Now that I finally feel like I can balance the two blogs, The Chicago Contingent will return to its regularly schedule programming. Thank you for your patience!
Today's topic is something that everyone thinks about but no one wants to talk about and bringing it up can often lead to tension and awkwardness: money. Yes, I know it's not proper and goes against all the rules of etiquette my grandmother taught me, but I'm going ahead anyway. Let's talk about money.
In my experience, authors and publishers are always concerned with cost vs. benefits, and justifiably so. There's no reason to hire a publicist, buy advertising, or create promotional materials if they're not going to pay off. However, in my experience, authors and publishers are often short sighted about the benefits and are growing more and more hesitant to front the money for things without a direct payoff.
Fan Conferences. The truth is, as an author, you will not sell enough books at conferences to cover the cost of your registration fee, flight, and hotel. It's likely you won't even cover half. However, connecting with readers, librarians, even other authors, creates a snowball effect. If one person buys your book, and they like it, they'll buy the rest of your books. They'll tell their friends about your book. They'll review your book on Amazon and others will buy your book. Though not all conferences are beneficial, and you have to pick and choose which you attend, they are important networking tools worth fronting the money for.
Signings and bookstore visits. All of my clients know what a proponent I am of visiting bookstores. As techno savvy and forward thinking as I am, I still believe books are bought and sold via word of mouth and an in-person recommendation beats anything you read online or hear over the radio. Like conferences, it's important to pick and choose which bookstores to visit. Choose those with a good internet business, who have connections in the media, and promote their events through social networking sites. It also helps if the bookstore is in a city where you have a network of people who would come out for your signing. Booksellers see thousands of books come through their doors, signings and events help them pick your book off the shelf and possibly recommend it to a customer. Again, you won't sell enough books at a signing to cover the cost of flight, hotel, etc. but if the bookseller continues to recommend your work and sell your signed copies online, you might make that money back by the end of the year.
Launch Parties. Unless you have the food and liquor donated (which I highly recommend) a book launch party always leaves the author in the red. However, it's a lot easier to draw a crowd with "free open bar" on the invitation. Plus, launch parties are great for leveraging press, especially if they're sponsored or at a unique location.
Promotional Materials. Sometimes the publisher supplies bookmarks and business cards with the latest book cover, but often times, it's up to the author to cover these costs. Bookmarks and business cards are relatively cheap and a good way to have people remember you. If you meet a potential reader, they won't remember your name or book ten minutes later. But if they get home and find your business card in their pocket, they will. Bookmarks are effective because they're something people can actually use. However, don't just plop them down on a freebie table, no one will pick them up. Give them to booksellers to pass out or slip bookmarks in your backlist at the local library. This will ensure you reach your intended audience.
Authors, feel free to comment with other expenses you've incurred that seem worth the money. Readers, do you buy books based on television or newspaper ads? Any specific promotion that made you go out and buy a certain book?