Will Your Novel Solve a Reader’s Problem? by Guest @Janice_Hardy

Marketing is a challenge for writers because marketing a novel is different from marketing a product. A core tenet of good marketing is to show how your product solves a problem, but with novels, the “problem” isn’t so cut and dry. Maybe it’s boredom, maybe it’s a love of reading, maybe it’s to entertain.

“I have a problem—I have nothing to read!” is probably why most readers buy books.

Yet, it’s not why a reader would buy your book.

Readers have millions of book choices, and there’s more to solving the “I have nothing to read” problem than picking up the first novel they see. It has to satisfy their reading tastes, and fit their current mood. It has to sound like a novel they might want to read. 

Which is why marketing a novel takes a slightly different path.


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Why would a reader want to read your novel?

“Because it’s great!” is not a good answer, even if it’s true. For example, just because someone reads romance doesn’t mean every romance novel is for them—there’s a reason romance novels have “steamy” ratings, from sweet to erotic.

Marketing your sweet, Christian romance to a flock of erotica readers isn’t likely to get you many sales (and vice versa). Lovers of medieval historicals might not be interested in Victorian tales, and those in the mood for hard science fiction might not care for that space opera. 

What about your novel is appealing to your target audience? Think about the reasons your novel is better than that other novel in the same genre. 

Write down three key reasons someone would want to buy your novel. Are all of those reasons in your marketing material and blurbs? 

Because they should be. If your novel is a ripping adventure through time, filled with quirky characters and perfect for fans who love Doctor Who, then you’ll want your marketing materials to reflect that. They should mention time travel, adventure, even Doctor Who

Not only are these excellent details to entice suitable readers looking for time-traveling adventures, but they’re also solid keywords and phrases for Amazon and Google searches. 

How are you identifying readers who have a problem your novel can solve?

Now that you know what your key benefits are, the next step is finding readers who are looking for those elements. The “problem” your novel is solving is satisfying readers longing for a good time-travel adventure (or whatever your novel is). That narrows down where potential readers may be found. 

Marketing a time-travel adventure to the local knitting group probably won’t sell many novels, unless that group contains a lot of science fiction or Doctor Who fans. But comic book venues, science fiction events, and fandom sites probably have plenty of readers who might love your novel.

Write down as many places as you can where readers who would enjoy your novel frequent. 

Think on and offline. Special events, local shops, groups, clubs, pop culture, social media, holidays, and special events—go wild and leave no stone unturned. Look for blogs that touch on a key element of your novel. Maybe the setting might attract readers, or the theme ties into an issue people are talking about. 

For example, that time-travel adventure might interest those on a science or physics forum. Maybe a fan convention is a great place to sell books or a guest post on a blog that specializes in all things Doctor Who. Look for ties that connect your novel to similar things potential readers also enjoy. 

Dig deep and get creative. Look for places no one else has gone before. Picture your perfect reader and think about where they go and what they do:

  • What do they like?
  • How do they interact or enjoy whatever it is that links back to your novel?
  • If you’re a reader of your kind of novel, where do you go?
  • How do you find books to read?

How are you putting your novel in front of those readers?

Once you’ve identified who might buy your novel and where they are, you have to get the novel in front of them. Maybe that’s a blog post, an interview, a review, an ad, a giveaway, a table at an event, or just interacting with like-minded people online.

Different venues will have different marketing options. Maybe a banner ad is perfect for a site that caters to your novel’s core concept or genre. Maybe a blog tour allows you to discuss an issue that connects back to your story. Maybe panels or workshops get you in front of those who would love your novel. You might even create the perfect meme for your story, or a video that could go viral.

Write down potential ways to get your novel in front of readers who might enjoy it.

Don’t limit yourself with what’s practical at this point, just brainstorm potential ideas. Just like writing, the first ideas we think of are the same ones everyone is thinking of. That doesn’t mean they won’t work, but you won’t be the only one trying them.   

Google books like yours and see what those authors did. Odds are you’ll find some sites or venues you hadn’t thought about before, and those might also work for you, or give you ideas on other places to look. 

When you think about how your novel solves your reader’s problem instead of how to sell your book to readers, it opens up avenues that connect the right readers with your novel. When choosing your book solves their “What do I read next?” problem, they’ll happily click the buy button. 

What problem does your novel solve?

Free Stuff!

Just because you’re thinking about novel marketing this month doesn’t mean you won’t be working on another manuscript next month. I currently have two free at-home online workshops running–Revise Your Novel in 30 Days, and Idea to Novel in 31 Days.


