3 S.R. Johannes: Marketing NF vs Fiction – Where the Similarities End

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Marketing NF vs Fiction – Where the Similarities End




Thanks, Shelli, for hosting this leg of the tour. Shelli asked me to talk about marketing my books. In particular, she asked what the differences were between marketing nonfiction books for a small niche and the type of marketing needed for fiction.

Whew! What a great question.

For me, the principals of marketing are the same, whether you are marketing a small educational title to a specific niche, a children’s nonfiction advice book, or even a mainstream trade novel. These principles include:

· Know Your Market: Regardless of whether you are marketing a novel for teens of a nonfiction book for educators, you MUST know your market. Not only who may read your book, but the specifics about what your particular audience may be looking for from your book. Wonder the bookstores, picture exactly where your book fits on the shelf. Ask your specific audience what they are hungry for – what kinds of things are possibly missing from the market right now.

In addition to knowing your primary market, know your secondary and tertiary markets as well. While these are certainly easier to identify in nonfiction, they exist in fiction as well. With YA for example, your primary market may be Teens, with a secondary market of adults interested in YA novels, and a tertiary market of both teachers who teach stories like yours, and writers who write similar genres.

· Treat Marketing As A Business: The publishing industry has changed substantially, whether we want it to have changed or not. Being a career author means more than just writing stories and having your agent and publisher do the majority of the business side of things. You must take an active role in building a platform and marketing the book.

Authors of Nonfiction genres are typically used to this. Fiction authors are learning – quickly.It is important with this business model change to treat the business aspects of writing as that – a BUSINESS. This means developing a strategic plan to both build platform and market the book. Set goals – monthly and more long term. Figure out how you want to proceed with your career – how you will connect with your readers.

Yes, if you are a fiction author with a larger publisher behind you, much of this planning will be done by others. But I feel strongly that you must take ownership for this as well. After all – it is YOUR career.

· Focus on Connections: Marketing your work is NOT about selling in the more derogatory, used salesman sense of the word. It is, however, about making connections to your readership. Find ways to bring content of value to your readers and they will thank you for it. Not only that, but they will come back over and over to see what else you have to say. If you only focus on sales, you will not only miss vital opportunities to develop relationships with your readers, but you will typically come off as disingenuous – something guaranteed to drive away your readers.

These principles are vital to marketing any book – fiction or nonfiction; widely distributed or sold on a small scale. While the principles are the same, some of the nuances of these principles are unique.

With my nonfiction books, for example, connecting with readers has proven most successful using a combination of virtual chats (twitter, secondlife, online forums) and real life events (conferences and book chats). Book signing are not generally effective as most of my readers do not come to them. Panel discussions would be effective, I believe. But the niche these books serve have not used such events widely, so finding venues is difficult.

With fiction, connecting with readers takes on a whole different meaning. Panel discussions, live events and virtual Q&A’s are very effective ways to connect with readers. Offering exclusive content is another fantastic way to bring value and connect to fiction readers – things like exclusive short shorts stemming from the characters of the book, or bookish swag that brings fresh content to readers (the postcards from Cassandra Clare are a great example of this).

Connecting with fiction readers can also mean using media in unique ways – more unique than is typically appropriate from some NF genres. Beth Revis’ interactive blueprint of the ship from Across the Universe, Ric Riordan’s 39 Clues online material, and Gossip Girls use of virtual worlds frequented by teens to market the series are prime examples of finding unique ways to connect with readers. Annotated picture books are another example of bringing exclusive content to readers.

Overall, marketing fiction can be a bigger challenge to the author. It can be difficult to set yourself apart from every other author in a way that positions you well in the market place. Challenging yes, but not impossible.

For me, the key is to start with the end product – the book. Make it the very best product you can. Then follow the principles listed above, applied to your specific market. Be creative. Find new ways to bring fresh, value-added content to your readers. And treat it all as a business – your business.

Christine Fonseca


Opening the door to new worlds

New Release:
  • Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students (October 1, 2010, Prufrock Press)
Upcoming Release:
  • 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids (May 1, 2011, Prufrock Press)


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Excellent post!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Christine is brilliant, and I LOVE her!! :-)

Gail said...

Shelli, Thanks for bringing in Christine!
Christine, thanks for the wonderful tips on marketing NF. I'm writing several picture biographies and this is so helpful!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Great post--thanks for the NF perspective!

Jemi Fraser said...

It doesn't surprise me that Christine has such excellent tips! Thanks so much for sharing ladies :)

Greg Pincus said...

I completely agree that having a plan and focusing on connections (in all the meanings of that word, really) are the keys. If you promote blindly, you are wasting a ton of energy... and often annoy people rather than build up a network of fans and supporters. And being a career author means you want that network....

Great post. Thanks Christine and Shelli!

VS Grenier said...

This is a great post. I'm adding it to my top ten list in my newsletter.

kathrynjankowski said...

Great point about going beyond the primary market. It's a wonderful way to up your connections.

Catch My Words said...

When I get my book published, I'll have to stop back here to reread this post on how to market it.

I would love to win this book because I teach gifted students. I would add the book to my library and let my parents check it out after I read it.


Lisa Potts said...

Great marketing advice! I've been traveling all over the blogosphere trying to win a copy of this wonderful book.

Christine Fonseca said...

Hey Lisa Potts - You DID WIN!!! Over on Michelle McLean's blog. She posted it on Monday. WOO HOO!!!!

Kimbra Kasch said...

Success strategies - I can use all the help I can get.

Thanks for the info.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing such wonderful marketing advice and tips.
Random note: I have a gifted son. It looks like this book will be great for both GT kids and their parents. Good job!

Michele said...

Great post as writer in both Fiction and NF it was very illuminating! As are all of the other posts I read! So I'm awarding you with the Versatile Blogger Award.

You can read more about it here:

I'm also passing the rules for accepting this award:

* Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their site in your original post.
* Tell us seven things about yourself.
* Pass along the award to five newly discovered bloggers.
* Contact these bloggers and let them know they got this award.

It’s as simple as that. Hope you accept!
Michele Barrow-Belisle

Warren Baldwin said...

Good suggestions, esp the one about connecting with the readership. Thanks.

Avenir said...

Very good tips. I agree completely, promotion is an ongoing project. And promotion without a website makes no sense.

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