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 So, you want to market your book but don’t have any money. What should you do? 

Before we talk about marketing when you don’t have enough money, we need to answer a more fundamental question. 

What is money?

 Money is:

  • The present reality of your past work.
  • A way to measure value.

Asking, “How do I market my book with no money is a bit like asking, “How can I convince others to value my book without having to value it myself?” A reader would respond to that question by asking, “Why should I pay to read a book that’s not valuable enough to promote?” 

What can I do if I have no money to market my book?

Option #1: Become a Hobbyist

To become a hobbyist, you should

  • Think of the money spent on your book as an expense. It’s money you will never get back.
  • Avoid spending money when you can.
  • Share your stories for free on Royal Road, Substack, or
  • Write for fun rather than for any other reason. 

Writing as a hobby is:

  • Easy 
  • Low stress 
  • Relatively free 
  • You can write exactly what you want without thinking about (or getting to know) your Timothy.  

If you decide to write as a hobbyist, realize that most hobbyists have

  • Few readers
  • No sales
  • No revenue 
  • No writing-related tax deductions
  • No cultural impact
  • No writing legacy 

If you are a hobbyist, you may feel frustrated by the Novel Marketing Podcast. This show is “the podcast for authors who want to make a living writing books worth talking about.” The book-marketing advice I offer on Novel Marketing is not targeted at hobbyists. 

Option #2: Become a Professional 

If you want to harvest, you must first plant. If you want to make a living writing, you need to first make an investment. Investing in education to help you become a professional writer is no different than investing in education to become a professional lawyer, plumber, or teacher. Becoming a professional author is not as expensive as law school, but it may take just as much work.

If you want to become a professional, but you don’t have any money, what do you do? 

Step #1: Get a Job

Magnifying glass over a newspaper classified section with “Job Opportunity” text

As Dave Jackson would say, “If you don’t have any money, you don’t need a book. You need a job.” 

The Best Job For Writers

The best job for a writer who wants to go pro is a job in the publishing industry. Working in the publishing industry means you get paid twice: once with money and once with knowledge. In the same way, plumbers learn their trade by doing it.

To find a job in the publishing industry, identify a fear or pain authors have and then offer to help alleviate that fear. As I record this, authors are plagued by the fear of domain authorization for email. SPF and DKIM records intimidate many authors, and they are happy to pay someone else to handle domain authorization so that Google and Yahoo won’t mark their emails as spam. 

Right now, you could make quick money by learning how to do the authorization and then selling your skill as a service.

You have two options if you don’t have money to market your book. Find out how an “expensive option” can be the “budget option” and where to invest your time when you don’t have the money.

The Second-Best Job For Writers

The second-best job for a writer who wants to become a professional is one that allows your creative brain to rest while moving your body. Jobs that require physical labor are always in demand and often pay better than supposedly higher-status desk jobs.

Either way, any job will be good for you, especially if you are young or retired since entitlement often sets in during those periods of life. Nothing purges you of entitlement like a real job. Working a job teaches you discipline, teamwork, and grit. All jobs teach one of the most valuable life skills: “Doing what you don’t want to do now so you can do what you want to do later.”

I’m teaching my small children that skill right now. They can have dessert if they finish dinner. If you eat what you don’t like now, you can eat what you do like later. If you want dessert, you must be willing to earn it.  

Life is not all ice cream and book signings with a long line of eager readers. Hard work is much like broccoli; it’s not nearly as bad as you think. The key is to start eating it, and then it gets easier. 

Step #2: Start Saving

You have been lied to your whole life about “saving.” If you buy a $10 shirt on sale for $8, you are not saving $2. You are spending $8. Saving is setting aside money today to spend on something tomorrow. Saving is the opposite of debt. 

Powerful forces in society desperately want you to live your whole life in debt. Your creditor gets to put their hand in your pocket every month. Debt is like fractional slavery. Debt only makes financial sense when purchasing assets, but most people sell themselves into debt slavery for a worthless degree, a depreciating car, or a bag full of clothes that will be out of style next year. 

Learning how to save money is your path to financial and creative freedom. It’s also the best way to have money to invest in your book.

My accountant dad taught us a memorable truism: 

Make enough to live on and live on what you make.

Tom Umstattd, CPA

If you don’t have money left over at the end of each month, you either need to make more money or adapt your lifestyle to fit your income. Adapting your lifestyle will require a budget.

