Book Releases on a Budget

by Catherine Lundoff

Got a new book coming out? If you need to do all or even some of your own publicity, a multi-pronged approach to getting the word out about it can very helpful. And, if you’re like most writers, your budget is somewhat limited. So let’s talk about what you can do that promotes your work, but keeps that promotion affordable.

Start out by viewing this as a celebration. You’ve accomplished something—finishing a book and getting it published is huge, even if you’ve done it before. Treat it accordingly. You want to plan a release that allows other people to celebrate with you and energizes you to do more writing. Start with those goals and it will make everything else easier.

Ideally, what you want to plan for a book release is the following:

  • A lead up to the release. This can include things like a cover reveal, a blog tour, announcements, reviews, blurbs, YouTube videos and short readings at cons and other events. Ideally, these should start two to three months before a book’s release date.
  • Two or more events to mark the actual release. These should include an in-person event, like a reading or a party, and an online event, like a book giveaway or an online reading. If an in-person event isn’t an option, consider a podcast reading or an interactive online event that your readers can participate in, like a trivia contest or a prize drawing on your blog or Facebook group. What you’re aiming for is something that feels special and that gets enough attention that your other publicity can build on it.
  • Some follow-up events or other promotions to keep the momentum going. These can include additional readings, interviews, participating in panel discussions at conventions and festivals or anything else that keeps getting your book in front of new readers. The next step after planning your lead up and release events is to determine what your budget will be. As with most things, if you have more time than money, there are things that are inexpensive and feasible. If you have neither, it’s trickier, but not impossible, to simultaneously budget time as well as money.

Some examples, with price points:

  1. For $100-$200, you can get some promo materials, like bookmarks or postcards, a couple of copies of your book to give away and fund a small release event, including snacks. I also recommend looking for free opportunities (a signing table at a local con, for example) as well as low-cost ones.
  2. For $200-$300, you can do all of the above, plus a signing table at a larger event or two or even a low-cost ad campaign. Part of doing events is to get the word out, so any event where you table or read and talk to a couple of other humans is potentially useful.
  3. Mixing and matching is a good idea. Some event options that don’t cost money that should be on your list include guest blogs, review exchanges, open mics, book announcement feeds, participating in Facebook groups, participating in Twitter hashtags, some free book table and author signing possibilities, being hosted on a podcast. Balance that with a mix of paid promotions like ads, giveaways with prizes, events that aren’t free, etc. Bear in mind that you can spend $20 and get a huge boost in book sales and opportunities and spend $1000 and see little to no immediate return on it so establishing your risk tolerance early on is a good idea. This is not an exact science.

After the release? Write up a list of what worked for you and what didn’t. Did it bring in new readers? Did you have fun? Did you not have fun? Why or why not? What could you do differently/better/exactly the same only more so the next time?

A book release is as much about working with what you have as it as what you want to build on. Don’t get discouraged if you have a great idea that you don’t have time or money to implement for this book; put it on a list and make it a goal for the next title. Book promotion, like writing, is an ongoing process, one that can build on previous successes as well as lessons learned.


Catherine Lundoff is an award-winning writer, editor, and publisher based in Minneapolis, where she does arcane things with computers and lives with her wife and cats. Her recent stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Fireside FictionSherlock Holmes and the Occult DetectivesAmerican Monsters Part 2, the LHMPodcastHaunting Shadows: A Wraith the Oblivion 20th Anniversary Anthology and The Book of Extraordinary Sherlock Holmes Stories. Her books include Silver MoonOut of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories and Unfinished Business: Tales of the Dark Fantastic, and, as editor, Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space). She is the publisher at Queen of Swords Press and she plans a lot of book release events.