by Patricia Fry
Novel Ways to Promote Your Novel
By Patricia Fry
For most authors of fiction, the very idea of promotion is distasteful. It's not uncommon for novelists to break out in hives or develop a nervous twitch when faced with the reality of marketing their books.
As a published author, you know that you must promote your book and you scurry to find your comfort zone. You'll sign up with Amazon.com, of course, put up a Web site and solicit reviews through the traditional mags and sites. Those of you with more nerve will try to arrange book signings and, uh-maybe attend a few local book festivals. And mostly, you're met with disappointment.
But there is so much more that you can do to draw attention to your book-to let readers know that it exists. Here are a few ideas that you may not have thought of: (And they don't even require that you develop the persona of a hard-selling hawker.)
1: Promote to organizations and sites related to a topic or theme that's even loosely woven throughout your book. For example, let's say that your novel features a bird that makes occasional appearances in a few chapters. This might be a crow that appears just before the wicked woman is sighted, a hawk that, when spotted, gives the main character courage or a canary that lives with the protagonist and drives him crazy. Contact birding organizations, bird rescue and rehab Web sites, sites for bird fanciers, bird experts, sites dedicated to specific bird types (canaries, wild birds, parakeets, exotic birds, for example) and other authors who are promoting books related to birds.
Of course, the same concept works for any subject; cats, dogs, horses, an amputee, a diabetic, a transvestite, twins, homelessness, the nightclub scene, Hollywood, competition swimming, golf, car racing, carnivals, regions (New Hampshire, Chicago, British Columbia, Seattle, Kansas City), the college scene, gambling, the corporate world…
What do you do once you find these organizations or sites? After carefully studying the site, email the operator or director personally and make some solid suggestions for how your book would fit in to their scheme of things. Ask for a book review. Offer to contribute articles to the site. Request inclusion on their Resource List or Recommended Reading page. Offer your book as a prize in an upcoming contest. Suggest and head up a contest that would help to promote your book.
2: Participate in appropriate message boards. Many dedicated sites have message boards where like-minded people can communicate, network and share. Locate some of them through a Google search. Look for message boards when you visit various sites. Using the bird theme again, rather than just diving in and saying, "Buy my new novel. There's a bird in chapter three," adopt a strategy. Bring an interesting story or some new information or facts to the forum. Say, for example, "I was surprised to find that Ventura was among the top three California counties when it comes to wild bird species. Is there anyway to find out what species are involved in this count? I'm particularly interested in this subject because I've just published a novel wherein I feature an unusual species of wild bird." Then sign your name and add the title of your novel and ordering information.
Maybe your book is set in a small town in Montana. Find regional sites and get involved in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming-related message boards. Write, for example, "Is anyone familiar with Darby, Montana? I'm the author of a brand new suspense novel set in this historic town. Read excerpts at (your Web site address)." And then include ordering information. Offer up some interesting trivia. Ask what others know about this place. Your main objective in participating in targeted message boards is to make friends, build a rapport and get exposure for your novel.
3: Solicit reviews in magazines that have an element related to an obvious or an obscure aspect of your novel. You have probably contacted magazines and newsletters that typically review novels, but have you thought of approaching publications related to a lesser, but interesting aspect of your novel? Maybe your story includes a main character with Multiple Sclerosis. Seek out magazines and newsletters focusing on MS and those with an overcoming-disabilities-aspect. Perhaps yours is an ethnic novel. Solicit reviews in appropriate ethnic publications. Of course, if it has that bird in it, go after magazines the bird lovers read. And don't forget to take advantage of any regional aspect. There are a growing number of regional magazines these days. I located fifteen magazines for Ohio in just a few minutes time and about the same number for Texas.
How do you find specifically focused publications? Do a Google search. Use Literary Market Place and Writer's Market and thumb through Gales Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media. (All of these volumes are available in the reference section of your local library.)
4: Contact bookstores that specialize in a topic or theme present in your novel. I located ten bookstores specializing in bird or pet books in three minutes through a Google search. There are also bookstores dedicated to books on cooking and foods, cats, mystery, crime, fantasy/horror/science fiction, nature, economics and spiritual/religion.
5: Approach specialty stores. You might convince some pet store owners to carry your novel that includes birds, a cat or a seeing-eye dog, for example. If your book has a women's fashion element, consider designing a point of purchase display for willing managers of small clothing stores. If your book does well locally, you can use your success to entice stores in other cities to carry it. Maybe one of your characters thrives on daily espressos or there are a lot of scenes occurring in a coffee house. You know the next step-solicit space for your novel in Starbucks and the many copycat coffee shops sprouting up everywhere throughout the U.S.
6: Take advantage of your memberships and status. Are you a college graduate? Send news of your book to your college alumni magazine. The editors are always hungry for information about successful alumni. If you don't belong to Sam's Club, Costco or other such membership-oriented stores, sign up today! These mega-stores love to feature special members achieving interesting things in their widely circulated publications
7: Build promotion into your novel. If you are only in the idea stage of writing your novel, you are in luck because I'm going to give you the key to promotional success. Write a nonfiction hook into your story. How? Involve the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association or the National Mental Health Association by developing a character with diabetes, a heart condition or a mental illness, for example. Give a character a Harley, a tattoo or send him cruising on the Princess Line. Make sure that you have permission to use the name of the company or organization in your story. And, with the right angle and approach, you might be able to get them to participate in promoting your book. At the least, they might give you a positive endorsement.
Tap into what's hot-something that's in the news or an emerging trend, for example. Is anyone involving their characters in a life-threatening storm? What about writing a story set during an extreme heat spell? More and more people are developing enjoyable and satisfying online relationships-women are creating friendships and some couples are even getting married. Is this an intriguing trend that might entice readers to purchase your novel?
Whatever your topic or thread of a topic which you've woven through your book, you can find organizations, publications and/or Web sites to support it. Tap into these resources to broaden the audience for your fantastic, soon-to-be successful novel.
Patricia Fry is a full-time writer and the author of 25 books. If you found this article helpful, you will LOVE her latest book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book.
[Author's Note: Right Way has been retired. See my most recent books in the left column of this page.]
Visit her informative publishing blog at http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.