If you are a self-published author you do not have the luxury of having a traditional publisher’s marketing team and budget behind you.
( But- this might make you feel better- there are tons of horror stories about new author’s whose titles languish with traditional publishers because they don’t merit the time or expense – and sales! – that come with heavy-hitting authors.)
So, you have a few choices:
Do it Yourself.
Hire A Book Marketing Service
Hire a Hybrid Service/DIY format
Initially for this post, I was going to dig into the marketing services and compare them to let you decide- apples to apples- what is best for you. Ultimately, I decided instead to try and figure out what the services they offer actually were, and based on my experience offer you a very general ballpark monetary comparison to doing it yourself and whether you could in fact learn how to do what they offer for yourself.
Why did I decide to do it this way?
First, because many of the services are fairly vague about what they actually do, and their prices aren’t easily uh, ascertained. ( That’s a college word I just used. Wow!) In these cases, I reached out to the companies for them to explain their offerings and prices.
Second, some of their real value- i.e. their success rates – is equally hard to come to grips with.
Third – the services and companies vary from full-service to DIY and hybrid formats so it would be really difficult to compare apples to apples.
Fourth- there are actually far fewer services that specifically focus on book marketing or platform building than I had thought. Many marketing services are rolled up (as you will see a few examples of below) as a part of a larger company’s author offerings or as freebies if you use their service.
Finally, since some are full-service and others are DIY or a hybrid, this format wouldn’t work.
But first, here is a quote from the Blog Post: Book Publicity 101: Hiring a Professional Marketing Firm :
Hiring a marketing firm isn’t cheap, so authors must remember to budget accordingly. Nearly every marketing firm will have its own offerings, sometimes à la carte. There can be quite a large price range depending on the service and the length of the campaign, and firms often don’t disclose pricing on their websites.
For example, Smith Publicity charges a $295 entry fee to upload a book to Netgalley, but a full-on marketing campaign could cost anywhere between $1,500 and $3,200 a month. Some firms will charge an hourly rate for basic consulting. Things like international outreach or live book tours will push the fee higher, but those offerings are less relevant for new indie authors just beginning their marketing journey.
YIKES! $3K a month? I hope that’s wrong…😳
Full Service Marketing Companies/Services:
Below are some of the companies and their services/pricing. Having looked at a bunch of these I can offer this Pro-Tip:
I reached out to Smith Publicity for more information, since they don’t offer pricing on their website. (This is not automatically a bad thing, sometimes the nuances etc need to be explained.) Their business development manager got in touch with me an offered this explanation of their services and pricing:
Since 1997, Smith Publicity has promoted thousands of books/ebooks from every genre from New York Times best sellers to first time, self-published authors. We specialize in working with the media to create awareness about authors and their projects. It’s what we do all day, every day. We thrive in creating tailored strategic plans for each author, using provocative and persuasive written materials to present to our vast network of media contacts. The ultimate goal is to secure as much media attention as possible for our clients to raise awareness, build (or continue to build) an author’s credibility and brand, attract new opportunities and spark book-ebook sales. For more information about our company culture, philosophy and team approach to publicity, please watch our company video here. Here is some information to get you started.
Our flat-fee and retainer-based book marketing and publicity services range from $395 to $4,200.
As you can see, the prices are not cheap- however this is the exact instance about which I referenced above- you are paying for their industry contacts, experience and breadth. So, if you are an established author, or perhaps one in a genre that has a potentially large sales reach, you might consider getting in touch with them. (Again, I did not interview them or ask for references so I cannot speak to their success rates.)
JKS Communications: Did Not Respond to My Request.
Infinity Publishing: http://www.infinitypublishing.com/
Infinity Publishing is a publishing house that offers multiple services to authors. Among them are their Book Marketing Services.
They offer personalized support by an Author Advocate (however to use this service you need to have your book published through them…)
They also offer these other features:
Marketing Materials: $249-$2119.
These include business cards, bookmarks, posters and bookstands all the way up to include both digital and standard sell sheets, advanced reading copies and a custom website and blog.
