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Marketing Fiction: 15 Steps Toward Success

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1. Allocate funds for
promotional copies of your novels. These are essential for getting
endorsements, getting into bookstores, and spreading the buzz on your book.
Often, one comp copy can lead to multiple sales down the road, helping you
reach people who might not otherwise have checked out your book.

 

2. Do not skimp on the cover. This
is your single most important marketing tool. And when in doubt, keep it
simple—a clear, stark design is better than a cluttered design.

 

3. Even if you’re a small
publisher, look big. Make sure not only that your book’s cover can compete with
covers from the big houses, but also that your promotional materials are crisp,
attractive, well written, and free of typos.

 

4. Give yourself enough time to
get galleys or advance readers’ copies out to the major prepublication
reviewers (such as The
New York Times
, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Los Angeles Times
, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Publishers Weekly,
and Library Journal).
A good review from one of them means instant credibility and some great
marketing and sales opportunities.

 

5. Don’t print more copies in your
initial run than you are likely to sell and use for promotional purposes within
a reasonable amount of time. One great advantage of being a small press is that
you’re not on the same timetable as the New York houses. You don’t necessarily
have to blast out of the gate—you have the time to create a word-of-mouth
bestseller, and to order new printings as needed.

 

6. Book fairs provide a great way
to get early feedback on a title, and also to gauge market reactions to your
cover, design, and title. If you don’t like the reactions, you can always go
back to print with a new edition—provided you didn’t overprint on your
initial run.

 

7. Remember that an order from a wholesaler,
distributor, or bookstore is not a sale. Sales are to end users. If you don’t
think you can get 2,000 customers to buy in bookstores, don’t fill a 2,000-copy
order from Barnes & Noble or Borders.

 

8. The media are your friends. Use
every available connection you have to schedule interviews and generate
articles focusing on your authors and their books. One high-profile review or
article sometimes leads to tens of thousands of new sales.

 

9. Promote the issues behind the
novel, rather than the novel itself. This is one of the most important pointers
about marketing fiction. Unless you have a celebrity author, the media will be
less interested in the book itself, and more interested in how it ties into
topical news stories or events.

 

10. The electronic press release
is a cheap, effective way to keep your titles in front of the media’s
eyes—and hopefully, the public’s as well. Use it to announce media
appearances, author signings, and any other publicity breaks as soon as they’re
solid. Often, media people will print your release verbatim in their
publications or on their sites, and when you’re on a roll, they’ll even call
you to set up an interview or an article.

 

11. Take advantage of the snowball
effect. If newspapers are going to cover your book, let the radio stations,
television stations, and national magazines know. Once something is in the
news, other outlets want to cover it as well. No one in the media wants to be
left behind.

 

12. Schedule a tour for every
novel you publish. Even if it’s just a minitour around the local bookshops, it
will help develop good author-bookseller relationships; you’ll sell more
copies, and you’ll get great display space for the title for weeks or months
surrounding the event. This is in-store publicity that you usually can’t even
buy.

 

13. Make sure your authors realize
that they are salespeople too. They don’t have to do any type of hard
selling—in fact, they should almost always avoid the hard sell, but they
shouldn’t just sit there at signings, ignoring people who walk by. They should
make eye contact, say hello, and let people know that they’re the authors.
You’d be amazed how many people don’t realize that the author is that person
sitting at the table with the stack of books!

 

14. Have a clean, easy-to-navigate
Web site. If people take the time to visit your site, don’t scare them away
with bad navigation menus, hard-to-find information, or broken links. You can
be flashy or simple, but a site needs to make sense and, most important,
contain the information that your visitors are looking for.

 

15. Be creative with your
marketing, and don’t be afraid to be unusual or different. That’s another
advantage of being a small publisher—you don’t have to report to the
brass or the shareholders. You can innovate. Just make sure to know the rules
before you break them.

 

Joshua Ortega is the author
of the novel ((FREQUENCIES))
and the owner of Omega Point Productions, a multimedia publishing house.
Formerly a journalist, he has written for all the major comic book companies,
including DC Comics and Marvel. For more info, visit www.joshuaortega.com.

 

 

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