6 Unconventional Marketing Strategies for Authors


Not all marketing people are writers, but all writers must learn to be marketers.

—Joanne Kraft

Fact: Becoming a successful self-published author is more than just writing publication-worthy books. It’s also about knowing how to market your books. Marketing is integral to writing and publishing books, and you, the author, need to be front and center of the marketing campaign for your books. You must embrace the role of marketer and learn the strategies—both conventional and unconventional book marketing strategies. For self-published authors, in particular, unconventional book marketing is a highly suitable approach for financial and logistical reasons, among others.

Why Go the Unconventional Route?

The book market, like just about every market in the internet age, is buzzing nonstop with marketing messages of varying tones, volumes, and vehicles. A scenario like this calls for creativity and the willingness to embrace the unconventional—as long as it’s the kind of unconventional that ties in with your book and is done in good taste.

Also, as a self-published author, you don’t get the professional support that traditionally published authors get from their publishing company, so you have to exert a bit more effort on marketing. You need to be a savvy book marketer to set your book apart from the rest, in the best possible way. Guess what can help to make that happen: unconventional book marketing.

The kind of marketing that will get done is, for the most part, the kind that’s enjoyable.

— Lisa Velthouse

Unconventional Marketing Strategies That Can Help Boost Your Book Sales

Your book sales, unfortunately, cannot be guaranteed by great writing alone. You need to put your book out there, make sure it’s read by the right people, and to maximize exposure to your target audience, it makes sense not to limit your marketing to conventional strategies.

Let’s see which unconventional book marketing options can give you book sales figures to smile about.

1. Offer a unique promotion

Offer a fresh take on the age-old promotion tactic, something that other authors haven’t done. A good deal is always a welcome proposition, and when it’s unique to boot, you make it easier for people to pay attention. Pique your target audience’s interest with either or a combination of these options:

A gift with purchase

Who doesn’t want a gift, right? The trick here is to give something that doesn’t come across as an afterthought. The quality of your gift can influence the perception of those who buy your book. How about a bookmark that contains a quotable line or passage from your book?

Limited-time offer

Offer a discount or a unique incentive for a limited period of time. Try offering a steep discount within a twenty-four-hour period (preferably on a weekend, and announce the offer way ahead of time).

Buy one, get one free

This sounds like an ideal scenario for gift-giving, yes? If you have already published two or more books, you can give any one of your other titles for free.

A well-considered promotion can get more people want to read your book and, down the line, your readers will be eager to read every new book you publish. Just keep those quality promotion ideas coming.

2. Create quality shareable content

Any marketer will tell you that content is king. But that statement needs to be qualified: Not just any content will do. You need to create content that is quality and shareable.

In marketing terms, quality content is content that drives the most traffic, spur engagement, and generate leads. Think ranking potential, searchability, marketing ROI. It’s what you get out of it.

Shareable content can be either of the following:

  • an inspiring and/or moving video (long or short)
  • an eye-opening, thought-provoking article/video
  • how-to video/article (e.g., recipes, decorating tips, power tool tutorials)
  • infographics (great for nonfiction)
  • interactive content (e.g., quizzes, playable ads, polls)
  • a funny meme (you can’t go wrong with cats, can you)
  • listicle (something informative, well presented, and a conversation starter)
  • current events and limited time promotion
  • “a day in the life” video or photographs
  • a controversial opinion (if you’re up for it)

Shareable content is an invaluable tool in building brand awareness and establishing a connection with your audience. Having a clear idea of who your audience is key to creating content that gets shared. So is being up-to-date on trends and current events. This is where social media analytics and other engagement tracking tools factor in the equation. Maximize the exposure of your shareable content by promoting it on all your channels (social media, website, mailing list, etc.).

3. Host an event

Events, whether in person or virtual, are a great, and fun, way to introduce yourself to your target audience and industry players, establish yourself as an authority in your field or on your subject matter, and generate leads. When you host an event, you create a scenario where you get to engage with and forge a relationship with your target audience. Trust is established, and you can start building a community around your work.

Here are some options you should consider for events to host:

  • Workshop
  • Webinar
  • Conference
  • A networking event


A workshop is a great way to show your expertise, establish your reputation, and make an impact on your target audience. Consider hosting a workshop on a specific topic or skill that is pertinent to your book. Or hosting a writing workshop focused on the elements relevant to your book (e.g., how to make food come alive on the page, how to write an unlikable but relatable character).


A webinar, essentially the online counterpart of a workshop, is a cost-effective way to reach more people without having to work out the logistics of a suitable venue since anyone can join from anywhere with an internet connection and willingness to adjust to the time depending on which time zone they’re in.


This is a large-scale event with room for two or more speakers/lecturers, workshops, Q&A sessions, and networking opportunities. Naturally, it’s more expensive, time-consuming, and labor intensive to plan, but if organized right, it’s a great way to announce your book and yourself the author.

Networking event

A networking event is any occasion, often casual, where professionals get together to forge and nurture connections. If you do this, make it open to anyone, or design the event to be specifically targeted to a particular group (e.g., real estate professionals, women small business owners). A more structured networking event would typically take place around a lecture or a presentation.

Here are the networking events you can choose from:

Industry-specific seminars

  • conferences/trade shows
  • virtual groups (often found in social media websites and online forums)
  • workshops
  • breakfast/lunch meetings
  • happy hour meetups
  • community service groups

Now, how to pull it off? Hosting an event requires careful planning, effective promotion, and efficient execution.

Select a date that won’t have you competing with a bigger event or a holiday. Determine the flow of activities and the materials and equipment necessary. Determine whether you will be inviting guests and be sure to give them ample time to prepare, especially if you need them to give a speech or a lecture or present a demonstration.

