Marketing Fiction: Beyond Book Reviews

At the recent Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) I gave a presentation on identifying major and minor themes that can help with marketing fiction.   Let’s face it.   For indie authors, book reviews in any traditional sense are difficult to come by.  We all want to end up in the New York Times, but there are over 1 million books published every year and only 52 New York Times Book Reviews.  Even with a publicist who knows people at the Times who make editorial decisions, by the numbers it looks like a long haul to getting that review in the paper.

The Problem with “Book” Marketing

Many writers think of their books as singular products, referring to them as my “novel”, “mystery series”, “fantasy”, “romance”, “coming-of-age novel”, etc.  I have been working on marketing fiction for twenty-five years and I can honestly tell you that trying to sell your book to a reviewer based on, “this is a great new novel” is not going to cut it in our competitive world.

One Solution to Fiction Promotion Challenges

There are many strategies you can use, like digital pr, but the one I suggest first is dissecting your book to go beyond book reviews. In my presentation, I described the process using a book we all know, The Great Gatsby.  I analyzed it through a more comprehensive lens–digging deep into any promotional angle I could find. Here is an outline of the process you can try on your book(s).

The Deep Dive for Marketing Fiction

  1. Open a blank document or take a clean sheet of paper. Write the title and genre of your book at the top.
  2. Make two columns, one called “book assets” and the other “my assets”
  3. In the “book assets” column write a list of the locations in your book; any topics that it covers (in Gatsby the list included Prohibition and Class Wars); and anything particularly interesting about the characters.
  4. In the “my assets” column make a list of things that pertain to you and your brand, such as where you live and where you grew up.  Add items like what you do beyond writing; any parts of the book based on your own personal experience; why you wrote what you wrote; and any additional interests, hobbies, or skills that you have.
  5. Now make a list at the bottom of the page of where you can imagine finding interest in the items in either list.  Is there a story in the media that relates to your topics?  In addition to being a novel, does you book include anything of interest to health care, psychology, or business? If your book is a mystery, note mystery outlets that you would target online and in print.
  6. Finally, pretend you are a reporter and write some mock headlines based on your list of angles and outlets.  The Great Gatsby in today’s world might inspire a headline like “Class Divides in New Novel Mirror the Culture of Celebrity and Billionaires vs. Everyone Else”; or “New Novel Explores Whether Class is Defined by your Market Value or by Knowledge and Manners.”

Thank You English Teachers

Remember English Class?  Yup, this process has some similarities.  The exercise will help you think about marketing fiction in a broader way.  It will also help enhance the number of opportunities it will have in the media.  Marketing fiction is always a challenge.  The first step to getting more press and attention is to see how many latent themes and topics your book can address.

For information on marketing fiction, see Case Studies #3

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Anarchy And Other Lies by Jesse Mckinnell

Anarchy and Other Lies

“Sam takes her book out from her pack and begins flipping through the pages. ‘It is better to live on your knees than die on your feet – Emiliano Zapata,’ she recites defiantly to the towering phantom. I don’t know if she got the quote backward on purpose. In any case, it makes more sense to me this way.”

With poverty at an all-time high and food rations at an all-time low, the future imagined in ANARCHY AND OTHER LIES (Montag Press, November 2020, 978-1-940233-82-6, $15.95, Original Trade Paperback) by Jesse McKinnell is a bleak one. Jake begins his story in a comfortable place, working his modest office job as a silverware designer, but his life is suddenly upheaved by the layoff of his entire department. Newly unemployed and facing the same fate as millions of others who have wound up homeless in his city, Jake finds himself wandering the streets in a dazed state until he strolls near a familiar landmark- an old, condemned bridge over a toxic river. In the second upheaval of the day, the bridge collapses in an explosive terrorist attack. It is the first, but certainly not the last, bombastic attack he will bear witness to. In the following week, Jake has another fateful meeting with the manic-pixie-dream-anarchist behind the bridge attack, Sam, when she saves him from getting blown up alongside her newest target. 

