For the last few months, we've been talking about ways to pay for advertising.
Well, the holidays are upon us, and that means you’re stretching your budget in every direction to buy gifts, decorate the house, and afford the trip to grandma’s. But it’s also the season your competition is pushing publicity, hoping their books will wind up under somebody’s tree.
Although this feels like a tricky situation, there’s a simple solution: free marketing. The interwebs and the real world are full of opportunities to make you book more seen and appreciated without spending a dime. Here are our favorite two dozen ways.
20 Free Marketing Methods
1. Comment on Book Blogs and Groups
Get in the comments of book blogs, and conversation in book discussion groups, and join the conversation about books similar to what you write.
The Wrong Way: Talk immediately about your own writing and/or keep talking about how yours is better than the popular book under discussion.
The Right Way: Talk in ways that prove you are a thoughtful and passionate fan of the genre, and mention only once in a while that you also write in it.
2. Do a Guest Blog Post
Find a blogger who writes about your topic or genre, and get them to let you write a high-quality post about something related to your book.
The Wrong Way: Forget to mention your work and provide links, or mention it too often so the post feels salesy.
The Right Way: Craft a thoughtful, useful, and/or funny post about something your potential fans find important, and mention just once or twice about your own work.
3. Host a Guest Blogger
Invite a popular blogger to post on your own blog, bringing their audience over to see your little corner of the web. Some of them will stay, and check out your work.
The Wrong Way: Never mention the guest post to your own audience.
The Right Way: Make it an event you publicize and celebrate. Make your guest poster feel like an honored dignitary.
4. Get on a Podcast
Be a guest on a podcast about topics related to what you write. If you write nonfiction, come on as an expert for an in-depth discussion. If you write fiction, find the podcasts related to your fandom.
The Wrong Way: Send tepid query letters that don’t inspire hosts to bring you on. Query too close to when you need it, so the episode drops far too late to help you.
The Right Way: Target podcasts where your unique contribution will stand out, so the host and listeners alike want to know more about you and your work.
5. Do a Facebook Live
Facebook Live is a real-time video broadcast via your Facebook channel. It performs about as much better than regular posts as posts with an image outperform text-only options. You can make one in a couple of minutes, bringing attention to you and your work.
The Wrong Way: Just winging it, so you come off unprofessional and talk about off-topic things.
The Right Way: Do a scripted but natural talk or presentation directly related to your books. A live reading can be a lot of fun and very successful.
Instagram is rapidly overtaking Facebook as the social media platform for authors. A “Bookstagram” is an instagram post that features books in some way. Feature your books.
The Wrong Way: Unattractive, poorly designed pictures that don’t make it clear that you’re posting about your books.
The Right Way: Cool images featuring your work so it stands out with outstanding quality.
7. Pick a Fight on Facebook
The right kind of debate on Facebook gets lots of attention and engagement, and pings Facebook’s algorithms to let more people know it’s happening. Not everybody loves an online argument, but a friendly exchange of ideas can be helpful.
The Wrong Way: Fight about religion or politics, or use abusive language and tactics.
The Right Way: Have a civil debate about a topic directly related to your topic or genre.
8. Email Everybody
Email everybody you know about your books. I mean everybody. Your mailing list. All your work and personal contacts. Every customer and former customer. Everybody.
The Wrong Way: Send an email asking for help without offering anything in return.
The Right Way: Send a well-crafted email that invites people to enlist in helping you do something they believe in anyway.
9. Do a Flash Sale
Use social media and your mailing list to drive a deep discount on one of your books, for a limited time. This drives sales for that book, and some takers will go ahead and pick up other titles as well.
The Wrong Way: Put out the word only to superfans and other people who’ve already bought all of your books.
The Right Way: Identify the people who are just one push away from buying your books, and send them the flash sale as a limited time, limited audience offer.
10. Team Up With Other Authors
Get with three to five other authors in your genre and arrange some kind of group promotion. Combine it with some of the other ideas on this list for extra traction.
