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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Expanding Your Organic Reach on Instagram: Video Content

Instagram, like all other social media platforms, changes constantly. However, it has never been easier to build an audience organically on Instagram because of short form video content

Using Short Form Video Content: Reels

Yes, I am talking about reels. If you aren’t using reels, and you are missing an enormous opportunity for growth. For example, when we had less than 90 followers, we created a reel that got over 3,000 views! Personally, I have an account that had around 1,100 followers and created a reel that has 1.3 million views – and is still growing. Needless to say, no other type of content would have received that sort of attention. Not every reel will go viral — most won’t — but in my experience they consistently have a larger organic reach than any other type of content.

Why is Video so Important for Increasing your Organic Reach?

People like video because it is perceived as authentic. Video allows you to connect with your audience in a way that is just not possible through still images. This is largely why Instagram has increased the ways in which you can share video content on their platform. 

Additionally, content like reels is being pushed from several different areas within the app which increases the likelihood of your content being seen then liked, shared, or commented on!

How to Share Video Content on Instagram

There are several ways to share video content on Instagram: 

  1. Stories: You can share short form video content on Instagram that will stay for 24 hours. These allow you to engage authentically with your audience and post several times a day without overwhelming your audience’s feed. 
  2. IGTV: Long form videos are great for IGTV. Generally these should share evergreen content like a podcast or educational videos. You can organize them into series based on topics. 
  3. Short video posts: You can post short videos to your feed as long as they are under a minute. These can add interest to your feed. 
  4. Highlights: Save your stories and reels shared to your stories to the top of your feed so people can rewatch them after the 24 hour period has passed. 
  5. Reels: One of the newest features on Instagram and a phenomenal way to grow organically. These can be synced with trending music, dances, or lip synced audio. But it doesn’t have to be that fancy, you can also do a simple, short talking head video where you share valuable and entertaining information. 

Pro Tips for Video Content on Instagram

  • Include closed captions
  • Look at hashtags like SEO for your videos (yes, use all 30)
  • Create branded covers for your video content that looks good in your feed as well as a standalone graphic

Don’t Post Aimlessly!

You shouldn’t post video content to Instagram just to post video content. Each piece should have a purpose and be a part of a larger strategy. If you are looking for help with developing your strategy for social media growth, we would love to hear from you.

Additional Resources: 

3 Tips for Using Instagram

3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Social Media Efforts

Tik Tok and Book Promotion


Book Review: On a Sunbeam

I picked up On A Sunbeam on a whim. The back of the book promised an LGBTQ+ sci-fi love story in the form of a beautiful graphic novel. I was instantly sold. I’m nothing if not a sucker for space adventures with a side of unapologetically queer characters, and this book delivered.

The Plot:

On A Sunbeam focuses on a young woman named Mia. She joins a crew that roams the far reaches of space to restore ruins on other planets. With a diverse cast to support her, the story is part space exploration and part slice-of-life as Mia works towards her true objective: She wants to find out what happened to her old flame from boarding school, Grace.

At first, the book hops between the past and the present. The story of how Mia and Grace met is woven around the narrative of Mia’s current-day life. Mia forges new relationships with those around her but can’t seem to let go of Grace, driving herself and the crew into the furthest recesses of the universe to find her. The story is more about the people within it than the plotline itself. I personally find this compelling, but it can lead to some odd pacing throughout.

The Art:

While the plot itself is straightforward, I’d be remiss to not spend time speaking on Walden’s artwork. I particularly love the way she handles the past vs. present scenes in the beginning of the book. Her linework is messy and dynamic, which can make it hard to tell characters apart at times, but she handles the time skips very well through color. Walden paints the present in shades of maroon while the past is blue. This allows the reader to clearly understand when the storyline shifts. When the two timelines converge to one, the color palette expands to allow for some visually stunning pages.

