Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Exponential Increase in the Cost of Book Promotion

A couple of years ago, one of my early posts on this blog was How to Beat the High Cost of Indie Publishing.  In that post, I basically outlined what I thought was generally required for an author to produce a quality novel. However, while I covered a lot of the basics leading up to the final production of a book (editing, cover, etc.), I failed to address one of the important things that comes after a book's release: marketing and promotion.

As most indies (and even some traditionally published authors) quickly learn, book marketing and promotion is a necessary evil. Unless you are very lucky - almost lotto-winning lucky - getting and maintaining visibility for your work is an ongoing effort. Thus, at some juncture, almost every indie will turn to one of the book promotion sites.

With that in mind, I was recently doing some research into where to apply my marketing efforts for one of my novels.  (This book promotion thing has actually become a bit of a pet project of mine, with me even going so far as to add a Book Marketing and Promotion page to this blog.)  As I investigated, it occurred to me that prices for book promotion seem to have been on a steady increase for a while.  In fact, going back and plugging in some numbers from the past few years yielded the following results:

Needless to say, this is not all book promotion sites, nor all of those that have increased their charges. However, I don't mean to imply that all such sites have been raising their prices. In fact, many of them have not. Still, as you can see, the numbers have shot up significantly for a number of these venues.  That said, some of the dollar figures may seem paltry, but when you consider that many indies will promote a single title across a score of sites simultaneously, it adds up pretty quickly.

Businesses, of course, will typically charge as much as the market will bear. Moreover, indies have shown that they're willing to pay top dollar in order to reach their audiences.  However, the kind of price increases noted above can't continue without some kind of effect.  In many instances, the end result may be that authors will have to raise prices. (Although, in truth, an increase in prices should eventually be expected as a result of ordinary inflation.)

In short, while no one assumed that the cost of promoting books was going to remain static, the exponential increases are worth noting.  That's not to say that the sites that have raised their prices aren't worth it.  (BookBub, for instance, is the gold standard and worth every penny.)  The real takeaway is that, for those of us with limited dollars, it's become more important than ever to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to marketing our work.  In other words, it's time to figure out which promotional sites are actually offering some bang for the buck, because you need every marketing dollar that you spend to work just as hard for you as you did in earning it.

(***Just a quick note about the chart above:  it denotes what promoting on the listed sites cost at various times in the past.  The term "Cheapest Available" generally means the most inexpensive promotional opportunity for a paid book that I could find on a particular site at present.  That said, I tried to make this as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as possible, which meant, for instance, sticking to the same genre when feasible. By way of example, the $160 BookBub promo in 2013 was for the Sci-Fi genre; a promo on BookBub in that same genre will cost $600 today.)


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