3 KEYS TO MARKETING YOUR NOVEL
So, you’ve written a novel. Great—that’s 99% of the battle.
Or is it?
You see, in 2018 (the time of this post being written), marketing has become of the largest barriers to a book’s success or failure. It’s no longer enough to slave over a novel, edit it, ship it out, and wait for rave reviews and huge royalty checks to pile up. In this day and age, the market is so mind-boggling enormous (not to mention oversaturated with nonsense creative attempts) that even the next Hemingway will likely be forgotten under mounds of competing mailing lists and retweets.
Assuming you’ve done your best to create a compelling, well-crafted story and ship it out into the world, the next stage is a bloodier, more visceral one: Marketing.
What I’ve compiled below is not a bible for book marketing, nor is it intended to be your average clickbait article with a dozen links to affiliate organizations that will ultimately suck your wallet dry and leave you sobbing. The three pieces of advice that I’ve put below are merely intended to be the trifecta of my “personal advice” collection, small though it may be. Marketing your novel is hard and inglorious and often frustrating, but most worthwhile things in life are, right? With no further ado, let’s get into it.
Know your Audience (and Pitch to Them)
If you’ve written a real genre-bender (this is, as it happens, the case with my book Scribes), you’re fighting an uphill battle to appeal to the right crowd. People who typically indulge in vampire romance novels or sword-and-shield fantasy aren’t going to look twice at a mermaid-alternate-history romp through Byzantium. If they do, there’s no guarantee that they’ll leave a positive review. In fact, the chances of them enjoying your book are stunningly low if you fail to recognize the core threads of why this audience likes their particular niche.
Taking from our earlier example, those who love sword-and-shield fantasy are, more often than not, looking for a sunny-sky ending with neat ends. They expect a hero to fight a clear, unambiguous manifestation of evil. They’ll probably also want a dose of chivalric romance thrown in. If your book is defying these conventions, you’ve not only disappointed the reader in terms of plot points, but also in regards to their moral compass, and, I daresay, their worldview. There’s a reason people seek comfort in genres that they enjoy and understand.
If your book is best described as a mashup of a superhero novel and a western, you’ll probably need to seek out readers that are willing to take a chance with the narrative and thematic elements of a novel. People who enjoy Westworld, perhaps. Or fans of Deadpool. Or fans of literally anything that defies the conventions that an average reader will demand. Don’t look for a one-to-one copy of your book’s content; look for works that tread similar ideological grounds and deal with crucial themes on equal footing.
Take some Initiative
Another consequence of our highly connected and evolving world is that publishers simply can’t do all the work for you. This is a fact, and one you’re better making peace with sooner rather than later. Publishers often do their best to plug your work and get you into the spotlight, but that spotlight time is limited, fleeting, and hella expensive. Ultimately, this means that you’ll need to put your own time and energy (and likely funds) into building your brand. Consider it an opportunity to hone your marketing skills rather than as a punishment. After all, it’s your brand, so you ought to have some investment in it either way, no?
You probably know what you need to do for this stage, but you likely won’t want to put in that brow-sweat (I understand your reservations). Make a Twitter, make a Facebook page, make an Instagram, make a blog, make a flying banner, for all it’s worth! Those of you who are social media-phobic (again, I get you) are going to struggle a bit here. But there’s a real need to be “aggressive” in contacting reviewers, spreading awareness of your work, and marketing your novel in the least expected places (I’ve sold copies to the secretary at our international school, for example!). Don’t hesitate to reach out to bookstores or universities that you have some personal connection to. Everything and anything counts here.
Keep your Chin Up
Marketing is a long-term game, not a make-a-buck-and-dash scheme. You’ll need to sit in front of your phone/keyboard/tablet for hours on end, for weeks on end, for years on end, to build a brand that’s worth any attention. Don’t get discouraged if views don’t roll in, or if your initial feedback is sub-par at best. Nobody succeeds fully on their first time around, and this is especially true when it comes to selling a novel and building a brand image. Have faith and confidence in your own abilities. Be adaptive. Reach out to fellow writers and readers to make meaningful connections that go beyond the nebulous (and often repulsive) webs of soulless marketing practices.
Above all else, keep writing. Remember why you entered this craft to begin with. If you came for fame, glory, and money, you picked the wrong path. Write for the hell of it, and don’t stop going.
Peace, love, and joy, my friends.