So How DO You Promote A Book From Scratch?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I’m super-lucky with my debut novel; not only have I been blogging/publishing stories for years and am friends with tons of writers, but I’ve got the mighty Angry Robot marketing engine on my side to push FLEX like it was solid gold sliced bread.
But I have friends who are launching books from small presses and low contacts.  They have issues getting their books seen.
And since I’d like to be able to help people like this in the future, I’m asking you wise people for advice: If you had to start promoting your book from scratch, with a small social media footprint and no connections, where would you start?
I mean, what I’d do would be something like:
1)  Compile as complete a list of book bloggers as possible.  Not just the big influential ones I have little shot at, but all the smaller ones who might be amenable.
2)  Polish my pitch to pristine working order, much like I’d prep a query for an agent.
3)  Offer to send samples of my book to all of those people.
4)  See about holding a GoodReads giveaway.
5)  Investigate holding a blogging tour, pinpointing as many bloggers as I could to try to come up with fascinating takes on my book.
But would that work?  Is that actually effective?  I don’t know, but I know lots of you are effective self-publishers, or have crawled up to have successful books from humble starts – what worked for you?  Any and all tested advice on what’s effective (and, just as effectively, what’s not) is deeply appreciated.


  1. Eve Rickert
    Jan 21, 2015

    We actually found crowdfunding to be an incredibly effective form of marketing. It meant we had 400+ people with advance copies of the book and rooting for its success, plus an email list of known supporters we could call on for things like library requests and Amazon reviews.
    Facebook ads have also been incredibly helpful for us. They’re cheap and let you do really specific targeting, plus give you all kinds of data on the kinds of people responding to your ad. (Our target market, apparently: women between 35 and 55 who like the Suicide Girls.)
    And I agree about going after smaller targets. Not just in terms of reviews, but any events you’re going to do. Not only did we have a much easier time booking gigs in smaller, more out-of-the-way towns, we had our best turnout and sales there. Our best events? Eugene, Albuquerque and Denver. Worst events? San Francisco and Las Vegas.

  2. Angie
    Jan 22, 2015

    Another useful feature of Goodreads is its groups. If there’s a large and active group for your genre or subgenre, it can be worth it to go hang out there as a reader for a while, become known as a regular. If they have a place for writers to post about their books, or a group bookshelf you’re allowed to add your books to, then do that, but what I found worked best was joining some of the reading challenges, the ones where participants choose books for each other, with whatever criteria.
    Presumably you read for recreation in the genre you write, so the time consuming part of this (the reading) won’t actually take up any more time than it usually does. Chat a bit in the challenge topics on the board, and when you’re choosing books for other people in the challenge, don’t choose your own, or books put out by your publisher if you have one. Recommend your own favorite books as a reader — be a reader, not a writer who’s in promo mode. In my experience, there’ve usually been at least a couple of other challenge participants who’ll specifically ask any writers doing the challenge to rec their own books, in which case it’s cool to do so, and it’ll get your books to people who might not’ve noticed you otherwise. But the biggest benefit is long term — having twenty or thirty or fifty people who are big readers in your genre come to know you, to know your name, and to see you as someone who has good taste in books. And everyone you meet this way is someone who likes pick-it-for-me type reading challenges, so if they like your books, they’ll probably rec them to other challengers in the future.
    There’s a big Goodreads group for one of my genres, and I go back and participate in a challenge or other event there about once a year. It’s a fun way to keep my name out there, without being in blatant promotion mode, which turns so many people off.

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