Promoting and marketing your books is vital to success. After all, readers can’t flock to you if they don’t know you exist. But promotion can be expensive, and all that overhead comes out of your pocket.
Here are 10 ways to promote your book, even if you have no funds:
1. Guest blog posts
Despite the rumors, guest posts aren’t dead. They can still be a great way to bring a bit of attention to yourself and your work. The secret, however, is to write posts for blogs aimed at readers of your kind of book.
Do a bit of searching to find blogs in your genre, and reach out to the owners with an offer to write a guest post. Many blogs have guidelines for guest posts, so search these out (and follow them) if they exist.
And don’t forget to put a short bio (one or two sentences) at the bottom of the post, to point people to your work. Something like:
Bob Smith is the authors of “Killing Thyme: A Cookbook Mystery.” You can find him and his books at bobsmithwrites.com.
COST: Nothing but your time.
2. Blog & Podcast Interviews
Some bloggers, and nearly all podcasters, are actively looking for authors to interview. Again, do a search to find content producers in your genre, and reach out via their websites or other contact methods.
It helps to make a good pitch, and the secret to this is to tell the content producer what makes you a good interview. For example:
I am the author of ‘Killing Thyme: A Cookbook Mystery.’ I wrote the book based, in part, on my 25 years as a professional chef. It was therapy, really—after 25 years I wanted to murder everyone I worked with, and double-murder everyone who ate at the restaurant. It seemed smarter to just write a novel, and take my revenge on the page.
I have listened to your podcast/read your blog for years, and I believe your audience would really enjoy hearing how I came to be a novelist. I’d appreciate an interview, and the chance to share my story, as well as promote my new book.
Thanks for your thyme!
Er … time.
COST: Thyme. Er … time.
3. Make Your Own Podcast and Podiobooks
Podcasts are a hugely growing market, because they offer free content that listeners can search and play at their leisure. There are podcasts on every conceivable topic, including shows focused on telling stories. These are commonly known as podiobooks.
Read your work aloud and record it with your phone or computer, or with a separate recording device if you have one. Once recorded, you can make these available on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and many other sites. Use a service such as Libsyn or Simplecast.fm, each of which supply RSS feeds that can be used to deliver your content to subscribers.
At the beginning and end of each broadcast, tell people where they can find you and your books online.
COST: ~$15 per month for hosting.
4. Create a YouTube Channel
Like podcasting, video is increasingly popular, and covers every topic you can think of. Create a YouTube channel where you can talk about your work, read samples, interview other authors, answer reader/viewer questions, and anything else you come up with.
You could, for example, create a video slideshow to accompany a reading of your work. In the notes for the video, write a paragraph or two about yourself and your work, and then link to where people can find you online.
COST: Free, and you might even be able to monetize the channel and get paid!
5. Join reader groups on Facebook (and elsewhere)
This one is tricky because A) it’s time consuming, and B) it’s completely ineffective if you try to spam the groups with “buy my book” messaging all the time. It’s much better, and more effective, if you join a group as a participate, and take the time to establish yourself.
For example, if you write science fiction or thrillers or any other genre, join groups where readers are talking about books, films, television shows, etc. for those genres. Join in the discussion, and become engaged with the group as a fellow fan.
Once people know and trust you, that’s when you can organically interject that you’re a writer. Something like “I used something similar to the cryptex in DaVinci Code in one of my books. It’s not exactly the same, but a similar concept.” If someone asks you about your book at that point, you can put a link to it in the comments. Most groups prohibit out-and-out advertising, but they’re usually ok with linking to something in response to someone asking a question.
The point is, be an active member of the group, not just a lurking advertiser. Promotion can come across as scammy if it’s overdone. Be a good group member, join the discussions, contribute to the community, and the community will be much happier about supporting you.
COST: Just your time, but totally worth it to gain an entire community of friends who share your interests.
6. Go On a Local Book Tour
Contact schools, libraries, book stores and anywhere else you can think of and ask if you can do a reading and signing, with a portion of book sales going to that group. Most schools and libraries won’t charge you a thing, but donations would be welcome and help grease the wheels.
COST: A percentage of your book sales.
7. Promoted Posts on Facebook
If you can manage any sort of budget, even $5 per day, you can get some traction with a promoted post.
Write the post as if it were an ad for your book, including a nice, attention getting photo. You can use Canva.com to get a free stock image (or pay $1 for one), and then put your book over that that image, if you like. Use that to complement the short bit of text you’ll write for your post.
Post this on your Author page on Facebook. From there, you can share it anywhere you like, including groups you belong to, if rules allow. More importantly, you can also do a paid promotion from your author page, at which point the post becomes an ad. You can do these pretty cheap, and they’re worth it to nab a few new readers.
COST: $5-$10 per day (more or less, depending on your budget)
8. Use Your Mailing List
If you don’t have a mailing list, start one, and start offering something to get people to sign up. I recommend offering a short story in the universe of your book.
Make that story exclusive, though. People can only get it if they sign up on your list.
And once they are on your list, send them emails about you, your work, the vacation you’re taking, etc. Ask them questions about themselves, too. Get them engaged. Don’t just spam them with “buy my book” all the time. Treat your mailing list like distant friends that you’re keeping informed about your life and work.
You can use Mailchimp to build a free list, and upgrade to paid services later.
COST: Free, with some time for good measure
9. Use Instafreebie
Put a book on Instafreebie and start participating in group promotions. You can usually find these by participating in author groups on Facebook (20BooksTo50K is a good one to join).
This will help you build your mailing list, but it will also allow you to promote your other books, if you put an Also By page in your freebie. You can use Draft2Digital to convert your manuscript for free, and add a bunch of very useful promotional pages, then upload the free ePub to Instafreebie to start building your list.
COST: $20 per month for an Instafreebie subscription, and no charge for using Draft2Digital.
10. Group Promotions
Get involved in group promotions. Again, you’ll usually come across these in Facebook author groups. The idea is to join forces with other authors of your genre, and agree to share each other’s work with your mutual mailing lists and social networks.
COST: Free, with a pinch of time.
These are just a few options to try, but the truth is the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. The best advice is to get creative, and get involved. Be a part of the audience you’re trying to reach, so that you are accepted as one of them, and it will be a lot easier to casually pitch your work. And use that creative noodle of yours to think of all the non-intrusive, polite, community-building ways to introduce your books into the environments inhabited by your audience.