By Pavarti K Tyler / There’s no doubt that money sells books. The more money you can spend, the wider your reach and the more success you’ll have. But can you do it without spending thousands of dollars?
Let’s assume you have already covered the essential expenses of getting a professional book cover, high quality editing and other pre-publication expenses. These are non-negotiables. If you have just enough money to make sure you have a good product, that’s absolutely where you should spend it. Presenting yourself in the most professional manner is your #1 priority. Yes, launching big is helpful, but it’s only a short term solution to a long term sales plan. Quality products are timeless.
You had enough money to do everything right pre-production but nothing left for your launch. Can you still be successful?
I recently checked the price for placing a one day ad with BookBub in the US, Candada, UK and India. The cost? $645. Damn. If you can afford to front this kind of cash, and you have been lucky enough to be selected by the BookBub staff to be featured, the chances that you’ll make your money back and then some are good. Not guaranteed, of course, but most people are reporting extremely positive results and high purchase numbers.
But this kind of price tag is out of the reach for many of us. I know it’s beyond what I can come up with even if the results have the potential of paying for itself. So how much do you need in order to launch a book? Can you do it for $500? $300? What about even less? Could you launch a book for $50?
If you have the time to balance out the lack of funds and are willing to do the grassroots hustle, I believe you can. So how do you accomplish this? With a lot of creativity and a very strategic plan.
Now before we get into the details, I want to let you know that this has been tested. On April 28th, 2015, I launched a short story titled Heaven’s Vault. I had just moved and was in the middle of planning summer camps for my kids so I had very little money to spend. But I love this story and I didn’t want to just release it into the ether and not give it the attention I felt (and feel) it deserved. So I pulled $50 to dedicate to the launch and did a lot of legwork to get the word out. The result? Heaven’s Vault did awesome, ranked in the top TEN of two of its categories, and released with almost 20 reviews on launch day.
So what did I do?
Free Marketing Options
Thunderclap is a site that gets people to use their social networks to help you spread the word about a promotion. People signup to share your preworded/formatted post and image on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr (or all three!). It’s exceptionally easy and low commitment so I find it’s a good way to encourage people to support you without feeling like they’re doing a whole heck of a lot. There’s an entire section dedicated just to books! The trick is, that you need 100 Supporters in order for them to process your thunderclap for free. Otherwise it’s $45. This is an awesome way to get a lot of people to all post at the same time and make a real splash on social media, but you’re going to need to do some legwork to get 100 people to sign up!
Social Media Posting:
It’s okay to post about a new release a few times in your personal social media, but be careful of spamming or becoming one of those “Buy My Book” people. What I’m talking about here is more about joining groups where Promotion is allowed. When you join a group on any social media site make sure you read the rules before posting, because posting promos without permission is a big etiquette no-no. But, there are a number of sites where you are not only allowed, but encouraged to do just that. Write up a snazzy tag line, include a promo image or your book cover, and don’t forget to include useful hashtags and a link to the book! Spending some time putting this together can have a big impact on your visibility. It may not make you sales alone, but the more people see your book, the more likely they are to buy it, so this is a free, easy way to add some eyeballs to your product!
What would you do if you had a second chance at life?
Heaven’s Vault by Pavarti K. Tyler
$0.99 or FREE on Kindle Unlimited
Bloggers and Free Advertising Options:
Now this is where the serious time investment comes in. There are a number of sites which will advertise your book for free and a number of reviewers who will post promos for authors if you just ask. The trick is finding these sites and taking the time to submit to them, one at a time, with a personalized note. However, they ARE out there and they do work.
Big Site Freebies!
Did you know that some of the big sites like OHFB and The Midlist have the option of submitting your book for a free spotlight? They take a low percentage of books, but it does happen, and getting on a big site without having to spend a dime is a huge boon.
