Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 31--How to Market a Book on a Budget

It's a challenge to market a book on a budget. If you've followed The Jennifer (Recession) Diaries, you'll know that my family went bankrupt as a result of the Recession. We filed in late 2009 and came out of it in 2010.

Our bank modified our loan two days before our home was going to be auctioned on the courthouse steps. Our kids received government health care two months before my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. We've had some close calls and some miracles.

In bankruptcy, we lost our condo in Incline Village (I know, boo hoo, right?). We lost our rental home in Sacramento. We said goodbye to my convertible Mustang, our retirement accounts, our stock investments, an extra work vehicle, our stellar credit, and our kids' college funds. But we also said goodbye to our debt.

Losing everything, it turns out, is painless. Did I anguish? The anticipation of it was worse than the event. We walked out of bankruptcy court with nothing. I looked at my husband and he looked at me and we were no worse for the wear. We went home and played with the kids, ate dinner and watched a movie like any other night.

We've been struggling ever since to regain our footing. Each day we have just enough, which is a blessing. We are not broke. We are house, kid and pet poor. Today I decided that I can't also be "book" poor. Meaning, it's time I bought some copies of The Pet Washer. That's right, I don't own a copy of my own book. I am probably the most pathetic author on the planet!

I also don't have a stack at home to give to libraries, sell to friends, supply to local bookstores or available to host a signing somewhere. It's embarrassing and kind of ridiculous.

Last month I did splurge on a few copies but they are gone. I sold one, gave one to a bookstore for review and sent two to the Bohemian Newspaper for their Spring Lit Roundup. The problem is that I published my book in the winter. My husband is a California General and Painting Contractor. Work is often slow in the winter and the Recession hit the California construction industry hard. Add Christmas to that and times are lean.

Believe me, I'm marketing my book on a budget because I have to. It's not my first choice. But I am curious to see if it can be done. Can I break out without cashing out? I don't know--the big houses pay big dollars to break out their authors--we'll see!

In the meantime, dollars have to be spent. I'm dipping into our money today to buy some copies of my book. I believe in me and I need to invest in me. I'm done being the author who wrote a book and has nothing to show for it! When I spoke to the 8th graders yesterday, I had to borrow my mom's copies to show the kids!!

Today, a friend asked me if she could buy The Pet Washer from me for her daughter's birthday on Sunday. She won't get it in time from Amazon. This was the last straw. I'm done feeling ridiculous. This is my business now and I need to be able to produce my own goods!

Marketing on a budget requires making hard choices about where to spend. Buying copies of my own book for promotional purposes is not a hard choice. It's a necessity. I am going to leave one in my car and one in my home. From now on, when people ask to see the book I wrote, I will be able to show it to them!

It's also smart. One of the best things an author can do to market their book is to seek professional, independent book reviewers. All book reviewers require a free copy of the book so they can read it. Some accept the kindle version but a lot of them ask for a hardback. I've put off asking for more reviews because I don't have any books to send. I'm shooting myself in the foot. It's not going to hurt my family if I buy my book, but it will hurt my book if I don't!

For more information on low-cost book marketing, read "Book Marketing: Back to Basics" a guest post by Shannon Yarbrough of The LL Book Review. 

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Author of The Pet Washer
A novel for girls aged 9-12