Why You Should Have a Marketing Budget—No Matter How Small

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I’ve heard it time and time again from self-published authors everywhere: “I know I would sell more books if I did some marketing, but I don’t have any money to spend on advertising.”

The word marketing just sounds expensive, and advertising is even worse. But there’s plenty that you can do for free or very cheap. Let’s explore it together.

Today all I want to do is ask you to set a marketing budget. I’ve talked to many authors who tell me their books don’t sell too well and they can’t afford to spend more than they’re making. And that’s a fair point. So I’m just going to suggest this: Could you afford to spend $5 a month?

It sounds like so little, and yet there’s a lot you can do for a small amount of money. In the next few articles here at Fix My Story, I’m going to go through some ways you can promote or advertise your book for $5, or even for free. Today, though, let’s just talk about the hows and whys of creating a marketing budget.

First, why set a budget? Well, a lot of indie authors I’ve talked to won’t spend anything promoting their books for fear of spending too much. If you’re like that, the budget is there to give you permission, and even an obligation, to spend a safe amount on marketing regularly. Most authors realize that they’ll probably earn more sales if they spend a little to promote their book, so setting aside a certain amount each month is a great way to motivate yourself to get out there and do it.

Now, let’s go over a few rules. These are key to growing your book’s reach as you use your budget.

Every promotion is a learning experience

You may or may not see the results you were hoping for. That’s okay! With a $5 budget, you’ve only spent pocket change. Consider each promotion a small, experimental investment. You’re gathering data, promoting your book a little further, and learning what you can do bigger when you have more to spend on promotions.

Keep a record of each promotion

Whether it was free or you spent your budget on it, get it written down somewhere. Track how much you spent and what response you saw. (Spreadsheets with charts are great for this!) That way, you can look back at your notes later and find promotions to repeat, and also keep track of which promotions you may decide to never, ever do again.

Decide if you’ll let your budget roll over

Another thing to consider as you embark on this journey is whether or not you want to allow your budget to roll over from month to month. Can you borrow from next month’s budget if something good comes up? For example, let’s say I find out about a great opportunity to advertise on a Kindle e-mail list that would cost me $15. Is it okay to say I’m borrowing my next two months’ budgets for that promotion? On the plus side, I would be doing a larger promotion. The downside is that I would be taking away from doing a steady, smaller promotional push every month. You’ll need to decide what you’re comfortable with, and you might even decide to evaluate opportunities on a case-by-case basis.

Re-evaluate your budget in light of your sales

If you start selling more books, you can ideally increase your marketing budget and spend a little more on promotions. Maybe it would work best for you to set aside a percentage of your book sales income to spend on marketing—perhaps 10-20%. I’d recommend making your budget a minimum of $5 per month, but if you get to a point where you’re consistently making enough that 10-20% of yours sales income is more than $5, consider upping your marketing budget to match. Remember, more promotions can lead to more sales, so it’s worth it.

I hope you’re ready to start using that budget! Next time, I’m going to talk about things you can do to promote your book for free, then later we’ll get to some ideas that will cost you only $5.

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