For a self-published author, marketing the book can be more important than writing it. With a few key steps, an author can build a loyal following, get the word out about his or her work, and get people to buy it.

1. Build a Web Presence

Probably the most effective and least expensive way to reach readers is by building a strong web presence, including an author website with an up-to-date blog, as well as active profiles on social media sites including Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

The website should be simple to navigate, and make it easy for visitors to learn about and buy your book. In building a website, authors can go through free hosting services such as Wordpress or Blogspot, but better yet is for authors to host their own websites.

“I’d have real concerns about authors who don’t want to invest in their own hosting,” says Lori Culwell, author of How to Market a Book and founder of

Regular updates on the social media platforms, along with a steady stream of blog posts on topics and keywords that interest readers will advance an author’s search engine optimization. Culwell says a good target for authors is to take up the entire first page of Google results when their name is searched for.

2. Build a Mailing List

All of these platforms should make it easy for visitors to sign up for the author’s mailing list -- one of the best ways to get a well-timed message in front of interested readers. This can simply inform readers of a new blog post, to add attendees for a live event, or to boost early book sales.

“Develop an audience of people who like your writing so you can sell enough copies on the first day to get your book up to the top of Amazon, where it will then get more attention,” suggests Culwell.

A few services to help build a mailing list and track its performance are:

- MailChimp (free and good for basic email list)
- aWeber (costs $1 to sign up)
- iContact (works well for both beginners and more advanced lists)
- Benchmark Email (can add video and image customization)
- Constant Contact (allows for XHTML and other design elements)

Once they have built a strong list, authors should also try to segment it, based on interests and geographic regions, so messages promoting specific projects or book appearances can go to recipients who will find it most relevant.

3. Target Your Messaging

Reach out to prominent blogs and publications that cover books or topics discussed in your book. Tell them about your book and volunteer to write a guest post on something related to it.

There are also numerous sites where an author can promote his or her eBook, often through targeted giveaways, including Addicted to eBooks, Free eBooks Daily, or FreeBooksy. Worthwhile outlets for hosting giveaways for print books are Goodreads and LibraryThing.

For authors willing to spend a little more money, a number of services are available to help promote the book to readers and add them to your mailing list. These include:

- Google Adwords
- Goodreads ads
- Facebook ads

But these kind of expenditures should only be made once the many free (and often more effective) avenues have been tried.

4. Keep Up the Maintenance

Just as authors are urged to write every day, self-published authors should also be marketing every day. Culwell suggests setting aside just 15 minutes each day to take some kind of marketing action, whether reaching out to an organization that might want to promote a Skype chat, or commenting on message boards like where members are discussing topics relevant to the book.

Perhaps more important than anything else: Keep working at it. Authors should remember that marketing involves plenty of trial and error and if one channel is not getting a strong response, it may be time to try something else.

“You have to be willing to try things and have them fail,” says Culwell. “Marketing is not something that you will ever really finish.”