By Tolly Moseley
It’s a common complaint among fiction authors and book publicists alike.
“Fiction is too hard to publicize! Fun to read, but…HARD to spread the word.”
I hear you, friends. This is why Oprah has been the bane of every publicist’s existence for the past decade for so, because authors think that Oprah is the only way to sell your fiction book.
I’ve got two things to add to that point, the second of which I’ll be discussing at length. Those are:
A) Huge national shows (Oprah, TODAY, etc.) tend to pluck their guests from smaller media outlets, and
B) Smaller media outlets like books that get people talking. I’m going to show you how to pitch them.
When publicizing a fiction book, the biggest thing to keep in mind is relevance. Sadly, media members just don’t care if your book is beautifully written. I wish that weren’t the case, but it’s true. Over one hundred thousand books are published each year, many with heart-achingly gorgeous prose. But the ones that sell are those that – prior to being opened – already have some immediate relevance to a person’s life. So let’s talk about 5 ways to accomplish that.
A) BE A HOMETOWN HERO. I probably don’t have to tell you that the best way to launch your readership is to go for broke in your hometown. Instead of an extensive book tour – which are being phased out these days anyway – focusing on throwing one fabulous launch in your hometown. Here’s an article I wrote to help you plan it.
B) BE A SHAPE-SHIFTER. A kindergarten teacher-turned-thriller writer. An accountant-turned-chick lit maven. Whatever you are, one of my favorite ways to position fiction authors is to draw an interesting point of distinction between their “day” self and their “writer” self. Think of J.K. Rowling: Who hasn’t heard about her former poverty, prior to becoming the most beloved children’s author in the world? The story: Single mom-turned-fantasy writer. How poignant that she was writing about magic, then created some magic of her own. This tip is relevant to anyone else who can relate to your “day” self, who is also a single mom / accountant / kindergarten teacher. And, not yet a famous author.
C) OR, BE A WORKPLACE SPY. You could always try the opposite approach, like John Grisham: lawyer-turned-legal thriller writer. Did you draw inspiration from your real life? Particularly, your workplace? If so, position yourself as an insider with unique behind-the-scenes knowledge of hospitals, restaurants, courtrooms, etc. Approach media that reports on these types of places, and offer your novel as a slice-of-life look at their inner workings.
D) BE SEASONAL. Did you write a novel about a mother? Pitch it around Mother’s Day. About an awkward new kid? Pitch it for back-to-school season. Look for annual holidays, events, etc. that crop up every year, and think about people’s gift needs. Allow yourself plenty of time BEFORE said date to pitch it to media, too: They plan gift guide suggestions way in advance, and if you land your own feature story or blog post, you’ll want to give consumers time to read it and react (hopefully with a purchase!)
E) BE TRENDY. By which I mean, make a case for your book as germane to a larger news trend. How does your novel add to the national conversation about, say, sustainable living? Vampires? The massive cupcake trend currently sweeping the country? Fit your book into the public’s existing interests, even if they are silly and/or pop culture-centered. It might be the first (and only) time you can say you’re reading People magazine for research purposes.
Tolly Moseley is a publicist for PR By the Book. As a reader, she enjoys fiction novels of all stripes, from Bronte to Bukowski. Sometimes she watches Oprah.