How to Market Your Fiction Writing Through the Brilliance of Other Authors

by Joel Friedlander on August 13, 2014 · 18 comments

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By Jason Kong

No matter what genre you write in, many others are writing there too.

That leads to a competitive environment, because everyone is fighting for attention and sales. Marketing will always be a challenge when you have a lot of players operating on the same turf.

But what’s interesting is that your rivals can also help you get noticed. Maybe their books are right next to yours in a bookstore. Perhaps a reader learns about your work through a conversation about a similar author. Connections like these happen all the time.

What if you could manufacture that kind of association, an arrangement with other writers whom you trust and whose work you respect?

You actually can. It’s called a partnership.

The Many Benefits of Collaboration

A partnership is nothing more than an agreement to work together so that everyone benefits. By joining forces, everyone gains more overall than by operating alone.

Many self-publishing authors have already discovered and enjoyed the rewards of partnering up. Some advantages include:

  • Increasing your discoverability – Be found through the work of other writers. Boxed sets that include multiple authors accomplishes that quite well. Another example is using a shared website and brand that promotes a group of writers like Booklover’s Bench.
  • Leveraging your resources – Pool your time, money, and skills to get a sum that’s greater than its parts. These days it’s not uncommon to see authors band together for this very purpose. You may know them as writers’ collectives, but they can also be called cooperatives.
  • Creating new products together – Publishing more stories means additional income streams and increased visibility to your existing body of work. The obvious way is to co-write a book with another author, but there are definitely some clever ideas to go about doing that.

Joint ventures allow the contributors to accomplish more through cooperation. You can do however many you like, however long you like, and with whoever you like. The freedom to decide the terms is a wonderful part of the process.

6 Tips to Help You Get Started

Maybe partnerships sounds appealing but you’re unsure how to proceed. Here are some ideas that will assist you in just about any joint effort:

  1. Author a book worth sharing
    You didn’t think you could skip this part, did you?

    Even if you managed to partner with the the most celebrated writer in your genre, all that attention won’t matter much if your fiction isn’t good. Fans and repeat customers are still the foundation of your long-term success. Subpar storytelling won’t take you there.

    Get to the point where you have at least one book some readers want. Then you’ll really see the benefits of collaboration.

  2. Keep your radar active
    If you achieve a certain amount of success, opportunities will start to find you. You’ll have your choice of partners.

    Until then, you’ll need to seek your collaboration opportunities. Develop a habit of coming up with joint venture ideas, even if you don’t follow through on them. At the very least, pay attention to the partnerships other fiction writers are doing, and visualize whether you could do the same given your situation. It’s a useful exercise that will shift your mindset, to always be on the lookout for win-win arrangements.

    Imagining what’s possible is a crucial step to creating your own good fortune.

  3. Get to know your peers
    While you could work with others without really knowing them, that’s not easy to do. It’s preferable to seek a partnership with the fiction writers that you already know and trust.

    The catch, of course, is that you can’t become familiar with your peers and their work overnight. So take the time to put yourself out there. Introduce yourself to a fellow writer and get to know him or her. Read other books within your genre. Gravitate towards people that you find interesting and keep in touch.

    Do all this with an open mind. You may end up with a friend, supporter, partner, or nothing at all. Connect with who you like and see what happens.

  4. Understand who is contributing what
    Before a partnership is consummated, you’ll want to consider the value each person brings to the table.

    For example, if all the participants are similar in terms of success and storytelling ability, then the math is easy. Equal reward distribution for equal contributions makes sense.

    Does that mean a best-selling author should never partner up with a first-time novelist?

    Of course not. Everyone has their own criteria of what’s acceptable, so it’s only unfair if a participant sees it that way. Remember, the point of collaborating is that everyone ends up better off than the alternative.

    But at least have the discussion with your potential partners, to reduce the possibility of future regret and hurt feelings.

  5. Recognize the impact to your brand
    Aligning yourself with a fellow author isn’t a decision that you should take lightly.

    A partnership is about having readers see the work of another fiction writer alongside yours. How their books are perceived could very well influence how yours are, whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent.

    Therefore, you should respect the writing of any author you partner with. Don’t dive into a joint venture to reach more eyeballs at the cost of tainting your brand. It’s not easy to disassociate yourself from a negative perception tied to a group that you’re part of.

    Also, consider the potential author’s reputation in addition to the books she wrote. Fair or not, your credibility and that of your collaborator may become intertwined through association.

