E-Book Promotion Tips from a Full-Time Indie Author

I published my first ebook in December of 2010 and made about $40 that month, mostly from friends and family members who took pity on me and bought my book. As I write this, it’s September, 2011, and I’m the verge of quitting the day job, thanks to my ebooks. You may be thinking I’m one of those internet marketing folks who sells ebooks on how to get rich, how to find love, how to lose weight, etc. for $50-$100 a pop. Not so. I’m an indie fantasy author e-publishing my stories on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, etc. for the ever-growing population of readers who prefer delving into books digitally.

I sell my novels, novellas, and short stories for prices ranging from $0.99 to $3.99. Thanks to all the promotional work I’ve done–and the awesome readers who have helped get the word out about my books–that’s all I need to charge.

I’m not unique either. More and more authors are choosing to stay independent instead of seeking representation from an agent or a book deal with a traditional publisher. Some of them are making a lot more money than I am too (look up John Locke, Amanda Hocking, and Brian S. Pratt, for a few).

I can’t speak for them, but I thought I’d share a few ebook promotion tips based on what’s worked for me:

1. Get your ebook out there anywhere you can.

Some authors only sell their ebooks through their own sites or only worry about getting them into Amazon. There are lots of other markets, and the more places people can find you, the more chances you have of being read (and bought!).

You can upload directly to Amazon and Barnes & Noble (and iTunes if you get your own ISBN). Beyond that, Smashwords can help you get your ebooks into other e-reader and smart-phone markets (Sony, Kobo, Diesel, ScrollMotion, etc.). They don’t charge you a fee, and they’ll even hook you up with a free ISBN (they take a small cut of the sales for their role as distributor).

2. Give away something for free.

Many of the markets I’ve mentioned will let you “sell” a book for free (to get into B&N with a freebie, go through Smashwords, and for Amazon have someone report that your ebook is listed for free elsewhere–Amazon often price matches). This is a great way for readers to try your work with no risk.

I went with a free short story (there are no rules when it comes to length on an ebook). I used characters that appear in my novels, and then I included an excerpt for Book 1 at the end. Lots of people have told me they went on to purchase my not-free ebooks after reading that short story.

3. Be prolific!

When it comes to fiction, most authors aren’t going to make a living based on one book or ebook. The more work you have out there, the more doorways there are into your world. Also, fans of one book have the chance to promptly go on and buy others.

Most of the indie authors doing this for a living (and some are making six-figure incomes) have eight or more full-length novels out there, and they publish fairly often.

My body of work isn’t that big yet, but I’m working on it. I have three novels out, two short story collections (these don’t sell nearly as well as the novels, but they make me a little), and two novellas. One thing I’ve noticed (and I’ve heard other authors say the same) is that sales of my ebooks tend to increase across the board with every new release. The more you have out there, the better your odds are of eventually making a living as a storyteller.

Those are my three big tips. If you’re interested in hearing more, please stop by my new Savvy Self-Publishing blog where I share more about what I’ve learned along the way. If you’re a fantasy fan, you can also visit my author blog to check out excerpts from my books and see what I’m all about.

Thanks for reading!


  1. says

    Great tips. I definitely agree with being prolific. I have two novels and about 10 short stories out (on Smashwords and Kindles, half of them free). Plus, I still have writing I published online years ago. I’m trying to be all over the place at once!