Publishing is expensive, right? Well, yes, especially if you go about it the way that many blogs and books recommend, which assume you have unlimited funds, time, and energy in order to do what you like. But most of us—I’m assuming, at least—are not exactly rolling in it, not with the economy the way it is, and not with this whole thing called “having a life” is. Life can be exhausting, and expensive, and self-publishing your book should be part of the recovery process—not contributing to the problem!
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of ten ways you can market your book without breaking the bank. And if you have any ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them! Please feel free to drop me a line in the comments section, below, or you can contact us over Facebook or Twitter. (Our twitter handle is @selfpubadvisor.) Best of all, all ten marketing strategies I’ve listed below are cheap.
- Reach readers where they live. This is a process which starts with researching them. Thoroughly. What are their demographic details? How old are they? Where do they live, geographically speaking? Are they diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender? What social media platforms do they use and which have they discarded or never picked up to begin with? In the case of younger readers, are they old enough to be in command of their own savings–or will purchases be made by parents and caregivers? What subjects occupy their waking thoughts? You also have to actively go out and reach them. Carefully and effectively. With precision. Draft a well-thought-out, targeted marketing strategy that pares back on the manifold possibilities open to you … to just the ones that will reach your core readership. Once you have established a sustainable system in place, you can begin experimenting your way through additional marketing strategies and see what is sustainable.
- Give them a taste. Whether we’re talking about an e-book or an audiobook, digital formats offer some truly exciting possibilities for incentivization. Amazon automatically offers the first ten or so pages for free (the so-called “first chapter freebie”) and you can replicate this on your blog and with other online retailers. Curating your own freebie chapter isn’t an option with Amazon, but it is when you choose the method of delivery via blog or email, and I highly recommend taking the time to edit what makes it in to your freebie–this gives you an edge over the Amazon preview, which often cuts off in the middle of a paragraph. Make sure the freebie ends with some sort of natural cliffhanger or emotional hook, to keep your readers coming back!
- Discount it. Perhaps the greatest weapon in your digital arsenal is the option to offer timed discounts and sales. Because you control the base price as a self-publishing author, you get to shape your own sales! You can time them to coincide with events of national interest (say, Father’s Day or the anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s final fateful voyage–you know, only relevant to you and your work) or you can use the calendar as a guiding star. Sales tend to find success when they close on the last or first day of a month, holidays, and so on.
- Host giveaways and hand out merch! You don’t want to leverage these as bribes for reviews, but you can certainly use them to incentivize coming to other events where your books are sold, or to encourage the sort of general enthusiasm for your work that will naturally lead to reviews!
- Offer a limited edition or bundle! Comic book authors have created some really good models for bundles that you can use for inspiration, and creating short runs of specialty covers is also a specialty of theirs; don’t hesitate to mix it up to build demand.
- Create loyalty by doling out insider access. Readers want to feel special for being your fans, and you should reward this impulse; maybe the purchase of a book becomes a ticket to an author interview via Google Hangouts–or maybe it gives them access to a limited-access “behind the scenes” page on your website? The options are endless!
- Set up a book signing. You probably already guessed that this would rate a top ten list, and you’d be right! Book signings and readings are amongst the most powerful and effective marketing tools available. They take some work, logistically speaking, in that you have to be willing to carry a lot of the weight in organizing the programming and making the calls to set it up, as well as printing flyers and submitting a notice to your local newspapers—whatever it takes to alert people to an upcoming event. But the payoff is rich, and ongoing.
- Get thee to a book fair! Much like book signings, these events will give you and your book invaluable face-out exposure, bring you into contact with experts, reviewers, distributors, and many others who will be interested in partnering with you in the future. You can attend solo, or you can partner up with other authors who have published through your indie publishing company in order to lower costs. I highly recommend this kind of partnership, because it bodes well for my next point, which is ….
- Play well with others. Most self-publishing authors, no matter where they’re at in their publishing journey, could benefit from strong, dynamic, and useful collaboration. Collaboration can look like a lot of different things:
- pairing up with another author or multiple authors to host a book discussion or workshop together;
- gathering several other authors together and applying to run a booth at a local book fair, or a panel at a “con” (convention);
- conducting interviews with other authors and sharing them on each other’s websites, providing insight into the authorial process; and
- co-writing short stories or novellas together, to be distributed as giveaways or free to the public online.
- Optimize. What does it actually mean to “optimize”? It means to try new things. To try every new thing. To try a new thing regularly. To try it daily. To try it … always. To think about life and being an author and marketing as some kind of laboratory, where experimentation is the rule and not the exception–and where, like good scientists, we document our progress thoroughly so that we can track, exactly, which outcomes can be attributed to which changes in method.
You are not alone. ♣︎