The Wrong Way: Use people, treating them like they’re only as good as the help they can give you.
The Right Way: Turn the promotion into an ongoing success partnership to drive readers toward all of your audiences.
11. Set Up on Goodreads
Goodreads is a source for a surprising number of book recommendations that actually drive book sales. You don’t even have to be that active. You just have to be on there so others can recommend and review your work.
The Wrong Way: Putting up a bare-bones profile that doesn’t look good or make you look even better.
The Right Way: Putting real effort into your profile and book descriptions so you come off as a professional writer who people would like to know better.
12. Screenshot a 5-Star Review
Grab your favorite 5-star review off Amazon for one of your books, turn it into a jpg file, and post it on social media with some celebratory text. Some people will congratulate you. Others will get interested and buy the book in question. A few will become devoted, life-long fans.
The Wrong Way: Using any kind of paid for or fake review. Posting without any kind of easy follow-up for intrigued viewers.
The Right Way: Pair it with a link to where to buy the book. Even better, pair it with a flash sale for the title in question.
13. Sign Up For KDP Select
KDP Select is a program where you agree to sell a book on Amazon only in exchange for access to some powerful promotional tools. Don’t put all your books on this, but put some so you can use the tools without sacrificing flexibility.
The Wrong Way: Just signing up, but never using the tools.
The Right Way: Incorporating the power of KDP Select into your promotional efforts.
14. Call a Bar or Coffee Shop
Schedule a reading there sometime in the next few weeks. Use it to spread the word, talk shop, and sell some books.
The Wrong Way: Just show up without doing any real promotional efforts.
The Right Way: Team up with other local authors and creatives to make it a really big event.
15. Post Some Book Reviews
Review some books in your genre, mentioning that you are an author in the same area. Some readers will notice that and go to check out what you write, as well.
The Wrong Way: Be snarky, snide, or unprofessional. It makes you look like a jerk.
The Right Way: Provide a useful, honest review phrased in a way that demonstrates how you’re a passionate fan of the genre.
16. Publish a Free Sample
Grab a sample chapter, short story, or novella for your book and post it as a freebie to garner interest and to collect addresses for your email list. If you write nonfiction, create a report, cheat sheet, or other tool to do the same thing.
The Wrong Way: Make your sample beautiful but don’t promote it well, or promote really well something that’s not compelling.
The Right Way: Publish something short and beautiful, then tell everybody about it.
17. Update Your Email Signature
This is a simple one and done deal. Alter your email signature so it includes the fact that you’re an author, and a link to where people can buy your book or sign up for your newsletter.
The Wrong Way: Just spitting down some copy without making it compelling.
The Right Way: Spend as much time writing this as you do your book descriptions. Make it shine, and demand follow-through.
18. Sign Up at Inkitt or This is Writing
These are two of our favorite free book promo sites, and will help you get the word out about your book. It takes regular effort, but once you have it going it will continue to bring you new interested readers.
The Wrong Way: Posting without followthrough. These sites require upkeep and attention.
The Right Way: Make participation in these sites a regular item on your to-do list, so it gets the time and attention it requires.
19. Do a No-Cost Giveaway
Find a few things around the house that you don’t need or want anymore. They could be related to what you write, or they could be total white elephants. Make a giveaway where people can win them by buying your books, signing up for your newsletter, or spreading the word about your work.
The Wrong Way: Focusing the message on people who already know about you.
The Right Way: Tying entries into either being a new reader, or bringing a new reader on board.
20. Create a Gift Pack
Put together a pack of books people can buy at a discount. This could be several of your books, a book each from you and several other authors, or any other combination of books. Promote it for a limited time to drum up interest.
The Wrong Way: Putting so many of your books in that people don’t have anything to buy at full price.
The Right Way: Teaming up with several authors so you all help promote it together.
I Dare You
If you start this list on December 1st and go straight through to Christmas Eve, you will have done more to earn publicity for your work than many people do all year. Then you can rest for a few days, before you ramp up to blow your goals away starting in January.
Image by Mohamed Hassan.