Every self-published author knows that getting your book out there isn’t actually the finish line; it’s really only reaching the three-quarters mark. The rest of the ride is all about making sure that the right people pick it up!
Without an established publisher, indie authors have to put in a little extra elbow grease — but that doesn’t mean the marketing journey has to be unpleasant. To help you out, here’s how to find new readers for your self-published book, and maybe even have some fun along the way.
We’re told not to judge books by their covers, but your cover is a crucial part of getting new readers to notice your work! In ebook stores, independent bookstores, Goodreads feeds, and more, your book will almost always be displayed alongside many other titles of the same genre… which means you’ll lean on your cover to help it stand out.
You want this cover to be professional and comparable to similar books, while remaining unique and eye-catching. At bare minimum, your cover should be professionally up to scratch — no clipart, no poorly formatted title text, etc. If it doesn’t appeal to readers in the first place, the following tips won’t be nearly as effective in getting them fully on board.
On Amazon, you get to choose keywords for your book when you publish it. These are what readers will search up when they look for something, meaning that keywords are one of the most useful tools for directing your target audience toward your book.
Each book is allowed seven Amazon keywords, so do your research and pick those that have a decent amount of search volume, but aren’t too competitive; for example, a household-name bestseller on the first page usually means that keyword is difficult to rank for. And always choose keywords that represent your book — if your novel has no romance elements to it, for example, don’t select a romance-related keyword simply because the search volume is higher!
The next thing that you can do to get more traction for your book on Amazon (and various other ebook publishing platforms) is to put it on sale. If any reader were on the fence about buying before, you knocking a few dollars off the price will certainly nudge them in the right direction.
Sales are also great for getting wider-scale promotion. Amazon already sends personalized emails about on-sale books to its customers, but what’s more exciting is that discounting your book can give you access to book promotion services.
Newsletter services like BookBub — which has millions of subscribers across multiple genres — are dedicated to spreading the word about book deals to readers. In other words, by cutting the price of your book by a little, you potentially open your doors to thousands of new readers!
So don’t be afraid to drop the price for a limited period. That said, the problem for many self-published authors often isn’t the money, but the accessibility of newsletter services that help make a discount work. Popular newsletters with huge mailing lists like BookBub and Freebooksy are very sought-after avenues, which means that the number of authors submitting their books far exceeds the slots available in the newsletter.
But all hope isn’t lost! There are plenty of promotion services out there, many of which are smaller but much less competitive — it’s definitely worth applying to a few of them to accumulate their effects.
Another way to access a new audience is to find another author who writes in the same genre as you and arrange a newsletter swap. This is pretty straightforward: in an upcoming newsletter, this author will promote your book to their subscribers, and you’ll do the same with their book.
This is why it’s best if the other author is someone with a similar follower base to yours — with a swap, each of you gets access to a new pool of highly relevant readers who might not have heard of you. Not to mention the added benefit of not costing a penny!
To be extra-effective, organize your swap around the time of your discount deals. We know that deals are a great promotional tool, and since you’ve already agreed to forgo some of your revenue anyway, why not make the most of this investment by compounding your sales boost with a newsletter swap?
In terms of finding a partner for this cross-promotion, you can discover plenty on Twitter’s #WritingCommunity, or simply by searching for books and authors in your genre. Remember to ask someone with roughly the same following as yours, and get to know them and their book first so that you can personalize your pitch to them.
If this swap goes well, you can carry on with other cross-promotions down the road — or maybe even work on a project together to pool your influences and increase visibility!
Another vital aspect to a book’s success is word of mouth; for most readers, nothing beats a wholehearted recommendation from a fellow bibliophile. Which is why you might also want to get in contact with the best-connected readers there are: Bookstagrammers, BookTubers, and yes, BookTokers.
These portmanteaus refer to influential readers on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok respectively. On such platforms, book lovers can display their books with style yet intimacy, which means that they’re incredibly popular and often trusted for recommendations… and one influencer’s TBR or book review will influence another, and another, and another. Done right, a bit of social media promotion can create a wave of enthusiasm for your book that just keeps rolling and rolling.
To promote your book, get in touch with some of these influencers — they often have a work email listed somewhere on their platform — and offer an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can also organize a giveaway with them, or suggest doing a live Q&A to show the friendly voice behind your book.
Hopefully these tips have given you a few solid ideas on how to market your self-published book and find new readers for it. It may take a lot of trial and error in order to find what works best for you, but just keep at it, and maybe one day your book will top the charts!
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best resources and professionals. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.