By Laura Marshall

If you had a million dollars, what would you do to promote your book?

…that would be pretty sweet, wouldn’t it? But do you have a million dollars lying around? I didn’t think so.

Most writers have a very limited budget to get your book out there. And by limited budget I really mean no budget at all. So to help you out I’ve compiled a list of 10 marketing things you can do for free (or very cheap).


1 – Create Your Hook

Okay, I’m sure you’re thinking “Laura, I want to know tactical things to promote my book!” But hear me out. Before you start promoting your book you really need a way to describe your book in under three sentences. This will come up a lot – either if you’re pitching someone in person or if you’re doing it online. The average attention span of an adult is 8 seconds. You need to get your point across before they tune you out.

Here’s how it works – get their attention, tempt them, then encourage them to find out more. For example, I used this hook for Hair Side, Flesh Side on both posters and in GoodReads giveaways to lure in potential readers – “What would you do if you found the lost manuscript of Jane Austen written on the inside of your skin?” Interested? I bet you are! Using this hook on posters increased foot traffic to the book table at conventions and encouraged them to at least check out the book. The key with the hook is to give customers a reason to be interested in your book.

The final step is to include a call to action.The call to action will tell the interested customer what the next step is – find out more, read a free excerpt, etc. Once you have a hook you can use it in your promotional materials, social media and talking points. If you need help coming up with your hook, look back at your elevator pitch and logline and start from there.

2 – Email

Now that you’ve got your hook I’ll give you the tactical marketing ideas. In the age of social media, email is often completely overlooked. But like social media, it’s completely free – and it works!

If you’re a writer at the beginning of your career, email your friends to let them know your book is available, ask them to add a review to Amazon or Goodreads, ask them to share the link on their social media. While this may seem like explicit self promotion just remember that they are your friends and in theory they want to support you, right? Just don’t spam them. That’s the fastest way to lose friends. But a simple, one-time email letting them know your book is available won’t hurt.

If you want to take it to the next level and keep people interested in your work, start up a simple mailing list. You can use this in moderation to share your big news, new releases, bonus content and anything else you feel like. There’s lots of great free tools like MailChimp to help you set it up and send emails. But make sure you have a clear opt-out link

3 – Reach Out to Reviewers

You may feel like only your publisher or a publicist can reach out to reviewers, but that’s not always the case. I mean, yes, some places explicitly say only the publisher/publicist, but there are still lots of places that don’t. Start building a list of potential reviewers and see what’s required. Remember, publishers have a limited amount of time and money to push your book so you need to be out there requesting reviews too. And if you’ve got a list that only accepts requests from the publisher pass it on to them. They may not use it, but it can also save them time and make their job easier. Just don’t be pushy – with reviewers or your publisher.

4 – Be A Guest Blogger

Just as with reviewers, reach out to bloggers to see if they would be willing to have you write a guest post for them. Lots of blogs host guest posts and again it makes less work for them. Just be sure to research the blog first and pitch them a post that they would be interested in. Go read these 17 Foolish Mistakes to Avoid as a Guest Blogger before you start.


5 – Book a Reading

Every author knows they’ve got to do readings. Do you just wait around to be invited to give a reading? Well, that may work for you, but it doesn’t always happen that way. If you want to get your book out there research local reading series and conventions and see if they have any openings. Remember that they may not have heard of you or read your work so make sure to include a description of who you are, what you write and any relevant publications. And then practice, practice, practice! You’re only going to attract new readers if your work really shines so show up with a excerpt you’ve prepared that fits the timing of your slot!

6 – Get Social

Yeah, you already know this one, but I feel like it needs to be included on the list anyway. There’s tons of social media platforms out there – Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Ello, LinkedIn, Google+, the list goes on – that you can be involved in. You don’t have to do everything, just do what you do well. And if you’re not going to keep up with it, don’t do it at all.

7 – Online Contests

Contests are a great way to promote your book and all they cost is a free book. Facebook, Twitter, your website or any social media platform offer easy ways to do it. All you need to do is come up with a fun and simple idea to get people interested. For example, a retweet contest works well on Twitter and it gets your message out there. Before you start be sure to check any rules/regulations that may limit what you can do on social media. For Facebook promotion guidelines go here and for Twitter guidelines go here.

8 – Giveaway on Goodreads

This is a no brainer. If you’re a writer then chances are you, or at the very least your book, are on Goodreads. According to Goodreads, an average of 825 people enter to win any given giveaway. This means over 800 people will show even a passing interest in your book. Even though they might not win, they are certainly more interested in your book than they were before. They might even buy it! This is free publicity and it’s very easy. All it costs you is a book. Find out how to run a giveaway, and other things you can do, in the Goodreads Author Program. A word to the wise, you get greater exposure by running a series of shorter contests for a single copy rather than one contest for multiple copies!


9 – Update Your Website

I assume you already have a website. If you don’t, you should probably get one. Here’s a great resource for do-it-yourself website building. Now let’s go back to updating your website. This is also a no-brainer. It’s the age of the internet and you need to make sure you’ve got the most recent information available for those who go looking. If you host a blog, write a new post. New book out? Post it on your website with a link to buy. Or…

10 – Give Them A Sample

Once your website is up and running whet your reader’s appetite. Include the first chapter of your novel for free. Or put up a free short story. Give them a taste of what you’ve got. They will feel a lot more confident paying for something once they’re already hooked.

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