Money earned (total): $7,392.11

Money spent (total): $3,496.31

Book sales (last month): $350.40

Money spent (this week): $50.21 (the cost of mailing paperbacks to be considered for awards)

This week, The Biographies of Ordinary People sponsored the Seattle Review of Books. This sponsorship works just like any other sponsorship; I essentially bought an ad on the site, but since I was a sponsor and not just a banner-adder, they also said some lovely things about me:

Sponsor Nicole Dieker is a wonder. You may have seen her reading around town, or seen her work as editor of The Billfold, or writing on Lifehackerthe Write Life, and Spark Notes.

She’s also just published her debut novel, The Biographies of Ordinary People, and she’s allowed us to run the full first chapter on our Sponsor’s page for you to check out. We think you’re gonna love it.

I also love the Seattle Review of Books and would give them financial support even without the ad space. ❤

Last week a commenter warned me against paying to get my book promoted without knowing whether I’d get any return on my investment; all this submitting for ads and reviews and awards costs money, after all. Why am I not keeping every penny of my profit, instead of giving it to people who might profit off me?

I mean, I totally get it. There are plenty of ways to take a self-published writer’s cash, and you have to pay attention to money out vs. money in. But “keeping all my profits” doesn’t make sense either. Profit is linked to visibility and promotion, whether it’s buying a sponsorship or winning an award—and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this whole process, it’s that visibility costs money.

I used to think that people got their books under those “new and noteworthy” sidebars, for example, because they were new and noteworthyI have since learned that those sidebars are ads, and the space in them paid for. Sometimes you only get invited to buy ad space if your book is in fact noteworthy, but you still have to pay for the recognition.

I have also turned down a handful of ad offers. Including some that were very hard to turn down, because I did want my book to be in that publication and I loved the nice things the person selling the ad was saying about my writing, but I couldn’t afford it. (Or I “chose not to afford it based on my other financial priorities,” which is probably a truer statement.)

Am I losing out on potential sales because I’m not taking advantage of all those new-and-noteworthy sidebars? Well, let’s see.

This week, Biographies was featured in both the Seattle Review of Books and the New York Review of Books’ Independent Press Listing. Both were paid placements, costing $412.80 total. (The NYRB ad actually runs for three weeks, and was included in NYRB copies distributed at Book Expo.)

This week, I sold 15 ebooks and 7 paperbacks, earning $63.38 total.

So… I didn’t earn back the cost of the ads, and I have no real way of knowing whether the people who bought my books did so because of the ads.

Which means I don’t feel too badly about not buying ad space with everyone who told me I was new and noteworthy.

But what do I have left to do, in terms of marketing and publicity? How much more work and money am I going to put into promoting Volume 1before I start putting all of my efforts into revising Volume 2?

Here’s my short answer.

  1. I have a handful of reviewers I still want to reach out to, which means I might spend a little more money mailing paperbacks to people.
  2. I want to do a few more readings. I did Seattle in May and I’ll be reading in Missoula in August, and I’d like to do Portland in July. I’ve also talked to people about potentially setting up readings in Juneau, Los Angeles, and Seattle (again, since y’all asked), and all I need to do is figure out when.
  3. I need to get myself back on the convention circuit and start applying to be a panelist at PNW writing conventions. This would be one of those deals where you do a panel or teach a workshop, and then you get to have a stack of your books on a table for people to buy. I deliberately avoided this year’s round of conventions because I knew I would be spending a lot of money getting Volume 1 published and because I didn’t really have any results to share; by this time next year Volume 2 will be out and I’ll have a lot to say about self-publishing, writing a series, Patreon, Pronoun, promotion, budgeting, stamina…
  4. I’m going to be teaching more writing courses at Hugo House, which isn’t exactly a way to SELL MY BOOK $$$ but I can certainly mention it at the end of every class.

You’ll notice that most of the items on this list are things I do myself vs. things I hope other people will do for me. I would love for more people to interview me or review my book—I’m already loving the reviews I’m getting on Amazon and Goodreads—but I can’t base my promotional strategy on hoping that will happen.

So yeah, I’m self-promoting as much as self-publishing. We’ll see how it goes.

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