By Sandra Beckwith
For authors, 2020 might best be remembered as the year they began innovating.
Beginning with the second quarter, the global pandemic meant no in-person book launches. No speaking honorariums. No presentations at book industry events.
Authors and publishers were knocked off balance but when they righted themselves, they realized that with a little innovation, they could keep moving forward.
Fiction and nonfiction authors alike explored:
- Virtual readings, interviews, and presentations
- Learning how to use social media more effectively
- Getting more creative about getting their books in front of readers
Fiction writers need to carry that “can do” spirit into 2021. Jettison old habits and embrace new-to-you ideas. Be open to the possibilities.
Here are three ideas that will help you make sure that the right people read, love, and recommend your books.
Success Tip 1: Write a novel that meets traditional publishing standards.
Self-published romance author Jami Albright can write 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).”
If you’re an indie author, it means your book – like Albright’s – must and have:
- A professional cover design that meets the genre style
- Professional editing and proofreading
- Beta reader input for feedback on the story, characters, dialogue, etc.
Smart indie authors also mask the fact that they’re self-publishing by creating a publishing imprint. That’s because like it or not, there’s still a bias against self-published books. And 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.
Success Tip 2: Embrace and explore promotional tactics that aren’t specifically 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.
Take it a step further and study how major consumer product brands handle marketing. Can you learn anything from them, too? For example, more and more consumer brands are showing social responsibility by aligning with causes. How can you build goodwill with your ideal readers by doing the same?
Success Tip 3: Get to know your readers individually, as people.
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. Talking with readers via Zoom or Facebook Live 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 personally when in-person remains verboten:
- Use beta readers you trust to be honest, then meet with them via Zoom or other video technology for a group discussion.
- Plan a virtual library or bookstore event with other local authors. Schedule event activities, including question-and-answer sessions, that let participating authors interact with reader groups.
- Host an ask me anything with Facebook Live.
- Create a Facebook group for your genre.
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 2021
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.
Sandra Beckwith is an author and national award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to save thousands of dollars by doing their own publicity, promotion, and marketing. You might have seen her on “The Montel Williams Show,” or “CBS This Morning,” or read about her in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Feedspot has ranked her website, Build Book Buzz, in the top 10 among thousands of book marketing blogs worldwide; it has also been named a top website for authors and writers six other times. Get your “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” when you subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter at https://buildbookbuzz.com/gift .