Every so often, I hear a writer mention that an agent has agreed to represent them for a specific up-front fee. I cringe at every mention because, of course, reputable agents work on commission, not upfront fees.
So this week, when someone invited me to do a radio interview and also to schedule a couple of talks for me for a “modest fee,” I shook my head. While I don’t think this person is intending any harm, that’s just not something I’m comfortable with, especially since this person will, hopefully, benefit from my presence on their show . . . and because, well, I can make appointments for talks and signings myself with a minimal amount of effort.
Plus, if I could afford to hire a publicist, I would hire a vetted, experienced publicist, not an individual with little experience in this work.
Thus, I find myself learning how to navigate another part of self-publishing – the tricky waters of what to pay for and what not to pay for in terms of promotion.
Writers don’t make much money from our book sales. Royalties are not very high – if they exist at all when we work with a traditional publisher, and if we self-publish, of course, all the expenses fall to us. So we have to be wise about where we spend our funds in promotion.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Books on consignment make good sense for everyone. Several of the bookstores I’ve approached have agreed to sell The Slaves Have Names on consignment. They take a portion of the proceeds from any sale, and I get the balance of the sale. This arrangement means that both the bookstore and I have an incentive for selling the book, AND it means I don’t lose the potential profit of those copies if the book doesn’t sell.
2. Paying licensing fees to use the work of other artist’s to promote is honorable. I’m in the process of making a trailer for my book, and while I’m producing the trailer myself, I would like to use the work of a musician as the background music. To do so, there is a licensing fee, and when I save the funds, I will pay it. Because, after all, that artist needs to make a living from her work, too.
3. Only pay for venues that don’t benefit garner potential revenue/clientele from your visit. For example, I would be happy to rent a hall for a book launch if I didn’t have a venue available. However, if a venue – such as a bookstore or library – will gain mutual benefit from my event there, I’d be less likely to pay for that space. The idea is that my work will help promote their work, and so we will be help each other with advertising and marketing.
4. Don’t pay for radio interviews. Radio shows have hours of content that they need to fill well so that their advertisers are pleased. Thus, when we are invited to speak on a radio program, we are helping them even as they help us sell books. Plus, if we advertise our interviews, we help them gain more listeners and, thus, maybe more revenue.
5. Be prepared to cover our own travel expenses for talks/interviews/readings. While we should not pay for the opportunity to speak or read, we do need to be willing to pay our travel – at least until we’re famous writers – to give these talks and readings. We don’t want to be a hardship to our hosts. So if we’re wise, we’ll plan a tight tour in a location and maximize our own travel expenses with multiple events.
I imagine there are exceptions to all these guidelines, and I imagine there are some people – like the kind woman who asked what I would charge to speak to a school – who are willing and able to pay writers to come. But by and large I come to this, writers should not need to pay for opportunities to give talks, interviews, or signings because our work will benefit the venue, host, or bookstore as well.
What do you think? Should writers pay bookstores or venues or radio hosts?
This week on my Facebook page, I’m giving away two free copies of The Slaves Have Names to anyone who “likes” my page. You can “like” the page just by clicking “like” in the Facebook box on the right. Or stop by the page itself – https://www.facebook.com/andilitwriter.