Ingermanson on “Permission Marketing”

This post was first published in October 2017
You have written your book and it is published. Brilliant! Congratulations! But now comes the hard part: How to market your book. There are different ways of doing that and Randy Ingermanson suggests “Permission Marketing” as one way to success. Here is how:


This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 16,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit


Permission Marketing

Do you like marketing your fiction or do you hate marketing it?

Most authors I’ve talked to hate marketing their work.

Hate it, hate it, hate it.

The reason is simple. They think that marketing must be done intrusively, using interruption marketing.

Interruption Marketing

What do I mean by interruption marketing?

Let’s say you’re watching your favorite TV show. The characters have just gotten themselves into an impossible situation and you’re dying to know how they’ll get out. Exactly at that point, there’s a commercial break. Now you have to sit through an ad for a product you probably don’t much care about.

That’s interruption marketing.

Most marketing these days is like that. It’s annoying for two reasons:

  1. It interrupts what you were doing to hit you with an advertising message just when you don’t want it.
  2. The product being advertised is unrelated to what you were doing, so you probably don’t even care about it.

If you think that you have to market your fiction using interruption marketing, you’re naturally going to hate marketing, because you don’t want to annoy people.

Permission Marketing

But there’s another way to market your work that you might enjoy a whole lot more. The method is called permission marketing, and it was developed by marketing guru Seth Godin as a way to make marketing better for everyone. Better for the consumer; better for the marketer.

The way it works is pretty simple. You create something of value that you can give away free to people who want it. You send out the free information at regular intervals. Along with that free information, you include advertising for products related to the stuff you’re giving away.

This eliminates the two major annoyances we noted for interruption marketing:

  1. You send out the free stuff on a regular schedule, so it’s anticipated by the customer.
  2. The ads are for products that are relevant to the customer, because they’re much like the free stuff you’re sending out.

Why is it called permission marketing? Because the only people you send the free stuff to are the people who asked for it—by subscribing. And if they decide they don’t want the free stuff anymore, they can easily unsubscribe and then they never have to hear from you again.

Some Examples

A nice example of permission marketing is BookBub.

BookBub has a web site advertising good deals on e-books. On the web site, you can sign up for a daily email that alerts you to good deals on the categories you’re interested in. BookBub makes sure that the deals they’re offering are genuinely good deals—the prices offered must be quite a lot lower than the normal price, the deals must be for a limited time, and the books must be verifiably good reads.

BookBub subscribers know that they’ll get good deals in their in-box every day. They know that they’ll only see deals for categories they’re interested in. And they know that they can unsubscribe at any time.

All of which means that BookBub is using permission marketing to sell e-books to willing customers. You can bet that the people at BookBub don’t hate marketing. Because they know they’re giving something of value to people who want it. That’s a winning marketing strategy.

The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine is another example of permission marketing. You subscribe for free and you can unsubscribe at any time. I give you free information on organization, craft, and marketing every month. And any products I mention in this e-zine are relevant to fiction writers. (Most often, the products I mention are not even mine and I don’t earn a penny from them, although I reserve the right to occasionally include an ad for one of my own products.)

Permission marketing is fun, because the focus is on giving away valuable stuff for free. Giving things away makes you happy.

But is permission marketing effective? Yes, it’s effective. I’ve found it effective anyway. This is now the 13th year I’ve been writing this e-zine. I’ve learned an incredible amount by writing the e-zine; I’ve made a ton of friends; and the money has been very well worth my time.

You might be wondering how you can apply permission marketing to the marketing of your fiction. One obvious way is to write a series and give away the first book in the series free. That makes you happy, because giving things away makes you happy. It makes your target audience happy, because everybody likes getting good things for free. And it’s effective, because if readers like the first book in the series, they’ll happily buy the rest.

Are there other ways to grow readership for your fiction using permission marketing? I believe there are many, and I plan to test some new ideas in the next year or so. If they pan out, then I’ll share the results here. If they don’t work, then I’ll be a little wiser.


  • Name some examples of permission marketing that have worked well on you in the past.
  • What did you like about these examples?
  • What did you dislike?
  • Can you think of some possible ways to apply permission marketing to your fiction?


Related blog posts:

The Weiver: Book Report ~ Permission Marketing by Seth Godin #WTFNaina: Permission Marketing

Now go and market your book


you can do it!

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