At ALLi, we're often asked, particularly by beginner authors or those who are new to self-publishing, whether it's possible – or wise – to outsource their book marketing requirements to a third party, so as to focus on writing their books instead.
ALLi Partner Member Belinda Griffin of SmartAuthorsLab shares her view: that while all indie authors should budget for book marketing services, they should expect to do much of the marketing themselves, and she offers advice on how to strike the right balance between doing what only you, the author, can do, and delegating appropriately.
The Most Successful Indies Invest in Marketing
It’s generally accepted that for a self-published book to stand any sort of chance it needs to be professionally edited and have a professionally designed cover. Authors will beg, borrow and save to ensure they have the finances in place to afford these necessary services.
In my opinion, the same needs to happen for marketing.
However, this is a far murkier area in which an author can spend large amounts of money without seeing much return.
What Does Book Marketing Involve?
Book marketing is everything you do to let people know about you and your books, including:
- social media
- Facebook and AMS ads
- book promotions such as BookBub
- email list-building
- live events, such as book signings
Some of these activities are free but time-intensive; others can be expensive; and some include costs that are easy to forget, such as web hosting or printed materials.
Should You Pay Someone to do it All for You?
It can be incredibly tempting to outsource everything, rather than learn about doing it yourself or to spend precious writing time on it.
But as a self-published author, marketing is part of the deal.
I always advise authors to at least learn the basics of book marketing before outsourcing it because it’s challenging to hire effective help for something if you don’t understand it. ALLi also advises authors not to hire a marketing or PR service until they have done some marketing work themselves.
It's especially helpful for authors to spend time building their own platforms, connecting with their readers personally in order to learn more about them.
No one can build these essential relationships for you.
If you do choose to outsource, there are numerous options. You can hire someone to complete a single task, such as write your book description, or you can hire an agency for longer-term help.
Always check what you are going to get for your money and whether outsourcing is the most sensible option.
What Are You Paying For?
Think about how any investment will help you to move closer to your goals. Ask yourself, why am I investing in this? Is this really something I need to pay for – could I do it myself, or could the task be dropped altogether?
If you don’t know why you’re doing something, it’s best to work that out before you spend any money. For example, read a guide book about using social media before you spend hundreds on hiring an agency to run your Twitter account for you.
Spend a bit of time learning about why you should be doing something and how to do it before deciding if it’s a good use of your budget to get someone else to do it for you.
Press and PR
Chasing media opportunities can be fruitless, as the mainstream media is already swamped with trade-published books, and appearances don’t often result in a significant increase in sales, although they can help with brand awareness. For this reason, hiring a PR agency may not be the best use of your budget.
Courses and Coaching
There are a number of online courses available now that offer book marketing education. It can be easy to dismiss a course with a premium price tag when it’s often possible to learn much of what is taught from blog posts and books. But a well-designed course or coaching program is likely to get you to where you want to go much faster than if you try to piece things together on your own.
If you decide to take a course or work with a coach, there will be no guarantees.
Buying a course will not do anything for you unless you put in the work – but when considering the investment, think about how time-efficient and cost-effective it may be in the long run.
Get the Balance Right
With book marketing, it’s rarely the case that the more money you throw at it, the greater return you’ll get. However, carefully considered investment in marketing is absolutely the right thing to do and should be budgeted for alongside editing and cover design.
OVER TO YOU What has been your experience of investing in book marketing? What has been worthwhile and what's best avoided? Join your conversation via the comments box.#Indieauthors - tempted to outsource all your #bookmarketing so you can concentrate on #writing? Here's why you need to think again - by Belinda Griffin of @SmartAuthors Click To Tweet
OTHER HELPFUL POSTS ABOUT BOOK MARKETING FOR BEGINNERS
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive
Excellent article! I find myself humming ‘Get the Balance Right’, an old favorite Depeche Mode song of mine, but they and you are right. We do need to get it right…thanks for bringing up questions and considerations we need to ponder to achieve that balance.
You’re very welcome, Kari. I hope you find the answers you need in order to strike the right balance for you.
I think there’s also an important role for personal psychology, when you’re talking about a varied set of activities and a single person (the author).
*If you’re an introvert, social media may not be a place you shine.
*Running Amazon AMS or Facebook ads may come more easily to data nerds.
*If blogging on a frequent basis is a drain on your creative resources, they may be better spent elsewhere.
I recommend sampling each of these areas to see how they best fit with your own aptitudes. Then you will be better equipped to both understand how they work, in case you want to try outsourcing, and to specialize in doing the ones that you personally can do best.
The best part about facing the marketing challenge is recognizing that nobody has to do all the options — learn about each and then choose the ones that best suit you and your resources. Better an effective focused approach than a scattershot half-hearted attempt.
Absolutely right, Karen!
It’s good to try things to see what works for you and for your readers. If one thing, such as blogging, makes a big impact but you hate doing it, that could be something to outsource. But it’s impossible to know until you give things a fair shot.
I agree too that being everywhere and doing everything is a terrible idea, no one can sustain that. Authors should always choose what works best for them, their audience and their books.