Marketing,  Publishing

Effective Promotion in Self-Publishing

No matter how good your novel is, no one is going to read it if they can’t find it. Marketing can seem like the most daunting task in self-publishing/indie publishing, but it doesn’t have to be. Author Megan Cutler takes us through the three easiest methods to increase your novel’s visibility and ultimately improve your sales.

A Beginner’s Guide to Promoting your Novel

In May of 2014, I decided to self-publish for the first time. It was terrifying. I knew how to write the book and format it, but there my knowledge ended. I did my research, started following other indie authors on twitter and tried to follow their examples. But I had no idea how much I had left to learn.

I did it anyway. Part of me knew that if I didn’t hit that publish button, I was never going to get serious. There would always be some excuse to put off all the learning I had to do. Perhaps there would be an excuse to keep flitting from project to project without ever finishing anything too. So I took the plunge.

I don’t regret that decision, but I do wish I could write a letter to my past self about everything I’ve learned since that day. The next best thing is sharing my knowledge with all of you!

Amazon Categories and Keywords

Once you have an awesome story, book cover, and blurb, you need to figure out how to list your book on Amazon. I’ve spent a lot of time pulling my hair out about categories and keywords and I feel like I’m just starting to get the hang of them.

First things first, you want to find out what category your book fits into. This is harder than it sounds. I was confident my first novel fit under Urban Fantasy, but after talking to other indies, I’ve come to the conclusion it fits better under Fantasy and Adventure. It’s important to know where your book fits because you’re going to want your cover composition to match the most popular covers in your genre. Otherwise, you won’t attract an audience, or you might attract the wrong audience (which could lead to negative reviews).

Readers use keywords to find your book. The trick is finding keywords that get a lot of results (meaning that they’re popular), but few enough results that your book will still rise to the top. The best place to start is Amazon’s guide to keywords; some categories require a specific keyword to get your book listed. After that, you want to make a list of all the terms that might apply to your book. Think about your settings, your character types and roles, your plot themes and your story tones. When you exhaust those, start thinking about what you would search if you were trying to find your book on Google.

With this list, you can start testing Amazon search results. Amazon’s autopopulation function is personalized, but you can still use search results to gauge how popular a search term is. If you hardly get any results, the term probably isn’t going to help people find your book. Likewise, if you get 40,000 results, your book might get lost in the hoard. Take some time determining the best search terms and use those. You can always adjust these later (in fact some people recommend shuffling keywords to reinvigorate sales), and remember that you aren’t limited to single words – you can use phrases.

Building a Newsletter and Street Team

Newsletters are hot right now. The fastest way to connect to your readers about new releases, after all, is having a straight line to their inbox. Many social media platform algorithms restrict the reach of your posts no matter how many followers you have, but nothing can prevent your readers from checking their email.

The best way to get a reader interested in your future work is to give them a taste of what you’ve already written. Many authors offer the first book of a series free to anyone who subscribes to their newsletter. Others will offer a novella that ties in with the series, but isn’t available anywhere else. What you choose to give to your subscribers will be largely based on what you have available – but again, you can always adjust it later.

You want to make your newsletter sign-up link prominent on your author website and your various social media platforms. If you can pin a post, you probably want to make your newsletter the pin. You can also use services like Instafreebie to attract new subscribers; while Instafreebie does charge $20 for direct newsletter integration, you can still use their service for free. Upload a preview of your book, or a short story, with a link to your newsletter sign-up in the front and back. You get a better subscriber rate if you pay, but the service is useful for spreading the word about your work either way. Another great way to grow your list is by doing newsletter swaps with other authors.

Megan’s Instafreebie link (click to claim your free book)

Once you have a subscriber base, you can use it to build your street team. This group will help promote your work by building buzz and posting reviews. How you communicate with your street team is up to you; many suggest creating a Facebook group. Start by putting a general call in your newsletter and see who’s interested. You can encourage people to join by offering incentives like review copies of your new releases or opportunities to serve as beta readers for your upcoming projects.

Blog Tours

When you’re ready, you’ll want to start building buzz for your release at least a month in advance. Some people recommend starting as early as two months. There are lots of ways to build buzz around your work; you can release a teaser excerpt or the first chapter. You can do a cover reveal, and you can do a giveaway.

Whatever you decide to do, a blog tour is a good way to promote it. The basic idea behind a blog tour is that other authors will show your stuff to their readers, and you return the favor later. Lots of places will organize a blog tour for you for a fee, but you can put one together for yourself if you’re willing to make connections and arrangements.

First, you’ll want to approach authors about hosting your tour. It helps if you have previous connections to them, via social media or participation in other events. Always check the guidelines on the author’s site to make sure you know their guest post policy. You may want to offer to host the other authors on your blog while you’re on tour so the event becomes an exchange. Once you have the dates and places arranged, you want to write a unique post for each stop on the tour (repeat content ranks lower on search engines, so make sure you’ve got a lot of topics reserved for your tour).

If you’ve decided self-published, keep in mind that it’s never too late to implement a new strategy. Book covers, blurbs, and category settings can be tweaked as needed. Your newsletter subscribers will never complain about more free content. Keep meeting new authors and learning from them.

The most important thing is to keep writing. Many authors indicate their sales picked up after releasing several books, especially if they were a series.

Success doesn’t happen overnight so keep at it!

Novel Promotion Links:

Amazon Keywords:

Amazon advice on keywords
Amazon’s list of categories with keyword requirements
The best article I’ve found explaining how to choose your keywords: 

(This link does have a product that it suggests using (kindle rocket), but the article is very useful on its own, and really helped me understand the process.)


Here’s a good resource for creating a reader magnet to build your newsletter:
And, of course, here’s a link to Instafreebie:

Blog Tours/Reviews

Launching a Successful Blog Tour
Blog tours: is it worth it?

Street Team

meganprofilecircleMuse tamer, character wrangler, creator and destroyer of worlds, Megan Cutler writes the kind of science fiction and fantasy stories she has always enjoyed reading. She grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania and moved to Canada after marrying the love of her life. In 2013 she published her first book, Island of Lost Forevers, the beginning of the Mystical Island Trilogy. She spends her days honing her craft, trying to develop enough ice crystals in her blood to stop feeling the cold during Canadian winters and hoping to appease her characters enough that they will allow her to sleep.

Find Megan at


Island of Lost Forevers Purchase Link:

M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.


  • Ellen

    I’m enjoying your blogs. They are very helpful to someone like me who feels ready to publish but nervous at the same time

    • M.L. Keller

      You’re not alone. Publishing a novel is a huge task. Writing “the end” is just the beginning. Cover design, editing, publicity, and marketing can seem overwhelming. There are so many elements in making a book successful

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