4 Unconventional Book Promotion Strategies for Self-Published Authors

Out-of-the-box marketing tricks no blog on the internet would dare write about

Some books of different cover images inside a box.
Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash

Out-of-the-box marketing tricks no blog on the internet would dare write about

I self-published my first book in 2018. I’m not a full-time writer, and I was so terrified of the people around me judging me for my passion that I barely did any promotion.

I’ve come a long way since then — but if there's one aspect about the whole writing business I still struggle with, it’s the marketing. Talking about myself always feels like I’m going out of the way to sell my book when no one’s interested in buying it.

Of late, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this isn’t the right way to go about it. As a self-published author, promoting your book is your way of letting the world know you’ve released something. If you don’t do your share of marketing, how would your target audience ever find out that the book exists?

Many of my author friends also struggle with the same. This might be the primary reason why the average self-published, digital-only book sells about 250 copies in its lifetime, whereas the average traditionally published book sells 3,000 copies.

I think it’s time to change these sorry stats. I had a detailed discussion with my fellow self-published author friends about the “dirty tactics” they used to sell their books. The result? I came across four unexpected and extremely unconventional ways any self-published author can market their book. I’ve compared the results of these methods and shared my own interpretation to help you decide which method might be the most suited to you.

1. Right Swiping Right Into Your Bank Account

“I used Tinder Plus around my book launch in November 2018. Sold 4 books to my Tinder matches pre-launch.” — author and life coach Dipanshu Rawal

Using a dating app to sell books is so unconventional, it almost sounds unethical. Dipanshu’s evil trick made me snort with laughter. But it also made me marvel at the wicked genius of the idea. Sure, a dating app is for hook-ups and casual friendships, but why can’t it be used to sell books?

How you can go about it

Once they right swipe you and you both match, slide into their DMs. When they ask, “So what’s up?” you reply with a casual, “Nothing much, just launching my book on the weekend.”

This is the simplest, most direct way to pique their curiosity and get them interested enough to buy your book. The only issue is that an author has to have some experience with dating apps and have a strong profile to make others “like” them. Other than that, it’s pretty straight-forward. Even if you don’t sell many books, you’ll still end up with a great story.

Or, in the very least — an amused potential date who would then go on to tell all their friends about this author who tried to sell them their book in their first conversation. After all, any publicity is good publicity.

“I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.” — P. T. Barnum

2. Social Media Buzz — With a Twist

Author Manali Desai took to Instagram to promote her anthology, The Art of Being Grateful. There are eight short stories in the book, and for each of them, Manali did a “Guess the Title post” on her Instagram.

At 5 p.m. sharp every evening, she posted a picture depicting the story elements with a few letters blacked out and left it to the audience to guess. Each post was followed by a teaser at midnight where the actual title was revealed, and every user who managed to get the name right was rewarded with a shout-out in her stories.

Post-launch, Manali kept her book for free on the Kindle store to keep up the buzz around the book. She plans to continue doing this for a year at least. In her words:

“Free promotions help a lot to connect with potential readers and definitely help with getting reviews. Though you lose on the royalties, you end up reaching a wider audience.”

How you can go about it

  • Pick a social media platform you’re most familiar with and design a campaign to post something every day until the launch to generate buzz.
  • You can hold small contests and reward winners with a free book, a consultation call, or something as simple as a shout-out in your stories.

3. Driving Your Point Home

A fellow author friend who chooses not to be named for this article shared a fascinating anecdote that helps him sell 5–6 books each month. He has to travel between two cities often for work. Since they are barely a few kilometers away, he takes the journey by a shared cab.

On the ride, he talks with his fellow passengers about his book. By the trip’s end, most of them end up buying it. In his words:

“It’s not intentional marketing, but something that happens naturally over the conversation.”

How you can go about it

Whenever you’re in a setting where a fellow human (or a group of people) are trapped with you for a while, and there’s no way out, start talking about your book. This might sound stressful, especially as most authors are introverts and hate self-promotion. But this is a great ice-breaker and can land you a few sales.

If all else goes wrong, at least you’ll have a better time than just sitting and staring at your phone for the entirety of the cab ride.

4. Aggressively Recruiting Local Book Sellers

Another great strategy is to go to local bookstores and strike up a deal with them for stocking either one or a few copies of your books. If you do it in your hometown, the shopkeeper's chances of getting swayed by emotion that someone from this city has written a book are high. You might end up making some sales this way.

As the author Nalini Sharma puts it:

“I don’t spare a single shopkeeper from asking, ‘Do you buy novels directly from authors?’ Recently, I sold around 19 copies of my book all over my town. Apart from that, I have sold my book to 4 random people while roaming around in a shopping mall.”

How you can go about it

Many people have strong sentiments of loyalty to their hometowns. If you approach local bookstores, readers, or even random strangers in the mall, there’s a chance you might end up selling a few copies of your book.

If that seems too hard, at least you’ll have a fun memory you can later turn into an article.

Final Words

Marketing your books as a self-published author is hard. Without a publishing house backing you, it can get difficult to grab some eyeballs on your first book. To combat a situation like that, I reached out to four self-published authors about the most audacious, most unconventional trick they have applied to sell their books. Based on their answers, here are some ways that work:

  1. Send your book details to potential matches on dating apps.
  2. Do a dedicated social media promotion campaign and keep your book for free on the Kindle store for a few days each month.
  3. Talk to your fellow passengers in a shared cab about your book.
  4. Reach out to local booksellers and appeal to their hometown's love to support an author from the same place.

This is just what my friends did. I’m sure there are many more self-published writers who tried even more audacious ways and achieved success.

No matter what avenue you choose, the trick is to think outside the box. Even the most mundane social activity can be turned into a book promotional campaign if you’re creative enough.