How to Keep Your Fiction Marketing Lean and Focused

by | Mar 26, 2014


By Jason Kong

You can’t afford to waste your resources.

Finding a readership is a high priority, but your time and personal energy are both in limited supply. You’d like to make every marketing effort count.

This isn’t about knowing the best path (there isn’t one) or having a guarantee something will work (there isn’t any). What you need is to make consistent progress towards having an audience of your own. An approach that keeps nudging you in the right direction.

I’d like to share a few ideas to make your marketing less complicated and overwhelming. It’s a simple framework, designed to highlight some of the more important actions you can take, that increase your chances for success.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Understand the cycle for attention

Marketing can be a singular event, but it’s also the aggregation of activities that’s part of a longer process. This long-view perspective is embodied in the following strategy:

  1. Get attention for your work. This is trying to become known when you’re currently not. It’s about discoverability and getting a shot. You’re attempting to generate interest, whether’s it’s through your book cover, positive reviews, or personal recommendations. Standing out from the crowd is the first step for any budding author.
  2. Keep the attention of those people who care. The goal here is to hold onto the readers that already enjoy your fiction, so you can make them aware of your latest project. This is also an opportunity for you to reward your readership for their attention. Examples include engaging fans over social media and occasional book giveaways.
  3. Maintain the cycle. Find new readers, some of the new readers become older readers, and the older readers will help bring in new readers. Your audience grows along with your body of work.

This may all seem obvious. What’s important to realize is that treating everyone the same is a mistake. There’s a big difference between getting attention from a stranger and keeping attention of a supporter.

Keep this in mind as you read ahead.

Be aware of your timing

We have the tendency to view the effectiveness of marketing activities in a vacuum.

But when you decide to do something may matter as much as what you do. The timing of your execution can be the deciding factor between marketing that’s successful vs. wasteful.

Let’s look at an example.

Blogging has a lot of benefits. You get to express yourself, connect with other authors, and share what you learn. These are all good reasons to blog, yet many fiction writers become frustrated that it does little for their book marketing.

Why does that happen? Because they’re mostly attracting a following with only a tangental interest in the author’s work.

When it comes to a fiction readership, blogging is actually much better for keeping attention rather than getting it. It’s better to blog more once you have an audience for your stories, not in order to get an audience for your stories from ground zero.

A lot of times, preventing a misstep like this is just a matter of remembering the cycle for attention. Working hard to get noticed when you have no published stories makes little sense. Similarly, don’t over-invest in activities geared for keeping attention when you don’t have it yet (the classic social media trap).

Are you trying to get attention or keep attention? Mismatching the activity to the task results in a timing issue that waste your resources.

Stay connected with supporters

As you’re well aware, getting attention is hard.

This may cause you to become very open-mined about marketing tactics. If an approach sounds halfway reasonable, if another author uses a tool with a decent amount of success, you’ll have to at least consider giving it a go. If you live in obscurity your writing has no chance to flourish, after all.

So yes, each book you sell is a worthy achievement. You should be proud when your story connects with another reader. And yet, if this is a customer who now knows, likes, and trusts your work, having this relationship end with a just a single purchase would be a tragedy.

If someone wants more of what you offer, then it’s mutually beneficial to keep in touch. Online tools such as social media or an email marketing service are effective ways to do that. Once you have an established communication channel, it’s up to you to hold their interest with your future messages.

This is called permission marketing. The approach recognizes engaging people who care about what you do is more effective and profitable than engaging those who don’t. It works because keeping attention is much less expensive (in terms of effort, money, and time) than getting attention. And the kicker? It’s more fun to connect with supporters than strangers anyway.

An established author with a strong enough permission base can almost exclusively focus on the keeping attention step. Fans tend to attract other fans, and a loyal following will generate plenty of positive word-of-mouth for your fiction.

“The more supporters you’re connected with, the less marketing problems you’ll tend to have.”—Click to Tweet

Leave room for writing

You may think if your fiction marketing is lean and focused, you will have more time for writing.

While that may be true, in practice it could happen in reverse. There’s always more marketing you could do, and without clear boundaries your writing schedule could get squeezed.

I’m actually suggesting staying firm on your writing commitment, and leave a daily window for marketing. That way, you’ll zero in on the most effective marketing practices with your limited hours, and force your efforts to be lean and focused.

You shouldn’t neglect your art, the value you’re known for, the product customers spend money on.

And besides, good writing is your best marketing opportunity. The fiction you publish will both help you get attention and keep attention, by attracting new readers and delighting the current ones.

What strategies do you use to keep your marketing on track? Please share 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 credit: tableatny via photopin cc

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