By Sandra Beckwith
How do you decide what novel to read next?
If you’re like most of us, one of your favorite options is asking for recommendations from friends and family who share your taste in fiction. It’s the in-person version of Amazon’s on-site and email recommendations.
Data proves that people rely on this kind of feedback. According to Chatter Matters: The 2018 Word of Mouth Report, 83 percent of the 1,001 Americans surveyed say that a word of mouth recommendation from a friend or family member makes them more likely to purchase a product or service.
The challenge for most novelists, then, is making sure that the right people read, love, and recommend their books.
How do you ensure that you get that “word of mouth” marketing support in the new year? Here are three ways to make that happen.
Success Tip #1
Write a novel that meets traditional publishing standards.
If it’s traditionally published by a firm that either paid you an advance against royalties or that didn’t require you to “pay to publish,” you should have this piece covered.
If you’re self-published, it means your book must have:
- A professional cover design that meets the genre style
- Professional editing and proofreading
- Beta reader input for feedback on the story, characters, and so on
Ideally, you will have created a publishing imprint that masks the fact that you’re the publisher. Readers and professional reviewers at media outlets are on to the fact that “Independently published” in Amazon’s “product details” is code for self-published.
Just ask self-published romance author Jami Albright, who now writes full time because her books are as good as any you’d find coming from a traditional publishing house. She chronicled her success secrets in “How one indie author made $74,000 in 16 months and quit her day job (and what you can learn from her).”
Success Tip #2
Embrace and explore promotional tactics that aren’t labeled as exclusively for fiction.
Successful novelists realize that what works for nonfiction often works just as well for fiction. They don’t let labels – or lack of them – limit their marketing. They recognize a good idea when they see it. When necessary, they reshape it to apply to their situation.
Here are just a few ideas that work for both novelists and nonfiction authors – and there are plenty more.
- Pursuing reader reviews
- Creating shareable images with quotes, also known as “quote cards”
- Assembling and guiding a street team as part of a launch plan
Rather than looking at something and saying, “Oh, that information is coming from a nonfiction author so it won’t help me,” think, “How can I use this idea to market my novel?” You might be surprised by how many effective tactics are suddenly available to you.
Success Tip #3
Meet, greet, and talk to readers in person.
For some, this isn’t easy. They appreciate and enjoy writing’s solitude. That’s okay most of the time, but not all of the time. Meeting with readers in person gives you irreplaceable opportunities to learn what they like about your books, your genre, and that genre’s most popular authors.
When you invest time in meaningful conversations, you can also learn what’s happening in their lives. This gives you insights and situations that you can use to improve your stories so they resonate with these readers – and others who are just like them.
The more you know about your readers from firsthand experience, the better able you are to write books they will love and talk about.
Here are a few ways you can connect with readers in person:
- Use local beta readers you trust to be honest, then meet with them in-person for a group discussion.
- Plan a library or bookstore event with other local authors. Schedule event activities, including question-and-answer sessions, that let participating authors interact with reader groups.
- Attend book festivals and events. Go local or consider attending one of the larger national or regional events.
Talking with readers in person can be challenging for some authors for several reasons. If it doesn’t make sense for you – no matter what the reason – use video instead. Whether it’s Facebook Live or a group video chat with top fans, you’ll benefit from the conversations.
If that’s not realistic, engage with readers in genre-specific Facebook groups. The more you get to know each other, the better able you’ll be to deliver a book that fans of your genre will want to read and talk about.
Shake Things Up in 2020
Vow to make the coming year one that sees you reaching new success milestones.
Instead of talking about what you can’t do to market your novel, make a list of what you can do. When doing that, be open-minded. There are more options available than you might think.
What have you been doing to market your fiction that’s working for you?