A Book Marketing Strategy for Any Budget

New authors are confronted with book marketing advice everywhere they look. This person sold 10,000 copies in three months following a system that they’re selling, while that one got on a major television show by sending a video to a Hollywood star.

Some of these tactics work may work for you, but others won’t. Navigating this advice can be confusing and frustrating.

Indie authors usually don’t have the resources to exhibit at book shows or schedule interviews on daytime television. Most of us are starting from another place, and with a smaller budget.

Relax — you’ve got this. Book marketing is really about influencing human behavior, and that’s something you’ve been learning and doing your entire life.

Play to your strengths

What indie authors lack in big budgets, we make up for in personal investment and relationships. Those attributes can serve as the foundation for a flexible book marketing strategy.

Your main objective, in book marketing, is turning strangers into readers and fans. It’s like making friends — something you’ve been doing since you went to school as a child.

The tactics that you use to achieve this goal may change as your platform and budget grows. But any tactic you deploy must drive an overall strategy. I’d suggest you start with a three-step plan grounded in basic rules of playground etiquette:

  1. Make friends
  2. Share
  3. Ask nicely

When you approach it this way, book marketing isn’t intimidating or uncomfortable. It’s fun and rewarding.

Let’s look at how to put this strategy into action.

  1. Make Friends

Your initial circle of connections (and potential readers) may be quite small: friends and family, colleagues, and people connected with you on social media.

Over time, you want to operate on a larger platform so your books can reach more people. To do that, you’ll need to start making friends.

First, find the right playground. Identify your target audience and the people who influence or interact with those readers. Find out where the action happens:

  • Where do your target readers hang out online?
  • Which authors do your readers follow?
  • What kinds of events do they go to?
  • Where do they purchase books?
  • What podcasts do they listen to?

Figure out where you’d like to be, and then start making friends.

  • The Internet is the largest playground around, so you need to be online, and social media is a great starting point. Find Facebook, LinkedIn, or Goodreads groups related to your subject, and participate.
  • Reach out directly to people you admire who influence your target audience.
  • Participate in in-person events, whether it’s a conference, a book club, or the local library. Nothing beats a personal connection.
  • Create an email list so new friends have a way of staying connected with you.
  • Make sure your books can be found where readers hang out on Amazon and Goodreads.
  • Make friends with other authors in your genre. Review their books on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog. Reach out directly and let them know how their work affected you.

Get yourself and your books out into the world, whether physically or virtually.

Making friends is not about showing up and pitching your books. No, it’s about participating with others. First, start sharing.

2. Share With Others

After polishing every word with loving care, indie authors sometimes cling protectively to their books. While writing, they don’t want anyone to steal their ideas. When publishing, they don’t want to give away content from the book.

Take a deep breath and let it go. The best way to succeed is to share generously with your new friends.

Nonfiction authors can:

  • Give away a sample chapter.
  • Revisit and expand on ideas from the book in blog posts.
  • Create videos with content from the book.

What about fiction authors? Try one of the following:

  • Share an excerpt from the story.
  • Share research from or inspiration for the book
  • Make a video about you, your book’s setting, or related themes.

Don’t stop at the book’s content — share your time and expertise. Answer questions, help authors you admire spread the word about their books, and review other books.

When you give to those around you, others will reciprocate.

3. Ask Nicely

Asking is the third step because ideally, it happens after making friends and sharing. No one likes people who pound on the front door and start pitching. Don’t be that person.

At the same time, don’t hesitate to ask nicely. A while back, I brought a stack of books to an event at which I spoke. I gave my presentation, answered questions, and had a great time. We even had some post-event selfies going on. After everyone had left, I remembered the books. I’d forgotten to ask people if they were interested in buying one.

When you’ve done the work and given freely, it’s okay to ask for the sale, for a review, for a reference. When someone asks you how they can help, be ready with a suggestion.

Get comfortable asking.

If you make a thoughtful and polite request, the worst that can happen is that the person says no. (More often, you may hear silence.) But sometimes they will say yes.

A book sale is only one of the actions you can ask for, and it’s not always the most appropriate or valuable one. Consider these other types of requests:

  • Ask for reviews — and be willing to give away review copies
  • Ask others to share their thoughts
  • Ask people to subscribe to your email list (after you have provided valuable information in a blog)
  • Ask people on your email list to help you launch your next book

You earn the right to ask by executing the first two steps of your strategy: making friends and sharing. When you ask, do so politely.

Let me demonstrate how easy this is: If you enjoyed this article, click the heart (now, clapping hands) on Medium so others can find it. And if you really liked it and want to see more, sign up for my Writing Practices list. Thanks!

Author, Writing Coach: Writing about Marketing, Technology, and Writing Itself (very meta). AnneJanzer.com