Continuing Education 5: How To Market Your Fiction Like A Nonfiction Pro
Instructors Rachelle Gardner, Kathi Lipp, Dineen Miller, and Jim Rubart offered marketing expertise and real world examples in their ACFW conference class, How to Market Your Fiction Like a Nonfiction Pro.
Gardner encouraged writers to stop seeing marketing as a necessary evil. “Building a platform is about establishing yourself as an expert,” she said. Authors need to start by identifying their target audience through the demographics and psychographics of their readers. Then learn where those people spend their time and find places to interact with that group.
Avoid making your platform focused on you, instead look for ways to offer something of value to others and find opportunities to creatively draw people in. “The point of your platform is to engage your target audience,” she said.
Focus where you see results
With so many forms of social media and ways to interact with readers, no one can do it all. Writers were encouraged to choose two or three things where the interactions are strongest and focus on those areas. Instead of trying to market to the masses, focus your attention on the power of 100 true fans. “Don’t strive to get good at something you struggle with,” Rubart said. “Find what you’re good at and get even better at that.”
Gardner agreed. “Platform needs to come out of who you are,” she said. Whether you choose to blog, interact through social media, speak, or participate in media interviews, be consistent and authentic by bringing your unique voice and personality to it.
Gardner recommends keeping blog posts short—between 300 and 600 words. Strive to start a conversation in the comment section by asking a question, giving people an opportunity to talk about themselves, or asking for their opinions on controversial issues.
Promote ideas and stories
Blogs and social media sites allow writers to tell micro stories in new ways and get readers excited about their storytelling. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can be great ways to build connections and direct people to your blog or website.
Instead of filling your social media outlets with self-promotion, direct people to a great article or resource on your site. Use dynamic headlines or quotes to promote blog posts, newsletters, or articles online. Photos and graphics with quotes are also great ways to get information shared on social media outlets.
Once people are on your site, that’s when you should make it clear where they can purchase your book.
Free still works
Miller advised writers to offer free resources—to give readers something of value for returning to your site or for signing up for an e-newsletter. She provided examples of a free e-book with extra scenes or pertinent research information. Miller noted that an interview with the author and promotion for her next book increased her e-newsletter mailing list. She saves time by using things she has already created. By thinking about marketing while writing the story, you’ll have less work to do when it’s time for promotion.
Speaking is another great way to build an audience. Rubart suggested starting small and finding someone to critique your presentation. He encouraged speakers to have a passion for the topic, exhibit authenticity, and entertain the audience with compelling, unique content.
Lipp said endorsements from people who matter to the readers, having a great website, and offering to speak for free will help new speakers get started. When presenting, Lipp said, “Email addresses are the currency of speaking.” Be sure to ask for permission to stay in touch with your audience through email.
Radio or television interviews can also be great ways to introduce more people to your platform and your writing. After securing an interview, it’s important to show you’re prepared by being on time and sending requested material in a timely manner—including your pitch, hook, and suggested interview questions and answers.
Find your audience and strive to be consistent and authentic as you build your platform and find new ways to share your story with the world.
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