"Money flows towards the author." This was a mantra I learned fairly early on in my writing career. If a publisher charges you money to publish your book, it's a scam, I was told by several reliable sources.
Sound advice, but there is an additional factor these days that complicates matters: when is it OK to pay for marketing?
I was always led to believe that an author should not have to shell out for marketing their own book. A reputable publishing company will have a marketing department, and if they are investing in you as a writer, they should be promoting your book. Sadly, the world is changing. Only the big publishing companies these days seem to be prepared to spend money on marketing. Many of the small independents do not employ a marketing person or PR department. And even if you are with a publishing company who do, gone are the days when the author could hide in her garrett and expect all the work to be done on her behalf. She has to be Out There, pimping herself and her books at every opportunity.
E-books become even more problematic, as with a print book you have something to physically hold and try to sell. If you have a print book, you can contact book stores and set up signing sessions. With an e-book, all you can do is pimp your link around the Internet. And although there are a lot of online resources that will let you do this free of charge - Goodreads, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, a personal website, a blog, etc - is this really enough?
My sales to date suggest it's not. I have signed up for all the above. I blog at least twice a week. I Tweet daily. I post links about my e-books on Goodreads, Facebook, and a host of other Internet sites. I am forever scouring the Internet for online review sites, anyone looking for guest bloggers - anything that I can use to promote my books. And yet my sales can be described as modest, at best. My total income to date from royalties for both published novels, since SUFFER THE CHILDREN was published over 18 months ago, is half of what I earn in a week at the day job.
The question is, then, what else can I do? There are plenty of other promotional opportunities out there, if you are willing to pay for them. Ads in magazines, or on websites. Internet sites that will give you reviews and set you up on blog tours, as long as you are willing to pay for the service. But this goes against that all-important mantra, and hence the dilemma: should I be paying to promote my e-books?
I did, after all, fork out for marketing when I paid for the postcards, business cards and promotional material that I used to promote each of my two books when they first came out. I still have a pile of postcards left - I take them along to all the conventions I go to, leaving piles of them on the 'free stuff' tables and handing out the cards at every opportunity. But to date, I haven't paid for any other advertising.
Now I'm starting to wonder if I should be. It's a gamble, of course. There's no guarantee that paying for advertising will help sales in any way. And there's no way of telling if the advertising opportunities on the Internet come from people who really know what they are doing, or whether they are just scams run by people playing on the desire of authors to get their books Out There.
I'm still pondering over this dilemma. If you are a published author who has paid for advertising, I would be interested in hearing your views - whether the advertising was worth the money, or not. Because I'm not much of a gambler. I'd rather make an informed decision after researching the facts.