Creating a (almost) Free Marketing Strategy for Your Writing

piggy-bankMarketing is an important element of any business, but is frequently an abstract idea to writers.  While writing a novel seems like the more insurmountable task, writers often find that marketing their work is much harder than penning their masterpiece.  The work of marketing your writing to potential readers should begin before your manuscript is finished, though many do not realize this.  The process of creating a marketing plan should be one of the first steps to setting out to build your identity as a writer, and grow your audience.

If you’ve ever studied marketing, you’ve heard of the four P’s.  For those who are unfamiliar, the four P’s of marketing are product, place, price and promotion. Let’s delve into each one to get a clear picture of designing your overall marketing strategy.

You might assume that your product is your book.  However, your product is actually you, the author, whether you’re independently published or working with a traditional publisher.  Your writing is only part of your product; your words; your ideas, your creativity, your voice – these are all elements of the BRAND OF YOU.  Many want to focus their marketing strategy on their book, when their efforts would be best recognized by developing a solid brand on which many works can be promoted.   Some authors are cheeky, while others are earnest.  Decide how you’d like to be represented and be sure to showcase your individual personality.  The best way to help you stand out from the crowd is to create an author persona that is unique and interesting to potential readers.

The next element of your marketing is place.  Where will your works be sold and distributed? If you’re working with a traditional publisher, they will decide this for you, and will likely include brick-and-mortar stores in addition to internet retailers.  However, if you’re an independent like me, deciding where to offer your book for sale can be daunting.  I chose Smashwords (in addition to Amazon) to publish my works in Ebook format for a number of reasons, the most important being vast distribution to many Ereader retailers.  In addition to Ebook publishing, I publish my work in paperback on Createspace, which is a division of Amazon.  Many other self-publishing websites exist, but the important part to remember is to research your ‘location’.  While many other factors come into play when deciding where to publish your novel, keep in mind that not all distribute widely, and this element will impact how well your product saturates the market.  Choosing a publisher or distribution portal will determine how easily people can access and BUY your work.

Another important element of your strategy will be deciding your price.  While higher royalties (the amount you keep from each book sold) seem better than lower ones, one shouldn’t price their writing so high that it’s not attractive to potential readers.  Price is an important element of determining whether or not to buy any product and even the most affluent individuals don’t object to saving money.  Check into works similar to yours to evaluate what other authors are charging for their novels.   Pricing your work lower creates a better likelihood that readers be willing to try your work, especially if you’re just starting out.  Higher book pricing should be reserved for when you’ve established a reasonable readership.  Until then, generate interest by keeping your works priced competitively.  You may easily be able to make up the difference with greater volume of sales versus a higher per-book rate.  Many sites will allow you create a coupon/promo code for as much as 100% off, allowing you to gift potential readers your novel or get it at a lesser price.  An expiring coupon might be the urgency your prospective reader needs to buy now.

Lastly, let’s discuss promotion.  When a company creates a product, they don’t simply put it on the shelf at stores and hope for the best.  They promote it.  In fact, companies create as much publicity as possible, specifically for the purpose of announcing their new product to their potential buyers.  Companies devote a marketing budget, design advertisements and participate in as many free promotional opportunities as possible.  Your work requires the same attention.

When just starting out, a marketing budget is likely limited or altogether impossible.  However, promotion needn’t be expensive.  A writer can create an effective promotion strategy using the power of the contacts you already know, the internet and social media.

Set up a page on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn and post regularly to keep you in your friends/followers’ feeds.

Order some inexpensive business cards with your name, genre (as opposed to just one book title, as you will probably write more), your website & social media user names.  Pass out your cards to anyone and everyone you think would enjoy your writing.  You can even write the codes for your coupons on the back to sweeten the deal!

Create a blog and offer posts to other blogs who have a following, so their readers become YOUR readers (reciprocation is always good in this regard as well).

Write a press release announcing your novel(s) and find several websites that will publish it for free.

Build a website devoted to your brand and writing and optimize the search engine keywords as much as possible.  Check out other authors’ sites to see how they represent themselves if you’re not artsy or are unsure of how yours should look.

Make the most of Goodreads and other book reading/writing sites by joining groups and participating in active discussions (just make sure your contributions aren’t solely “buy my book” oriented).  The more active you are on the various sites, the more likely you’ll create some buzz about you and your work.

Creating a plan for promoting your writing is essential to becoming a successful author.  Your time and effort will pay off if you consistently work towards the goal of executing your marketing strategy.  Some methods may be more effective than others.  Keep track of your progress and capitalize on what works the best.  Marketing your work is just as important as writing it, because after all, no one can read your work if you keep it a secret!

joannaJoAnna Santanen has independently published two psychological thriller novels, Restless Mind & The View From The Fishbowl as well as maintains a website and blog devoted to her writing.  Visit her website at to learn more about her work or connect with her on Facebook at or twitter @joannasantanen1.