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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“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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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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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.
Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue 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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Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and two live Twitter chats: #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with TheRuralVA, Emilie Rabitoy) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with C. Streetlights and Judith Staff. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
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