Back in the proverbial day, before there was social media and a correcting Selectric was the bomb, I used to hear this Business Rule a lot. I haven’t heard it lately, but it’s as true as ever, so I’m gonna try to reintroduce it to the vernacular, starting right here. Here is it:

Cheap. Fast. Good. You can have any two, but not all three.

It’s true, y’know, whether you’re talking about book marketing or plumbing or websites or bridges. But since I’m here to talk about book marketing…

People who provide marketing services are, ultimately, selling our time and expertise. It’s not a pre-packaged product. (And if you are being offered a pre-packaged product, run a mile! Each book, author, publisher, or series requires a custom set of activities.)

So how do you figure out which of the three you want?

Just like the House Hunters shows where they eliminate one of the three abodes right away, take Good out of the mix. It’s a must-have. Non-negotiable. So now you only have to pick between Cheap and Fast.

First question: What’s your budget? Knowing how much you can afford to spend will make the process much more efficient.

Second question: How much do the services you need cost? This is tricky because, like I said, each program is custom, so there’s no off-the-shelf price per se. For promoting a book/author, I’ve seen budgets everywhere from $400/month to $12,000/month. You should figure on a multi-month commitment; I ask my clients to stick with me for at least three months because any marketing/communications program needs at least that long.

And moving on to fast…

Few book-related marketing projects need an unreasonably short timeframe, so I find that this is usually the easiest element to forego. There are exceptions, of course. And remember, if you’re not working toward a strict deadline, cost is going to be easier to manage.

Also, never forget that a book’s release day is hugely important to authors and publishers, but to readers, a book is new the moment they open it for the first time, whether it was published this week or 100 years ago.

So if I was offering advice, I’d suggest focusing on Good and Cheap. Forget Fast. And remember that your idea of Cheap might be different from mine, which is different than her and his and theirs.