Marketing a Fiction Book vs. Marketing a Nonfiction Book

There are lots of companies that say they can market your book online. And maybe they can. But what they fail to tell you is that there’s not one standard formula that works for all authors. Marketing a teen horror novel is very, very different from trying to sell copies of a self-help book about finding your soul mate. Very different audiences.

I could spend hours writing about how reaching tweens and teens requires more social networking, while reaching 60-somethings is more effectively done through search engines, but I won’t bother. Instead, the purpose of this post is to talk about the specific differences between marketing fiction books and non-fiction books.

These two categories of books are completely separate beasts. Let’s start with why people read them. Someone generally reads a non-fiction book to boost their knowledge on something. To learn more on a subject. That same person would probably read a novel because they find it relaxing. Or entertaining. Or they like the rush. Or the humor. You get the drift.

Here’s the point: What prompts someone to buy a fiction book is completely different from what prompts someone to buy a non-fiction book. Let’s start with those motivations and see how that brings us back to the marketing side of things.

What they Have in Common
There’s one thing that works for every type of book. It’s every author’s dream. It’s “buzz” or word of mouth. Your friends are all talking about this book. It’s the topic of conversation at the water cooler. So you have to buy it. It could be a biography or a fantasy. Doesn’t matter. If it’s popular, you need to read it to stay in the loop.

But tell the truth — what are the odds that your book will become cooler talk? If it does, then great! But if it doesn’t, you need to find other ways to reach potential readers. And that’s where marketing comes in.

Promoting a Non-Fiction Book
In some ways, it’s actually a lot easier to do the marketing for a non-fiction book. That’s because there are a wealth of potential readers out there who are looking for information on your particular subject at any given moment. They’re surfing the web, Googling terms, finding websites that cover the subject matter.

All you have to do is get your book in their face just as they’re doing the looking! True, that’s easier said than done. But a good place to start is with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Google Adwords. It also can involve reaching out to websites that cover the same subject and getting your book plugged as a resource. As a nonfiction author, people are actually looking for you … you just have to make sure they find you.

Promoting a Fiction Book
This is a little more tricky. Because chances are that your potential readers have never heard of you. Or your characters. They’re not necessarily looking for your book. Instead, you have to make sure your book finds them … and wins them over.

This is where the search engine strategy goes out the window. No one actually goes on Google and searches for “good novels.” That’s just not how people choose their reading materials. Instead, they’re likely to choose a book because it’s on this month’s book club list. Or it’s recommended on their favorite social networking site.

Yes, social networking — and really “getting yourself out there” is necessary to market a fiction book. It’s only when someone stumbles upon your book and is so enamored that they have to read it that they will actually buy your book. So contact groups or educators that you think would benefit from using your book. Recommend your book to bloggers and book club leaders. Get it out there in front of as many people as possible.

Is it more work? Yes. But the rewards are plentiful. Because unless you’re a former U.S. President writing an autobiography, or a famous journalist writing an expose about a celebrity, your non-fiction book isn’t likely to become a bestseller. But anyone can become the next Nora Roberts or J.K. Rowling. The right book and the right marketing can get you there.

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Marketing a teen horror novel is very, very different from trying to sell copies of a self-help book about finding your soul mate.