Publishing your book as an independent author means that you’ll be the one collecting the full profits from your book sales—no advances or sharing anything with a publishing house. For most indie authors, this is the most compelling reason to go solo, especially if you already have an established audience for your work.

But if you’re like most independent authors, maybe you don’t already have a built-in group of readers, which means that you’ll need to take on another big task that a publishing house would normally do for you: marketing.

If you have money to spend, you can place ads for your book in trade magazines, on Amazon, during podcasts, and anywhere else people are looking to find their next read. The average indie author, however, might find that their marketing budget is limited after investing in editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, graphic designers, and so on to make their book the best it can be.

Luckily there are several effective, organic, and free ways to market your indie book.

Social Media… But Not Like That

When authors hear social media, many of their minds go to cringe-inducing posts that beg strangers to buy their books. Luckily, though, that method isn’t terribly effective.

Unless you have a massive social media following—in which case, you probably don’t need much marketing help in the first place!—most of your followers are probably friends and family. In other words, the only people seeing your posts are the people who would probably buy your book anyway. Not exactly an effective way to reach new audiences.

So instead, think about your social media like a business card. Do you have a profile picture that, if it’s not a professional headshot, is at least a high-resolution image of your face? Does your bio include the title of your book, a snappy one-sentence description of the plot, and a link to buy it? And, when it does come to the actual content you’re posting, does it reflect well on you as a person?

Even if you’re used to only interacting with people who know you, if you clean up your profiles and online presence a little, it can communicate that you have yourself together enough to write a good book to people who don’t know you.

Where Do Your Readers Hang Out?

Genres, such as cozy mysteries and romance, do so well for indie authors because there is such a robust reader base. These readers often devour multiple books a week and are active in both online and in person reading groups, as well as conferences and book launches.

For a more organic marketing approach, seek out those social spaces and simply get to know people. This is a good idea for you as a writer anyway—if you’re a writer, you’re also a reader, and don’t you want to be connected with other readers? If you make good faith connections with your fellow writers and readers, at some point they’ll probably look you up on social media. And since you’ve cleaned up your profiles and have a clear hook for your book as well as a link to buy it, your new friends will naturally become your new readers.

Even if they don’t immediately click to buy your book online, everyone knows that the best marketing for anything, whether it’s books or Crock-Pots or sneakers, is word of mouth. The more people get to know you, the more they’ll get to know your interests as a writer, which means the more they’ll think of you when talking to other readers.

This isn’t a quick-fix marketing solution. But becoming more involved in a writing and reading community is truly the highest quality way to find both potential new readers and to improve your own writing as you return the favor and read your new friends’ books.

The Student Becomes the Teacher

Not every book genre has the robust reading community that mystery and romance do. For everyone else, writing classes and groups are a great way to connect with like-minded writers and readers. But writing classes usually aren’t free.

So instead, think of ways you could develop a free class or public presentation that connects with your book.

If your book is offering practical business advice, take a few of the basic tenets of your thesis and develop a presentation you could offer to local business associations. If your book is a work of nonfiction, offer to meet with writing groups to talk about your process and research methods. If it’s a work of fiction, offer to come talk with book clubs if they select your book or reach out to writing groups who’d like advice on how to take the final steps to get their own books published.

You’re a Pro… Treat Yourself That Way

Some indie authors don’t take themselves seriously. They’re still stuck in the mindset that only traditionally published authors are “real,” and that anything else is a vanity project.

But that’s not how the publishing world works anymore. Even high-profile authors with an extensive backlist at major publishers struggle to sell books, and many of the freelancers who specialize in helping indie authors started their careers in traditional publishing. And just like indie authors, they found that the independent model works better for their careers.

Whether you have money to spend on your marketing plan, or you’re out of cash after investing in the technical aspects of getting your book finished, the first person you have to market to is yourself. You believe that you’re a great writer with a book readers will love, right? If you do, marketing your book won’t feel forced and fake—it’ll feel as if you’re simply proud of all your hard work.

This article was published in partnership with Kirkus.
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Chelsea Ennen is a writer living in Brooklyn with her husband and her dog. When not writing or reading, she is a fiber and textile artist who sews, knits, crochets, weaves, and spins.