Immediately, Jake is caught up in the whirlwind that is Sam, a woman who leads a dangerous life of off the grid activism. Contrary to Jake’s profound ability to drift aimlessly through everything he has ever done, Sam seems to have a mission and strong driving convictions. Her want for revolution is infectious- digging its claws quickly into Jake and making him feel a spark of emotion for the first time in his drab, dull life. On the surface, it’s clear that Sam and her fellow partner in crime, Cap, want to enact change. They want to make people look up from their phones (or, in the case of this dystopia, their smart glasses) and see the state of the world, even for a few minutes. In time, though, the waters of her revolutionary dreams only become muddier and muddier, leaving Jake to ask: What does Sam really stand for? Does Jake want to support what seems to be chaos that is just as aimless as his former life? Is he a coward for wanting to return to the simplicity of protein bars, video games, and mind-numbing news cycles? 

Jesse McKinnell’s new parodical novel ANARCHY AND OTHER LIES takes the reader a step not-so far outside of our current reality. Using dark humor and self-aware cynicism, McKinnell explores the climate surrounding modern political issues and how easy it is to fall into a pattern of both numbness and performative activism. 

The dreary world that McKinnell paints is balanced with his dry wit, cautioning the reader against becoming too entrenched in either side of the spectrum of complete inaction or completely meaningless action. ANARCHY AND OTHER LIES touches on relevant topics- poverty, homelessness, dependency on technology, and the U.S. election cycles, to name a few.

About the Author
Jesse McKinnell is a writer living in southern Maine. His debut novel, Dead Cats and Other Reflections on Parenthood was published in May 2018 and was selected by Publishers Weekly as a semi-finalist for their 2017 Booklife Prize.

Anarchy and Other Lies
By Jesse McKinnell
Montag Press Collective
ISBN: 978-1-940233-82-6
Publication Date: November 2020
252 pp

The Brothers Silver by Marc Jampole

The Brothers Silver

Childhood trauma never goes away. It’s like a disability or injury that partially—and sometimes totally—controls you, awake and asleep.

Jules and Leon Silver attend school, play sports, are Boy Scouts, and they often come home to an empty refrigerator and a mother who cannot pull herself from bed. On the outside, they may seem like everyday middle-class boys. Inside each of them, a dark history is being written that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. In his debut novel, THE BROTHERS SILVER (Owl Canyon Press, ISBN: 978-1-952085-07-9, June 15th, 2021, Original Trade Paperback, $19.95) Marc Jampole tells a story of brothers, their bond, and their struggles and triumphs.

It is the early 1960s and Jules and Leon bounce back-and-forth between their parents, living with their father when their mother is institutionalized because of suicide attempts. As they grow into manhood, one takes to the road and rebellion, while the other looks for security in a committed relationship and work. Escaping the demons from the past is not a simple task, however, and these two highly intelligent young men find disarray, shame, pain, and heartache at every turn. Like many adults who experience emotional trauma as kids, Jules and Leon are plagued with combatting emotions—pride, guilt, shame, and anger—with no place to release their pain, except on themselves.

Marc Jampole has incorporated autobiographical elements in THE BROTHERS SILVER, making his rendering of their experiences harrowingly authentic. As a poet and artist, Jampole has written a masterful novel about love, tragedy, and hope, with complex characters and original voices chosen with precision and purpose.  

About the Author:

Marc Jampole wrote Music from Words (Bellday Books, 2007) and Cubist States of Mind/Not the Cruelest Month (Poet’s Haven Press, 2017). His poems and short stories have appeared in many journals and anthologies. About 1,800 freelance articles he has written have also been published. A former television news reporter and public relations executive, Marc writes the OpEdge blog, which appears on the websites of three national publications. He is past president of the board of Jewish Currents, a national magazine of politics and arts. He and his wife live in New York City.

THE BROTHERS SILVER: A Novel
By Marc Jampole
Owl Canyon Press
ISBN: 978-1-952085-07-9
Publication Date: 6/15/2021
Price: $19.95
Original Trade Paperback
296 pages