ROI (or Is your marketing investment paying you back?)

After last months Building the Buzz challenge, I hope you have dozens of marketing ideas floating around in that writerly head of yours. Now the question is, which ones are you going to pursue? With unlimited funds and time, you could do it all. In the world I like to call "reality" you'll have to pick and choose which ones you'll use. So how to you decide which path is right for you?

The first step I recommend is to identify your strengths and what you are comfortable with. But be careful here. You don't want to ignore a great idea because it would force you to go above your current comfort level.

After you evaluate what you would be best at, you'll probably still have a long list of possibilities. This is where you want to take a hard look at ROI. ROI is a marketing industry term for Return On Investment. Basically, you are determining what you can realistically expect to earn or recoup for the investment.
 Is your marketing investment paying you back? Tweet This!
 Let's take a look at an example. If you had unlimited funds to promote your book, the biggest advertising event of the year is still the Super Bowl. The going rate for a 30 second commercial during the most viewed event of the year is around $4million. This doesn't count the actual production of the commercial which wouldn't be cheap. But hey, you've got unlimited funds, so this is a great idea, right?

Wrong. Unless your book is about how football fans can earn lifetime season tickets you probably aren't hitting your target audience. If you don't hit your audience, you won't earn back your investment (or even come close).

But your investment isn't just the money you fork over. It's also the time you invest in your marketing efforts. There are tons of free ways to promote your book, but not all of them will work for each book. You need to be aware that your time as a writer is a very valuable commodity.
  Your marketing effort isn't just the money you fork over. Tweet This!
 When calculating investment of time, decide how much you'd be willing to pay someone else for the work you are doing. Let's say for example that you are designing your own blog tour banner ad. Even if you are doing this at a $0 cost, you are investing time. When calculating ROI, the investment cost would be whatever you are willing to pay someone else to do that work. You can also assign yourself an hourly "wage" for marketing efforts and calculate your time investment cost that way.

So how do you know if you're getting a good ROI? Like most things in publishing, the exact numbers are going to vary writer to writer and project to project. That said, a good starting point is 3:1. This means that you earn back $3 for every $1 spent. 

No matter how you decide to calculate ROI, it's important to make sure you are putting your time and money toward the efforts that give you the biggest bang. This is also a great way to review what to change and what to keep for your next book.

I'd love to hear from you. Have you looked at your ROI before? How do you decide if your marketing effort is worth it? Share your best tips and tricks in the comments!