The question is: Do You need them to do this for you? Is it worth the $? Honestly, I would say NO. Without going into too much detail, I had my bookmarks done online, had my sales sheet done for $20 on fiverr.com and then had it color printed at the UPS Store. I see absolutely no need for business cards, and a website with domain, hosting and a decent theme can be had for less than $100.
Of course, you will need to do some of this yourself, and outsource design duties and maybe some of the website building. But, if money is an object- and it was for me- you can do it. Please check back on my home page for a course I am building that will show you step-by-step how to do all of this…
Kelly & Hall: Did Not Respond to My Request.
Now Let’s Move On to DIY and Hybrid Book Marketing Services.
This site claims that it can increase your sales, revenues and profits. At first glance, and second, and third, this site seems overtly “out to get a sale.” But I am going to try and wade through some of the generalities and state some specific services they appear to offer. It appears that they have multiple options for an author:
They sell your books for you: It appears they do this for you by putting your book in a catalogue they produce and send out to commissioned sales agents. They also sell ads for your book (should you choose to place one.) The first title registration is $250. Ads go anywhere from $500-$2500.
Could you do this yourself? Well, you could, but not in their catalogue. And I have no idea how good this catalogue is. But, if you were to have your book published through IngramSpark, for example-one of the top book distributors in the US- you are automatically included in their catalogue. So, basically any bookstore in the country can order your book. The price for registering with Ingram Spark (and having your book self-published and distributed through them) is $49.
Basic DIY Special Sales Package: This service is listed under the Heading “Sales to Non-Bookstore Buyers”
The company offers to give you tips and scripts for contacting buyers in places like associations and schools and other “non-bookstore” entities. Also, they offer a package that you can submit to retailers, as well as offering six hours of webinars of where to find buyers in “special markets.” (no mention of examples.)
In addition this package includes the aforementioned listing in their sales catalogue and a listing in a “special search engine” called ESP that is available to “65K commissioned premium sales people.”
I have left a few things out, but you can access the site to find out more. The Price for this? $2550.
Basic Marketing Services Package: This service is found under the Heading of “Customized Help for Marketing, Producing and Promoting Your Book.” This appears to be a hybrid program that offers consultation along with many of the features mentioned earlier. You have the option of buying ala carte some of the features like developing a strategy, calculating optimum price and creating a list of appropriate local media to contact. The prices for those vary from $250 -$1000 each or you can buy the whole thing for $2500.
Outthink is a firm founded by Tim Grahl, a respected book launching and marketing advisor. They specialize in building an author’s platform.
Q: What does “platform” mean?
A: A platform is an author’s website and/or blog and/or mailing list that facilitates his or her ability to reach new and existing customers about new posts and projects, as well as book signings and other offers. If you’d like to learn about building your platform and marketing your book, you can check out my early-bird offer of the new Digital Marketing for Authors course here.
In other words, a “platform” is part of a good marketing plan, but a marketing plan is not necessarily part of an author’s platform- if that makes sense!
Outthink lists a number of services for platform building – among them with their prices are:
* Web Platform Design and Build: Starting at $7500
* Marketing Automation: Starting at $1500
* Ongoing Services Retainer: Starting at $1500/month
* Membership Sites/Online Courses: Full Design and Build Starting at $10,000
OutThink offers a bit of an explanation of marketing automation on its site. Since my background is digital marketing, and from what I gleaned from their website explanation, I can tell you that they provide authors services to help build their email lists using incentives (lead magnets) email automation, analytics, reporting, and also list building strategy.
They do not offer explanations about what the other services include, but I imagine looking at the author’s they have worked with, your author website/blog would be pretty slick.
The question is – do you need to part with that kind of cash to get those products?
While you might consider it if you were a big-selling established author, I can tell you that “NO” you do not to spend that kind of money to get those products.
