(from the George Eastman House. We try not to keep this much money in the office — and mostly we don’t put it through a shredder when it is around!)
Should you ask your publisher for money?
Let me first say that I’m talking about this in a marketing context, not a publishing one. We do believe in authors getting paid when publishers publish their books! When we buy books from authors, there is always money involved. Authors are not paid in comp copies, in shells, or in beads (at least by First Second).
So, should you ask your publisher for money to help you market your book?
Not usually, but sometimes.
There are many things that you could want money from your publisher to help pay for — promotional items (bookmarks, postcards, advance books, erasers, t-shirts, tote bags, prints, giant balloons), book tour expenses for a tour you’re setting up yourself (travel and hotels and meals), money to defray costs on online promotion (hiring a designer to set up a book-specific website, doing a trailer, hiring someone to set up a blog tour for you), money for advertising, and many, many more things!
Should you send an e-mail to your publisher with that list — ‘I want all of this!, give me many dollars and I shall make it happen!’?
That may not be the best way to approach this!
Publishers have budgets that are typically set by the beginning of the year. Typically by the time you’re thinking about promotional materials, they’ll already have a grid laying out exactly how much they can spend on your book (and all the rest of the books coming out that year) — and they’ll have a plan to spend that money in specific places.
So the most common response to the list of 10,000 things + giant balloons is, ‘no, that’s not what we have budgeted for this title.’
But sometimes, there will be some wiggle room in the title budget and your publisher will have some money to spare. If you really, really want marketing money for something you’re planning, what’s a good way to approach your publisher?
1. Be aware of what your publisher is already doing.
Your publisher is probably planning to do some marketing for your book! Before you e-mail with a request, check in with your publisher about what they’re planning. Maybe you don’t need to ask for money for a book trailer because one is planned already, and your publisher can work with you to incorporate your video ideas into what they’re thinking.
Knowing what your publisher is planning also gives you a good perspective on what’s not being done. If you know that your publisher is planning extensive online promotion but not a blog tour (which you of course really want to do), you can now give them a reason why the blog tour you really want would be helpful and integrate with what they’re planning already.
Logic: it’s useful!
2. Ask for limited (and special) things.
That 10,000 thing list? Probably not going to work! Publishers tend to have limited budgets for marketing. If you approach them wanting the sun, the moon, and the stars, they may not even give you an asteriod.
If you ask your publisher for money, make it a special case — probably you want the money for something that is going above and beyond anything that’s typical. You just got offered the keynote speaking slot on a conference on your book’s topic two weeks before your book’s pub date and you want to give out postcards to the attendees, who are exactly the book’s demographic — you got offered remnant ad space at a bargain price in a prestigious magazine that’s also running a pre-pub first serial excerpt of your book in that very issue — etc.
3. Have a plan.
Everyone likes pins! I like pins myself. I always end up getting new ones at every show I end up at; I have a fabric wall at my desk that has pins from Kean Soo’s Jellaby, from our upcoming The Cute Girl Network, by Greg Means, MK Reed, and Joe Flood, a mysterious monster pin from who-knows-who, and a pin from Kazimir Strzepek’s The Mourning Star (which I feel there should be more of!). I would love to make pins for all of our authors, for every book. And if an author e-mails me to say, ‘I would really like pins,’ mostly what I say is, ‘I can’t give you money for that.’
What would convince me to say yes? If you have a plan. (And then I still need to find some money, so this is by no means a guaranteed strategy.)
Having pins becau