16 Free Ways to Market Your Book

I’ve been spending some time the last couple of days working hard on marketing Acceptance

You should start marketing at least 6 months prior to your book’s launch (in the case of blogging, it’s better if you start a year or so in advance). And the general consensus is that you should devote a certain amount of time every day (30 minutes) or in a block of time once a week (3 hours) to marketing your book. You not only do this prior to publication, but also afterwards, until your book is selling enough copies every month to make you happy.

Here are some of the ways you can market your book:

1. Blogging. It takes time to build a blog readership, so you need to start this well in advance of the publication of your book. I think most authors (myself included) start out talking about what we’re writing (the blog-as-writing-diary), but if you really want to have followers who are not family members, you need to offer information or entertainment (or both).

Common blog posts for writers include the mechanics of writing (grammar, punctuation, etc. help), how to get published/self-publish, book reviews, author/blogger interviews, and/or free stories (like Bloodsuckers).

2. Blog Networking. In order to get people on your blog, you need to participate on other people’s blogs. Find people you want to follow and comment on posts. But don’t spam. Don’t mention your book unless it’s relevant to what you’re commenting on. And in most cases you should not put a link to your blog or book in the comment. Instead, it’s standard to provide your link when you log in to post (and it will be linked with your name and/or picture).

While you can certainly follow people’s blogs just because you like them, when you go looking for new blogs, think about the audience for your blog and for your book. Since most of my blog posts are about writing and publishing, and since my writing is, at the moment, mostly about vampires, I tend to hang out on the blogs of other writers and people who like vampires. Someone who is into contemporary literature isn’t likely to like either my blog or my book. Likewise, they’re not likely to be posting something I find interesting or useful (although you never know).

And once you start getting new followers, check out their blogs. More likely than not, they’re blogging about things that you like, so you can learn something. Maybe you’ll even want to post about something they’ve mentioned and share a link to their blog. They’re likely to reciprocate at some point in the future, so it’s like sharing your audiences.

3. Website. Some people prefer to have all their info on a blog, but I had so many extras associated with just Acceptance (that’s more common when you publish fiction than non-fiction), I felt it was really cluttering my blog, and it was just going to get worse as I added books. So I set up a website for my static information, like book info and extras that don’t change much. My blog remains fluid, with new content posted every week.  (My blog is also a form of social media, because people can leave comments.)

Having both a blog and website means you have two ways for people to find you on the internet.

4. Facebook Fan Page. Some people seem to get more mileage out of their Facebook fan page than I’m getting right now. But you’ll never know until you try it. (And, like a blog, it can be something that takes a while to build up.) Create a fan page and use something like NetworkedBlogs to automatically post on Facebook when you do a new blog post (you can also have it post to your personal Facebook page).

But, in addition to letting your fans know there’s a new blog post available, put some other content on it. It’s a good place to put info that’s perhaps too short for a blog post or share your favorite links or short book reviews. Regardless, make sure the bulk of your content is something that’s informational or entertaining for your readers. No one wants an endless stream of ads on their Facebook wall.

5. TwitterLike Facebook, only with even smaller amounts of info (160 characters, to be exact). It’s also like blogging, in that you should find other people to follow and try to interact with them. (I’m still working on the interacting part; Twitter is not my preferred environment.)  You can also use NetworkedBlogs to announce new blog posts on Twitter automatically.

I suggest using Buffer to help you time your posts on both Facebook and Twitter so you don’t end up sharing loads of info one day, then go quiet for several days. Steady, consistent amounts of info is the way to go with those. Right now, I’m making one post to Facebook per day and three on Twitter (not counting automatic blog notices). Some people tweet 5-7 times a day, but do be careful about tweeting and retweeting too much, because you can quickly drive people crazy (or at least drive me crazy).

6. Newsletter. I’ve seen newsletters touted by a number of people, but I will admit I don’t have one and have no immediate plans for one. I prefer to just use my blog to share my promotional materials (announcements, coupons, etc.). If my blog had a huge readership–and especially if my blog readership tended to be different than the sort of people who would like my books–then I might consider running a separate newsletter to make book announcements. But, as it is, it’s not worth my effort. However, it might be something that you want to consider–especially if you don’t want to blog. You can collect followers on a website and then use the newsletter to deliver the sort of active content that others deliver on their blog. Newsletters really shouldn’t be put out more than once a month. The minimum is 3-4 times a year.

Catherine Caffeinated recommends Mailchimp. It’s a free service that mails out your newsletter for you. (You do not want to mail out a newsletter to a large number of people from your regular e-mail address host, or they will shut you down because it looks like you (or a hacker) is spamming. As me how I know this.)

