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Marketing for the Broke Author

Starting when I was about twelve and ending just a few years ago, I wished on many stars, pennies in fountains and birthday candles to be a published writer. I used to declare that sales didn’t matter: I just wanted to be published. And I actually believed I would be content, just with that. At first I was. I lived off that first-novel-publication bliss for quite a long time. But in the end, being published doesn’t matter much if you’re not selling any books.

While I’m not a best-selling novelist – yet – by any means, I have discovered some places for free publicity as, like most writers, I can’t afford a publicist to do my marketing for me. Here are a few to get a new writer started.

Yahoo Chat Loops

yahoo_chatGo to Yahoo Groups and search for your genre. There are a few for fantasy readers – many more, however, for romance – and they’re easy and free to join, and are populated by readers who are looking for new books. Just be sure to read their rules on promotion. Most loops have promotional days or limits on how many times a week or month you can post a promo. Most let you do a synopsis, excerpt and buy links. Also, unless you want your email constantly bombarded by member postings, be sure to select “Special Notices Only” under Message Delivery Preferences. A lot of these loop chats have special genre days, and it’s fun to talk up your book with other authors from the same genre. They’ll also let you host your own day so you can interact with readers. I’ve done it a couple of times. It’s a bit nerve-wracking, but good for website hits.

Here are a few good ones:


forum-postingHanging out on forums can be time-consuming but may pay off well if you can stick with it. – ahem – is my favorite place to hang out. Another good place, if you have an ebook especially, is Kindle Boards, and also the threads on Amazon. is another fantasy forum, albeit not nearly as cool as FF. It’s good to make a presence first before you start promoting, which is why it can be time-consuming. But if you love to chat on forums anyway, you’re in luck!


What really astonished me when I first started getting my toes wet was how many sites are eager for guest bloggers. It’s a wonderful way to showcase your writing and your novel, if you can tie your blog into your subject matter. A great way to find sites looking for bloggers is to see what other people are doing. Many blog and review sites have an index on their website listing similar sites. It goes on and on and on. I just started by peeking in on what other writers with my publisher were doing, clicking on their links, and going from there. Often a website will ask that you give away a copy of your book to someone that comments on your guest blog. I enjoy doing that, and I often send bookmarks to the other people who commented but lost the drawing so they don’t forget about me.


ezine-marketing-300x225There are a lot of great websites that support authors and readers alike. Some have free publicity, like guest blogs or interviews, and sometimes cheap advertising like posting your cover for a month for $10-$15. NightOwlReviews is one of my favorite places. You can start an author page and list your books. They also do reviews, and they’ll post an author interview for $15 in their newsletter. There aren’t many that are devoted strictly to fantasy. If you have any romance elements in your book, there’s a plethora of choices. Coffee Time Romance, Romance Junkies, Romance Studio, etc. are great.


If you have a PDF of your novel, send it out to as many places as possible. Everyone is overloaded, so the more places you send it, the more likely you are to get reviewed. Some won’t take self-published titles; others, like Red Adept, won’t take your book until you have ten reviews of it on Amazon. Again, there is no shortage of sites and blogs looking for books to review. And don’t pay for it – there are too many places who review for free. After all, they’re getting a free copy of your book.

Amazon and Goodreads

AmazonashIt’s pretty essential these days to have a profile set up on Amazon and Goodreads. For Amazon, go to Author Central (there’s one for the US’s Amazon, and a different one for AmazonUK). Author Central allows you to write a biography and reviews that buyers will see on Amazon. It can also link to your Twitter and blog. There’s a sales chart there too – though it’s misleading. It shows your current placement. I used to think when it skyrocketed from number 364,782 to 32,153 that it meant I just sold hundreds of copies. I probably sold three. So don’t get too excited. But anyway, it’s a great way to keep all of your books linked to each other, as well as telling readers more about you and where to find your website.

Goodreads has really caught on like wild fire. It’s free to sign up, and you will probably need to email their support team once you have a profile in order to be elevated to author status. This too keeps all of your books together, and readers can review and rank your books. Their friends will see your cover and add it, and so on and so on. Goodreads will let you run a free giveaway, which is fantastic advertising, and they also have cheap advertising that showcases your book to readers in your genre.


twitterashThis last bit is pretty much a no-brainer. You must have an online presence these days if you want to succeed. If you want a website without forking out any cash, you can basically turn a blog into a website under Blogger. Also, I use which is only $4.95 a month for hosting plus Website Tonight, which is a great website builder for the HTML-challenged. Link your website to your blog, vice-versa. I’m still learning how to use Twitter, but it’s finally getting through to me that it’s probably the most important marketing device, and it’s free. Using hash tags (for example, I use #urbanfantasy or #darkfantasy) gets your tweet to the right people. I know there have been other articles about Twitter and online networking here, so I don’t want to be redundant. But it’s worth mentioning again at any rate.

Making Friends and Reciprocating

This has been the most fun (and profitable) part of marketing for me. There are a lot of fun, generous souls out there just waiting to help you succeed. Get in good with them, and they’ll retweet your announcements, ask you to guest blog, and put your link on their website, especially if you do the same for them. I use which is free and monitors where my hits are coming from, and the VAST majority of my hits come from other writers’ websites. Meet people at conferences, conventions, book signings and forums, and ask to do a link exchange. If you link up with someone who gets a lot of hits, you’re as good as gold. Not just that, but you’ll have made a friend.

I hope this helps get you on your way. I know there are many avenues that I haven’t yet uncovered, and if anyone has found a great (and free) place for publicity, please chime in!



  1. Avatar Overlord says:

    Think this is a fantastic article. Personally, I think that marketing is one of the things that really works for authors… Look at Sanderson, Rothfuss, Abercrombie, Weeks, Brett, Martin

    All the big name authors have blogs or twitter or even both these days… in 2011 fans want to ‘know’ the author and the methods you have discussed Ashley are some of the best ways of getting your name out there 🙂

  2. Avatar Ty Johnston says:

    Ha! Most of us are broke, aren’t we? Thanks for the article.

  3. Avatar Shah Wharton says:

    Oh goodie – Great article. I retweeted this – It was one of the featured articles on my iPaper WordsinSync today. Just like to say, if you’d like to guest blog for me, or a review, send me your request to my email address. I’m always up for more. 😀 And I do love fantasy (esp dark). BLOG:

    You’re so right about mutually beneficial friendships. Once I’ve made them ( a free ebook can buy me quite cheaply – if it’s good :D) I share and like all over the place. Why not? Of course it isn’t always reciprocated. Some are a little less giving than others I’ve begun to realise. Ego can be a terrible thing : ( X

  4. Thanks for the insight. I was glad to see I am already doing half of these (twitter:@edwardlazellari), and hopefully plan to implement the other half. Already started by browsing Fantasy Faction.

  5. Avatar Pat Davies says:

    Thanks for the good advice. This nervous newby appreciates it!

  6. Avatar Julia says:

    Fantastic article. So super informative and helpful!

  7. Ashley, it is so good of you to share your knowledge in such a great article.
    I know the importance of marketing online and having a presence, but trying to get started feels similar to snorkelling through a bog.

    Thank you for providing so much clarification all in one go.

  8. Avatar James Kelly says:

    Some great ideas in this article, Ashley! There’s a lot of authors out there so getting your name to stand out from the enormous crowd seems like an uphill struggle some days. Thanks for sharing some of your tips.

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