A decent WordPress Site (or other Content Management System or CMS) with domain registration and hosting can be had for less than $100. This depends on your hosting package of course, and what type of wordpress theme you want. But to give you an example- this site was built on a FREE WordPress theme – on purpose to show the capablity- and the domain cost $15 and the hosting I pay is kind of expensive at $7.99 month!
Yes, it takes time to figure out WordPress and the theme you use- but with serivces like Odesk or Fiverr you can have someone do it for you.
What about Marketing Automation? Do you need it and if so how robust?
Well, the number 1 thing you will need is an auto-responder (since you can’t send mass emails through gmail etc) and there are free options available like Mailchimp. I have used Mailchimp, Aweber, and have recently switched to ConvertKit. I love Concvertkit for its simplicity and price: $29/month. Also without bogging you down too much, ConvertKit has forms that collect those emails and take them right into the program. (There are other options for forms- one of the biggest and free except for premium features is SumoMe. All you have to do is manually move the emails to your responder since the free option doesn’t do that.)
I won’t get into the membership sites offering from Outthink since I doubt many of you will care about it or need it. BUT, if you are looking to do that and know what they are you might consider ClickFunnels or Teachable. Much cheaper and lots of features!
Standoutbooks is a well-known and respected website and company that offers numerous editing and publishing services. As far as Book Marketing goes, they have 3 services:
Author Website Design: $599
Giveaway Campaign: $199
Book Blurbs: $99
Author Website Design: From what I can see on their website, they will give you a “fully-customizable” responsive site (this means it adapts to mobile devices) that will allow you to sell your books online, incorporates social media buttons and is optimized for Google search (know as SEO.) I put fully customizable in quotes myself because I don’t know what that means: are their templates customizable for colors, etc or the entire site?
Also some of those bells and whistles aren’t hugely impressive on their own- you can do the same thing yourself using what’s know as plug-ins. However- and it’s a big one- IF you are a technophobe, and do not want to try to do it yourself- the price is not at all bad and they have been around for a while and appear to have good testimonials.
At first glance, I thought “WTF?” Pay for something you can do yourself on Goodreads? But as I looked closer this is a really smart idea – and appears to be a good value to boot. The concept, as Standoutbooks has -oh so smartly addressed- is designed to get you readers, yes, but more importantly build your email list! Also, they combine your book with well-known authors with a close crossover to your book.
They manage the giveaway, assist you with your list and include $50 of Facebook advertising. They then send out the books for you and give you the list. I am so impressed with this concept I am going to include their website link in a book-marketing course I am building.
According to their website a giveaway can:
* Establish your brand with potential readers
* Get fans hooked on your writing, especially if it’s part of a series
* Encourage viral marketing as new fans recommend your work
* Create buzz around your work – if they have to compete to get it, readers know it must be good
* Support a wider marketing plan – a giveaway around launch date will drum up interest
* Globalize your work, directing readers from all around the world to their most convenient point of purchase
* Build your email list, allowing you direct contact with potential readers
The majority of readers aren’t willing to risk trying out a book they know nothing about, often leaving a huge untapped market of readers who refuse to go first but would happily go second.
Personally I did a giveaway through good reads. It was successful, but I was responsible for buying and sending out 20 books- at a cost of around $180, so I would take a look at this!
Book Blurbs: I hate to sound so obvious, but this service is just that- Standoutbooks will craft your books “pick-up line” and ensure that is is sales-oriented, optimized for keywords and properly written.
I understand how these are hard to write: after writing an entire book, I froze up when trying to write mine. (Ultimately my sone in college wrote the first draft and got me going!) However, this service seems a bit superfluous, however it is not all that expensive, so it is up to you.
If you are going to write your own, I recommend looking at a bunch from books in your genre to get a good feel how to write it. Ultimately- the BEST blurbs are the hardest to get- from celebrities, famous authors, etc…
So there you have it: a regrettably incomplete list of full-service and DIY book marketing and platform building companies. But, I think this list gives you a good idea of some of the prices of these services, the cost alternatives if you were to do it yourself, and at the very least some information if you were to get in contact with one of these companies to discuss their services!