Tracking the Costs–and Benefits–of a Book Release

How much did you spend on your last book release? What’s your budget for your next one?

Many authors don’t actually know, or track, the costs and benefits of their marketing efforts. Those who do, often fail to manage the costs efficiently and in a manner that gives the best possible feedback.

You wouldn’t open a restaurant or a gift shop without some way to track your expenses and ROI (return on investment, for the business-acronym-challenged). If writing is your business, treat it as one and try to track how the marketing dollars work (or don’t work) for you.

Track Your Expenditures Using a Spreadsheet, Notebook, or Alternate Method That Works for You

It doesn’t matter whether you’re digital, analog, or a combination of both, as long as the method you pick has columns for the amount spent, nature of the expense, and what (if any) return you had on the investment, along with “notes.”

When you can’t tell how much return you had on a given investment (for example, bookmarks, which may or may not translate into sales) you can state “N/A” in the ROI column but add notes about how many you gave away at each event, and how people reacted to them.

Plan What You Spend…and Spend What You Plan

Make a budget before release, containing line items for each of your marketing expenditures. (You may want to add another line in your ledger for “budgeted amount” — so you can compare it with the actual amount you spend.)

Budgeting helps control the marketing costs surrounding release, but also makes sure you actually remember to do the things you have planned. When you check each expenditure off the list, you know you’ve completed that item.

It’s OK to go over budget if an opportunity presents itself, but if your budget is tight you may have to make adjustments to compensate. Having the budget written out will help you evaluate where to cut (and where not to).

Make Sure to Follow Up With ROI and Notes on Effectiveness

Budgeting helps keep expenses under control right now, but the notes and “return on investment” columns help you plan for the future. Sometimes, authors think an ad or a giveaway item is wonderful, but it ends up falling flat with readers. Other times, a small idea makes an enormous splash. With life, and work, and writing crowding space in the author’s mind, it’s easy to forget what worked and what didn’t. Don’t take that chance! Make notes in your budgeting spreadsheet or notebook, to help you remember what works–and doesn’t work–for you next time around.

This release’s notes and spreadsheet will become the seeds for the next release.

Try Something New With Each Release

Do your research before you spend — talk with other authors about what did (and didn’t) work for them. Pay special attention to authors in your genre or with whom you share an audience, but don’t be afraid to take chances, either.

Try to include at least one new thing–a new ad, a new conference, a new branded item–with every book release. The more you experiment (within your budget, of course!) the better you’ll learn what works for you and your books.

Don’t Be Afraid to Drop the Deadweight

Just because “everyone” says a particular marketing effort “works like a charm,” that doesn’t mean it will work for you. Pay attention. Track your efforts. If something works, feel free to repeat it, but don’t waste money on things that fail.

Tune in Monday for another publishing legal blog installment on author marketing–taking a look on what constitutes “successful” marketing and how to know when a marketing strategy is working…or not.

Have questions about this or other publishing legal and business questions? Feel free to ask in the comments, email me through my website, or find me on Twitter, @SusanSpann.