How to promote your book for free: Ideas that work

Michael
8 minute read
11.03.2022

Extensive book promotion can be one of the most expensive parts of successful self-publishing. It doesn’t mean you can’t promote your book for free. On the contrary, the Internet provides many opportunities to market your story to your target audience at no cost; you just need to know where and how to market your stories without investing money. 

Read along to learn the most effective free book promotion strategies and what it takes to get the most out of them. 

What to do before free book promotion

According to a Written Word Media survey, 79% of authors consider marketing the hardest part of publishing. And it’s an expected result considering that

  • Marketing is a complex, volatile, and competitive industry 
  • Authors specialize in writing stories, not promoting them

No need for panic though: Marketing isn’t an enigma that only a lucky few can crack. On the contrary, marketing is a well-studied topic with its rules and dangers. And, there are a lot of indie authors who promote books successfully without any marketing degrees. Such authors self-educate, carefully plan, and avoid common book marketing mistakes.  

So

Based on the advice of successful indie authors, If you want your free book promotion to be successful, you should

  • Define your target audience 

You want to know your readers: their cultural background, what they love, hate, and prefer. You can learn more about defining your target audience here.

  • Start building author brand before a book release 

When your book is released, you want to have at least some followers interested in your art. Organize social media campaigns, run a blog, network with people, and, if possible, invest in author branding. 

Author branding logo by getcovers

Author branding by Getcovers

How to promote your book for free: tips and examples 

If you follow the advice mentioned above closely, you can promote your book for free effectively using the following approaches: 

Blogging

82% of marketers actively use content marketing, and 56% of marketers say that blogging is effective according to HubSpot. Besides, many indie authors vouch for the effectiveness of blogging for free book promotion. 

So

If you decide to promote your book for free by blogging, you need to write content targeted at your future readers or peers with whom you may cross-promote in the future. 

You can either 

  • Write content that touches themes and topics relevant to your future book
  • Produce educational content for fellow authors 

You can also post chapters from your future book to your blog as you write them. For example, Andy Weir, the author of The Martian, wrote the bestseller in his blog first. He simply sat down to write the story he wanted to read and shared it with his small and growing audience of readers.

Virtual Book Tour

Virtual Book tour is the favorite nonfiction book promotion strategy of Nina Amir, the inspiration to creation coach and the author of How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual, The Author Training Manual, and Creative Visualization for Writers. And it makes sense — virtual tours are comparatively easy to organize: They don’t take money, finding the place, dealing with logistics. Besides, people are more likely to visit your virtual book tour because they don’t have to leave the house.

For example, C Pam Zhang, the author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold, did successful virtual book tours in cooperation with different events and industry personalities.  

Virtual book tour schedule example

You can conduct virtual book tours on one of the following online platforms: 

  • Instagram Live
  • YouTube Live
  • Facebook Live
  • Zoom Webinar
  • Twitch Livestream
  • Twitter Spaces

But remember to promote your virtual book tour across all your channels at least a few times. 

Email Marketing 

Email marketing remains one of the most important and effective ways to promote your book for free and connect with customers. 

Email marketing can work wonders for free book promotion as you can: 

  • Address your readers personally with customized content 
  • Collect feedback and conduct surveys
  • Direct readers to your website or social media
  • Ensure your readers get your promos right on time 

We suggest constructing a proper marketing funnel for the most effective email marketing campaign. For example, if you’re planning to promote a discount, the general structure of the funnel will be as follows:

  • Day 1: Awareness. A letter that informs your followers about an upcoming discount and why they should care about it.  
  • Day 2: Consideration. A letter that reminds your followers about the unique selling point of your book and the discount.
  • Day 3: Conversion. On the day of the discount, a letter with a CTA to buy a book.
  • Day 4: Loyalty. A letter where you thank for your reader’s support, share your joy and provide a special bonus for your followers (a checklist, access to a special course or chat, a new chapter from the upcoming book, etc).
  • Day 5: Advocacy (Optional). A letter where you encourage your followers to join an affiliate program, share something on social media, or leave book reviews.

There’s a problem with email marketing though — you need to have an email list. Fortunately, blogging can help you build a solid and active email list. 

Free Books

Giving your books for free is one of the most effective free book promotion tactics. Authors who make their first book in the series free can see up to 8x more sales of other books. 

Book cover design for series by Getcovers

If you don’t write a series, giving books for free wouldn’t work for increasing book sales. Though the tactic can be still effective for building an author brand, growing an email list, or spreading the word about your books.

Free Writing Contests 

Winning a writing contest is definitely a major boost to motivation, inspiration, and the feeling of self-worth. But in addition to that, writing contests can expose your books to a new audience as many contests share the best submissions on their social media and websites. 

Though the majority of the writing contests are paid, there are also plenty of free ones. 

For example:

You can always find new free writing contests but check them carefully to avoid shenanigans with book rights and unwanted use of your works. As a rule of thumb, reputable and recurring writing contests are safe. 

Cross-promotion with peers

Fellow authors aren’t your competition; they are your allies and potential marketers.

