So, I’ve been writing this BookWorks column some months now, teaching indie authors how to leverage media publicity to build their platform, grow their audience, and sell more books. And whenever I speak or teach on this topic at a conference or event, there are a number of novelists in the crowd who don’t quite see how they can make it work for them, too.
This month, I’m speaking directly to you authors who write fiction. Because YES, you too are eligible to harness the amazing power of PR to promote your novel.
The key, which is true for ANY author, is that you almost never focus on your book. You need to focus on your expertise.
And I don’t mean “writing.” Any author can talk about that. Why should I pick you as my guest when literally any author will do?
I’m referring to your expertise that is unique. The inspiration for your novel may be the result of all kinds of real-world stuff:
- Your work experiences
- Your life experiences
- What you think about any number of topics
- Universal themes that are important to you
- What you’ve learned because of research
If you take a step back and look at your book with an objective eye, you should be able to find talking points about your book that are not the book itself. That’s why we’re talking about using “nonfiction topics” to promote your fiction…
Even Stephen King Needs Nonfiction Topics to Talk About His Fiction
We’re all authors here, so I’m pretty sure you’re aware of Stephen King. Whatever your interest in or opinion of his work, you know who he is.
As authors go, he’s pretty famous. Out of the thousands of those living, he’s one of a handful who might be termed as a “celebrity.”
But even when Stephen King has a work of fiction to talk about, the media rarely titles the segment or article, “Stephen King has a new novel!”
There are a few reasons for this:
- Members of the audience may think they already know all about this. If we don’t tell them that this interview has a specific angle, they may mistakenly assume this will just be him answering the same batch of questions they already saw him answer somewhere else.
- Some members of the audience aren’t necessarily fans. While they might not care about a generic talk about his book, they may stick around if we promise an interesting topic of discussion.
- Others in our audience may not even know him. Just because you know who someone is, doesn’t mean that everyone does. At the height of Michael Jackson’s fame, my grandma had never heard of him.
For media coverage of King’s novel Doctor Sleep, the sequel to his novel The Shining, some of the talking points were taken from themes and ideas in the book. Beyond just fans, this interview in The Guardian will pique the interest of audience members who maybe watched Stanley Kubrick’s controversial film The Shining or are interested in a thoughtful discussion of the impact alcoholism has on families.
You can read the interview here:
“Stephen King: on alcoholism and returning to the Shining”
Even Paul McCartney Had to Deal With #WhoIsPaulMcCartney
In case you don’t believe me that even famous people aren’t always famous, let’s talk for a bit about Sir Paul McCartney. He’s one of the most successful songwriters and recording artists in history. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (twice), he’s won 18 Grammy Awards, and written dozens of hugely popular songs. Just one of his songs alone—“Yesterday”—has been covered by more than 2,000 recording artists, in genres ranging from R&B and country to classical and jazz to soul and rock.
Yet, in a 2015 Grammy appearance onstage with Kanye West, some of the rapper’s fans claimed they didn’t recognize the legend. We have no way to know how many were joking, but the fact remains that #WhoIsPaulMcCartney was trending on Twitter that night.
You may think you’ve got a name, but you’re no Paul McCartney.
How These Authors Use Nonfiction Topics Promote Fiction
To demonstrate the principle in action, here are real-world examples of novelists using a nonfiction angle to draw attention to their fiction…
Read that article here:
To promote her novel The Ladies of Ivy Cottage, historical romance author Julie Klassen participated in a photo essay in Victoria, a bimonthly women’s lifestyle magazine. The feature highlighted a costumed visit to the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England.
Find the photo essay here:
Robert J. Sawyer
Read that article here:
To promote her novel Before I Saw You, Amy Sorrells was a guest on the national radio show Chris Fabry Live discussing “the opioid crisis in America...unplanned pregnancies and what do you do when you’ve been handed a messy life.”
Listen to the episode online:
Crime novelist Julia Heaberlin has appeared on radio and television talking about the ideas and real-life stories behind her fiction. In this radio interview, she talks about the forensic and death penalty experts who inspired her novel Black-Eyed Susans.
Listen to the episode online:
Rachel Linden works with nonprofits that help survivors of sexual trauma across the globe—and infuses her knowledge and experience into her women’s fiction. When she wrote an op-ed piece for the Seattle Times, it was natural to mention Linden’s qualifications and that her novel Becoming the Talbot Sisters also deals with these issues.
Read the article here:
Media Publicity for Your Fiction: Talking Points
If you want to promote a work of fiction, the key is to look for all the talking points that you can draw from it.
- Instead of what happens in the book, what is the book about?
- What did you learn during your research?
- Do any themes or ideas in the book tie-in to current events in the news?
- What real-life people or events inspired characters or plot elements in the book?
- Does the book have themes or ideas that connect with universal hopes and fears of audience members?
When you can offer the media nonfiction excuses to talk about your work of fiction, you are on the right track to capturing their interest.
Ready to generate some nonfiction angles to promote your novel? Now that you have the proper frame of reference, I recommend that you go back and review my previous BookWorks articles on media publicity:
- 3 Tools to Target Media Topics for Your Pitch
- Author PR: Do’s and Don’ts in Pursuit of Media – Part One
- Book PR: Do’s & Don’ts When Wooing the Media – Part Two
- Author Media Pitch Do’s & Don’ts – Part Three
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