Thursday, October 16, 2008

5 Surefire Ways to Promote Fiction

It's harder to promote fiction than non-fiction, which is why some book publicists won't do it. It takes more creativity, thought, and inside-out thinking, but once you get the hang of it, it's both fun and rewarding. Here are five tips to get you thinking about the news value in your novel:

1. Tap into what you learned while writing your novel. Did you learn about colonial America or a specific profession while writing the book? Use this new knowledge as a springboard for publicity -- free media exposure. The author of an historical romance novel set in New York’s Hudson River Valley, for example, can write and distribute a tip sheet on the top romantic and historical attractions in that region or pitch a local newspaper or regional magazine on an article about the area’s most romantic date destinations. The goal of the latter? To get the author quoted as an expert source because this would require using the book title as the author's credential.

2. Find the nonfiction nuggets in your manuscript and use them to create newsworthy material for relevant media outlets. Is your heroine a jilted wife starting over in the workforce as – let’s say – an account executive at a high-flying packaging design firm who finds love with her client, a studly executive at a consumer products company? You’ve got publicity opportunities with the packaging and marketing trade magazines. Is she a radio jock? The female morning drive time personalities would love to interview you by phone.

What about locations, products or services in your novel? A story set in a national park or a convenience store gives you news pegs for exposure in the relevant trade magazines. A character’s obsession with a little known beverage brand could get your book into that company’s employee newsletter, too.

If you’re writing your novel now, work in some nonfiction nuggets you can capitalize on later.

3. Market to “warm.” “Warm” in this case refers to those people who are most likely to buy your book. Is your protagonist a nurse? Target regional and national nursing trade magazines. Is your story set in a real location? The people there will be interested in knowing more about your novel. Do you have a blog with a strong following? Tell them first when your book is available for purchase – they know and like you already and will want to support you (and might even help you spread the word).

4. Think globally but connect locally. Make friends with your local booksellers by offering to do interactive book signings – a presentation about the book-writing process rather than a straight book signing. Don't tell your life story (unless your book is a memoir!). Explain some of your challenges and how you overcame them. Share a few research secrets. Talk about the nuts and bolts of your book – how you named your characters or selected the story’s location.

Talk to local groups at their regular meetings, too, about what you learned while writing your book. Address some of the behind-the-scenes processes. Because most everyone thinks that they, too, could write a book – if only they didn’t have that full-time job that takes all their time or that new baby who doesn’t nap – they will welcome a chance to hear about how you overcame similar obstacles to bring your story to print.

When considering which groups to offer your speaking services to, put a priority on those “warm” audiences – using the examples above, that might be nurses, packaging designers, or radio personalities. Sell books everywhere you speak, of course.

5. Learn from the masters. Who are the gurus in your category? What did they do early in their careers to spread the word about their books? What are they doing now that’s innovative, interesting, successful, attention-getting? When it comes to marketing and promotion, there’s really no such thing as a “new idea” anymore – so take an old idea, put your spin on it, and see where it takes you.

Have you successfully promoted your fiction? Tell us what works best for you.

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