As for spreading the word about your event, social media, email marketing, and other channels are your go-to means for promotion and getting people to RSVP. As for the event itself, aim for maximum visibility. That means plenty of hard-to-miss signage, smartly designed promotional materials, and any other items (including collaterals, if appropriate for your subject matter) that will help distinguish your brand from the rest.

Keep in mind that hosting events is more than just a promotional strategy. It’s what you get out of it and what you provide your audience, which is value. That’s value in the form of opportunity: to learn something new, to take part in stimulating and creativity-sparking discussions/activities, and establish meaningful and strategic connections. Value like this can inspire trust and loyalty—two highly valuable elements of successful brand building.

You will always have plenty of options if you go down the events hosting route to market your book and promote your brand. Just be sure to pick events that resonate with your target audience and the themes and subject matter of your book.

4. Get unconventional with Facebook Ads

There are Facebook Ads best practices and then there are unconventional Facebook Ads practices. Best practices would have authors choosing Detailed Targeting. It seems such a simple, ideal premise: Detailed Targeting allows the advertiser to, well, target a specific audience for their Facebook Ads.

In practice, it is quite a limiting approach, and it will eventually work against you:

  • All the details you think would help you reach your target readers will instead keep your Facebook Ads algorithm from yielding optimum performance, resulting in poorer ads over time.
  • The audience you choose could be removed at any time, without warning, contributing to a volatile algorithm performance.
  • Detailed Targeting costs more.
  • Scaling Ads (i.e. spending more) will be more challenging.
  • Your Detailed Targeting audience is not accurately populated: many of those that are identified as your target audience are not.

Author, Publishers Weekly columnist, and Great Courses professor Jane Friedman recommends something unconventional: Unrestricted Targeting. This strategy strips away limiting details and allows the Facebook Ads algorithm to perform at its best.

  • It will analyze your ad and evaluate elements like the following: words used, tone, image style, image content (e.g. gender, age, personality, emotions, landscape, object, etc.).
  • It will look at the landing page your ad will send people to.
  • It will take other relevant data points into consideration.

The algorithm will then use all these accumulated information to build an audience that’s most likely to respond positively to your ad. So you get a more accurately determined audience to start with, and from there, the algorithm will only perform better and better, finding more people who share similar characteristics as those who like your ad. The result is higher conversion—i.e., more books sold.

You can read the full eye-opening Jane Friedman article here.

5. Try a bit of guerrilla marketing

Guerrilla marketing is a great way for you to get unconventional in your marketing campaigns and command the kind of attention and interest that helps boost sales and grow your fan base, as long as you make choices that fit your brand. Not only is it flexible, it is also cost-effective. You’ll have plenty of options—from funny, mysterious, or clever billboards to impromptu activities such as a flash mob or an event ambush, where, for example, you read a page from your book over the PA system or up onstage during a concert or a game. You can carry out your guerilla marketing activities indoor or outdoor. The element of surprise is an effective element of this approach and helps to keep your book and you in the minds of the people present, both those who are your target audience and those who know someone who would want to read your book.

A successful guerilla marketing campaign is creative, bold, and noteworthy—and always proper and legal. Sure, notoriety could get you attention, but we’re not recommending it.

Instead, we recommend these:

Know your audience.

Once you know who your target audience are—their values, interests, and pain points—you’ll have a clear idea of how to market your book to them. A target audience of working moms, for example, will respond well to a billboard telling them to take a break and do something that makes them smile, followed by a suggestion to get a copy of your book to read about your own story.

Leave your comfort zone. 

Get comfortable operating outside the box. If you think an idea is unconventional, don’t shoot it down. That’s what you’re after. Explore the possibilities it offers and start planning.

Keep it simple. 

Aim for simplicity and clarity. Don’t waste people’s time and attention with convoluted messaging. You’ll want your target audience to have clear expectations.

Be for real.

Authenticity is a marketing must, so make sure your guerilla marketing tactics are consistent with what your book is about and what you as the author stand for.

6. Collaborate with other brands

Forming strategic partnerships with the right brands/people will help expose your book to new audiences.

Here are a few options to consider when collaborating with other brands:

Collaborative promotion / cross-promotion

If your subject matter allows it, why not collaborate with a brand, a store, or another author? For example, purchase of your book on journaling toward self-healing could entitle your readers to a discounted ticket to attend a self-care retreat. During the retreat, the person conducting it (who may be an author as well), can also promote your book as a recommended reading.

With another author, you can promote each other’s books to each other’s audience. A great scenario for this would be a collaboration between two authors whose books’ subject matters are relevant to each other. For example, a book about DIY approach to building a house can be cross-promoted with a book about furniture making.

Co-hosting an event

When you co-host an event, you share responsibilities, resources, and expertise with another brand (author, store, product, etc.), and with the right collaborator, you will have an easier time tackling the task and create an experience that positively impacts those present. It is also a great way to forge a mutually beneficial relationship with other brands. And the best part is that this strategy gives you and your co-host access to each other’s audience, which is your marketing goal.

Collaborative content creation 

Collaborating with other brands on content creation can involve either of these options:

  • Blog article jointly written with another author
  • A series of behind-the-scenes photographs posted in collaboration with the photographer responsible for the images used in your book
  • Co-hosting a podcast

To ensure successful collaboration with others on your book marketing campaign, take note of the factors:

  • Clear definition of goals
  • Research on the industry
  • Effective use of social media
  • Exposure to industry events

Book marketing is a skill: it takes knowledge, effort, and persistence to really be successful.

— Heather Hart

Become a Self-Published Author in 3 Simple Steps

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