Book Promotion: Good & Bad Gambles for Advertising

Writing Novels That Sell with Adrienne deWolfe

Book promotion can be expensive for fiction writers.  You're a one-man / one-woman company, chasing after national -- even international -- sales.  Yet how many Indie Fiction Authors and Midlist Authors of genre fiction have $290,000 to invest in one, full-page advertisement in People Magazine?  (And you thought television advertising was expensive!)

When determining how to market a book, fiction writers need book promotion venues that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.  In Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on Book Marketing Strategy, I discussed criteria that Indie Fiction Authors and Midlist Authors should consider before deciding how much money to invest in book promotion.

In today's post, Part 3 in this 4-part series on Book Marketing Strategy, I discuss good and bad gambles for book promotion dollars, based upon the different stages of a fiction writer's career.

Good Gambles for Book Promotion Dollars

Debut Novels

A bookseller once told me that in 15 years of business, he never had a customer ask for a first-time author's book.  In Part I and Part 2 of my Book Marketing Strategy Series, I discussed why newly published fiction writers may not immediately reap their ROI (return on investment) for self-promotion.  

First-time authors should market a book as an investment in long-term career strategy.  Book promotion for debut fiction writers can build name recognition and increase anticipation for your next release.

Debuting in a New Fiction Genre or Sub Genre

Book Promotion is a must when fiction writers are jumping into a new genre.  Since most readers in the new genre will be unaware of your name, you're basically starting over.   For all the reasons listed under the Debut Novel section, a Contemporary author's first Historical needs promotion; a Category Romance author’s first Single Title needs promotion; a Mystery author’s first Western needs promotion, etc.

Strong Books in Your Fiction Genre

While fiction writers would like to think that every book we write is strong, the truth is that some of our books will stand out more than others. When you know in your gut that you've written a great story, give it a boost with your book promotion dollars.  

If you want constructive and unbiased feedback about an upcoming release and its strength against the competition, consult with your most trusted readers, your critique group, a bookseller whose opinion you trust, or even a reviewer who has praised you in the past.  That way, you'll have educated and (hopefully) unbiased opinions that will help you decide how to market a book.

Books that Stretch Fiction Genre Boundaries

Publishers developed genre fiction guidelines for a reason:   Romance, Mystery, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Thrillers, Westerns and Horror each have a statistically identifiable audience, that wants a certain reading experience, and that expects a particular ending to the story. 

Any fiction books that fall outside the traditional publishing definition of commercial fiction (or “popular fiction”) has a less clearly defined reading audience.  Since “different” doesn’t always mean commercial, fiction writers must be prepared to invest time and money to market such a book.  Chances are, book promotion will increase your name recognition, build your reading audience, and improve your sales.

Hardcover Books

The majority of mass market readers aren’t willing to shell out $25 for a book – hence the popularity of paperback reprints, discount booksellers, and used book stores.   Hardcover books need help at the cashier’s counter, so add them to your book marketing strategy.

Poor Gambles for Book Promotion Dollars

Books with Low Print Runs

As I discussed in Part I of this series on Book Marketing Strategy, a low print run -- let's say 25,000 -- won't reach many readers. Therefore, a low print run won't allow fiction writers to recoup much of an advertising investment.  Before determining whether to sink your life savings in book promotion, get a reliable print run figure from your printer or publisher.

Mid-Career Authors with Midlist Paperbacks

If you are a mid-career author with average reviews and sluggish sales, distributors and booksellers aren't going to invest a lot of money in your next release.  Your best strategy will come from reinventing yourself.  Consult with your agent and editor to determine how to light a fire under your career before you invest any more money in book promotion.

Fiction Sub-Genres with Small Reading Audiences

While highly niched fiction sub-genres can be wildly popular among their reading audience  (example:  Regency Romance or Cyberpunk Science Fiction), that audience may not be large enough to warrant the cost and time of book promotion.  If you know you are writing a fiction genre that has limited print runs and a narrow audience, stick to free promotional venues, and let your cover art and cover blurb market your book.

Category Novels in Genre Fiction

Category or “line” novels (example: Harlequin’s Temptation line in the Romance genre; Pocket Books’ Star Trek line in the Science Fiction genre) have large print runs, but their shelf lives are short, which makes them a poor gamble for book promotion dollars.

Category novels tend to be bought in standard quantities by distributors and booksellers.  A bookseller is not likely to order 15 more copies of your book just because he sees your advertisement in a trade publication.  Increasing the number of orders for a Category novel takes a lot of energy and persistence.  You are better off investing your book promotion dollars in an upcoming career move:  to market a book in a new fiction genre, for instance.  Book promotion will also help you sell your cross-over and break-out novels.

In Part 4 of this series, Book Promotion Strategies for Fiction Writers, I discuss how to market a book on a shoe-string budget. 

Posts in the 4-part series, Book Marketing Strategy:

Romance Writing Courses, Online, On-demand. Discover the 23 most popular themes in the genre, and how to write them! Click here to learn more.