  6. Get partnership terms in writing
    This may seem unnecessary at times, especially if the participants are already good friends. And it’s true that a formal agreement is not a safeguard against all disputes. Someone could become unhappy with an arrangement down the line for any number of unforeseen reasons.

    Still, you have a chance to prevent a ton of problems by getting the key points written down. People change their minds, people forget what was said, people start off with different expectations from the get-go. You can avoid or minimize these issues by documenting the terms when the partnership is formed.

    Take some time to be clear in the beginning. A formal contract may be necessary, or it may not. But having written words as a reference is better than nothing.

What If You Don’t Feel Ready?

If you’ve never been in a partnership before, you may feel intimidated to try. That’s natural.

Once you publish a book you’re proud of, you can always look to start small. Find some fellow fiction writers you feel comfortable with and suggest a collaboration project, something with an end date.

Initiation is your friend because you’ll gain experience. And having that history under your belt will arm you with better decision-making ability the next time around.

Just remember there’s no one right way to partner up. There may be better ways and certainly different ways, but you should mostly care about the ways that work for you.

What is your greatest stumbling block to getting started with a partnership? Let us know in the comments.

Jason KongJason Kong is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. He also runs Storyrally, an email-based subscription that helps fiction writers with their online marketing.

You can learn more about Jason here.

 
Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 18 comments… read them below or add one }

    Pamela ravenwood August 16, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Great article and wonderful resource. I was part of a team that did this and helped push a self help nonfiction book to the Amazons best seller list. This works and is great in competing with large publishers.

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 16, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Pamela: Yup, collaboration works on the non-fiction side too!

    Thanks for the comment.

    Reply

    J.M. Ney-Grimm August 14, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Jason, collaboration does indeed have many benefits. In addition to the practical result of increasing a writer’s visibility, it can simply be fun. And the scale of a collaboration can really vary. It’s possible to start small. I agree that getting to know fellow writers is a big plus and can lead to projects you might never dream of on your own.

    I joined an online writing group from which I learned a tremendous amount. Our focus was visibility and how covers, blurbs, and story openings affected discoverability. It was a very positive experience and led to a partnership in which one other member of the group and I created a short story anthology titled Quantum Zoo. Lindsay Buroker carried a guest post on her blog in which I shared the whole process.

    http://www.lindsayburoker.com/guest-posts/how-to-create-publish-and-market-an-anthology/

    Thanks for your insights on collaborations!

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 14, 2014 at 9:48 am

    That is really a comprehensive, well-written account of your anthology collaboration experience.

    Do you see yourself doing another one at some point?

    Reply

    J.M. Ney-Grimm August 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Thank you, Jason. I appreciate your commendation!

    I truly enjoyed creating Quantum Zoo. The writers I met in the process are wonderful people. I had the privilege of reading a bunch of stellar short stories. My fellow editor and friend, D.J., is superb to work with.

    There were a lot of positives.

    But the project did cut into my writing time. I’m still considering doing another anthology, because the experience was so rewarding. But I have to weigh that against the loss of writing time.

    I was definitely worth doing once. And I’m tempted to do it again.

    Long answer to say: I’m not sure. :D

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 15, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Fair enough! Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. I’m sure that write-up took a while to put together.

    Reply

    Ernie Zelinski August 13, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    As for me, working alone on my marketing efforts is much more effective than partnering with other authors. These quotations resonate with me big time.

    “The great creative individual . . . is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be.”
    — John Stuart Mill

    “Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth.’
    — Bernice Fitz-Gibbon

    “Books work as an art form (and an economic one) because they are primarily the work of an individual.”
    — Seth Godin

    Having said that, I agree with your comment:

    “Your rivals can also help you get noticed.”

    Indeed, your most accomplished competitors can inspire you to greater heights.

    Here is an example. My self-published retirement book “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” was released over 10 years ago and has over that time been the bestselling retirement book on Amazon. New retirement books are being released continually and some beat my book out for the “Retirement Planning” category for a brief period due to publicity and other reasons. But with time, the sales drop off and my book gets back to the Number 1 position.

    Recently, “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think” by Wes Moss was released and has been getting a great deal of publicity on major media such as Forbes, New York Times, etc. It has jumped to the Number 1 position on Amazon’s “Retirement Planning” category. So I must be creative in getting my book to the Number 1 in Retirement Planning.

    Incidentally, “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think” is a great book which I have already recommended to others, including my financial advisor.

    Even though “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think” already had 60 reviews on Amazon by the time I read it, I posted a 5-star review. I then did what I had to do (there is a creative strategy to accomplishing this) to get my review as the featured review on the left within about a week of my posting my review. Of course, having my name in the featured review gives me more publicity.

