Thanks, Shelli, for hosting this leg of the tour. Shelli asked me to talk about marketing my books. In particular, she asked what the differences were between marketing nonfiction books for a small niche and the type of marketing needed for fiction.
Whew! What a great question.
For me, the principals of marketing are the same, whether you are marketing a small educational title to a specific niche, a children’s nonfiction advice book, or even a mainstream trade novel. These principles include:
· Know Your Market: Regardless of whether you are marketing a novel for teens of a nonfiction book for educators, you MUST know your market. Not only who may read your book, but the specifics about what your particular audience may be looking for from your book. Wonder the bookstores, picture exactly where your book fits on the shelf. Ask your specific audience what they are hungry for – what kinds of things are possibly missing from the market right now.
In addition to knowing your primary market, know your secondary and tertiary markets as well. While these are certainly easier to identify in nonfiction, they exist in fiction as well. With YA for example, your primary market may be Teens, with a secondary market of adults interested in YA novels, and a tertiary market of both teachers who teach stories like yours, and writers who write similar genres.
· Treat Marketing As A Business: The publishing industry has changed substantially, whether we want it to have changed or not. Being a career author means more than just writing stories and having your agent and publisher do the majority of the business side of things. You must take an active role in building a platform and marketing the book.
Authors of Nonfiction genres are typically used to this. Fiction authors are learning – quickly.It is important with this business model change to treat the business aspects of writing as that – a BUSINESS. This means developing a strategic plan to both build platform and market the book. Set goals – monthly and more long term. Figure out how you want to proceed with your career – how you will connect with your readers.
Yes, if you are a fiction author with a larger publisher behind you, much of this planning will be done by others. But I feel strongly that you must take ownership for this as well. After all – it is YOUR career.
· Focus on Connections: Marketing your work is NOT about selling in the more derogatory, used salesman sense of the word. It is, however, about making connections to your readership. Find ways to bring content of value to your readers and they will thank you for it. Not only that, but they will come back over and over to see what else you have to say. If you only focus on sales, you will not only miss vital opportunities to develop relationships with your readers, but you will typically come off as disingenuous – something guaranteed to drive away your readers.
These principles are vital to marketing any book – fiction or nonfiction; widely distributed or sold on a small scale. While the principles are the same, some of the nuances of these principles are unique.
With my nonfiction books, for example, connecting with readers has proven most successful using a combination of virtual chats (twitter, secondlife, online forums) and real life events (conferences and book chats). Book signing are not generally effective as most of my readers do not come to them. Panel discussions would be effective, I believe. But the niche these books serve have not used such events widely, so finding venues is difficult.
With fiction, connecting with readers takes on a whole different meaning. Panel discussions, live events and virtual Q&A’s are very effective ways to connect with readers. Offering exclusive content is another fantastic way to bring value and connect to fiction readers – things like exclusive short shorts stemming from the characters of the book, or bookish swag that brings fresh content to readers (the postcards from Cassandra Clare are a great example of this).
Connecting with fiction readers can also mean using media in unique ways – more unique than is typically appropriate from some NF genres. Beth Revis’ interactive blueprint of the ship from Across the Universe, Ric Riordan’s 39 Clues online material, and Gossip Girls use of virtual worlds frequented by teens to market the series are prime examples of finding unique ways to connect with readers. Annotated picture books are another example of bringing exclusive content to readers.
Overall, marketing fiction can be a bigger challenge to the author. It can be difficult to set yourself apart from every other author in a way that positions you well in the market place. Challenging yes, but not impossible.
For me, the key is to start with the end product – the book. Make it the very best product you can. Then follow the principles listed above, applied to your specific market. Be creative. Find new ways to bring fresh, value-added content to your readers. And treat it all as a business – your business.
- Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students (October 1, 2010, Prufrock Press)
- 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids (May 1, 2011, Prufrock Press)