Walden’s simplicity in her character design is made up for entirely by the energy she spends on backgrounds and scenery. The linework may be scrawling at times, the text handwritten, but the book feels warm as a result. Even scenes meant to convey the vast, emptiness of space are rich and overwhelming. Walden’s visual storytelling is perhaps her strongest selling point.

Final Thoughts:

For me, the book was less of the advertised love story and more of a story about love. It’s about the connections we make with the people around us and how those can have lasting effects long after they’ve come and gone. It’s about rebuilding those connections and bringing past into present and settling regrets. It’s a soothing book and an electrifying read. If you don’t mind plot taking a backseat to characters and you love unique takes on sci-fi aesthetics, I highly recommend this book.

My Score: 9/10

For more reviews from the CMPR team, click here.

5 Resources to Kickstart Your Promotional Efforts

If you’re gearing up to publish your first book or simply want to know some of the best sources to turn to for fresh marketing ideas and tips on how to promote your book, service and/or product, look no further. We’ve put in the work so you don’t have to.

Here are our top three resources to help get you started with any of your upcoming promotional efforts:

Resource #1: Cision

If you’re looking for some general information about all things PR and marketing, Cision has you covered. In addition to being a top public relations/earned-media software company, Cision also runs an informative blog that PR professionals turn to daily to stay up-to-date on all of the latest news, trends and even round-ups within the industry. Although not specific to strictly book promotion, it still provides useful information that can be applied anywhere.

Resource #2: Buzzsumo 

As many of our loyal readers will know, we can never stress the importance of research enough as it is at the foundation of everything we do. Buzzsumo is a bespoke search engine that we utilize regularly to conduct much of that research into specific topics. It’s a great way to find out what people are talking about as well as discover outlets and journalists to reach out to for potential coverage.

Resource #3: Trello

Another important element to promoting a product or service is ensuring that you’re organized. That’s why we love using a web-based list-making application, like Trello, that keeps our company workflow in check.

Resource #4: Google Sheets

Like we’ve mentioned in the past, another good way to stay organized is by keeping track of every contact/outlet you’ve pitched in an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet. Google Drive is a particularly good resource to have in your toolbox because it’s free, and you can share documents with others.

Resource #5: Claire McKinneyPR

Okay, I might be a little biased here, but our blog has some seriously helpful tips, tricks, and insider information across a multitude of different areas like book promotion, digital PR/marketing, personal branding, social media, and even design. Consider us a one-stop-shop!

For more of our latest blog posts, click here.



Book Publicity on Social Media: Bookstagrammers

Using Instagram to publicize your book is one of the most cost-effective ways to share your book with avid readers. This is largely because of bookstagrammers. 

What is bookstagram?

A bookstagram is an instagram account dedicated to — you guessed it — books. The bookstagram community itself is massive. It encompasses authors and readers who love sharing their passion for books. 

Using Bookstagram to Generate Awareness Around Your Book

Bookstagram can be a great place to share your book, especially if you have a budget, but we will get to that in a second. One of the great things about bookstagram is that, unlike in newspapers or on the radio, people who follow bookstagrammers and engage with their content are a lot more likely to love books. If you connect with bookstagrammers that have a specific niche that is relevant to your book, then you are placing your book directly in front of an audience that is likely your ideal audience for sales. 

3 Tips for Working with Bookstagrammers

  1. Do not expect large bookstagrammers to share your book for free. Many of these bookstagrammers have huge, active audiences. Would you want to give something of value away for free? Probably not. Smaller bookstagrammers may be willing to trade for a free book — but make sure they have a public profile. 
  2. Research bookstagrammers before reaching out. If you write thrillers, it would be a waste of time to reach out to a bookstagrammer who only enjoys romance. 
  3. Engage with the bookstagrammers you would like to work with prior to reaching out to them. Although this is not absolutely required, it is good etiquette, especially if you are hoping to get something for free. 

If you are looking for other ways to publicize your book, check out the following posts: 

Our Six Step Guide to Earning Local Media Coverage

Book Awards for Indie Authors

Publicity 101: 5 Steps to Curating the Perfect Media List