Step #3: Create a Budget

In my episode titled How to Launch Your Book on a Budget, I share details about how much things cost and what kind of budget you need for a book launch. 

What is a budget?

Having a budget does not mean spending less money. The cheap option is not the budget option unless your budget calls for the cheap option. If you want to spend a lot of money on something without guilt, simply put it in your budget to spend a lot of money on that thing. That’s how the expensive option can become the budget option. 

A budget is simply a plan for where your money will go. Making a budget at the beginning of the month allows you to weigh trade-offs and make your decisions holistically and with a cool head. The worst place to make a financial decision is in the presence of a charismatic salesperson or under the influence of marketing. 

My favorite budgeting tool is YNAB (Affiliate Link). YNAB (You Need a Budget) makes budgeting easy and teaches you about budgeting. You don’t need to know anything about budgeting to start using YNAB, and it’s well worth the cost. 

If you are cash-poor, staying on a budget may mean reducing your expenses, so let’s talk about how to do that. 

How can you reduce expenses to stay within your budget?

Be Savvy with Free Tools

Many free tools are traps. Food and shelter are free for chickens in chicken coops because the chicken is the product being sold. 

How can you use free tools without becoming a chicken?

Always look for freemium options. Freemium tools are free for beginners, but they transition to a paid model as you succeed. You’re never the product being sold because you’re either a customer or a prospective customer. 

Freemium platforms I recommend include the following:

The other option is to choose services that take a percentage of your sales. Such platforms only get paid when you do. 

These include:

If you are short on cash, you can always start with Substack and move to ConvertKit later. Moving from one platform to another is easy when you are the customer.

When you’re not the customer, it’s much harder. If you want to move from Facebook to X, you have to start over from scratch because you are not the customer; you are the product being sold. 

Step #4: Invest

There is an important difference between spending and investing. When you spend money on a $50 shirt from Walmart, that money is gone. You now own a shirt you can wear, but you can’t turn that shirt back into $50.

When you spend $50 on a silver coin, you own a coin worth $50, and you could sell it to get your $50 back. If the cost of silver increases, you might even make a profit. If the price of silver decreases, you may lose money when you sell the coin. But since the coin has intrinsic value, it will never be worth zero, so you can always get some of your money back. 

Now, if you buy a $500 gumball machine so people can buy gumballs, it has value and revenue potential. It has value since someone may want to buy a working gumball machine. The machine can also make money by turning $5 worth of gumballs into $40 worth of quarters. The gumball machine is a cash-flowing investment. It has value, and it makes money.

Unlike the silver coin, which should appreciate over time and become more valuable, the gumball machine will depreciate. It will lose value as it slowly wears out. Real estate is one of the few assets that can cash flow and appreciate, which is why it’s such an expensive asset class.  

The shirt is an expense you spend money on. The silver coin and the gumball machine are investments. 

Where should you invest your book-marketing money?

Invest in Education

As you continue to educate yourself about writing and publishing, you’ll produce better books, find it easier to land a job in the publishing industry (so you can get paid twice), and be equipped to handle more aspects of publishing yourself, which will save you money.

When you understand publishing, you’ll find it easier to hire savvy assistants, spot scams, and create effective marketing campaigns for your book, which will lead to more sales. 

You’ll learn to write faster, be able to publish more books per year, and earn more money. Each new skill you learn becomes a bartering tool. You might trade your editing for a book cover design, web design, or advertising assistance. 

The more educated you are, the more other authors and industry professionals will respect you. 

Where can I invest in education?

Free Education

  • Check out craft books from the library.
  • Binge free podcasts like this one. 

WARNING: Avoid Free Facebook Groups. 

Free Facebook groups tend to be filled with bad advice from unsuccessful writers. When you’re learning, you may find it hard to sort the good advice from the bad.

Paid Education

  • Buy books. Not every book you will want to read will be available at the library. 
  • Buy courses you will complete. Online courses can be transformative, but only if you invest the time to complete the course. 
  • Invest in coaching. Only spend money on coaching and personalized feedback after you have exhausted your free options and have soaked up everything the courses have to teach.

The cheapest way to get coaching is to become a Novel Marketing Patron. For $4 per month, you can pick my brain at the Patrons-Only Q&A. 

Avoid University Education 

If you want to become an author, a university education is overpriced and ineffective. You don’t want to start your writing career with $100,000 in debt, and very few MFAs become professional authors. If you find that hard to believe, listen to my episode about whether novelists need a college writing degree.

