By Sandy Smith,
President, Smith Publicity
How to market a book on a low budget is a question that comes up often. Not every author has a large amount to spend on book marketing. In working with thousands of books over twenty years, we’ve identified several initiatives authors with minimal budgets can do to attract readers. They are things that help build your author brand, improve book discoverability, and spark sales
The key to each of these is understanding your target reader. Your book is not for everyone and does not need to be to succeed. Therefore, it’s essential to focus your time on activities that will benefit you most as you build. It’s crucial to do things that build your name as an author and introduce your book to your ideal reader demographic.
Promote Your Book on Amazon — Make the Most of Your Listing
Amazon is the world’s largest bookseller, and your book listing can either attract interest or immediately turn people off. Authors (and publishers) need to take advantage of every way to showcase who a book. Explain who it is intended for, what makes it unique, and why the author is qualified to write it.
Here is an overview of how to take advantage of your Amazon page:
- Include the full title and subtitle for your book; it is especially crucial for non-fiction titles
- Showcase the book cover image and use the “Look Inside” feature to allow readers to sample your book
- In the book description section, bold the first sentence and make it the most powerful statement about your book that’s possible; add a line of white space after the first sentence; you have 4,000 characters, so use as many words as possible, including keywords people may search
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes a riveting story about friendship, survival and finding your voice, perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins.
Growing up, Mallory Dodge learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling…
- Make sure your book is tagged in the right genres/categories, and sub-categories. Check out successful titles similar to yours for examples of what to say.
We worked with a children’s author on a book about helping children grieve. However, her book was only tagged in the “Children’s” category, which means she was competing for attention with almost 1.5 million other titles. To help people find the book, there are categories perfectly suited for her title that better describe her book and help people find it. See how the sub-categories worked nicely to narrow the competition for a title like this: Children’s Books (1.5 million titles) > Growing Up & Facts of Life (160,000+ titles), > Difficult Discussions (12,000 titles) > Death and Dying (2,800 titles).
- Include a solid author bio, written in the third person. The bio is your chance to show your personality and why people should care about what you’ve written. Be creative, be real—it helps people connect with you.
Create a Solid Author Central Page on Amazon
On Amazon, under the book title, is the author’s name, which is a hyperlink to your Author Page. It is a perfect spot to give readers an easy place to learn about you and encourages readers or fans to follow you. Think of it as your website within Amazon.
You are in control of what you want people to know about you, and you can add an even more detailed author bio here. If you have more than one book, you should link them together (especially crucial if you have a common name) so readers can see all of your titles. Share events as well as links to your website, social media channels, blogs, photos, videos (especially if you are a speaker), etc. You, not the publisher, are in control of this page, and you can update it at any time. Here is a link on how to start: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help
Build your Author Presence on Goodreads
Goodreads is the world’s largest site for booklovers seeking book recommendations. The Goodreads mission is to help people find and share/review books they love. It’s free for both authors and readers, and a great place to engage readers. Think of Goodreads as a large library where authors and readers can wander and see everyone’s bookshelves, reviews, and ratings of their favorite (or least favorite) books. Once you’ve signed up, here are ways to interact with this vibrant, book-loving community:
- Review and recommend books (and try to keep it positive)
- Join genre or interest-based groups. Tips from Goodreads: Find groups by going to goodreads.com/group and searching for relevant groups. Results will produce the most recently active. You can also browse by tags. There are groups for every topic, genre, and sub-genre!
- Claim your author profile (here’s how) and then encourage readers to interact with you through questions or comments. Goodreads offers authors an Ask the Author Q&A platform allowing readers to submit questions. Ask the author doesn’t make questions visible to the public until you choose to answer them, giving you complete control over if, when, and how to respond. Tip from Goodreads: Answer at least four pre-seeded questions. Answer a few of the questions that Goodreads asks every author who turns on the feature, such as “Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?” or “How do you deal with writer’s block?” It indicates to readers that you’re there to engage. You can always edit the answers with updated information down the road.
- Until January of 2018, Goodreads offered authors the chance to participate, for free, in giveaways where interested readers could enter their names to receive a free copy of your book. Goodreads now charges fees for the service. Giveaways help get books in front of readers interested in your genre, in exchange for potential positive reviews and recommendations. Here is more information on the Goodreads Giveaways and fees.
Find Your Way on Social Media for Book Promotion
While there are volumes written about using social media to promote a book, here is a handy guide to help you begin to build or enhance your presence on social media. Helpful social media tips for authors:
- Begin early, ideally 12 to 18 months before your publication date, but remember, it’s never too late to start
- Be authentic, be yourself—showcase your personality and interests
- Think positively, support and recommend other authors, especially in your genre
- 80/20 Rule — 80 percent content/20 percent about your work; your posts should not be overly promotional
- Post consistently — your accounts need to be active; inactivity looks bad
Offer Your Book to Targeted Readers Through Places Like BookBub
BookBub is a service that helps readers discover books they’ll love while providing publishers and authors with a way to drive sales and find new fans. Readers sign up and pick the genres they are interested in, and in return, receive outstanding deals on e-books (free to about $2.99) handpicked for them by BookBub’s expert editorial team.
We find it helpful for authors who are writing a series. It introduces readers to book one when the next book in the series is launching to help get new readers interested in the entire series. Here is how to get started with BookBub.
There are other services like BookBub that offer low-cost e-books to targeted readers. Here is a great database/list gathered by Reedsy.
As an author, if you can’t afford a publicity firm like Smith Publicity, there are many things you can do at very little expense to help get your book in front of target audiences. It takes time, but continuing to build your author brand can make a real difference in enhancing discoverability and encouraging book sales.