Written by Emily Harstone February 20th, 2020

Nine Ways to Promote Your Writing for Free

Often I am asked “How do you promote your writing without paying anyone?”

In my experience, the best ways to promote one’s writing are free. I am very skeptical about most of the for-pay options.

While there are many ways to promote your own writing, the best ways all involve hard work, and persistence.

Here are 9 ways that I have found to be the most effective, personally.

1. Submit to Literary Journals

There is no way around this fact. If your work is accepted by a literary journal, they will promote your work for you. Not only that, but you can add the name of their publication to your author’s bio. Each time you are published by a literary journal, you make another connection in the literary world to an editor. Sometimes these ties are weak and you never interact beyond a superficial level, but other times they lead to publications in other literary magazines and even chapbooks, or full-length manuscript publication.

If you have no ideas how to start submitting, we have several articles here that would be helpful for you, including: Why You should Submit to Literary Journals, Three Tips for Submitting Your Work, and Print Versus Online Journals. We are also publishing a book all about submitting soon, so keep an eye out for that.

Some literary journals charge writers a “Reading fee” to submit and that has become more popular over the last two years, still there are thousands that don’t. Reading fees are not worth it. All the literary journals we review have fee-free submission options.

2. Have a Website or Blog

You do not have to pay to have a website or blog. Therefore as a writer who wants to get their work out there, you have no excuse not to have one. I have a professional website that links to all of my publications, contains a lengthy bio, and sells my chapbooks. I have sold chapbooks to strangers in Newfoundland based entirely on the existence of the website.

When I publish my work in a journal, my website is always listed in my bio. When my work is published in a journal, I always link to that journal from my website. This cycle of promotion is very helpful.

I also have a blog that I update sporadically. I do not post any poems on my blogs but I know many poets that do.

3. Use Facebook

Many writers have Authors Pages on Facebook. In the poetry community I belong to, that is frowned upon. Instead, most of the poets I know will add any other poet on Facebook, but they filter the content they can see. So these poet friends who you don’t know won’t see anything personal because of privacy settings.

I don’t do this, but I still have over 400 friends, so whenever I have a publication, I post a link on Facebook and generally this link is shared by other people, and my poem is read by my Facebook friends, those that are interested in poetry, and some who are just curious.

Now a lot of authors find community and new readers through joining Facebook groups about writing. Many of the best ones are secret and private, but often by becoming actively involved in the public ones, you can be invited to the private ones. It is best to join groups related to the genre or genres you write in.

4. Promote other writers’ work

I have always found it easier to talk about others’ work than to speak about my own. However, most authors, particularly new authors, shy away from doing this. It seems counterproductive. After all, why promote another author’s work when you could be promoting your own?

The reason is obvious, at least to me. People take you more seriously if you promote other authors’ work. It sends a clear message that you are not just out there to promote yourself. It builds community with other writers, particularly the ones you might be promoting, but others as well. When you start promoting your own work it will be taken more seriously because you have spoken up for others.

All of the established writers I know do this, but most of the writers just starting out, do not.

5. Be a Part of Your Local Writing Community

Being part of your local writing community is a great thing. You have friends to talk about your writing with. You will be able to promote their work and they will promote your work. You can talk to each other about opportunities for grants and for publication. 

Finding a writing community can be tricky but a good place to start is by going to a writing class held at a local bookstore or community college. You can also meet people by attending readings and other literary events. Be brave, make friends, and network.

6. Go to Open Mics

Open Mics are events were people from the community come together and read their work. It can be exclusively poetry, but it could also include short fiction, and even music. Start attending and then reading at an open mike. I suggest attending at least one before reading. Each open mic tends to have its own crowd of regular attenders and it is good to know who they are before reading the first time.

Often you will have an opportunity to sell books or copies of your poems at open mics, so if you have published anything, bring a copy.

7. Join an Online Writing Community

If you’re really shy in person, live rurally, or just want to expand your current poetry community, a great way to do that is to join an online community.

Most of these communities are forum based. Look up writing forums and feedback on Google and scan a few, try to find one that works for you. In many, you can post your poem and get editing feedback. You can also give others feedback. Giving good feedback is a great way to become part of a community.

8. Start a Writing Group

Writing groups are important and I have written about them before in the article How to Find A Writing Group. Personally my writing group is a wonderful circle of support and promotion. Everyone is there for the other writers in the group. Several of my pieces have been published because of advice from the group.

Because members of my writing group have become the editors of literary journals and regularly rotate guest editor positions, I receive a number of solicited submission requests from them every year. When your work is directly solicited, it is almost always accepted.

9.  Join Instagram (Or Tumbler, or Twitter, or . . . )

Facebook is not the only big social media site anymore. There are others around and they each have different personalities in terms of writing. Maybe browse a few to see which ones would work for you. I am only going to cover a couple of them but there are many more out there.

Instagram is one of the ways many writers promote their own work by posting quotes and memes. Poets particularly are known to get their start this way.

Tumblr (a micro blogging site) has a huge writing community and a supportive one at that. People publish their work on Tumblr and share friends’ work. However, it is important to note two things. The first is that Tumblr skews towards a younger audience and most of the writers there are young and interested in spoken word. If that is in your area of interest you should definitely join Tumblr. Lang Leav became a best-selling poet in part because of Tumblr.

A lot of poets use Twitter to communicate parts of their poems, a line here, a line there. Because you can never use more than a 140 characters at a time, Twitter forces you to be creative. Also, a lot of Twitter poets have come up with inventive ways of using hashtags to communicate ideas.

Emily Harstone is the author of many popular books, including The Authors Publish Guide to Manuscript SubmissionsThe 2019 Guide to Manuscript PublishersSubmit, Publish, Repeat, and The Authors Publish Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Publishing.

She occasionally teaches a course on manuscript publishing, a course on novel writing, as well as a course on publishing in literary journals.


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