Invest in Marketing Assets 

Marketing assets make it easier to sell your book and include some or all of the following:

Listen to my episode on How to Develop Book Marketing Assets to learn more about investing in marketing assets. 

Invest in Quality Publishing 

Certain aspects of your book are worth the investment of hiring a professional. I recommend that all authors pay a professional to design the book cover, do the various rounds of editing, and write the back cover copy

Avoid paying someone to publish your book for you. Professional indie authors use Amazon KDP, which is free. As you invest in your education, you will learn that Hybrid Publishers are typically a trap. 

Invest in Advertising

Once you learn how to advertise profitably, advertising becomes an investment rather than an expense. If you can spend $500 on ads and make $700 in profit selling your book, you have your $500 back plus $200. You can then spend the $500 on ads again and make another $200. Suddenly, selling books becomes like selling gumballs from a gumball machine. 

To advertise effectively, your book needs:

I have a lot of episodes on author advertising and will soon be adding an advertising module to my Obscure No More course.

Step #5: Crowdfund

If readers want to buy your book but you can’t afford to produce the book, you need to consider crowdfunding. The crowdfunding model allows readers to pre-order your book, thereby providing the funds you need to pay for edits and printing. 

To make crowdfunding work, you will need:

  •  the money for a great book cover
  •  a large email list of excited readers

Crowdfunding not only gets you the money faster but also gets you more of it. The typical crowdfunding reader spends around $40, while the typical Amazon reader spends around $7. Plus, the crowdfunding model allows you to keep 90% of the money rather than the 25-70% Amazon lets you keep.

I’ve interviewed several authors who successfully crowdfunded their books. Crowdfunding isn’t a popular topic for us, in terms of episodes downloaded, because some authors have a mental block when it comes to crowdfunding. If that is you, please listen to my interviews. These folks have raised $7,100$8,600, and $16,204 for debut novels

If you are broke, spend time learning Kickstarter. It just might change everything. If you want help, I have a course on crowdfunding. It is one of my cheapest courses, and if you are a patron, you can get it for half price.

Where to Get Business Help

If you need more help with money and the business side of publishing, check out my episode called 7 Business Mistakes That Ruin Author Careers.

I also have a course called The Tax and Business Guide for Authors

In this course, you will learn the following:

  • How to qualify for tax deductions for your writing-related expenses (not all writers qualify) 
  • 19 tax deductions authors can take advantage of 
  • How to start making a writing income before your first book comes out
  • When and how to form an LLC
  • How to create a business plan 
  • How to reduce your chances of being audited by the IRS

The course is taught by Tom Umstattd, a CPA with over 35 years of experience working with authors. 

Learn more at

Patrons save 50%!

Featured Patrons

New January Patrons, most of whom I got to meet at the patrons-only ice cream social.

  • Christian Indie Writers Podcast
  • Kelley Perry
  • Michelle Miller
  • David Umstattd
  • Crystal Lynn
  • Rebecca P. Minor
  • Kendra E. Ardnek
  • Danita Cummins
  • Cherie Fresonke
  • MN Stroh
  • Kara Swanson
  • Mark
  • Gwenn Lochstet
  • Charlsie Estess
  • Camy Tang
  • Kit Karson
  • Michael Howell
  • Jeanne Gehret
  • Peggy Borgman
  • Deanna
  • Theresa
  • Eileen
  • Paul

You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here.


Realm Makers Conference

If you’re a Christian author writing speculative fiction, you will find your tribe at Realm Makers. Since 2012, Realm Makers’ mission has been to serve authors of fantasy and science fiction through every aspect of their careers. 

Realm Makers has grown into much more than just a writers conference. 

Every January, eligible books can be submitted for a Realm Award and a chance to win a contest that actively sells your book at homeschool conventions, book festivals, and their physical bookstore called Bookish at the King of Prussia Mall in the Philly suburbs. 

Each February, the winter writing retreat is available for those authors who want to get away and focus on their manuscript and writing careers. 

At the annual Realm Makers Writers Conference in July, you will meet with literary agents, pitch your book to editors from both the general market and Christian publishing, get training on self-publishing, and geek out with fellow authors who totally understand your genre and worldview. 

Realm Makers even has a dedicated social network where you can stay connected all year round. Visit and join the Realm Makers community today! 

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