Challenge,  publishing

Free Advertising For Writers

There Is A Lot of It…

I know that so much attention is paid to the young writers who spend all the money advertising to drive a lot of buyers and all that. And they are constantly telling other young writers that is the ONLY WAY TO DO IT!! And some of them, for a time, make a lot of money if they hit the right moment with the right combination of things. And they spend a lot as well. But honestly, I hear far, far more stories of writers who try it, spend a lot, and make no sales in those gimmick ways.

While a lot of us just sort of drift out here, writing our books and making book sales in lots of different ways, and taking advantage of free sources of advertising.

Yes, no gimmick. I said free.

I talked about this a little bit in the Media Kit workshop, but figured I should say something about it here as well.

I have not yet counted all the free ways to promote your writing and your books. But to be honest, I stopped counting when the number went by thirty. And I spot more every day.

So let me for fun, just off the top of my head, give you some free methods of advertising for writers.

Best way, I call #1, is to sell a short story to a top magazine. Not only do you get paid for the story, you get pages and pages of focused ads directly into your target audience. It does not get any better advertising for all your books than that.

#2 is another money maker. Do a Kickstarter for your new book. Put it up on pre-sale when you finish it, then do a Kickstarter campaign to get it to your fans early. Fantastic promotion and you make some nice money if you do it right.

#3 and #4… Your own web site and also a publisher web site. Both nice.

#5… Great advertising and another money maker is your own store on your web site. Won’t make much to start, but any bit helps and it is nice advertising.

#6… Your own newsletter.

#7… Patreon page…

(I am talking free or money-making promotion here, remember.)

#8 through whatever…(giving up counting) Social media of all types, from Facebook to Twitter to all the new ones. Announce it when you put it up for pre-sale, announce it when it goes on sale, find other reasons later on to mention it. Make it social, not pure sales. Mix it with cat pictures or something. (grin) If you can do videos for free, that ads scope and scale and range as well.

How about a bunch more places?  For example, take advantage of the free promos on the different sales channels like Apple, B&N, Smashwords, Google Play, and so on. All of them tend to have promos regularly and they are free and can really help.

A bunch more places… Make sure your author Follow Pages on all the sites are clear and up-to-date. Sites like Goodreads, Bookbub, Amazon, D2D, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, Google Play and others.  All are free.

And so on and so on… So many free ways to promote your books, including sending books to reviewers, book bloggers, and so on. I am missing a bunch I know.

But if you are going to try a Facebook Ad or Amazon Ad, take some of the free tutorials that the sites offer to learn it and limit your costs.

But only bother with that, in my opinion, after you have 20 or more major books under one name and have all the free promotion stuff set up and running and you are doing a lot of writing.

And never forget, the absolute best promotion for your books, proven through history and thousands of surveys and studies, is your next book.


  • Philip

    One of the sad things about rookie writers gobbling up the advertising insanity is when you see them ignore thd basics in favor of throwing their retirement savings at paid ads. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I browse books on Amazon and see “sponsored” results of books with not only terrible covers, but the actual default KDP cover template! These people couldn’t be bothered to design or buy a decent book cover but are willing to pay thousands for ads. Sad.

  • Erik Kort

    Hi Dean!

    A little unrelated to this particular blog post, but I have a quick question about workshops. I’m in the middle of reviewing the Power Words workshop and there was a section where you talk about the view point closeness in and out to the character based on how attached you want the reader to be to them. I would love to hear more about this and study it more in depth, with techniques on how to achieve that closeness.

    What workshop (if you’ve already covered it!) would you suggest I take to study this?


    • dwsmith

      Erik, that kind of control is a technique we have not covered at all. Advanced (you can do it with practice, no doubt). I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to offer it, but like Power Words, most writers don’t even realize that focusing zoom can even be done, let alone have the control to do it.

      Folks, think using a modern phone camera that can zoom in to get 15x closer. You can do that in your stories. You can zoom in to be close to a character that you want readers to identify with or zoom way out with a character you want readers to hold at arms length. Patterson, in his early Alex Cross novels does this clearly between Alex and the bad guys. You can see it and study it there. I use it all the time, from novels to short stories, totally depending on the character and what I want the reader to feel.

      But again, super advanced. But awareness of it can be taught, so might make a good workshop. Thanks.

