As indie authors, we all want to get thousands of readers but it’s something that is much easier said than done, excuse the cliche. And, it can be costly.
But what if I told you breaking the bank wasn’t necessary?
Sure, there are pros and cons with going about author marketing in a free or cheap way, but for someone who is just getting started and on a limited budget, you’re going to want to conserve much-needed funds for the future. And if you write in a series as I do, rest assured that most readers aren’t going to take a chance on a new or lesser-reviewed author.
And that’s okay because almost every indie author started their career in a similar manner – unless they took a few years to build a platform, then things might be a little different.
So, what are some of the most clever ways to exposing your work to readers for little to no cost?
I’m going to go over a few strategies and the pros and cons of each.
Utilize Free or Cheap Book Promotion
While the best book promo sites are go-to’s, cheap promotion sites can definitely do well if your book is perma free. Sites like BKnights, Book Doggy, Book Raid, Whizbuzz Books, and Book Rebel all charge $31 or fewer for promotion. The exception is Whizbuzz, which charges $50 for year-round promotion – so if you did the math, you’re looking at a little over $4 per month.
Not a bad investment.
The obvious Pros is that cheap promotion is great for authors on a budget, but the cons are that most readers here are only interested in free books – even 99-cent books are a turnoff.
The solution is to give away a free series starter or set one book to perma free. Hopefully over time, readers will enjoy the free work enough to buy your backlist. This is a great strategy for writer who’ve written several books and is now platform building.
Just include a way for readers to sign up for your mailing list in the front matter – either with a second free book or a free short story, novella, or something similar. I use a free story-in-cycle to do this. You can still sell this work at full price on Amazon and other bookstores – but entice the prospective subscriber to exchange their mailing address to obtain a work for free.
I like pricing mine high on the retailer outlets then let the prospect know they can get this work at 100% off if they sign up for my mailing list.
Contact Book Reviewers
This is easy. Find popular, highly-rated books in your genre and you’ll find hundreds of reviewers. Click on the reviewer’s profile and see if they have an email address.
If they do – great.
If not, they may have a book blog or a website in which you can contact them.
The good news here is that if they read your book it’s highly likely you’ll get a good rating – especially if they routinely review work at four or five stars. Just make sure you can relate the elements to your work to the book they reviewed and reach out. Create a template but personalize it for each reviewer and mention the book they read.
I like using a template that I customize for each reviewer I contact. I always use the name if applicable (sometimes they don’t put their name on Amazon and you just have to leave the greeting blank), the book they reviewed, and how my work is similar.
For example, with Raven’s Flock, I’ll simply say, ‘female main character, sword and sorcery involved, paranormal elements, time travel, etc.
The downside is that most reviewers won’t respond to you. Some won’t respond to cold emails and you just can’t help that. Others might only read works with certain plot elements – like vampire romance or an academy. So, if I pitch Raven’s Flock to such reviewers, I’m not likely to receive an answer.
But, there have been reviewers that have gotten back to me with a yes, yes, and yes again.
However, some reviewers will say, “Sure, I’ll review it, but only if I think the ending is an actual resolution.”
I had this happen to me today and upon researching this reviewer, I saw they were giving works two out of five stars because they didn’t like the ending on what, in their words, “would otherwise be a five-star book.”
If a reviewer has stipulations like this, proceed with caution and research them before responding. I ended up not giving this reviewer a review copy since my work is a series and there are some loose ends that scope the second trilogy in my work – my vibes said I’d probably get two-starred.
Which I don’t mind, but if you’re going to five-star a work only to two-star it because you didn’t like the ending – I’m not taking that risk.
As someone who’s reviewing works myself, if I don’t like an ending for an otherwise five-star work, I’d probably dock a work down just one star and give the author a four-star rating. I think the only way I’d give a two-star for an otherwise five-star rating is if there was a happy ending and the main character woke up from a dream and is still in their nightmarish life.
Then you’re getting two-starred!
Use Prolific Works, Book Funnel, and Story Origin
These methods are great and they have free options – but you should go with paid options if you want to integrate your mailing list and collect subscribers.
These are fantastic to use in the short run because they’ll build you a solid mailing list that you can use to collaborate with other authors via joint or cross-promotions – even if most of these subscribers aren’t serious about buying anyone’s work.
Most of the books on these sites are freebies, so don’t expect to sell much. However, when it comes to joint or cross-promos, it’s great to place these people onto your readers’ group because it’ll show that your mailing list is a decent size, attracting other authors to promote with you.
Now, don’t get me wrong – you will find some diamonds and gems in this rough of freebie book snatchers and I’ve found several who’ve bought everything that I offered. But most of them only want free and again, we can’t help that. The upside, however, is that you will uncover a fan base as you promote your work with that of other authors and get in front of other mailing lists – where in the short-run most will demand free but in the long-run, a few years down the road, you’ll be able to filter those free-only readers out for real fans.
So, these are great to build a rudimentary mailing list and you can accrue A LOT of subscribers here – but it’ll take a minute and collaboration with other authors before your work takes off. I’d recommend finding a few authors within Story Origin, Prolific Works, and Book Funnel and collaborate with them.
As of right now I have 702 subscribers and counting – so I’d look for other authors with a mailing list the size of mine. If I do a joint promo with say, ten other authors, then I’m exposed to 7,000 readers – and if just 10% of them like my work enough to sign up for my mailing list, I just doubled my list!
Cross-Promote Your Work
I’m engaging in cross-promoting here in April 2020 before looking to engage in joint promos in May and finally, a giveaway in June. Since I’d taken a year to sit back, watch, and learn like a future NFL quarterback sitting behind a grizzled veteran for a year, I was able to see how other authors were building their reader base.
It all comes down to getting your work in front of other readers and to do that, collaborate with other authors, as I mentioned above. However, you’re going to want to collaborate with just one author at a time in a cross-promotion. So, I’m cross-promoting with an author whose mailing list is a little bigger than mine – about 900.
And my work is going to be promoted to their mailing list. They can download my work, subscribe to my mailing list, and become a customer. The good news here is that again if 10% subscribe out of say, 25% of them downloading the work, that’s 90 new subscribers and it’ll put me near 800 subscribers.
And if you recall, it’s only been a few weeks since I was at a little over 600.
When you get proactive, even in a free way, you will build a list and a reader base fast. Meaning more money for you in the long-run.
What’s the downside?
Cross-promos are only going to be with one other author, so you’re limiting the number of readers you can get your work in front of. The obvious upside is that the readers are going to see your work and ONLY your work, meaning you’re going to get a few solid downloads here and potentially new subscribers.
Use the Power of Social Media
And finally, you can use social media. Follow hashtags like #WritersLift, #ShamelessSelfPromo, and #IndieApril, where you can post your buy links.
Now, most of who’s posting here are sellers and not buyers, so don’t expect miracles. But you may eek out a sale or two as well as a few more fans and maybe an additional subscriber for your reader base.
Social media won’t do much unless you have a huge following, but it never hurts to increase your exposure a little via social media.