How to Market a Book Without Breaking the Bank
You know what they say: you have to spend money to make money. Or, as the Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus put it in the original Latin, Necesse est facere sumptum qui quaerit lucrum.
That’s right: the financial mind behind this maxim wasn’t some Daddy Warbucks wannabe — it was a writer. And though Plautus wasn’t selling ebooks on the web’s best self-publishing companies, his wisdom still applies to indie authors working today.
Fortunately, investing in your writing career doesn’t have to mean emptying your savings account. Giving your book the perfect, professional cover might require a decent payout up front, but promoting your book is a different story. When it comes to getting your work in front of readers’ eyes, a little DIY can go a long way.
Not sure where to start? Here are three ways to market your book without breaking the bank.
1. Set up an author website
First thing’s first: you need a home base for all your marketing efforts. And that means setting up a killer author website.
You don’t have to get fancy, with all manner of flashy animations and mini-apps. In fact, you should keep in simple, paring away all the distractions so your most essential content stands out. That means putting your work — and links to buy your work — front and center, along with an author bio so readers can get to know the person behind the stories.
In addition to compelling descriptions of all your books, make sure to feature some high-res images of your cover art too. Not only will they lend some visual interest to your site without distracting from your most important content, they’ll help you ensure your books are recognizable right from the thumbnail. Just think of The Great Gatsby, with its lipsticked mouth and glossy eyes, projected in an inky sky over a glowing cityscape. Or The Catcher in the Rye, with its iconic, burnt-orange carousel horse. That’s the level of brand recognition you want for your cover art. And to get there, you’ll have to start by giving it pride of place on your website.
How much will all this cost you? Well, you can set up a no-frills website for free on WordPress. It’s best to register a domain name, though, so you can set up your shop on, say, AnneAuthor.com instead of AnneAuthor.wordpress.com. Don’t worry — a domain name will only cost you about $10-12 a year.
2. Build out your mailing list
After you fill out your site with tantalizing tidbits about your book — and yourself — there’s one more thing you should make sure to add: a place to collect your visitors’ emails. Once you have them, you can feed them into an email marketing platform like MailerLite to promote your books through newsletters.
Of course, not everyone who stumbles across your website will want to give you their contact information for free. That’s why you should entice them a little with a lead magnet. Think of this as a freebie that will draw them in like iron to, well, a magnet. Offer to send something interesting to anyone who signs up — maybe a short story you wrote, or the spreadsheet that took you from brainstorm to publication when you were first writing your book.
Every email you collect with this bait is marketing gold. Those are all people you can woo over time, so that they’re eager to preorder when your next book is set to launch. And best of all, growing your mailing list won’t require dipping into your bank account, at least at first. MailerLite lets you collect up to 1,000 contacts for free. Once you’ve broken past that barrier, you can move up to a paid subscription tier for $15.00 a month, which will let you handle 2,500 emails. But until you hit that benchmark, all you’re investing is the time it takes to craft your lead magnet.
3. Get more eyes on your site with a blog tour
Now, let’s talk about how to feed more names into your mailing list — for free.
During pre-COVID days, one of the most glamorous (and most expensive) book marketing tactics was the book tour. We can’t all be like sci-fi phenom John Scalzi, hitting up 24 cities in five weeks. We can, however, try to replicate that whirlwind dynamic with a blog tour.
On a blog tour, you’ll write guest posts for a wide range of websites frequented by readers in your genre. In exchange for providing your “hosts” with intriguing content, they’ll give you a platform to promote your work. Just make sure to link out to your website — and tell your visitors there’s something in it for them if they offer up their emails.
Unlike a traditional book tour, with its nightmarish tangle of logistical considerations, a blog tour isn’t hard to set up. Just look for book blogs that specialize in your genre, and see if they’re open to guest submissions. Then, get in touch with any promising candidates and pitch something you’d like to contribute. For a craft-focused blog, that could be an inside look into your writing process. For a book reviewer, you could offer a free copy of your latest title in exchange for their honest impressions. The key is to pitch something each blog’s readers would love to read.
The best thing about this promotional hack? It’s completely free! Now, get out there and start connecting with your future fans.