Indie Authors Versus The Money

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Right now you want to sell your books.  Maybe it’s a future career.  Maybe it’s a hobby that pays (like mine).  Maybe you’re just trying it out.

Either way, you want to sell.  As I noted in There’s No Honor In An Unread Book, your goal is to reach the right people.

And to do that, you’re up against many things, but one of those things is money.  Namely money other people have and spend to sell their books.  If you have a lot of money, well then good on you, but this isn’t for you (except to say, hey use that cash to help out others too).

You may think “wait, I’m up against other indies and self-publishers” with cash and worry about that.  Let me ruin your day further by noting it’s also you being up against publishers and marketing departments and everything else companies large and small have at your disposal.  When you’re trying to promote your works, you’re up against organizations older than we are.

It sounds overwhelming.  But we’ve all seen and heard of success stories out there.  Sure there’s a ton of survivor bias there, but there are people to learn from.  People who inspire us and give us hope.

Right now I’m not going to focus on that inspiration, I’m going to focus on what people are throwing money at to sell their books and such.  You can either throw money at those things, or if you’re like most folks coping with the world today, how you work around your limits.  Forewarned is forearmed, so roll up the sleeves on those forearms and get to work.

Here’s where money is getting spent.


It’s easy to throw money at advertising on Google, Amazon, and More.  You can, with dilligent research, at least break even at advertising if not make a profit.  It’s just other people and companies can buy advetising at a loss if they need to in order to drive up sales and get reviews.

Advertising also has a feedback effect.  If you advertise your book or product and people buy it then it gets into reccomendations.

My cheap suggestion?  Study up on advertising and aim to get to the break-even point at least to get your book out there.

Book Tours

Publishers can send people on book tours.  It’s a great way to get attention on authors.  Other authors can send themselves and do their own book tours at indie book stores, conventions, and more.

Book tours are mixed bags in my experience – some sell some don’t.  Do them if you want.  It’s just to do it cheap, you’ll want to line it up yourself with local stores.  I like the idea, but I’m also the kind of person that likes to meet people.

The only challenge is that a lot of Indie stories are fussy about what they carry – usually amazon print books are a no-no.  That leaves Ingrahm Spark or Lulu for print.

I also do a lot of public speaking at conventions and libraries.  I use that to meet people and network.


A picture is worth a thousand words, but a good book cover can wrap many, many more up in a single image.  Good covers sell, as I have found the hard way.  People can throw money at a good book cover.

If you’re not going to do that your options are to learn to do it yourself (which is useful), get someone to help you (which is nice but can be exploitative), or use a premade cover service (like GoOnWrite, which I adore).  I find you can do pretty well with these if you’re careful.


You’ve probably seen newsletters like Bookbub that promote book giveaways – for a fee.  I can’t speak directly to how effective they are, but they keep going and I hear good thing.  It’s just they cost – you guessed it – money.  Also they usually only promote if there’s a discount.

It’s hard to top these for sheer volume.  You can of course give away books to friends and newsletter subscribers, or use things like (which still costs but not as much).  It won’t get you a huge blitz, but still.


Book-wise you can pay for reviews.  This may sound unethical (and there’s debate about it), but the model is simple – companies or publications keep a staff of reviews around and farm out entrants to them if they’re interested.  Similar models have existed for decades.  I’ll leave you to decide on the ethicalness of the situation.

But people are using this.  You can throw a few thousand dollars at a review service and get a lot of reviews.  So guess what, you compete with that too.

The cheap solution of course is to get as many reviews as possible.  Ask friends.  Ask family.  Ask fellow authors.  Go to sources of reviews and review sites and ask for reviews.  Offer free copies of your book.

Some people are throwing money at reviewers.  If you can’t or won’t, it’s time to get tactical.

In Summary

People are going to throw money at promoting their books.  If you don’t want to do that, can’t do that, or disagree with some of the approaches, you need to work around that.

One thing I can definitely suggest is to team up with your fellow authors.  Share tips.  Promote each other.  DO giveaways together.  One thing that’s free is friendship.

You’ll probably make some pretty awesome friends and you can plot together.

Steven Savage