      • Erik Kort

        Okay, I thought it might be in that grab-bag of complex workshops you and Kris keep tossing around. One vote for making it a workshop! I wasn’t sure if that would be part (or all) of the expert depth you mentioned. I know you must hear this all the time, but all of the Depth workshops have been life changing. Do ten more in the series, please!

        Thanks again!

    • Emilia

      I’d second POV zoom workshop. I have some scenes where I want to keep the reader at a distance, but I’m not quite sure how.

      The free promotion examples sound logical and good. I reblog posts which interest me and usually have something to do with my writing such as deepsea creatures or fantasy art. I’ve made a few writer friends as well.

  • Lyn Perry

    Another free income generating idea (long haul thinking, not overnight) is to record or videotape yourself as you read your short stories or your novels and post them on YouTube. You have to gain x-amount of subscribers and reach x-amount of views before YouTube will monetize it, but that’s a way to earn money while advertising your books for free. (You can also get an AI text to voice to read your stories and put them on YouTube, etc.) I have a friend who tells me that people like to listen to author-read stories and they just listen to YouTube as if it’s an audio book from Audible. Takes a bit of time and effort, but no out-of-pocket expense if DIY.

      • Thorn Coyle

        I’ve done this: recorded short stories and posted them to my YouTube channel. I started it at the beginning of the pandemic and have been meaning to get back to it.

    • Kate Pavelle

      Yes, that’s on my to-do list. You can also use the free preview snippet of works that are already narrated. Make sure to include the entire copyright notice in the text below. YouTube is now owned by Google, and Google is excellent about chasing people down over copyright. Some writers do the YouTube audio to force Google to tackle the pirate sites for them. I have heard it works, but I haven’t seen data on it.

  • T Thorn Coyle

    Missed this post yesterday because of the excitement of launching my new Kickstarter!

    I agree with everything you list. The only paid advertising I currently do is for the paid newsletters (Bookbub, FreeBooksy etc). Stopped doing FB and Amazon ads long ago, other than a rare “boost” of a FB post for $10. When I was using those ads, I didn’t have nearly enough books out to get real traction.

    Side note: There are a lot of successful authors in the Wide for the Win group that never use FB and Amazon ads.

    Three things I’m also doing:

    1- being a guest on podcasts. It does take an hour of time, but that’s the only cost. And then you have something else to share on social media, or your newsletter.

    2- your books in your backmatter, with proper store links. (Everyone is likely already doing this, but it is advertising)

    3- cross promotion:
    A- cross posting my newsletter onto my social media. I get more engagement, I get new newsletter signups, and I get more variety in my social posts.
    B- I’m part of two Kickstarter for authors groups on Facebook. We post our new campaigns and folks share those at the bottom of their KS updates. These then come above whatever KS decides to show people. It’s targeted cross promo. I post fantasy campaigns in my fantasy KS. Cozy campaigns in my cozy KS. Other authors do the same for me.
    C- cross posting my Patreon essays and stories on my blog, social media, and/or in collections, magazines, or anthologies and Kickstarter giveaways.

    For me, the big shift happened not only when I started having an actual catalog, but when I stopped thinking about *advertising* and focused instead on *marketing.* And since for me, marketing is all about connection, all I have to do is think “how can I connect with people in a way that’s enjoyable, sincere, and works for me?”

    All of my marketing stems from that thought.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Thorn. And really, really good point of view. Catalogs help, and marketing is a great way of looking at it.

  • James Palmer

    Well said, Dean. A lot of writers forget about the smaller, tried and true stuff. And selling stories to magazines is advertising that pays the writer!

    I would also add doing group promos through sites like Storybundle or Humblebundle. And if you can’t find one you can create your own. I was in a bundle that Kevin J. Anderson ran a few years ago and it was great. It was only by chance that I found out about it in time, but I made around six hundred bucks! That might be chump change to some folks, but not to this guy.

    Thanks for the post.


    • dwsmith

      Yeah, multi-author bundles are great. People are putting those together on their own and running through royalty share. Works great if you keep them short term.

  • Kayla

    I am going to save this post for later. I am still struggling with writing a draft from beginning to end right now. I do know that if you write on some fan fiction websites, you can start a following there for free as well.