I’m giving away an hour of one-on-one time to talk with me about anything writing or publishing-related. Brainstorm your current idea, ask questions about the industry, or whatever is on your mind writing-wise.

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Will Your Novel Solve a Reader’s Problem? by Guest @Janice_Hardy #novel #problem #reader #marketing #NaNoProMo5 Amazing Ways To Break The Writing Rules by @BarbaraDelinsky #rules #writing #writingrules #nanopromo5 Amazing Ways To Break The Writing Rules by @BarbaraDelinsky #rules #writing #writingrules #nanopromo

Want to win this giveaway? Simply leave a comment WHY below!

All comments must be left prior to midnight on Thursday, May 14th, 2020 in order to be eligible to win. Winners for the week announced on Friday, May 15th.

Good luck!

Janice Hardy

Janice Hardy

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The ShifterBlue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy. When she’s not writing fiction, she runs the popular writing site Fiction University, and has written multiple books on writing, including Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It), Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, and the Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series. Sign up for her newsletter and receive 25 Ways to Strengthen Your Writing Right Now free.


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  1. Ernie Fink on May 13, 2020 at 3:14 am

    Having attended comic book and movie conventions, I have seen authors with a table, selling their novels. I have often wondered how well they do.

  2. Janice Hardy on May 13, 2020 at 4:15 am

    Depends on the author and the event. Some might only sell a few books, others might sell hundreds. Targeting the right audience and event helps a lot, as you want to have the type of book the people attending that event would want to read.

    It also matters on your own expectation. I know an author who is happy if they sell one book an hour at an event, and others who consider it a success if they sell 25 books or more. So if you go expecting to sell 500 books and sell 50, you might think that’s terrible.

  3. Margay Roberge on May 13, 2020 at 5:10 am

    I need to get better about how to sell my books – I know how to write them, just not how to get people to read them.

  4. McKenna Dean on May 13, 2020 at 6:32 am

    Wow! You’ve given me a lot to think about here. I’ve frequently said that if one of my books takes a reader out of their bad day for a few hours, helps them forget chronic pain, or a crappy boss, or the challenge of being a caretaker, then I’ve done my job as a writer.

    But this post has shown me I’m not doing my job as a marketer because I haven’t directed my stories to the people who would enjoy them the most. I need to think about the people who I believe will get the most out of them and figure out how to get their attention. Thanks for this insight!

  5. Jessica Turnbull on May 13, 2020 at 9:54 am

    I need to narrow down my audience and see what places are best to market. I will look at what other authors in my genre have done for inspiration.

  6. Justin Bienvenue on May 13, 2020 at 11:39 am

    You make several great points and hit on many great ideas for authors to reach readers. However, not everyone can really find that gold mine or get that small niche that gets those readers. I totally agree with this article I just wish I could connect my novels to outside idea.

  7. Robin Pawlak on May 13, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    First of all, I really like this approach to marketing. I think it would really focus my efforts. I need to read it again and make notes. And are you kidding me? An hour to talk all things writing and publishing? Sign. Me. Up.

    Thanks for jumping on board with #NaNoPromo!

  8. Patricia Josephine on May 13, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    Wonderful advice. I have this bookmarked so I can read it again because I tend to forget things. ^^;;

  9. Daniella on May 13, 2020 at 6:58 pm

    Great article andadvice. I think it’s interesting how people will spend hours creating pintrest pages for characters, but no time thinking about their readers. I found that it is helpful to create a reader profile on what they would be like and their interests.

  10. Pamela Stewart on May 13, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    Great blog post! I often try to envision my perfect reader, but I find it hard to connect with them in a way that wouldn’t seem ‘sale-sy’.

    My books have elements of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar with some Aurora Rising and Skyward thrown in. How do I go to a Star Trek website and say ‘yo! I have a great book.’ I do target sci-fi related material in my Amazon and Facebook Ads tho’ although I’ve not been successful enough to scale.

    Any methods for connecting that would be more organic and really help with eventual author platform building?

  11. Alexandria Szeman on May 14, 2020 at 11:16 am

    Thanks, Janice. Always good to see things from a reader’s perspective.

  12. Denise on May 14, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Great article! Gave me an idea to work with teachers.
    Loved the Shifter series so much and then it for my my oldest niece.

  13. David Smurthwaite on May 14, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    “Write down three key reasons someone would want to buy your novel. Are all of those reasons in your marketing material and blurbs?”

    Finding the “why” of my novel has been the leading factor for so many starts and stops. Am I creating enough value? Am I creating the right value? These questions haunt me at different periods of the process. It was nice to read this and know I’m not alone.

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