Monday, August 8, 2011

Authors, it's really okay to keep your money

Some authors make a lot of money.

Some authors make an okay amount of money.

Some authors make very little money.

And sometimes I feel like there is a bit of pressure for the authors in the last two categories to act as if they are in the top category and spend all kinds of money they really don't have on promotional things. And I do not understand this.

It's kind of like the - how much time should I spend on social networking thing, except it's - how much money should I throw at all of these authorly things.

After doing this for a while, I think the answer is the same. You don't *have* to spend anything and it's perfectly okay, just like you don't *have* to spend time doing the social networking thing unless you want to.

In the end, how many books you sell is not dependent on how much you spent on your web site, how many fancy bookmarks you bought, how pretty your author photo is, how incredible your book trailer is, etc. How many books you sell is going to be dependent on what kind of push you get from your publisher, whether the book stores pick it up or not, whether it's the kind of book that gets people talking, and honestly, quite a bit of luck.

I commented on a thread on a message board recently where someone asked about web sites. I replied that I am currently using blogger for my site, because A) it's free and B) I can update it whenever I want to. So many people pointed the person asking the question to all of these awesome designers, and all of them cost money. Some of them a LOT OF MONEY.

We need to remember, not everyone has a lot of money to spend, and I wanted to speak up and show the person that I am one author who is keeping that $1000-$3000 I could spend on a web site to pay for my kid's braces, and I'm not going to go into debt just so I can have a site that makes people oooh and ahhh.

Do some people come to my site and go, eww, she's using blogger? Probably so. Do I believe that most kids/teens/parents/librarians/teachers coming to my site, who are the ones reading my books, really care? No, I don't.

When I built my site by myself, using blogger's tools, I kept in mind the things that are important to me when I'm going to someone else's site. I wanted the site to be clean, easy to navigate, and have the information at their fingertips that they were looking for. Do you know how many professional sites I've been to where I thought it was too busy or hard to find things or any number of things? A LOT! Professional doesn't always mean good.

I know some people have strong feelings about authors and what their web site looks like. Just like some people have strong feelings about book trailers. And some people have strong feelings about bookmarks. And some people have strong feelings about author photos.

In the perfect world, every author would have all kinds of money to spend on these things. But we don't live in a perfect world, and here is what I want really want to say on the subject, maybe for myself more than anyone.

If you don't have the money to spend on these things, (and I'm going to go out on a limb and say 85% of authors don't), then keep your hard earned money for yourself and please DO NOT FEEL BAD about that. Do the best with what you have. When you get your advance, come up with a budget for promotional things that is realistic for you and your family, and then stick to it by figuring out what is most important to you!

I got my author photos when a studio was having a sale. I waited patiently until it was something I could afford. Some authors have their spouse or friend take lots and lots and lots of photos with a digital camera until they have one that's good enough to use. Will the professional ones look better? Maybe. But isn't it true that we can always do better, that money can always BUY better?

It's the same with book trailers. Some people will say - don't do a book trailer unless you can do a REALLY incredible one with actors and a script and on and on. Well, I don't have that kind of money, so does that mean I shouldn't do one at all? I don't think so. I made mine myself, for free, and yeah, there are lots of trailers that are better, but does it matter? I did what I could and I shouldn't have to apologize for that. Because really, am I out to A) outdo most authors, or am I out to B) do what I can for my book without breaking the bank?

For me, the answer will always be B. It can be really easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, and I just felt the need to post this today and say, if you are an author who is feeling pressured to spend, spend, spend to keep up with the Joneses who are around the corner on the internet, put the credit card down and get back to work writing the best book you can.

Like we've heard a million times already, but seem to need to be reminded from time to time, it's the writing that matters more than anything else.


  1. This is an awesome post.

    I use blogger for my website (I even still have the "blogspot" part in the addy.

    The website just needs to be a place where folks can find you if they want to.

    You made a lot of great points in this post!


  2. Love this post! Great tips and and I love how real you are. And I agree with all of it :-) Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Very well said, Lisa. This is an excellent post. For my author photo, I cropped a group photo, changed the lighting a bit and have used the result for years. It was free and I get compliments all the time.

  4. You are so wise, Lisa. And I think your site is lovely and absolutely has all the important stuff on it.

    Thanks for the reminder as I sit here thinking about what SWAG I should be ordering. I have a definite budget, but I'm sticking to it and will be smart about every penny.

  5. i. love. this. post.

    and this, especially: Like we've heard a million times already, but seem to need to be reminded from time to time, it's the writing that matters more than anything else.


  6. It's so easy to lose sight of the fact that career-wise, readers are the people whose opinions should matter to a writer. And readers just don't care as much about about some of the things that matter to industry professionals. Thanks for being a voice of truth.

  7. Yes, times a million, to everything you said. Thanks for yet another informative, helpful and supportive post.

  8. You are totally right, Lisa! (And your site/blog is beautiful!) I really needed to hear this right now with my first book coming out. I was thinking, "How can I afford to make stickers, give away free books, swag, etc.???" I don't have to! *sigh of relief* :)

  9. You go girl! This post is a perfect example of why you are one of my favorite authors! You are so right! Regardless on how much you spend on promotional crap it's the quality of your writing that "we" the readers appreciate and love.

    Thanks for this great post!

  10. GREAT post, Lisa. And like Aleeza & Steph (Paper Cut Reviewer) said, it's about the writing.

    If my sister wasn't a graphic designer I would've never in a million years been able to afford my author site. I would've gone the blogger route too and been totally fine with it (like you).

    My husband took my author photo and I'm A-okay with it. Free is good.

    I love this post.

  11. Awesome, awesome advice. So freeing. Thanks.

  12. As an aspiring, I often find myself saying 'wow' when I read your blog. Today I'm taking the time to tell you:) "Wow!" Very honest, thoughtful and well put.
    Thanks for this! I hope to be able to put your advice to practical use one day soon.

  13. Thank you so much for this post, Lisa. I'm afraid I'm one of those authors who spent more than she should have because a)I felt pressured to keep up and b)I'm tech-dorky and don't know how to make my own anything. I love my website and my trailer, and I'm so grateful to the designers who made them, but sometimes I wish I still had that money in the bank!

  14. Great post, Lisa. I was just reading over notes from a speaker who spent her whole advance on marketing. It's nice to hear that that's not necessary. :)

  15. Very, very well said. There is no shame in using blogger and in keeping your money for other, more necessary, expenses.

  16. You are right! and your trailer for "The day before" is beautiful anyway :)

  17. Wonderful post. Love the tips and the common sense tone. It's helped me out a lot!