04/23/2014 02:31 pm ET Updated Jun 23, 2014

What Price Book Publicity?

How much should you expect to pay for your book publicity campaign? There are several variables involved, so it's tough to predict exactly how much you'll have to spend to promote your book. The cost will vary from one author to another, and it will depend on the specifics of your book publicity campaign. But here are the key costs to consider when you're planning your author publicity budget:

Hiring a Book Publicist. If you've hired a book publicist, then your book publicist's fee is part of the cost of promoting your book. But the cost of a book publicist's services vary, and depend upon the size and scope of your book publicity campaign. You're not "stuck" with a single, take-it-or-leave-it cost. Shop around, and find a book publicist who can conduct the author publicity campaign you envision. Once you've done a chemistry check (you have to like your book publicist!) and established her credentials (by checking references and asking about her track record), be sure you're staying within your author publicity campaign budget. Hiring a book publicist is only one of the costs of promoting your book.

Travel. These days, an author publicity campaign seldom includes a multi-city book tour. Technology has come too far, and budgets tend to be tight. Fortunately, there are other ways to promote your book in major metro areas beyond your own backyard that include pitching phone and Skype interviews, producing a book trailer for YouTube and conducting a virtual blog tour. Most book publicists routinely set up virtual blog tours for authors -- and, if you're considering a book publicist who doesn't know what a virtual blog tour is, then run in the opposite direction as quickly as possible! But there's still the possibility that a major media outlet in another city will invite you to be an in-studio guest, and you'll probably want to accept the offer if the opportunity sounds right for you. That will most likely mean paying your own way including all of the costs associated with your trip (food, lodging, taxis and the like). That said, travel costs actually are a nice expense to have. It means you've been invited to appear as a guest on a major media outlet. Who doesn't want that?

A Book Website. You need a book web site to lend credibility to your book, and to enhance your chances of book discovery. While you're at it, you need to optimize that book website so it can easily will be found in the search engines. Of course, you probably know a 12-year-old who can design your site. Don't hire him or her. There are places to save a dollar, and website design and implementation isn't it. Your reputation, as an author, depends on how good you look online. Leverage the opportunity to create the best book website you can and look great online!

Free Books. You know those books you're giving away to the media, bloggers and readers for free as part of your book publicity campaign? Well, those books are free for the recipients, but they won't be free for you. You'll have to purchase them. So factor the cost of those "free" books into the price of your author publicity campaign. And then add extra books to your estimate just in case your book publicity campaign takes off and you get far more book requests that you expected. That will be a wonderful problem to have! As a side note, you might be able to talk some media decision makers into accepting a copy of your e-book instead of a hard copy of your book. And the day may come when it's not such a tough sell. But, for now, count on most producers, hosts, editors and reporters wanting you to send them a copy of what they still consider to be the "real" book.

Postage. And, speaking of sending the media decision makers your book, you have to pay for that too. Postage costs can vary, too, but make sure to use a mailing vendor and method that provides tracking. You can't guarantee that the producer, host, editor or reporter will actually open your package, but you can ensure that he or she at least received it if you send it via one of the major delivery services. The best idea, as far as this book publicist is concerned, is to use the United States Postal Service's Priority service. That way, you can use the USPS's Priority packaging, which is free and looks impressive. And not only will you get free tracking with that, but you'll be able to predict that the book will arrive at its destination in no more than three business days. What a deal!

Does size (of your author publicity budget) really matter? It does, in the sense that you want to spend enough to promote your book effectively and professionally. Certainly, you don't want to conduct a book publicity campaign on such a thin shoestring that your sneakers fall off your feet while you're walking.

On the other hand, author publicity isn't an exact science. You can't say, with any certainly, that if you invest X in your book promotion campaign, you'll earn Y in return. Book promotion always contains an element of surprise. You don't know what you'll receive for your investment of money, effort and time. But, if you buy a lottery ticket, you can hope to win! Will you land a guest spot on a national television show? Will you get a book review in a major daily newspaper? Will you get a chance to join a panel discussion on NPR? No one knows, and because book promotion involves a degree of gambling, it's a good idea to stay within your comfort zone when you plan your book publicity campaign.

Spend wisely, but do spend enough money to get in the author promotion game. The only truly bad book promotion call you can make is to ignore book promotion completely and work on your next book instead. Think of the sales and other opportunities you lose every single time you let a book promotion opportunity go to a competing author. You can't afford to lose those author publicity opportunities! Letting those book sales possibilities slip away is one expense that no author can afford.

Stacey J. Miller is a book promotion specialist and founder of S. J. Miller Communications. Visit her at or (connecting with her on Facebook or Twitter is strictly optional).