8. Forums. Figure out who your target audience is going to be, then find the forums where they hang out. Again, you are not going to spam the forums with ads about your book. Instead, you’re going to actually read the posts and make your own comments. Many forums allow signatures, and you can put a link to your book or blog in your signature. This is also a good place to do some market research for your next novel(s). What do people like reading? Who is the hot author in your genre? If you’re still in the editing phase of your book, this can also be a good place to run ideas by people (e.g. “Do you think X, Y, Z would work in a historical romance novel?) or even find people to be your beta readers.

I like to spend some time over on the NaNoWriMo forums, especially during November, when they’re at their most active. Having a good knowledge of history, and having been through NaNoWriMo and produced a book, I like to help others who are just getting started writing or who are researching history. I always learn something while I’m there, and some people will check out the link in my signature.

9. Book Reviews. Once you have your book published, you need reviews to help generate sales. There are two different kinds of reviews: the ones on your stores (Amazon, Smashwords, et al) and the ones on other people’s blogs/Facebook posts. It’s good to have both.

Most people don’t want to risk their hard-earned cash on a book that may suck a lot. Having a few good reviews on Amazon, Smashwords, etc. helps assure people that your book is not riddled with spelling errors and plot holes. Your  followers on your blog might be willing to read a copy of your book (send it to them for free or give them a Smashwords coupon) and give you a review at the store(s) of your choice. Not only does having a review help convince other people to buy your book, but it will help your sales ranking at most booksellers, which, in turn, will make your book easier for new people to find.

You’re going to have to hunt for the other kind of reviewer. Google book review blogs in your genre. The top results on Google are probably from bloggers/reviewers with a pretty large fan base, but look to see if they have their follower/view stats posted somewhere. If the blog is small, then I don’t think it’s wrong to ask the reviewer to give you a review on at least one store, in addition to their blog. Bloggers with a large audience, however, will probably only review on their blog. But if they’re getting a million page views every month, you don’t need their review on Amazon. Their review will reach more people and carry more weight on their blog. In short, it is a word-of-mouth recommendation.

A word of warning: make sure you read the instructions/about page and see if the blogger will read and review self-published work. Some won’t. Don’t waste your time or theirs trying to contact them. If your novel breaks through and becomes the shizzle, they’ll come find you.

10. Goodreads. I’ve heard Goodreads described as “Facebook for people who like to read.” You can post what you’re reading, see what your friends are reading, leave reviews, get suggestions from friends, and participate in forums.

Once you publish, you need to upload the info on your book and establish your author page. This way, Goodreaders can easily review your book, recommend it to friends (remember, word-of-mouth is by far and away the #1 way to sell your book), discuss it on the forums, or put it in their favorites list (which will help its popularity).

Once you’ve put your book info on Goodreads, you can “add ebook” from your book’s page and allow readers on Goodreads to 1) download your book from there, or 2) download a sample from there. I don’t know what (if any) tracking info Goodreads has on their website, so it might be hard to see how many people are looking at your book or downloading a free copy or sample, but they do make it easy to click through to a retailer, like Amazon, so the person can buy your book.

I put a 50% sample of Acceptance on Goodreads (you can get the same sample on Smashwords) and I’m going to upload The Bloodsuckers Volumes 1 and 2 for direct download.

11. Cross-Market Your Books. Don’t let one of your books go to market without using that opportunity to market your other stuff. Your first book should direct people to your blog, website, social media, newsletter, etc. Subsequent books (or short stories) should not only do that, but also tout a previous or new release. Kind of a “If you liked this book, check out my newest book, X” sort of thing. You can get a surprising amount of marketing info on 1-2 pages at the end of your book.

The beauty of ebooks is that they’re easily changed, so it’s not much effort to add sales info for your new books to your old ones. As any person with a business will tell you, you get most of your business from repeat customers. (You get most of your new business from word-of-mouth–i.e. those repeat customers telling all their friends.)

12. Pinterest. Have a board just for your book (or book series) and share pictures that are related to it.

13. YouTube. Make a trailer for your book and put it on YouTube. If you’re one of those people who is good on camera (definitely not me), then do some vlogs or otherwise share instructional material. Or you can do videos related to things in your book. For example, if your book is a contemporary romance and your heroine is a florist, you might make a simple video about flower arranging and mention your book once or twice. This way, people who come to see your video might end up picking up your book as well.

Pinterest allows you to pin videos, so don’t forget to cross-link your stuff by pinning your videos to your book’s board.

14. CafePress. I’ve found that CafePress has a definite learning curve to it, so I don’t have my store up and running yet, but I do intend to have Acceptance-themed merchandise available through it. That allows me to make a little secondary money from my book, and you never know; someone might see the shirt on CafePress and get curious about the book that inspired it.

