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Book Budget Breakdown

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compiled by Alexa Schlosser, Managing Editor, IBPA Independent magazine —

Alexa Schlosser

In December 2019, IBPA Independent magazine sent IBPA members a survey asking how much they budget toward marketing per title each year. Knowing that the membership ranges from self-published authors with one book to larger publishing companies with dozens of titles, we wanted to share that range with the IBPA audience—as well as what those budgets really buy. We received 47 responses, and here were the results:

  • Minimum: $200
  • Maximum: $40,000
  • Average: $4,769
  • Median: $1,500
  • Mode: $1,000

How long have you been in publishing, and how many titles do you/does your company publish per year?

Julia Simpsno-Urrutia (Annual Budget: $800)

Julia Simpson-Urrutia (JS) ($800): I have been in publishing for several years, only publishing my own titles. My budget has been exploratory because I have been hesitant and reflective about what costs will render benefits and what costs are part of promotional concepts that will not fit my titles.

David Lincoln (DL) ($1,000): My budget is $1,000. I’m 72, and I started writing in August of 2016. I published my first book seven months ago. I have several projects in process and anticipate publishing one book per year.

Grace Allison Blair (GB) ($1,000): I have been in publishing since 2004. In the last five years, I have published two nonfiction titles and narrated one nonfiction title, Do You Have a Dream Workbook: 5 Keys to Realize Your Dream, and one fiction title, Einstein’s Compass: A YA Time Traveler Adventure.

Edward Beal (EB) ($5,000): One month, one title.

Kiersten Hall (Annual Budget: $5,000)

Kiersten Hall (KH) ($5,000): I started publishing an annual bridal magazine for West Central Minnesota and the Eastern Dakotas in 1998. In 2005, I wrote my first book, sold a few copies, and quickly realized the amount of work that would go into getting it out to the world. So, I shelved that idea and went back to teaching kids how to ride bikes and tie their shoes.

In 2014, I republished my first book from 2005, and K Hall Books was born. Between 2014 and 2019, K Hall Books has produced four published books and has files upon files of other manuscripts in various stages, yet to be finished and published.

Looking further into 2020, Fox Pointe Publishing has seven children’s books between three authors set to publish, as well as possibly one fiction and three nonfiction books between two authors.

Andrea Wilson Woods (AW) ($12,000): In October 2019, I published my first book, Better Off Bald: A Life in 147 Days. However, I did not publish alone. I worked with Scribe Media to not only publish my book, but to also create a strategic marketing plan that would produce my desired results.

How did you arrive at your per-title marketing budget?

JS ($800): My budget seeks situations whereby I can showcase my work professionally and effectively without the audience being keenly aware of my books being self-published.

David Lincoln (Annual Budget: $1,000)

DL ($1,000): I attended my first local authors’ expo in November and sat next to an experienced writer who told me about IBPA. We exchanged books and he read several random pages in mine and suggested that I submit it to the IBPA in the first book category. I submitted seven copies in two categories, the best first novel of 2019 and the best historical fiction. At the very least, I’ll get some valuable feedback from experienced writers. That’s pretty much the extent of my marketing.

KH ($5,000): It would be very easy to go crazy and blow the advertising/publicity budget within the first few days of the year. But after being a business owner over the past 30+ years, I understand the need for a budget and the importance of sticking to it no matter how good the deal may seem at any given moment. I also understand that sometimes I may, unfortunately, pass up a good deal, but I’ll keep it in mind and reconsider it if it’s offered again.

The budget per title is set with a mixture of substantial experience, good hunches, affordability, word-of-mouth, thinking outside of the box, and grassroots efforts.

You have to think like the consumer: the psychology of selling, the product placement, the angles of how to get information to the consumer, and so on. Basically, the business plan. As for those good hunches, if something feels good, I’ll take the chance and run with it. Most often, all will be good, and it will become a part of my regular marketing plan. For the few times the hunch didn’t turn out well, I file that into my “never again” file and keep a vigilant eye out for any repeats or close cousins of that particular mistake.

Andrea Wilson-Woods (Annual Budget: $12,000)

AW ($12,000): I invested almost as much in marketing as I did in producing the book. The marketing budget covered media placements, content publication, critical reviews, paid ads, giveaways, graphics, and more. I worked on building my own street team of early reviewers, entering prestigious contests, and contacting people I knew with significant influence in their field. Additionally, I focused on local media while Scribe focused on national media. This division of labor was a great use of time, money, and resources.

What do you think is the most important aspect of marketing/your marketing budget?

