Other than a chosen few authors, the people making the most money are those that provide promotion services and author classes. I would bet dollars to donuts that most authors put out more money than they take in, no matter how diligently they work at their craft. Some of these are well-worth it, others, not so much.
Thus, it’s essential to choose them wisely to make sure you get your money’s worth. Here are a few ways to help you decide.
Does the service have a favorable reputation, i.e. good reviews or recommendation from a fellow author?
How many books will you have to sell as a result to cover the service’s cost?
If it’s a class, would it be less expensive to hire someone to do that for you versus learning to do it yourself? (One way to counter this expense is to perform that service yourself once you’ve mastered it, such as making promotional videos.)
If it’s a skill, could you teach yourself via online blogs or other information available for free?
Is the service or class relevant to your particular genre? Will it help you reach your target audience?
Those selling these services tend to be masters of promotion themselves. They will make you believe that writing a best seller is within reach if you take their class or employ their services. Hope springs eternal, but don’t be a fool.
Book fairs and conferences are excellent places to meet other authors and potential readers. The energy in such venues is magical, but learning how to use it to your advantage takes practice. Many authors, myself included, are introverts, so your first experience in such an environment can be intimidating. There are also numerous conventions and protocols for how your table or booth should be set up. Thus, before you take the plunge, visit a few to scope them out so you know what to expect.
Your best bet is to concentrate on those close to home. Not only can your local fan base find and support you more easily, but others in the area will discover you as well, perhaps bringing opportunities for other appearances.
However, even in your own territory, selling enough books to cover expenses is unlikely until you’ve developed a strong fan base. This definitely applies to venues that require hotel stays or, heaven forbid, airfare, though if combined with a vacation, such bills offer a nice business-related tax deduction.
The main thing is not to be discouraged by expecting too much. Just include the cost in your marketing budget and count any book sales as a bonus.