15. Press Releases. Check out my previous post on how I did mine.

16. Real-Life Networking. Find local book or writer clubs. National Novel Writing Month is getting ready to start in November, and local groups are already starting to meet. While you’re not going to sell a lot of books for the time investment, you will meet people who have all sorts of connections in the book and writing worlds, and that can be worth more to you in the long run than selling a hundred books.

Also, get some business cards. I started out with some personal ones from VistaPrint (I think I paid $6 for them), but my husband and I were just talking about me getting some new ones which are specific to my book. That way, when I’m talking to someone about my book (be that at a writer’s get-together, synagogue, a re-enactment, Halloween party, work, etc.) I can give them a business card related to me and/or my book. Obviously it will have my name, a link to my blog and website, plus my e-mail address. For a book-specific card, I might use the short description of my book on Smashwords (you can get two-sided cards).

Conclusion

I’m poor (and you probably are too, if you’re just starting out), so I can’t afford to pay to market my book. I haven’t paid for anything except my website, which I funded through Kickstarter. But there are some decent, easy-to-build website packages out there for free, so even that doesn’t have to cost anything to start.

If you have some money to put towards advertising, don’t look at Google or Facebook ads; those are expensive and aren’t likely to hit many of the readers in your demographic. I’ve heard that Goodreads has good ad-targeting (at least everyone who sees it is going to be someone who is into books). You might also consider ads on some of those very popular book blogs that you found when you were looking for reviewers. You’ll know they’re being seen by people who like to read books in the same genre as yours.

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16 comments on “16 Free Ways to Market Your Book

  1. I love the Cafepress idea! I wonder if I’ll be allowed to put my book cover on t-shirts, mugs, etc., since iUniverse is designing it for me. Something I’ll have to look into …

    Also, I’ve noticed that I have a hard time differentiating between your words and your links in your posts. Perhaps make the font colour of the links different, so that it stands out more? Right now your link text is vaguely browner, but not enough to really notice unless I’m really looking for it.

    • Keri Peardon says:

      Yeah, ask them if you have full rights to your cover. I would venture to say that you will. If you were hiring an artist on your own, you would have full rights.

      I wasn’t actually planning on putting my cover or portion of it on shirts, though. I’m going to take funny lines and use them. Like, “You’re so full of shit, you squish when you walk” and “Love’s a bitch.” But if you’ve got great original art on your cover, then it probably would make a neat shirt. If I owned the picture of the dragon from The Last Golden Dragon, I would make that into a shirt. I think it would be popular. (The artist who drew that is in college, so she’s too busy to fuss with doing that for herself right now, but hopefully she will consider it later.)

      Yeah, I find the link thing annoying, too. I wish it had a solid underline, but that’s not standard with this theme. I’ll see if I can change the color, though.

      • Keri Peardon says:

        No go on the link issue. That’s just the theme and I can’t change the color unless I pay to upgrade. And I’m going to have to sell more than 16 books to pay for that.

      • Michelle Proulx says:

        Ooh, funny lines! I like that. I’ll have to dust off my graphic design skills. And for changing font colour, I believe there’s a button up on the toolbar you can press. It looks like an A with a thick line underneath.

  2. M. P. Little says:

    Keri;
    Thanks for this post…I really need it. As you know I am new to this online stuff…so everything seems to be helpful to me.

    Although #2 – not so much, as I love to read other books as well…Yes I will start on some of the children’ blogs as well, as I can see where that would be helpful, but if I did not start on Michelle Proulx’s blog, who sent me to you, I would not have read such a wonderful book.

    Acceptance is Great!!! I can’t wait for the new book to come out…2014…really, I have to wait that long? Not like you have nothing else to do or anything, but I will be in line to buy that one too!

    Thanks for everything and for sharing your talent!
    M. P. Little

    • Keri Peardon says:

      Glad you liked the book! I’m going to be releasing a book next year, although not the next one for Acceptance. I’m still in my first editing stage with it, and I’m making some major changes. I didn’t want to be rushed to finish that series because it’s my baby, and I want it to be as good as possible. Both Twilight and The Hunger Games seemed to suffer a rush-to-press problem with the later books in their series. I wanted to rip out entire chapters in Breaking Dawn that were unnecessary and of no benefit to the plot. And the way that Mockingjay ended was a bit disappointing and there were some plot holes that I think would have been fixed had it been given some time to sit, ferment, and then get a good editing.

      • Wallace says:

        You’re probably right about Twilight and Hunger Games being rushed in the last books in the series, but you know the old saying, Strike while the iron is hot. Neither author new in advance that their series would be such long lasting hits, and I’d guess both thought that, since the first book took off so well, they’d better get the second and third and fourth books out as soon as possible to capitalize on their success before the fickled popular taste forgets them and moves on to something else. In hindsight, it turns out neither author really had to hurry, but they didn’t know that at the time and the first book might have just been a flash in the pan with the sequels being ignored. Better to bring out the sequel while the first book is still selling well than to leave a gap between them that might adversely affect sales.

