3 Ways For Nonfiction Writers to Plant Marketing Seeds

Today’s post is a reprint from years back, from author Dineen Miller, who shares great insights into how novelists can use marketing approaches nonfiction authors are familiar with, to build up early interest in their book before it comes out. 

Nothing like a book contract to make you aware of what everyone else is doing. And you want to know what works best, right? The problem is, we’re looking for one formula in an industry that’s basically at the whim and whimsy of personal preference and word of mouth.

When I started writing seriously in 2004, my focus lay completely in fiction. I’d written devotionals and snippets of life pieces in the past, but they served my own need for expression, then resided silently in a folder on my computer. Fiction was my passion.

Then something unexpected happened. In 2006 I was given the opportunity to write as part of a team on a blog on a topic that hit home for me. I jumped in because I wanted to help other women avoid some of the heartache I’d experienced to reach a place of thriving in my faith and my marriage.

Readership for our blog grew, which led to a book (Winning Him without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage) about how to thrive in a spiritually challenging marriage, and a booming Facebook presence. We suddenly found ourselves reaching readers in ways we hadn’t thought possible at the beginning. Our main site even started showing up as a resource on other ministry and church websites.

So when my novel The Soul Saver was finally picked up by a publisher, I began studying what had worked so well for our nonfiction book and looked for ways to apply it to marketing my novel. What I discovered has now lead to a concept I and my writing partner call Rooted Marketing.

Plant Those Seeds Early

Like it sounds, rooted marketing is like planting seeds in your stories to be sown right before, during, and after as marketing tools. As you’re writing your story, you are literally building in settings, hobbies, causes, interests, and anything unique that you can use to promote your book.

From these ideas you can write nonfiction articles for submission to magazines, blogs, and other sources looking for special interest pieces.

1. Identify need and niche seeds. As authors, we pretty much get the message today that we have to do more than just market our book. People want more. Common trends have set a pattern of having take away value. So, identify a need or niche you can fill.

For example, a budding author I know recently shared with me that she loved writing home and hearth stories because this had been a big area of enjoyment in her own life. Suddenly we realized she had unlimited opportunities to write into her stories traditions and celebrations that had meant so much to her and her family and would give her readers step-by-step planning instructions to do that same kind of events and traditions in their own homes. She had not only pulled a theme from the stories she felt so passionate about, she’d created a brand she wanted to continue throughout her books.

2. Grow and Harvest Resources. Experience has a way of opening doors to serve a specific market with the goal of being a resource. That was always our purpose—how did we assist others in finding the help they needed in a difficult marriage? What could people take away and apply to their lives and marriages?

We not only used our book but also created a dozen free downloads with tips and suggestions from everything to praying for your unbelieving spouse to putting romance back into your marriage, along with short teaching videos and a relevant monthly newsletter.

I recently read about an author who turned the historical research she used for her novel into a series of articles for her local newspaper. Another author I know built in a common theme of a quilt pattern through her book series and included the pattern (one she designed herself) at the back of each book. The potential here is only as limited as your thinking, so think big and have fun!

3. Be an Intentional and Current Farmer. It’s unrealistic to think we can “do it all,” and planning ahead goes a long way in fighting off the overwhelming menu of media and marketing choices. Once you identify and figure out what potential marketing seeds you can plant in your work-in-progress, imagine ways you can market and interconnect them between your website and favorite social media sites so you can reap an effective harvest. Even consider speaking to local groups in your area if your subject matter is applicable to library or other groups.

If your resources are time-critical, be sure to update or change them out periodically. Offer new ones to your readers and if you have a newsletter, offer a special download available only to sign-ups. You can even do that with your blog these days with each new subscription. Find a tech-savvy person to help you set up an automatic mailing, and you won’t have to think about it again until you’re ready to offer a new resource.

There are so many different ways to market today that we have to be intentional about what we choose. Thinking ahead is like preparing the soil for those seeds so when your book comes out, you’re ready to reap a harvest.

 Start Thinking before You Start Writing

Rooted Marketing isn’t necessarily “new.” Authors are pulling aspects from their novels all the time to reach more readers and sell more books through online promotions and even speaking. But why not start thinking it through before you even start writing your next story?

What can you build into that budding novel that can be a handy marketing tool? Can you even produce articles or downloads while you’re writing it? Imagine finishing your next contracted novel and already having several marketing tools harvested from your marketing garden, ready to use to promote that book when it releases.

Dineen Miller has won several prestigious awards for her fiction, and is the author of The Soul Saver and the novella, A Love Meant To Be, part of the Central Park Rendezvous Collection. She is the coauthor of Winning Him without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage, which received the award for Nonfiction Book of 2011 from the San Diego Christian Writers Guild. Check out Dineen’s blog here, and you can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash

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