There are many ways you can cross-promote your books with fellow authors for free:

  • Guest posts
  • Social media posts
  • Conversational streams
  • Collaborative virtual book tours
  • Collaborative books

To connect with other indie authors, you can offer to write for their blogs, promote their works to your audience, or attend writing events and courses to network. 

Educational materials

Teaching kids is a tough job, especially if it’s teaching them how to read and analyze literature. On top of it, teachers are often overworked, underpaid, and stressed-out people who would appreciate any help. That’s why some authors who write books for children create educational materials based on their books and offer them to teachers, librarians, or parents. 

Children book cover design by Getcovers

For example, YA author J. Elle created an entire curriculum — a five-week unit of day-by-day lesson plans to teach her instant New York Times bestselling novel Wings of Ebony.

If you write books for school kids and have the knowledge required to create educational material, use it to promote your book for free to your target audience. 

SMM for free

SMM works best when you have a bag of money to pour into the money-hungry machine of social media. It doesn’t mean you can’t do SMM effectively for free. 

For example, an award-winning author and a YouTuber, Bethany Atazadeh, doesn’t “spend any money on social media marketing because I believe it’s completely possible to grow organically.” 

If you want to achieve success with SMM, Bethany suggests spending time watching what works for other authors, educating yourself, and finding techniques that will work the best for you. She also thinks, “it’s wise to pay attention to what’s working in social media. If you want to be effective on a platform, then it’s wise to use it as intended.”

Bethany Atazadeh’s Intsgram

Free book promotion platforms 

If you want to promote your book online for free, specialized book promotion platforms can be a great addition to your marketing efforts. Though the majority of the book promotion platforms work best if you pay them, there are plenty of chances to get a fine free deal. 

The book promotion platforms that have a free option include 

  • Inkitt. Chance to display books to thousands of their readers and get a publishing deal. 
  • Awesome Gang. Access to a great email list. 
  • Indie author news. Exposure on their platform as an author of the day. 
  • All Author. A basic author page, a listing on the author directory, the possibility to add up to 4 books, and a tweet scheduler.
  • Armadillo Ebooks. Possibility to get listed on 15 websites and their social media channels.
  • Pretty Hot Books. Chance to get featured on the website and email list. 
  • Book Brag Possibility to get featured on the website. 
  • Kindle Book Review. Access to an email list. 
  • Book Ninjas. Chance to get your book in the spotlight. 
  • Digital Book Today. Chance to get listed on DBT’s Top 100 best free kindle books.

If you decide to use free book promotion platforms, read their rules and terms of service carefully. 

To maximize the effectiveness of free book promotion platforms, you can 

  • Include content upgrades inside of the book — links to other downloadable content in exchange for their subscription to your email list. It’s better to include such links in the beginning or middle of the book. 
  • List other books inside, so people can read more of your works. 
  • Promote ahead of time. It means contacting promotion platforms at least two weeks before the book release.
  • During the promotion, decrease the price of your book as low as possible or make it free. After the promotion, you can raise the price to the usual level to boost income.

If a free book promotion platform increases your sales, you can invest money you’ve earned into Amazon or Facebook ads to boost your sales further and climb the algorithm.  

Mistakes to avoid during a free book promotion

Finally, there are a few particularly harmful free book marketing mistakes you should avoid: 

  • Neglecting visual marketing 

Beautiful marketing materials, social media banners, promo posters, and book covers are extremely effective marketing tools because people are more responsive to visuals. If you want to attract attention and quickly communicate your book’s premise and genre, you need to have visual hooks. 

Marketing materials for indie authors design

Design by Getcovers

  • Ignoring marketing push during a book launch

Book marketing is a marathon, but the book release is the finish line where you need to push extra hard to win. So, on the release date, do something special: a discount, big stream, special giveaway, etc. 

  • Stopping marketing after book release

After the book launch, you can slow down, but you can’t stop marketing, especially if your book sees sales boost. So, you should continue working on the free book promotion strategies that work the best.  

  • Focusing on a single approach

You have plenty of tools at your disposal, so it’s better to diversify your marketing efforts. Free book promotion is a game of numbers: The more you try, the better are your chances of success.  

  • Promoting in inauthentic ways

As Nina Amir puts it, “Your audience feels your energy. If you are uncomfortable, the readers will know and won’t purchase your book.” You can force yourself out of your comfort zone, but you can’t force yourself to be someone else. 

As you see, there are quite a few methods you can use to promote your book for free. What matters most is not to be afraid of experiments and invest time in your marketing. There will be some failures, but there will also be successes that will propel your author career forward. 

What free book promotion methods do you know? Share your hacks in the comments below!

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    Michael

    As a part of Getcovers marketing team, Michael helps indie creatives master their craft. In his free time, Michael likes playing his electric guitar, losing hours in video games, and reading unhealthy amounts of SF&F (and trying to move his body at least a little bit to not transform into a plant).

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    Nina Amir
    1 month ago

    Thanks for the mention! I really appreciate it. I shared on Twitter. (And, as an aside, I have three books…not one: How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual, and Creative Visualization for Writers.) 🙂 I’m so glad a colleague reached out and told me about your post. Keep up the great work.

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