Who said marketing has to be painful?

Well….almost all writers. The truth is that, for most writers, marketing is not instinctual. It’s a labor of love that we submit to only because we care about our books and want to see them do well in the world, much like a fair-skinned mom submits to getting sunburned so she can cheer on her kid during a soccer match.

Still, I am a big proponent of “making the best of what you’ve got.” In my mind, that call-to-action includes finding ways to apply your natural talents to un-intuitive work. As a writer, you might not have been born with a head for business. You might be quiet and shy of the limelight. BUT you probably have a boatload of creativity, passion, and persistence.

While it is important to learn some relevant business skills and to push yourself, now and then, outside of your social comfort zone, it’s equally important to harness your native strengths in marketing yourself and your work. 

Below are a few work-arounds I’ve found for my own shy-person marketing barrier. These ideas have helped me stop cringing at the idea of marketing and start thinking that I, too, can be excited about sharing my work with the world.

Miniature books

This idea comes from an acquaintance of mine at the Nashville Writer’s Meetup. When she goes to book fairs or writer conferences, she prepares a load of miniature books to distribute to passersby (not passerbys, I just learned).

The tiny books are easy to make. Use a short story you’ve written or a catchy chapter from your novel. Prepare a simple cover and pages in MS word, then print out copies, cut out your pages, staple them together, and hit the streets!


They’re not just playthings for bored Victorian children.

A thaumatrope is a two-sided image with strings attached to each end. By twisting the strings, you can cause the thaumatrope to spin, and the two images appear to merge. Thaumatropes make delightful bookmarks and THE BEST business cards. (Credit for that idea goes to one of my idols, Elly MacKay).

Thaumatropes, like miniature books, are fairly simple to make. Just watch this 3 minute tutorial, and you’re in business!


Producing an audiobook doesn’t mean breaking the bank. If you’re happy with your own storytelling voice, all you have to do is read your book into a microphone and release the mP3.

A DIY audiobook is probably not a great standalone product, but it is an exceptional companion piece to a newly released novel. Offer your audiobook as a prize on Kickstarter or offer it as a freebie for people who leave Amazon reviews of your book.

Limited editions

If you’re self-publishing your book, most of your sales will probably go through an eBook platform or a print-on-demand service. It’s the most economic way to distribute your product. However, most eBooks and print-on-demand books have serious design limitations.

If you dream of a top-of-the-line book cover, or you want to wow an important audience with your book’s quality, contract with a small publishing press to print a batch of 20-100 limited edition books. Unlike print-on-demand services, small presses may offer leatherbacks, embossing, foil stamping, etc. Derek Clay at CreativIndie recommends Clays, and I’m excited to get in touch with them.

Interior plugs

If you’re not squeamish about calling your reader’s attention to your writer-needs, your book can be your hotline for support.

Prepare two polite, playful marketing messages and insert them in your book: one message in the middle, one message at the end. Ask readers to leave you an Amazon review. If you’re really bold, ask them to follow your blog or social media pages. Many readers don’t realize how precious their voice is to you, as a writer. If you let them know, they will happily respond.

Non-literary festivals

Writer’s conferences and book fairs are amazing, but the competition for attention is steep. Almost everyone is trying to market their book.

Don’t limit yourself to literary events. Instead, hawk your books at festivals that are relevant to your writing in other ways. If you write sci-fi, doll yourself up in silver and green and head to a comicon convention. If you’ve come out with a Bohemian poetry book, try your luck at an art festival. Southern fiction? Why not go to your local cornbread or peach festival? (Yes, those are both real things).

Your book will stand out at any of these events, more so than it would at a literary festival. Remember, writers go to book fairs and writer’s conferences, but READERS are everywhere!

Where’s George? 

Lots of writers choose to hide books in public places for readers to stumble upon. If you want to be savvy about your drop-off site, choose a place where people will be sitting around bored, like a bus or a doctor’s office. You might also pick a location you would expect readers to frequent, like a coffee shop or a book store.

Now, here’s where the fun begins.

On the inside of the front cover of your book, write a note to your reader. Introduce yourself as the author, tell them the book is free, and ask them to read it–then release it back into the wild, somewhere new.

Create a Twitter feed or Instagram page and invite readers to post images of the site where they found and released your book. Track the book as it makes its way around the world, and be sure to share the map with your new followers!

Do you fit into the “shy writer” mold? How have you pushed your boundaries lately? Any other marketing suggestions?

5 thoughts on “7 Creative and Inexpensive Marketing Tactics

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