Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirty-Six



Number Thirty-Six

Advertising Bang versus Bucks


Many people think of promotion and promoting their books. In more general terms, promotion is just a subset of advertising. But no matter what you call it, you need to get the most bang for the buck when you are trying to sell your books.

Now, if you’re really not interested in making a living as an author and/or don’t care how much you make (or lose), you might as well skip this rule. It won’t make any sense to you and some will even puff up like a bullfrog and fuss about the art or craft or some other thing in order to get the entire world of writers to see the light and make as little money as you do.

For the rest of you who want to (or already are) make a living as an author, read on…

I want to make sure you understand that I am NOT talking about the basic promoting needed from the author of any book. What we’re looking at here is extra promotion down the road.

First off, you need to set a price on your time. This isn’t easy, though. In a general sense, you need to know how long it takes to write a book (from concept to release) and how much you gross from each book on a yearly (or other time frame) basis. Obviously, both of these values vary, but think in terms of averages. Let’s assume you can write a book (as defined above) in six months and in the first year of release you’ll gross $100,000. This means in a year, you’ll write two books and get $200,000 from them. Using the standard working year of 2,080 hours (40 hours a week for 52 weeks) you made just over $96 an hour from writing.

Now we do something similar on the promotion work…how many hours do you spend promoting and how much gross income is made from that? In short, the dollars per hour spent on promotion must be less than the dollars per hour earned from the book.

This is MUCH harder than the book income and to simplify the numbers, we’ll make a few assumptions that seem to fit a good number of professional writers. We’re going to cut the dollars per hour from the book to 25% of the above value. This is to allow for “normal” promotion and deviations from the averages. So, instead of considering $96 per hour, we’ll call it $24 per hour.

In other words, if you spend two hours on promo, sales must increase by at least $48 to stay in the black.

Just as an aside, if you have a person employed to handle promotion and you pay this person $20 an hour, using the above numbers you still come out ahead.

DISCLAIMER: All the above numbers are 100% fictitious and many were selected just to make the math easy. You’ll need to plug in real numbers that fit you and your situation.

One thing you’ll notice is that, no matter the values used, as you become more successful and your books sell more and your gross income goes up, the value of your time writing also goes up. This means the payback from promotion must get greater and greater to be worth your time and extra effort.


Promotions, especially live appearances like signings, can be a lot of fun. You can also combine such trips with a vacation (about 80% of which is deductible if you’re incorporated) and that’s worth something, too.

The real bottom line is to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of promoting beyond the basics. Is it really worth it?

Keep Loving!



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  1. Promotion can’t be avoided. To paraphrase the old lottery pitch, you have to be seen to buy it. But with the shrinking payments, each author has to decide if it is worth $50 or $100 to buy an add to sell 10 books and receive 25 cents each. The tax man doesn’t think so. Its make a profit quickly or eat the costs. As far as the value of your time, that is something every artist/crafter/artist struggles with. We never get paid what we’re worth for the time and energy it takes to create.

    So its a balance, budget, time, and rewards.

  2. Dear M,

    I cannot *not* promote. It’s in my blood. I’ve been in the “biz” for many long years, and I’ve learned enough about it to be dangerous. 🙂

    As I write and research, I save the images that have spurred my imagination, and I use them later in my promotion. It’s a way of making the work come alive, hopefully, to the reader/observer.

    I realize I could expand my efforts. But bizzy bzzy bizzy. And yes, the promotion is worth those hours, golden coins to spend as though they might someday become real.

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