The Digital Marketing Playbook for Self Published Authors

Writing can be an immensely fulfilling and rewarding experience and with all the self-publishing, ebook publishing and print-on-demand options that are now available anyone can be a writer.

You no longer have to go the traditional route of literary agents and big publishing houses just to get your book out into the world.

However, the flip side of this great digital age of publishing is that ANYONE can write a book, and ANYONE can publish a book, ebook, or audiobook.

That means a very crowded marketplace.

That means millions and millions of books, ebooks, and audiobooks that readers have to wade through to find your book.

Just to give you an idea of what you are up against, there are currently about 20 million books available on in English alone!

20 million!

But, before you get discouraged I have some good news.

There are ways you can promote your book online, develop a following, and sell more books using tools and techniques that work for almost any budget.

Just by reading and following the 5 steps outlined in this guide you will be ahead of 90% of all other authors in the world who simply upload their book on Amazon and hope for the best.

So, keep reading this guide to the end to discover the steps you can take right now to promote your book online and start selling more books.

Step 1. Create a Book Website

The first step is to setup a website for your book.

I’m not talking about a blog where you can post articles about your writing (or pretty much whatever you like) or a big author website with multiple pages devoted to you and all of your books. No, I’m talking about a simple, one page website devoted to promoting just one book.


Because keeping the focus on one book allows you to laser focus your communications and marketing efforts, which leads to better results and more sales.

Anything that deviates from this focus introduces distraction or confusion into the process, and people are less likely to take the action you want them to – such as downloading a free chapter or buying the book!

Your book website will be the destination where you send anyone who is even remotely interested in learning more about your book.

You can also grow your website as you go, meaning you can start with nothing more than a title, a cover mockup, and a draft synopsis, and then add content as it become available. makes it super easy to do this.

You book website can include as much or as little information as you like, but consider including content such as:

  • Reviews
  • Samples
  • Mailing List Signup Form
  • Author Bio
  • Social Media Links
  • Book Trailer

And for books that are not work of fiction, such as business books, how to books, recipe books, and other non-fiction books, consider adding:

  • Featured Content
  • Samples

Now before you dismiss this idea because you’re not a web designer or a programmer and it’s going to be too expensive to hire someone to do it for you, or because you’ve already tried website building tools and they frustrating and hard to use, there is a solution that is tailor made for authors. allows authors to create book websites in as little as 10 minutes.

You can try completely free. You only pay if you decide to publish and use your book website.

Once your website is setup you will have your own dedicated web address that you can copy and paste into your emails, your social media posts, or even print on business cards to handout to anyone who wants to know more about your book.

Step 2. Setup a Mailchimp List

Okay, so you’ve got your website setup, the destination where you send anyone who shows interest in your book, but now what?

You need a way to capture the email addresses of those people who have shown interest in your book by visiting your book website so you can continue to talk to them, and promote your book to them after they leave.

According to most online ecommerce statistics, only about 1% of people will buy your book the first time they visit your website. And for that number to be valid you need to get a large number of visitors to your website every day.

That means most people who visit your book website will not buy your book the first time.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but that’s just a fact.

However, once you accept this fact there is something you can do about it.

People are busy and if you manage to catch their attention at all online you have a few seconds, maybe a minute, to peak their interest further.

Otherwise, they are off to the next task or distraction and you have lost them. They may never remember your book or that they were interested in it in the first place, or how to find your website again.

But, if they go to your website the first time, and you’ve got an email signup form that allows them to put in their email address to get a downloadable free chapter of your book (or a PDF checklist, or a tipsheet) or even just to get updates on your book as you write it, then you can continue to talk to them long after they have left.

Mailchimp is an enormously popular service that allows you to create email lists and integrate them with your website. Best part? It’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers. integrates seamlessly with Mailchimp so you can signup for a free Mailchimp account, create an email list, and then add it to your book website on with a couple of clicks.

Step 3. Create a Lead Magnet

Now you’ve got a book website where you send people who are interested in your book, and a way to collect their email address.

What’s next?

Now you need to create an incentive, a reason for people to give you their email address. In the world of digital marketing this is called a lead magnet, so from now on we’ll use that term.

The most obvious lead magnet for an email list for a book is a free chapter, or several free chapters. In fact, many authors use this method in order to hook readers who then must buy the book to keep reading. It’s a win-win for both the author and the reader.

Two factors are at work here:

1) People are risk averse.

2) People like free stuff.

Often, people don’t like to take a chance with their money (or their reading time) on something new, because if they don’t like the writing style, or the story isn’t really for them they feel bad about it.

And people don’t like to feel bad.

So, there is a lot of inertia you need to overcome.

But, people like getting free stuff, so by offering a free preview of your book you overcome the inertia and they can sample the book before deciding whether or not they want to keep reading and buy the book.

The benefit to you as an author is that you don’t end up with people who buy your book, don’t like it, and leave a negative review just because it wasn’t the right fit for them.

Maybe you’re thinking that because you wrote a business book or a technical book, where a few free chapters really doesn’t help people see the value of the book.

Then why not try a free PDF Checklist or Tip Sheet related to your topic?

The point is that you need to come up with something to trade with people for their email address.

And that something should get people interested enough, or excited enough, to want to either buy your book or at the very least keep hearing about your book through your emails.

And if you just started writing your book and don’t have a free chapter to giveaway, or a checklist, you should at least let encourage people to signup so you can keep them informed about your progress by letting them know you will send a free chapter (or checklist) once it’s available.

