do you participate in blog tours or get excited about cover reveals? If you could tell your favorite authors how to use Facebook, what would you say?
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Tomorrow, I’ll post my thoughts on events, subscriptions, and website and related online expenses so stay tuned…