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Budgeting your Books

by Danielle Jackson

On Tuesday, The New York Observer posted this article about the current economic struggles and publishing—what does this mean for romance publishing in particular? It’s something I’ve been thinking about and that Sourcebooks has been thinking about, as we head into the winter months and begin pushing for holiday sales.

While “budget” has become a buzz word in almost every workplace, and even in the home, Romance Fiction continues to be a booming industry. People are searching for an escape from these hard time and many turn to romance fiction—in particular mass market romance fiction—to lift their spirits. RWA reports that Romance fiction generated $1.375 billion in sales in 2007, so people are out there, eagerly reading!

I know you are all committed to doing whatever it takes to make your books be as successful as they possibly can. We’re a great team, with an awesome and dynamic new romance line bringing fresh voices, new ideas and interesting books that don’t follow the rules to an audience searching for something truly entertaining.

As many of you know, I’ve been guest blogging up a storm at a few places, and answering as many questions as I can along with them (the lovely Romance Bandits asked so many! And they were such good questions, too!)—but one question that came up quite a bit was what should author money be spent on. I would love to be able to say that Sourcebooks can pay for EVERYTHING—but, alas! I cannot. Here’s a short list of things to consider:

1) WEBSITE: Other than your books, I think this is the next thing that readers associate with you and your work. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your site professionally done (unless you have a family member who does this professionally and will do it for free) and pay them. I’m not totally current on the prices for such things, but I do think by doing some research on other author sites and seeing who they used and making numerous inquiries, you’ll be able to find a great person to put together an lovely site for you!

2) PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS: This is something that Sourcebooks will pay for, but within reason. I think postcards are a great tool, whether you mail them or you hand them out or you stick them on grocery store bulletin boards, etc.—they have more room for information, praise, etc. However, some people like bookmarks, some people like business cards, some people like fliers… To each her own! I know many of you have business cards already, and the beauty of this is that there are sometimes programs on computers that can help you do this—you just need the right kind of card stock and a printer! However, there are businesses that print these materials, and if you buy in bulk, they are quite economical.

3) TRAVEL: Now, I know you all are waiting for me to call you up and say “We’re sending you on a 10 city book tour!” but that might not happen just yet. I do encourage reaching out to your local bookstores, specifically independent bookstores, to do events (but Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc. are also great!). Store managers are the nicest people, and if you simply walk in and say, I’m a local author and I’m interested in setting up a signing, the managers will generally know the right way to go about doing things. The worst thing they can do is say no, and then you just move on to the next store! Another idea that I know some of the Casa ladies are discussing is having group signings—whether it’s with fellow Casablanca authors or authors in your same genre or authors in your RWA Chapter, many stores are impressed to see a group of 3 or 4 authors come together to promote their books at the same time. If a store needs to contact someone at your publisher, you can give them my email and office phone number!

Any other questions that you have when it comes to budget? I might not be a money managing expert (I have bought far too many new pairs of shoes in the last month), but I do know a great team of publicists that will help in any way!

Better yet—what are some interesting ideas you’ve had while promoting that really worked (or didn’t) to reach a broader audience?

Happy weekend!


  1. Hey Danielle,
    Great post, thanks as always for your support of our books. One thing I did that might have helped to promote LOS was to build a mailing list of everyone I corresponded with during the year between sale and publication. Some days I'd add five new names, other days just one. But by Sept. 1, I had 250 names on that list and spent an entire Saturday sending personalized emails to each person, telling them LOS was out and asking them to spread the word to their family and friends. It's hard to gauge what impact that had, but it couldn't have hurt to have everyone you know saying HEY, my friend wrote this book and you have to go buy it! I was thinking of the old shampoo commercial, calling this the "I Tell Two People, You Tell Two People and so on and so on" school of marketing.

  2. LOL Marie! If only I had that many correspondents!

    My question for Danielle is how good or bad romance sales were during previous bouts of tough economic times.

    There are people I work with who will say, "I'm buying a copy when I get paid again." Those who are already living from paycheck to paycheck might have the seven bucks on hand--but will they spend it on a book?
    Any historical figures?

  3. The most effective thing I did was to design a flier and ask friends and family who have extensive lists to email an announcment. I concentrated on those who reach a different demographic--age, occupation, interests--than I might reach.

    I asked them to add a note about their relationship to me, and the suggestion that SEALed With a Kiss would make an affordable bridesmaid gift, hostess gift, and would be a nice extra to tuck in a promotional packet.

    I know for a fact that copies were sold as far away as California based on the fliers.

  4. Hey Ladies! Thanks for the comments! Your ideas were great and really worked and utilized cheap marketing :)

    Cheryl- I would suggest looking at the RWA link I posted. They have information about stats in specific years archived. I'm not sure how far back it goes, but it is safe to say that romance fiction has always been, and probably always will be, one the best selling genres of literature!

  5. Thanx for a great post, Danielle, and for confirming some things we already know. I want you to know that I QUOTED YOU about websites and building an online presence at a recent presentation I gave to a group of mostly non-fiction writers. ;-)

    I LURVE talking and am hoping to schedule more of these presentations (2 done so far and 1 more scheduled). They may only be local, but you never know how far the local connection might go.

    And I am definitely WORKING those post cards. I always carry at least a half-dozen in my purse at all times! Yesterday, I gave them out at my doctor's office while waiting for my appointment. The doc was running a half-hour late and I made the most of it!


  6. Great post, Danielle!

    As for the sales of romance during hard economic times (a subject on one of my RWA loops) it's the consensus that sales actually go up in a bad economy. I don't have sales figures, but I've heard this from writers who have been in the business for years.

    $6.99 is a cheap way to escape reality. Heck, when you can't walk into a movie theater for under $10, buying a book is a bargain. The enjoyment lasts longer than 90 minutes, you don't need to pay for a babysitter, and you can read it in a bubble bath.

    Robin :)

  7. Wow, Danielle, it's like you were reading my mind. I too have felt concerned that in an economic pinch, the buying of books is going to slump. Then again, in tougher times, a pleasant diversion is more desirable than ever. Once again we thank you for your sage advice.

  8. I think that more authors need to band together right now in promotion, perhaps pitching anthologies, blogging together, etc. We writers are already cast on our own devices by publishers, and if romance readers buy multiple books and go on gloms of similar plots/settings/characters during each trip, there really is no such thing as "competition" in this genre. Therefore, we need to band together.

  9. Great post, Danielle. Free advertising is the best! Writing articles for RWA chapters, writing articles for magazines, blogging as a guest, posting on Myspace, Facebook, Bebo, Amazon, anywhere else where a mix of readers and writers can see your thoughts, great reviews, new releases, awards. Commenting on others' blogs--not just Casablanca's, which due to the turmoil at home has been limited for me, but also on others' blogs that ask for comments, helps to get your title and name out there to other readers who might not know you. And yes, locally, check your stores, make sure they keep your books in stock. For 2 months, Hastings didn't have a book manager. They had already sold 15 copies of Heart of the Wolf, and 10 copies of Winning the Highlander's Heart. Then nada. Because no one knew how to order books. I wanted to consign them, anything so that when people asked where my books were, I could direct them to the store. :) They have a new book manager, and she's ordered 20 of each of the copies and they're selling well. The same with B&N...Ordered 10 of the copies of all 3 titles now out, over half were sold in the first week. I autograph them and leave a book mark. So check the book shelves periodically and when your book is gone...ask them to reorder and then when they're in, autograph them! Put a gold sticker on them to show they're autographed. And they'll sell also. :)Happy Marketing! It's time consuming, but it's well worth the effort!


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