If you don’t have a newsletter, you need one. Get thee to mailchimp and set something up right now. We have lots of information in the Novel Publicity Free Advice Blog about how to set up and use your newsletter, so if you’re overwhelmed, start here: http://www.novelpublicity.com/2015/01/how-to-start-an-author-newsletter-using-mailchimp/
For those of you have a newsletter already, I want to remind you that the people who sign up to get it are there to help you. It’s okay to ask for something from them once in a while. A launch is exactly this time. On the day of your launch, send a newsletter to your subscribers about the great new book you have out and of course encourage them to buy it, but also include a few things they can do to help you, like sharing a Facebook post or using a Click to Tweet.
Free options are always exciting, but for them to work, you need to put in a lot of time and effort and rely somewhat on other people being willing to help you. So what can you do with a little cash to yield big results?
Cheap Marketing Options
Share a Facebook Post Giveaway
Above I talked about asking your newsletter followers to share a post for you. And it would be awesome if everyone did that. But what can you do to encourage even more people to help? I’ve found that doing even a $5 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway can have a big impact on the number of people who will share something for you. You don’t need anything fancy, just a great post with a catchy image and the link to your book. People will share and then people who see it will share and enter the giveaway too!
Plan your own blog tour with a giveaway
Planning your own blog tour isn’t easy. I’ve written about this before on the blog here: http://www.novelpublicity.com/2012/02/how-to-run-your-own-blog-tour-and-a-question-as-to-whether-its-really-worth-it/
If you have the time, stamina and organization stills to take this on, go for it, because the results can be huge. You can set it up yourself easily using Google Docs as a signup form. That way everyone who signs up is giving you the same information and you don’t have to worry about who you told what. It will also download easily into excel or a Google Spreadsheet so you can use the same data for tracking the tour! The reason this is in the Cheap Marketing option is because if you do a tour with a giveaway not only will your signup numbers go up (bloggers love to give stuff to their readers) but your participation rate will too! Here are some ideas for cheap things to include in a giveaway:
- $10 Amazon Gift Card
- Crafts you can make
- Swag you can make or order inexpensively
- Something you can offer that requires your time, but not your money, like a 1st Chapter Critique or something else you are an expert in that you can provide a winner.
- Thematic gifts (I did mermaid postcards I found at the thrift store once – they were a huge hit!)
Facebook Ads are almost a requirement these days with Author Pages. People simply don’t see things if you don’t boost posts or take out an ad. The good news though is that even a $1 boosted post can have a tremendous impact. If you don’t have a lot of followers, don’t worry, you can take out a targeted ad for people who don’t follow you, or, one thing I’ve had success with, is have a page with a larger following that focuses on books and allows promos do the post for you and you foot the bill for boosting it! That way you reach their viewership at a larger scale then just a straight post. If you budget $10 for this, you can do a $5 Boosted Post on a page with a large readership (or your own if that works better for you) and then a $5 Ad that your send out to a small targeted readership outside of your existing following.
Cheap Advertising Sites
Now you have a little money to use on advertising sites. There are some that charge as little as $5. It’s up to you if you want to use a few small sites or double down and spend the whole $25 on one site. Depending on your genre, $25 is plenty even for sites with a considerable following. Again, this is where doing your research will come in handy. My recommendation when working with a small budget like this is to focus on sites that do direct email advertising. If you can also get on their social media stream, awesome, but checking newsletter following numbers is the best way to pick a winning horse when you’re only able to afford a small number of options. This is about limiting risk and trying to get direct access to as many people as possible.
So what’s your breakdown?
- Amazon Sharing Contest: $5
- Blog Tour: $10
- Facebook Advertising: $10
- Cheap Advertising: $25
Of course, the more money you invest, the better your visibility and the broader your reach. Even if you do a $50 launch, you still need to follow it up with a long term marketing plan including advertising and expanding your readership. After Heaven’s Vault’s launch I continued doing small Facebook boosts and small advertising sites at least once a week over the next month and honestly, the push for promotion will never end, but if you’re working on a budget there are ways to help get your work in front of readers successfully.
Keep at it, and happy writing!
Pavarti K. Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She lives in the Washington D.C. area with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not busy working as the director of marketing at Novel Publicity she spends her time penning her next novel.