Get creative!

There are no limits, but one word of caution: Avoid contests where you giveaway a free copy of your book to one lucky email list member at some specified time unless you have a book that people-must-absolutely-have-right-now-and-will-pay-for-it-no-matter-what.


Because giving away free copies of your book can interrupt the purchase process (perhaps permanently), because why pay for a book you might get for free?

Step 4. Promote on Social Media

Website setup? Check.

Mailchimp list setup? Check.

Lead magnet added? Check.

Now what?

Now it’s time to harness the power of social media to get things started.

First, you need to decide which social media channels are right for you and your audience of potential readers.

If we just look at the large social media channels there are about six to choose from.

They include:

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. Instagram
  4. Pinterest
  5. LinkedIn
  6. Google+
  7. YouTube

If you try to use them all you will quickly become overwhelmed and quite possibly give up.

The key is to pick one or two that are going to work for you.

Spend some time thinking about which ones you will actually use on a regular basis without it feeling just like more work.

You might already be using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, so those may be a perfect fit.

Also spend some time thinking about which channels might work best for your book.

For example, Pinterest is an “aspirational” social media site where people go to get visual inspiration to improve their lives. Everything from fashion and furniture to food and gardening.

If you have a recipe book with lots of photos of the completed recipes, or a gardening book with lots of photos of the beautiful gardens you have grown, you could post the photos on Pinterest and link them back to your website where people can download a free preview before buying your book!

And if you have a business book, LinkedIn might be perfect for you. You can create posts on topics related to your book and include links back to your book website where people can download a free chapter, a tipsheet, or a checklist before buying your book!

See how it’s all starting to fit together?

You can post on whatever schedule works for you, but realize that posting too often will annoy people and letting too much time pass between posts means people are no longer paying attention.

Step 5. Email Your List

Now that people are visiting your website and signing up to your list, what do you do with it?

Let’s start with what you don’t do.

What you don’t want to do is send out “buy my book” emails once a week.

That will turn people off and they will unsubscribe from you list in droves.

Keep in mind that a certain number of people will unsubscribe from your list no matter what you send out. So, don’t take it personally – that’s just how it goes for everyone.

And it’s not a bad thing.

You don’t actually want people on your list who have no interest in eventually buying your book, because once your list is big enough (more than 2,000 subscribers on Mailchimp) you will need to start paying.

So, you want the dead weight gone.

Once people have signed up for your email list and received your lead magnet (fee chapter, checklist, tipsheet) you need to figure out two things:

  1. What to send people.
  2. How often to send.

Let’s start with the “what” question.

First of all, there are two options when sending out your emails:

  1. Autoresponder Emails
  2. Occasional Emails

Autoresponder emails (also known as drip sequences) are pre-written emails that go out to new subscribers on a pre-determined schedule once they signup for your list.

The idea is that you pre-write a series of emails, designed to move someone along the path from interest to buying your book, and then send them out automatically each time someone signs up.

The benefit of doing this is that you can send the same series of emails to everyone who signs up for your list, no matter when they join, without you have to do any more work!


The content for an autoresponder campaign can vary a lot, but it should get people more and more interested in buying your book until the last email where you just ask for the order.

You can consider your lead magnet to be the first email in your series, and then after that you could send an email reminding them they downloaded it and ask what they thought.

Then maybe a “the story continues” style email where you get them excited about what happens next (and they will have to buy the book to find out what happens next).

After that email, perhaps a glowing review or two to provide some social proof and reassurance that others have liked the book.

You get the idea.

Each email in the series should include a link to your website where people can follow your purchase link to buy the book, but there is no hard sell.

That’s the scoop on autoresponder emails, next let’s look at occasional emails.

Occasional emails are just emails you write and send out from time-to-time.

The content can be anything from a new review to an announcement about a book signing you are having, or even a new book you are working on.

That answers the questions of “what” to send out, now let’s look at “how often” you should send emails.

For autoresponder emails there is no clear consensus about what works best, but most series are:

  1. Once a day.
  2. Every other day.
  3. Once a week.
  4. Some combination of the above.

When you think about how often to send occasional emails to your list you can think about it like posting on social media.

Too often and people will get annoyed and unsubscribe.

Too infrequently and people will lose interest or forget your book exists.

The key is to find what works for you.

Find what comes naturally or at least without so much effort you hate doing it.

Next, let’s wrap-up this guide by reviewing the 5 steps.


Congratulations! Just by reading and following the 5 steps outlined in this guide you are ahead of 90% of all other authors in the world who simply dump their book on Amazon and hope for the best.

Just to recap, the steps are:

  1. Create Your Book Website
  2. Setup a Mailchimp Email List
  3. Create a Lead Magnet
  4. Promote on Social Media
  5. Use Your List

If you cover at least these 5 steps then you are on your way to selling more books.

Bonus Step: Repeat!

The marketing machine for your first book is now humming along and now it’s time to write your next book.

The good news is that you now know what to do. Just follow the same 5 steps.

But, this time you can start marketing at the same time you start writing!

The idea is that you start promoting your next book the second you decide to write it, so that when you are ready to publish you have a list of people who are ready to buy.

Setup a website (now you know how easy it is) with a working title, cover mockup, and draft synopsis.

Setup a new Mailchimp list and add it to your website with the promise of updates and content to follow.

Announce it on social media and send an email to your current book list letting them know what you are up to (with a link to your new book website).

Ready to give it a try? Create a free account on and create your own book website.