      • Keri Peardon says:

        Yeah, that’s a source of debate in the publishing industry: how quickly will people cool for a series? The modern thought is: quickly. There is a drive among publishers to get their popular writers producing three novels a year. Nora Roberts does 5 or 6 (although she’s naturally that prolific).

        However, that’s not been the historic pace of publishing. It used to be that writers did one novel per year, so you always had to wait a year between sequels. For people who did huge novels with a lot of research–science fiction, for example–the delay might be two years or more. Jean M. Auel averaged about 5 years between her novels, except the delay between the fourth and fifth was more than a decade. But when it was announced that the sequel was, at last, available, people ran out and bought it (me included).

        Given that it will take a year or two for my novel to breakout (if it does), I’m not worried about the delay. By the time it’s being snatched up, it will be almost time for the second one. And if I breakout well enough–to the point that I can switch to writing full-time–I will probably release the third one sooner, simply because I’ll have more time to work on it.

        Also, because I do all my own marketing, I can easily energize my fan base in advance of the second book. I can post excerpts and teasers on my blog. I can remind everyone to re-read the first book in anticipation of the second one coming out. I’ll have a countdown calendar again. I may even figure out how to do a soft release so that people who are on my blog or newsletter (if I have one by then) can buy my book 2-4 weeks before the official publication.

      • M. P. Little says:

        I understand and greatly appreciate the time and hard work you are putting in. I just had to let you know that I am waiting (will not say patiently, as I want to go on the next one), and I will be in line when it is out!

      • Keri Peardon says:

        I’m just glad you like it that much! People being eager is a good thing!

  3. harperpages says:

    I would probably never have used Facebook ads off my own impulse (because of the expense, as you mentioned) – however, something cool that convinced me to give it a try was the fact that, once I reached 50 fans on my facebook page, Facebook sent me $50 of free advertising credit. I figured I might as well use that up, and it’s actually brought in a good number of fans. If you select the right targeting specifications, it seems to be decently successful. I’m debating whether or not to continue the ad with my own cash here and there as I can, but either way, I’m pleased with the number of new fans that have poured in, and just thought the $50 freebie was cool and worth sharing!

    • Keri Peardon says:

      Damnit, I didn’t get $50 in free credit. (At least I don’t think I did; I might have accidentally deleted it as spam. :-o) Glad to hear that it got you some fans, though.

      A $50 advertisement run would have to result in 15 sales of my e-book or 41 paperbacks for me to break even on the cost. For a $2.99 e-book, you’d have to get 24 sales from it to break even. For a 99 cent story, you’d have to sell a whopping 143 copies to break even.

      Out of curiosity, is Facebook pay per click, like Google, or do they give you a limited amount of impressions for the $50?

      • harperpages says:

        Yes, depending on actual sales it may not be worth spending your own money on in the end. We will see! (I actually missed the first email Facebook sent me about the free credit, but just by chance happened to bother reading the reminder email they sent me. Whew!) When I set up the ad, they gave me the option of paying per click or paying per thousand impressions. I tried out the pay-per-click to see how it went, and it definitely didn’t do nearly as well as when I switched to paying for impressions. I’ve gotten about 9,200 impressions for roughly $11, which has resulted in 44 new fans. I can’t say how it has/will affect sales yet, just because August and September were bad sales months for me anyway, and while sales have indeed picked up a bit in correlation with the new fans, I’m not sure if that’s the new fans buying books or just that October would have picked back up as a more typical month either way. We’ll see!

      • Keri Peardon says:

        We’re now entering the Christmas sales season, and they’re predicting good sales for ebooks, so hopefully everyone’s sales will pick up. Even if your new fans haven’t bought yet, they may have put you on their wish list for Christmas, or they may use gift card presents to buy it.

        They say you have to hear about something, on average, three times before you remember it and really become interested. So, with some subtle, subliminal marketing buyacceptancenow between now and Christmas, you can hopefully convince many of them to buy your stuff.

        It’s interesting that the pay-per-click didn’t work as well. I wonder if they show it on fewer pages, since they’re not guaranteed to get paid for it?

  4. mari wells says:

    Thanks for the great post Keri. I’m just starting out on all this social media stuff. It totally baffles me most of the time.
    Would you consider doing a few posts on how you do a book trailer and covers and all that self publishing stuff.

    • Keri Peardon says:

      I do have a few posts on doing book covers. Mind you, I haven’t finished the series yet (it’s pretty time-consuming to put together), but you can at least see how to get started. You can also search by the tag “self-publishing” and get old posts of mine about why I decided to do it, my experience, what I did, tools for doing it, etc.

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