    What’s more, Amazon has also partnered my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” with Wes Moss’s “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think” in the “Frequently Bought Together” feature so that my book gets publicity on his page in this way too. Here is the key: If you write a great book in your category, Amazon will place it in the “Frequently Bought Together” feature on many of your competitors’ pages, giving you a great deal of extra promotion. Indeed, I have had a few people tell me that they decided to buy “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” because they saw it featured on Amazon with so many other retirement books.

    In short, when it comes to marketing, I know that I can accomplish a heck of a lot more by tapping my individual creativity than by partnering with other authors. Some guy writing a retirement book titled “The Retirement Rebel” recently contacted me wanting me to contribute an article to the book (for free). He claimed that this would help me promote my retirement books. I said, “No thanks”, simply because I know that my time can be better spent using my 50 to 100 book marketing techniques that 99 percent of authors never use. (I have got the results to prove this, given that my books have sold over 800,000 copies worldwide.) I will be using most of these same marketing techniques to market my inspirational fable and any other “fiction” that I may write.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 13, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Ernie: Thanks for sharing your perspective and examples.

    I’m a big advocate of doing what works for each person. I’m not trying to portray partnerships necessary to succeed, but it is another option. I appreciate that you took the time to provide another angle on this topic.

    Reply

    Dean K Miller August 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    This is especially important for new novelists. We have zero star power, but with a small collective, we have power. Maybe not “Star Level,” but when there’s more than one author working alone, more people will tend to listen, maybe pay attention. The “boxed sets” is a fantastic idea. I know I’d be more interested in finding the diamond in the rough that way. Thanks, Jason for this. Great ideas. Together we are much stronger.

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 13, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Dean: Boxed sets are such a simple idea, and such a useful one. It’s not just the allure of a discounted price over multiple books, but all the participating authors benefit from the power of association. The credibility of one writer has the potential of giving the others a decent shot of having their books read.

    Reply

    Linda Hubalek August 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I’m part of the Booklover’s Bench group. We write different genres- everything from mystery to pioneer women stories- but we’re basically just writers helping each other out. Our group efforts has gotten our individual books out to new readers, and just as important, we’ve passed information on to each other about marketing, publishing, etc. Authors helping authors really works!

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 13, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Linda: I know I focused on the marketing benefits in the article, but you’re right, mutual support is a huge one as well. Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply

    Nancy J. Cohen August 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Once you’re a member of a team, it helps to measure the results on a periodic basis. As a member of Booklover’s Bench, I’ve seen a definite rise in my mailing list entries, Facebook page Likes, Twitter followers and Amazon Likes as a result of our monthly contests. We also help each other with back cover blurbs, and that’s invaluable assistance. Team members need to determine their goals initially so you’re all on the same page as to what you want to achieve.

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 13, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Nancy: You guys have got it working well, which is why I thought you were a great example to mention. :)

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 13, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Written expectations are important, but your point about being specific is a useful tip. Thanks for chiming in, Terry!

    Reply

    Terry Odell August 13, 2014 at 6:47 am

    These are all excellent points. I first heard about author collaboration at the Novelists, Inc. conference two years ago. They referred to their group as a “Lifeboat Team” because in today’s market, where publishers can’t be counted on to do much marketing for “lesser-known” authors, the authors are doing more and more for themselves. Being able to contribute one’s talents while taking advantage of the broader scope of talents of others is a great way to share the load (and free up time for actual writing). And thanks for the shout-out about Booklover’s Bench. As “Lifeboat Teams go, we’re more of a dinghy, but the discoverability and the ‘someone to talk to’ benefits make the efforts worthwhile. One thing we learned is that even with an informal group, there needs to be a written list of expectations, and quantifying them is important. Saying, “as you have time” means a member might decide that they’re only going to pull their weight when they have a personal stake. It’s better to say ‘check Facebook X times a day/week’ so people understand that being a member of a group comes with responsibilities in order to reap the benefits. Another benefit — when ‘real life’ interferes, you’ve got other people willing to pitch in, so you’re still visible.

    Reply

    Stacey Purcell August 13, 2014 at 6:25 am

    Thanks for this article. I think you’ve covered some interesting topics and bolstered ideas I learned about at this year’s RWA conference in San Antonio. With all the marketing noise out there, combining efforts with other talented authors in your genre, makes total sense.

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 13, 2014 at 9:07 am

    I’m glad the post helped, Stacey! Any interesting ideas or examples from your conference that you’d like to share?

    Reply

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