The Broke Author's Guide to Book Design and Marketing

Most new authors don't make much from their books. A lot of them don't know how to market let alone have funds to run ad campaigns. Some of them still have jobs that limit the time they can spend on a manuscript and learning to market.

I've been there too.

I'm a broke author, and I'd like to share the Free/Cheapest ways you can Write and Market your book.

Book Design

Obviously you need a program to write with. Most people use Word or Scrivener.

Word costs yearly (or monthly). Cost depends on which package your choose. Ranges from $69.99 - $149.99.

Scrivener is a one-time payment of $30. Especially handy with book outlining, note-taking, and arranging.

Once you have a manuscript, you gotta work on all the aspects of production.


Grammerly - Although not a perfect service (neither is Word Spellcheck) it helps to have as much editing input as possible. Definitely take the edits with a grain of salt. It's free unless you decide to upgrade.

Word Spellcheck (if you use word) - Free, but also misses a lot of mistakes. I definitely wouldn't recommend just counting on this platform for your editing.

Editors - Will cost by word or hour depending on which editor you choose, but most definitely won't be cheap. This is probably the most expensive part.

You - If you could do all the editing yourself, you'd be the cheapest option as far as editors go. The cost would be a copy editing course and your time. Udemy usually has discounted courses on copy editing. I picked one up for under $20 because it was on sale.


Kindle Plug-In - Helps you format your books directly in Word with little effort. Just set your preference, click on the section you want to format and how you want it formatted.

Book Cover - Free! Unless you want to upgrade (or use photos that cost a few bucks). A great place to make your own book covers. They have templates set up for your convenience, free stock photography, free fonts, backgrounds, an array of colors etc. - $299- $1299 options. You get to choose your package and the fun part is that designers run with your description, title, etc. You get at least 30 designs from professional designers to choose from.

Publishing (I add this one because some sites make you pay for an ISBN) - Get your ISBN for free and set up your entire paperback book on this site for free.

Kindle - When you've finished your paperback set up on CreateSpace, you can choose automatically transfer a lot of the data to Kindle to set up an eBook. Very helpful.


This one too complex for a single post, so I'll give you some pointers and show you a few places to get more information.

Your Email List Service provider should be the first expense you even think about.

All advice out there agrees that to make money, every author needs to build their email list. They need a place to house all their fans, to communicate one-to-many, and have a moment of attention centered on them or their book. The Email List Services are very comprehensive with a handy help center if you need it, automation, tags for fan sorting, landing pages, campaigns, and subscription forms.

Email List Service Providers

MailChimp - Free for the first 2,000 subscribers (which makes it a great place to start) at which point you'll need to upgrade your plan.

ConvertKit - $29/month for your first 1,000 subscribers (The cost goes up in conjunction with the number of subscribers). I found ConvertKit easier to use than MailChimp in that the setup is easier to understand and use, the terms made more sense to me, and making forms/sequences/automation is simpler.

Next, think about getting onto well-established email lists like other author's blogs, podcasts, or webinars (or their preferred outlets). Always add more value than you're receiving to create a good result and lasting relationship.

Freebooksy (or Bargainbooksy) is another option; simply discount your book on Amazon and set up a date on Freebooksy to be on their mailing list (This will cost depending on your genre and promotion deal: $25- $200).

Boosts from Facebook, Pinterest, and Amazon always cost money, but you can set a budget for how much you want to pay. (These work for some people, but not for others. Experimentation is good, but be aware that it may not get clicks per ad to make it worth the money you spend.)


Your landing pages will work for a little to collect emails, but eventually you'll want/need a website to host a blog or share little pieces of you.

Wix - $5- $25/month

Squarespace - $12 - $40/month

Wordpress - $4- $25/month

Obviously, there are cheaper ways that involve buying your domain name from Blue Host, Go Daddy, or the equivalent, coding your own website, etc.

Marketing is hard, and if we don't know how to do it, subscribing to email lists equates to free marketing advice, strategies, tips, and tricks from the Book Marketing Masters.

If you do nothing else to study marketing, I highly recommend following these three guys.

Experts to Follow

Tim Grahl - The No-nonsense Book Marketing Guru who defines marketing as "The act of building long-lasting connections with people." Wrote Your First 1000 Copies and Book Launch Blueprint, and has built several courses (like Launch a Bestseller and Author Platform 101) to help authors launch their books successfully.

Seth Godin - Marketing Master who is quoted by nearly every other marketer. (Seriously, you can't get into book marketing without hearing about his books Tribes, Permission Marketing, or Purple Cow.) Has authored several books about marketing, created courses, and shares great insights in his daily emails.

Jeff Goins - Master Networker who connects with many authorpreneurs (like Joanna Penn and Sandy Krepps) for Podcasts, Webinars, Blog posts, etc. Wrote several books including Real Artists Don't Starve and The Art of Work. Created several courses including Tribe Writers and Intentional Blog.

If you get the chance, buy their books on marketing (or if you're not sure, just download the free samples off of Amazon). They give fantastic advice about getting yourself noticed.

There you have it in the most basic terms. Being an author, building your brand costs a bit of money. Here are the cheapest methods for doing what you do best and getting paid to do it.

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