JS ($800): I eagerly await the Bay Area Book Festival, which I have paid for through IBPA, and I have great hope that engaging with the public with my books will be an interesting experience worth the financial cost.

DL ($1,000): The most important aspect of marketing to my mind is the quality of the story. I’m a writer/publisher, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time selling them. As more of my stories are published over the next few years, if they are good enough, they will be discovered and promoted. If they’re not good enough, then they don’t deserve to be marketed.

Grace Allison Blair (Annual Budget: $1,000)

GB ($1,000): Bublish has made the biggest difference in my marketing. The Bublish team has up-to-date marketing tools for authors and publishers who provide an extensive range of social media and publishing tools.

EB ($5,000): I purchased 750 copies of a paperback, and I am sending it out to high schools, colleges, and medical school classmates, as well as friends and neighbors. This seems to have generated a lot of interest and repurchasing of the book. I ask them to purchase copies for their friends and recommend it to others.

KH ($5,000): The ultimate goal is to get the book out to as many people as possible, in your preferred demographic, at the best possible cost for your pre-set budget. In order to do this, know the ideal demographic for the book: Do a lot of research for different marketing routes, marketing/sales experience is definitely helpful, follow your intuition, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

Do you have a successful case study from one of your titles you can share?

DL ($1,000): I’m not tied to any particular outcome. For me, the creative process and the joy of writing is my motivation. I don’t need the money, and I don’t really need to sell any books other than the opportunity to share my stories.

GB ($1,000): Einstein’s Compass: A YA Time Traveler Adventure launched in January 2019. During 2019, I spent $350 on Amazon ads, $300 on blog tours, $350 on book award contests (Einstein’s Compass won five book awards) and sold 91 e-books, 84 audiobooks, and 32 paperbacks.

KH ($5,000): For JELLYBEANS, I spent a little over $1,000 with the printing of posters, bookmarks, and postage mailing out promo packs to interested bookstores, gift retailers, libraries, toy stores, and other places, in April and May of 2019 for the June release. For the locations that agreed to pick up the book upon release, I provided complimentary advertising to them via social media. I also scheduled book readings and signings as the calendars allowed.

I can’t give exact dollar amounts at the moment, for a six-month time period, since those numbers are still in the process of coming in. But I do know:

  • JELLYBEANS can be found in hundreds of retailers nationwide.
  • For July through September, the number of books ordered and paid for was 1,355 units.
  • Amazon couldn’t keep up with the orders during November and December.
  • There is one particular bookseller who mentioned in passing, back in early October, that she was on her eighth case of paperbacks.

(There are 65 paperbacks in a case so, 455+ books in three-ish months.) She has an independent bookshop in a town of roughly 25,000 people.

AW ($12,000): My book hit #1 in three categories on Amazon, making it a bestseller during its first week of publication. My book continues to gain steady reviews, averaging 4.8 stars and 4.52 stars on Amazon and Goodreads, respectively. I’ve been a featured guest on many podcasts and have more podcasts booked through June 2020.

The articles featured on LinkedIn did not have much impact. I’m personally rewriting each one, publishing them on my own website, and promoting them on other social media channels, especially Facebook where I have the most followers.

What expenses does the budget entail?

GB ($1,000): Social media marketing through Bublish, Amazon ads, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, book award contests, blog tours, and travel to conferences.

Edward Beal (Annual Budget: $5,000)

EB ($5,000): I hired two publicity people, and they proposed a two-month trial for $7,000. They pitched to all the local Washington, D.C., and national news and TV markets with their connections. I negotiated a deal for $5,800. So far, they have not been as successful as they had hoped, so they agreed to extend their time frame at no charge.

KH ($5,000): Since most of the marketing done is on the grassroots and word-of-mouth levels, the expenses incurred are mainly the materials I can’t physically produce myself, such as posters, bookmarks, postcards, and so forth. We also have a growing list of bloggers/vloggers, podcasters, radio stations, magazines, and newspapers with whom we work. Some are free, while some do charge a fee for their service, ranging anywhere from nominal to full price. I also submit each title for annual awards. I will admit, I don’t put a price on the time it takes me to call every retailer I can find a phone number for, and the countless hours I spend on social media/the internet making sure the different books stay out in front of consumers.

Where/how did you learn about how to successfully market your titles?

GB ($1,000): Bublish and attending publishing conferences.

KH ($5,000): I have been in sales for a long time. Whether it’s a product/service, if there is the belief in what is being sold, you think like a consumer, and understand/practice the psychology of selling, anyone can successfully sell.

AW ($12,000): You need a professional website. Do not cheap out. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but do invest some time and money in your online presence. For this book launch, I created a separate website for my book using SquareSpace.

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