I’ve recently started to wonder if my view that content marketing doesn’t work for marketing fiction books is actually wrong. I never tried it; I thought about it but decided against it.
What is content marketing?
For those of you who are wondering what content marketing is : it is basically creating some form of regular content, usually a blog, video channel or a podcast with the aim of attracting an audience of people who will ultimately buy your books.
So rather than paying for services where you make use of someone else’s audience (basically advertising) you build up your own audience by attracting them to your regular content. That’s the idea.
For non-fiction books it is usually very easy to do this, most have a specific set of questions that they answer and so you can create content that answers those question, the idea of “they ask, you answer.”
The problem with content marketing to promote fiction
Some people view content marketing as a one-off event based on this. What I mean by this is that they consider it purely based on one piece of content. So they write a blog post on “fly-fishing in Vietnam”, spend lots of time on looking at the way Google will view their post (this practise is called Search Engine Optimisation – or SEO for short) and then wait for Google to send lots of people to their site.
This approach generally doesn’t work that well for fiction. People don’t search for niche questions on Google. They don’t search for “books with purple vampires” or similar. They may search for terms like “best fantasy books”, but those terms are hard to rank in because people will be paying Google for those terms.
But much of the essence of content marketing is nothing to do with this “one-off” approach, it is about building a loyal following of people who are looking forward to your new content. So by regularly producing good enjoyable content you can get a group of followers who will be more likely to buy (or at least try) your books.
There is another issue with fiction though. Most people aren’t going to be that interested in your book’s content. Your characters may be very interesting to you and people who have read your books, but no one who has not read your books will be remotely interested in it. This is very different from non-fiction where content of the book (in a watered-down form) is very interesting to someone who hasn’t read your book but has an issue which your content helps with.
How I think you could do it
But the more I’ve thought about this I still think that there is scope to be successful with content marketing for fiction books. This is admittedly theoretical, as I did not pursue the idea but I think you could with time have success selling books this way. Here is my advice, for what it is worth on the best way to set up a blog or podcast to promote your fiction books.
- Try and narrow down your subject matter to be about an aspect of the genre you write in, in an area that you know something about. If you watch lots of films in your genre (e.g you write romance) then maybe write blog posts about films. While book reviews would be good, if you aren’t a fast reader then you will be spending all your time reading which probably makes it impractical. General discussion pieces about the genre (e.g the best werewolves from fiction) might well be a better route to go.
- Don’t create content about writing. Unless you are writing a book about writing then you will end up with lots of writers looking at your content. If you absolutely must do this, then at least try and narrow it down into writing in the same genre as your book.
- Keep going. You will get hardly anyone looking at it to begin with. Expect to be doing this for at least a year before getting any significant results.
- It is a fair amount of work. You are trading time spent to save on the monetary cost of advertising.
- Try and learn a bit about SEO and Social Media Marketing as these will help to speed up the number of people who find your content.
- Be consistent. If you post more than your normal rate suddenly then people might give up as they can’t keep up, and if you don’t post when expected then people might forget about you. Be like this show – even if you can’t produce something long, then produce something.
- Use “rented land” and your own site. This term refers to sites like Facebook, Medium and LinkedIn where you can post content totally separate from your own site. There is lots of advice about not posting your content on these sites but doing it on your own site. While it is always a good idea to have your own blog, these other places have very large audiences built in. So reposting some of your best content on them as a sample for your main content on your own site is a very good way to get new people interested in your own site. This is something I intend to start doing with the content from this site.
- Spend time on design of images, audio intros and video cover images. I’ve found this makes far more difference than you’d expect.
- Collect e-mail addresses of readers on your site. This gives you a way to make a special connection with your most committed fans.
What do you guys think? I am in no way claiming that it won’t take a lot of work and a lot of time to sell fiction books this way, but for those with the time and patience I think it could work very successfully indeed.