Pretty Cheap Ways to Promote Yourself and Your Books Online

moneysmallBook marketing budgets aren’t what they used to be. But there are a lot of effective ways to promote yourself and your books that don’t require a lot of money. And most of these things can be done yourself—you don’t need to rely on your publicist or marketing manager to take care of it for you.

Connect Virtually
Facebook and Twitter are a great way to invite readers into a curated version of your world. Of course, you should always share information about your books and their promotion through your accounts. But you may also choose to share other articles you find interesting, connect with other authors, or invite your readers to engage with you. Judy Blume is an author who has welcomed readers into her creative process through charming Facebook and Twitter posts.

Social media is just the beginning. Skype is a great tool for authors. You can arrange a virtual book club via Skype, or offer to Skype into a book club anywhere in the world that is discussing your book. Another option is to start a discussion group on GoodReads and invite readers to ask you questions, and respond.

Promotions Inspired By Your Book
Author Sara Paretsky always finds interesting ways to promote her books. In one contest, she invited visitors to her blog to identify different spots in Chicago (the setting for her novels) to be entered for a chance to win signed copies of the book, and a PDF preview of the first three chapters of the next book. With another promotion, Sara had fans answer trivia questions about her books (all could be found in excerpts posted on her site) in exchange for a prize. In another contest, Sara included some of her character (VI Warshawski’s) personal favorites in a gift basket—Chicago and Cubs memorabilia, VI’s favorite coffee, and personalized copies of two books.

Using Audio and Video
Anyone with a smartphone or laptop can create rich audio and video that can be easily embedded on the site. This is an opportunity to not only bring your books to life, but have readers get to know you beyond the page.

Author John Green does this beautifully with his Vlogbrothers site, which he maintains with his brother. Although John Green’s video blogging goes beyond promotion for his books, he finds more was to attract and engage readers through his site. Since Green’s audience is primarily young adults, he has the perfect medium to reach them through his site. The video quality is hardly high-tech. But the content is compelling, which inspires readers to engage with the author beyond his books and keep him in the forefront of their minds.

Sara Paretsky recorded her own podcasts to promote her books. This was done with a simple microphone and her laptop. (Here’s how she did it.) The audio was saved and uploaded to iTunes. This is a pretty simple process (iTunes spells out how here) that allows you to take advantage of their network of users.

Give It Away
Sometimes the best thing to do to promote your work is to share some of it for free. As I mentioned earlier, although the instinct may be to be stingy (this is your intellectual property, anyway), you can really leave your readers wanting more when they get hooked on your writing.

Timber Hawkeye was already a hit on Facebook before his book, Buddhist Boot Camp came out. Before the book published, he started parsing bite-sized content from his book in his status updates, gaining a huge gathering and inspiring others to share it. On his site, he offers five full chapters for visitors to read. This is a book that has gained momentum, not via a large marketing budget, but primarily through word of mouth, which moved books.

Bring It Home
As you experiment different ways to promote your books and yourself, be mindful that you should always point back to your site, where there should always be a clear path to purchase. Never leave someone with any question about where to go to find out about you, your work, or where to buy it.

Lisa Hazen is a Chicago-based Web Designer specializing in author sites. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or the WWW.