Content Marketing For Novelists: A Primer

Novels don’t market themselves. I’ve worked with several novelists over the years who couldn’t understand why, despite their impressive books, they couldn’t earn out their advances or secure future contracts with publishers. Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with content marketing.

I’m not a novelist myself (yet), but I’m a content marketer who reads at least three or four novels per week. Sometimes I’ll dig one out of the clearance bin at my local bookstore and, upon reading the last page, wonder why I hadn’t found it at the front of the shop, advertised alongside all the latest bestsellers.

This, by itself, is proof enough that a great novel doesn’t always experience great sales—or even great reviews. If nobody knows about your book, how can it sell?

WHATEVA. I DO WHAT I WANT.

WAVE OF VULTURES author exemplifies content marketingA writer named Delilah S. Dawson (who also publishes under the pseudonym Lila Bowen) finally helped me understand content marketing for novelists. She didn’t write a fabulous how-to guide, but she penned one of the most fantastic examples of content marketing literature I’ve ever seen.

Specifically, she wrote a post for Sci-Fi author John Scalzi’s blog while promoting one of her books, WAKE OF VULTURES.

Dawson tells a fascinating story about feeling boxed in when it comes to writing fiction. She expertly tied that feeling to a “South Park” episode she’d seen in which Eric Cartman appears on the Maury Povich show.

Does that sound ridiculous? It is. And that’s exactly why it works.

Some of the comments on her blog post prove my point:

  • “That Eric Cartman opening is a thing of beauty. Will definitely be looking into Brown’s (sic) work.”
  • “How can I not read this? Just put a hold on it at my local library and will pick it up tonight.”
  • “‘It’s Lonesome Dove meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a biracial, genderqueer heroine.’ Sold.”
  • “This book was on my list to read at some point but after reading just the first two paragraphs above I stopped and went to order a copy.”

In case you’re wondering, I ordered my own copy that same day, and I got the sequel, CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS, the day it was released. If you haven’t read Lila Bowen’s or Delilah Dawson’s work, stop reading this article and go check them out. (Then come back because I have more good stuff to share).

Interestingly, the phrase Dawson continually repeats throughout the blog post sum up content marketing for novelists perfectly: WHATEVA. I DO WHAT I WANT.

And That’s Exactly How She Approached Her Novel

If you don’t have that attitude, you can’t hope to market your novels successfully.

I’ve developed a theory about content marketing for novelists that I think might help aspiring and veteran writers improve their sales and increase their readership. It’s called Windmill Content because, well, I love windmills, and it’s a perfect analogy for the process.

I’ll get into those details in a later post, but for now, I want to leave you with a few tips for making the most out of content marketing for your next novel.

Write in Your Own Voice

Create content that reveals your passion, drive, interests, and unique perspective on life. You don’t have to talk about your books. You can talk about anything to generate interest in you—the author—as well as the products you sell.

Remember that your voice isn’t your protagonist’s voice or your publisher’s voice. It’s your own.

I’ve seen a few authors successfully market their novels by creating fake blogs with their heroes and heroines as the authors. It’s also worked for TV shows.

For instance, the HBO hit “True Blood,” which was based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, created a blog for Jessica Hamby, one of the show’s most beloved characters.

Like I said, it can work, but make sure most of your content marketing reveals your own voice and unique contributions to your audience.

Blog About a Related Topic

Romance writers might blog about finding love, using dating services, or deciding when to leave a troubled relationship.

Science fiction authors could blog about the latest technology, their favorite gadgets, or their theories about life in outer space.

Fantasy authors could write about mythology, fairy tales, and other aspects of their genre.

Thriller authors might delve into topics on personal and home security.

You see where I’m going with this. Novelists often think that content marketing means marketing their books. This isn’t always the case.

If you can create a name for yourself in a content marketing niche that’s related to your books, you might see your sales numbers rise.

Leverage Social Media

If you’re not a social butterfly, I feel your pain. That’s why I’m a content marketer and not a car salesperson.

Given the choice, I’ll stay home and read over going out with the girls.

However, content marketing does require you to get a little social. Fortunately, you can do so while stretched out in your recliner, a glass of wine in one hand and your smartphone in the other.

Use social media to start conversations with your audience and to share interesting information unrelated to your books.

Remember the 80/20 rule. On social media, as in all media, only 20 percent of the content you produce should include self promotion. The rest needs to offer something more valuable for the reader.

Think of a Windmill

Think of a windmill as you develop your content marketing strategyA windmill turns one type of energy into another. It continues to spin in a never-ending cycle, and each revolution creates more momentum.

Most importantly, windmills don’t require special circuitry, electronics, or other gadgetry. Their among the most simple creations mankind has ever created.

When you’re devising a content marketing strategy for your novels, I want you to think of the humble windmill.

We’ll talk more about that soon.