Self-publishing

How to Market a Self Published Book (Under a Budget!)

how to market a self published book

Marketing self published books can cost anywhere from zero to tens of thousands of dollars. It all depends on your situation. Maybe you’ve got a passion project that shouldn’t require a hefty budget. Or you aspire to be a full-time author, but for now, you’re needing to start light. Whatever the case, these 10 cost-effective tactics on how to market a self published book can help.

10 cost-effective marketing tips for self published authors

No more gatekeeping. Anyone can self-publish and own the rights to their copyright, creative, and even strategic processes. That means owning the promotions too. Sounds daunting if you know nothing about marketing. However, in today’s digital landscape, you’ll find an abundance of tools and resources at your disposal – like this list on how to promote a self published novel.

P.S. PublishDrive is a self-publishing platform that helps with book marketing along with distribution, royalty reporting, and more.

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Note: Do treat the first five tactics as a prerequisite for your marketing strategy. Most successful indie authors like Lauren Smith and Quinn Loftis are doing the same.

book marketing essentials

Okay, let’s do this!

#1: Craft your author brand

Before anything, take some time to develop a marketing plan for authors. Crafting your brand helps blueprint how you’ll conduct yourself across marketing mediums like social media, email, online advertising, and beyond.

When thinking about your brand, ask yourself questions like:

  • What aspects of my persona do I want to share?
  • What tone of voice do I want to use when interacting with my audience?
  • What kind of design elements best represent my vibe? (e.g. colors, fonts, graphics)
  • How personal do I want to get?

#2: Set up your website and social media

In the world of self-publishing, selling books happens online. And to sell, you have to engage people online. That’s why you want to set up a dedicated website, social media account, or blog page for people to learn more about you. You can hire a professional to build your website. But when under a budget, there are solid options to do it yourself. Wordpress and Wix are easy go-to’s, with costs starting at just $5-20 a month.

If a website doesn’t fit into your budget, set up a free page on blog platforms like Medium or Tumblr. Set up at least one dedicated social media account as well. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are popular choices for authors.

#3: Start an email list

Email marketing is a direct way to promote to your readers. Whether it’s updating your people about a new release or sending a holiday greeting, this is all about nurturing your contacts with continuous communication. Using an email tool like Mailchimp starts as low as $11 a month. Place the link to sign up to your email list on your website, social media bio, and on the back of your book.

“Trending marketing tactics may come and go, but your mailing list will always remain one of your most powerful marketing tools.” Read more on how to set up a mailing list for authors.

#4: Ensure your best cover design and book description

If your budget permits, prioritize your cover design. You can hire a professional designer on Upwork and Fiverr for around $300 to $500 a cover. Your cover is important because it’s the first thing people see when browsing for books. Your design should be professional and enticing.

If you gotta do this one yourself, use Canva to create a design for free. It’s a fantastic tool for people with no design skills. Here’s one I put together in under 10 minutes (read this guide on how to make a cover design free):

book cover design

Along with the cover, your book description or blurb is another element people first come across. Make sure to add the strongest and most emotional hooks in the first few sentences. If you got any awards or reviews from reputable sources, add those too. Here’s a fantastic example:

book description

Check out these 10 book description hacks.

#5: Land book reviews

You can spend a ton of money on advertising your book. But people won’t buy when there are zero reviews. That’s just the nature of e-commerce. So before investing too much in promoting your self published book, ensure at least a handful of book reviews. Ask your family and friends for reviews. Reach out to influential bloggers in your genre. Read more tips on collecting book reviews.

P.S. With PublishDrive, send free review copies straight to reading devices. That's just one of numerous self-publishing features.

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#6: Run a pre-order period

Major bookstores like Amazon count book sales on the first day of release. That means you can collect sales during a pre-order period to increase your chances of landing in bestseller lists come launch day. On self-publishing platforms like PublishDrive, setting up your pre-order campaign is fairly easy across stores like Amazon, Apple, and more. 

#7: Organize a launch event

Want to know how to successfully market a self published book? Celebrate the moment with a launch event! Beyond being fun, throwing a book party is a perfect way to engage with readers. Invite your entire network via your email list, social media, and other channels. Check out this guide that goes over everything you need to plan a virtual book launch.

#8: Try price promotions

Price promotions are where authors list their books for free or discounted. PublishDrive analyzed over 800 price promotion campaigns on stores like Amazon. The main finding? Authors who ran price promos generated 10x more sales. Price promotions work. And it doesn’t cost much to set up a campaign yourself.

Most bookstores like Amazon should have the option to set up your special pricing. With platforms like PublishDrive, you can schedule price promos across multiple stores from a single dashboard.

book price promotions

Extra tip: Promote your discounted or free book by buying paid spots on newsletters and promotional sites. Freebooksy has over 368,000 users looking for free book deals. Bargain Booksy has over 277,000 users looking for titles priced $3.99 and lower. This doesn’t cost more than $70 a spot.

#9: Test out ads

A tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with online ads. Amazon is the mecca of online books, and buying ads on Amazon can help get your book in front of a wider audience. You can start with a budget as low as $5 a day. Read more on how to advertise books online.

#10: Network

Last but not least, join reading and writing groups in your genre. Share your own tips, chat with others, and get plugged in. Check out Reddit for groups like Self Published Writers. Take part in book festivals to meet readers, industry pros, and potential business collaborators. Cross-promote by reaching out to blogs for a guest post. Get more ideas for your book marketing campaigns.

Bonus: Distribute everywhere

Maximize your revenue streams by maximizing your reach. Publish your book in more than one format, like ebook, audiobook, and print. Publish in more than one store. Don’t just stop at Amazon. Sell in spaces like Apple, Google, Kobo, and more.

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