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7 killer book marketing tips for fiction

There’s no question that it’s harder to promote fiction than it is nonfiction (and let’s not even talk about poetry). But it pains me to hear from novelists who think that all they can do to get exposure is beg for reviews, run Twitter contests, and buy Facebook ads. There’s so much more you can do to get your book title in front of people – and your novel deserves it, whether it’s science fiction, an espionage or political thriller, a cozy mystery, or hen lit.

Be open to the possibilities – give one or two of these seven suggestions a try and evaluate the results. You have nothing to lose, and much to gain.

1. Support your book with a good website designed by a professional.

Your website has to be as good as your writing. Use your site to help us connect with you as an individual, not as a lofted author. Mystery writer Libby Fischer Hellman’s site helps us get to know her better by including video interviews and links to other media exposure. Sandra Poirier Diaz, president of book PR firm Smith Publicity, defines the two most important fiction author website must-haves in our audio program, “Nine Novel Ways to Promote Fiction.”

2. Use your content to identify promotion allies.

This could be your secret weapon because honestly, not enough novelists are doing this. Camille Noe Pagán’s novel, The Art of Forgetting, tells the story of what happens to a friendship when one of the friends suffers a traumatic brain injury, so Pagán partnered with the Bob Woodruff Foundation (Woodruff suffered a brain injury while covering the Iraq war for ABC-TV). Look, too, at your characters’ professions – there’s an association for just about every occupation. Send a copy of the book with a letter outlining promotional possibilities and what’s in it for them. You might offer to speak at their national meeting, write for their member publication, or offer a discount to members.

3. Think beyond book reviews.

Book reviews are valuable and securing them should be on any author or publisher’s book promotion to-do list, but your novel deserves more widespread, long-term, and ongoing exposure than it can get through reviews alone. (Dana Lynn Smith’s How to Get Your Book Reviewed is a valuable resource for this!) You want the press to talk about your book for as long as it’s available for purchase.

4. Use the nonfiction nuggets in your manuscript to create newsworthy material for media outlets.

Is your protagonist a radio jock? The morning drive time personalities would love to interview you by phone. Is she 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 at a consumer products company? You’ve got publicity opportunities with the packaging and marketing trade magazines. What about locations, products, or services in your novel? And a brand name product that plays a key role could get your book into that brand’s employee newsletter. If you’re writing your novel now, work in some nonfiction nuggets you can capitalize on later.

5. Take advantage of holidays, special occasions, annual events, and seasonal stories.

As Diaz explains in “Nine Novel Ways to Promote Fiction,” you want to constantly look for special days or occasions you can connect your book to. She cited one of her clients, Paul Harrington, self-published author of Epiphany: The untold epic journey of the magi, whose publicity success included a bylined article in the Washington Post linked to – what else – the Epiphany. There’s a holiday for just about everything. Hitch your book to one of them and use it to get into the news. (Use the monthly calendars at Holiday Insights for inspiration.)

6. Leverage what you uncovered while writing your book.

Did you learn about a period in history or a specific region? Use this knowledge as a springboard for publicity. The author of a historical romance novel set in South Carolina, for example, can write and distribute a news release announcing the top romantic attractions in that state or pitch local newspapers or regional magazines on an article about the state’s most romantic date destinations. Your goal is to be quoted as an expert source because this requires using your book title as one of your credentials.

7. Get social.

Focus on one or two social networking sites and master the most effective and appropriate ways to use them to promote your book. Rachel Simon, author of The New York Times bestseller The Story of Beautiful Girl, suspects that her book’s Twitter visibility had a lot to do with Jennifer Weiner’s selection of the book as a top “Today Show” beach read. “Using Twitter effectively really got that book a higher level of visibility,” Simon says.

And this is just the beginning. My 75-minute interview with Diaz offers more ideas and how-to information. But I’m wondering: What has been your most successful tactic for promoting fiction? Please tell us about it.

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  1. All good tips. Also with fiction, many authors think they don’t have much of a chance to get on TV as opposed to non fiction books. Not true, if you focus on things you became an expert in, during the book writing process you have a shot of being booked as a guest expert. It is not as hard as you think. OK, thanks and good luck, Edward Smith.

    1. Excellent point, Edward. For example, a romance author could get on local TV pretty easily on Valentine’s Day by offering to share tips for making the day more romantic. There are lots of opportunities — you just have to look at things a bit differently.

  2. You offer great ideas in this post and I also love the links to other articles you provided. Thanks for compiling all of this great information.

    1. You’re welcome, Frances! And thanks for appreciating all of those links! I’m glad you found the information helpful.

  3. The tips are great. Especially number 7, which is one of the advantages of this internet-savvy era, should you work on it. After all, no previous era had been blessed by the connectivity of the internet and social media sites like Facebook. Stuff like blogging, participating in communities, and using social media can generate buzz, and even get some momentum and anticipation for your fiction.

    1. Absolutely, Tari! It’s such a different world for book promotion now. Today’s authors have a huge advantage over those of even 6 or 7 years ago.

  4. If my novel involves a character’s journey away from drugs and alcohol but is not specifically about his struggle with addiction, do you feel that organizations dealing with addiction would want to partner with my book for their members? I have written a contemporary romance, so the plot is about the characters realizing their deeper love for each other. But, in order to get to that point, the main character has to work through some issues of his, including other women in his life who have led him to some casual drug use, etc.

    I agree with the post that this MIGHT be a secret weapon of mine, I am just unsure of how to specifically word my request to organizations…or which organizations to approach??

    Any advice?

    1. Carrie, in your case, it might not be a viable option because orgs like that working to make change happen might not want to be affiliated with a romance novel. In addition, I suspect that because addiction is so common in society, it’s also common in novels, which makes this a little less “special.” You might want to look for something else in your novel — an unusual profession, hobby, setting, etc.


  5. Sandra, you are one of the few people offering help that applies to a wide area of writers. Thank you for doing what you do so well.

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