Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction to Marketing
- 2. Creating a Good Book Cover
- 3. Creating the Perfect Blurb
- 4. Joining the Crowd (on social media)
- 5. Perfect your online presence
- 6. Attending conventions
- 7. Create contest giveaways
- 8. Offer ARCs to Popular Fantasy Reviewers
- 9. Followers, reviewers, and street teams
- 10. Using paid marketing tools
- 11. Conclusion
So, you may have written your novel, published it (via traditional means, or independently on your own), and now you’re wondering what should your next step be. And, if you’re doing that, then there is a lot more than you need to learn about the publishing process. On the other hand, you may know what is supposed to follow – marketing your fantasy novel to potential readers – but you don’t really know where or how to begin.
That’s where we come in. Welcome to Writing Tips Oasis, and our newest guide: How to Market a Fantasy Novel.
Now, before we continue, we need to get the basic process of publishing the novel out of the way.
The writing process is different for every writer, but, in essence, it can be divided in two different parts: writing and editing. Both are self-explanatory. First, you write the first draft, and then you need to edit it until it’s the best version of itself. Here, many writers differ: some are never satisfied, some are satisfied too soon (which usually ends in a novel that is not so good), and others seek help and at least another pair of eyes (be it a professional editor or just a beta reader).
Now, if you’re getting traditionally published, you will get an editor to work with, and even the marketing aspect of the process will be covered for you. On the other hand, if you’re self-publishing, then you’re your own publisher, essentially, and you need to take care of the editing, polishing, creating the cover – and marketing the novel. In both cases, your involvement in the marketing process is needed, because even if you have a publisher, if the publisher does not make enough effort into marketing your novel, the sales may not be satisfactory (which may lead to the publisher dropping you).
Before you begin to plan how to market and promote your novel, you need to consider the genre you’re publishing in. Fantasy has long been considered a genre that is both highly specific – and overdone, especially in the wake of Twilight, which prompted many copycat stories and novels to come about in the YA Fantasy/Paranormal genre. As a result, you need to ensure that the way you’re marketing your novel will make it plain to the audience that your novel is both original and interesting.
1. Introduction to Marketing
Marketing, in general, means informing the public (or the audience) of your product (in this specific case, your fantasy novel) – in such a way as to entice and convince the viewers that your novel is the next Big Thing Everyone Loves. Mainly, marketing is a field that focuses on promotion, distribution, pricing, and more, but when it comes to novels, you, as the author, can only do so much. Most of your work, if you’re getting traditionally published, will be focused on social media platforms and running your own professional author website. If you’re self-publishing, however, you will need to take care of pricing and distribution too – as well as the book’s promotion. So, if you’re publishing independently, keep in mind that you will need a certain budget, because none of these things will come cheap, and many of these will depend on yourself as the author, because the marketing plan for a debut indie author will be different than the marketing plan for an indie author with a few successful novels below their belt.
The pricing of the novel can be determined by many different factors. The usual price equation dictates that the cost of making the product has to be covered by the price, and in order to make a profit, the price of the product has to be more than the cost of making it. But, when you’ve spent several months, or even years, on writing a novel, how do you determine the cost? This is where genre rules come into play, as well as the format in which you’re publishing. Hardbacks, for example, are always on the pricier side (something that is more a mark of a traditionally published novel than a self-published one), while paperbacks are cheaper. This is a result of the manufacturing process – it’s easier to mass produce a paperback (which is why you might see that mass paperback prices are cheaper than hardbacks). Additionally, if you’re using Amazon and other platforms to self-publish (Amazon also has the neat print-to-order option, which means that you as the author don’t need to be very involved in the process – but you also do not have a lot of control over the final product, so, even if your formatting is right, the end product, the novel itself, looks nothing like other mass produced paperbacks). If you’re a debut author, you can match the price of other fantasy books, or you can go lower, or upper. The lower price might get you more reluctant spenders, but it can also turn away readers who will not believe that a good fantasy novel will be cheaper than all the other ones. To avoid this, a good plan is to use the average pricing – but also, offer a promotion of your novel (Amazon has tools to help you with this) at a lower price for a limited amount of time.
Which leads us to promotion. Many people confuse marketing with just promotion, because when they hear the word marketing, they imagine ads, both online and on TV, as well as billboard ads, and so forth. However, ads are merely a single aspect of promotion as a marketing tool, which, for a novel, includes book tours, bookstore readings, attending conventions, creating banners that count down to the publication date, and more.
When it comes to novels, you can also create images and videos – called book trailers – that are supposed to entice prospective readers to buy your novel, and the keyword here is prospective. Because, unless you’re marketing to readers who love the fantasy genre, then your efforts might lead to disappointment. Because of that, you need to know your audience – where that audience dwells, and find the right spaces where you can promote your novel. For example, creating leaflets and leaving them at a random bar or café will not produce good results for your fantasy novel, because not every bar-dweller and coffee house enthusiast will be interested in fantasy novels. However, attending a fantasy convention and leaving these around might bring a better result. On the other hand, if you create a list on Goodreads of upcoming fantasy novels and include yours in it, it might produce better results, because whoever views that list is definitely looking for their next fantasy novel fix.
2. Creating a Good Book Cover
Your novel needs a cover that will be universally considered gorgeous and beautiful to attract more readers, even though, the amount of disappointing novels out there with gorgeous covers is huge. But, a universally gorgeous cover really means that the art on the cover needs to be less stylized, and more aesthetically pleasing. Let’s look at some things that you need to keep in mind:
- The color scheme: It can vary, but often, fantasy novels feature vivid colors, maybe some neon magical effects, as well as plenty of dark spaces so as to not draw the eye. On the other hand, white, pale, and cream colored covers, for example, are more associated with literature, general fiction, women’s fiction, and YA contemporary.
- The content: You can go two different ways here. The first one is simple and minimalistic: a dark background, a pattern, the title and your name, an object in the middle, maybe. The second one is more elaborate, and it can include a backdrop of a city (and if it’s an exotic fantasy city, even better), a forest, branches, patterns on the side, the main character, who may or may not be holding their weapon of choice, and who should be dressed in a style unique to the fantasy world you’ve created. For example, an Urban Fantasy novel will feature the backdrop of a big city skyline, and a heroine dressed in leathers, holding a sword or a gun, or maybe she’ll have lit palms if she’s a magic user, or carry a wand (although, wands have become such a Harry Potter thing, that it might be better to avoid their use altogether). On the other hand, an Epic Fantasy novel might feature a green forest with some dark shadows, a heroine dressed in a red/black/purple medieval dress (unless the setting is not medieval in particular), who may or may not be carrying a weapon (but she might be barefooted, to indicate a damsel in distress possibility). In the background, there might be a glimpse of a fortress or a castle. If the protagonist is a fantasy character, like a faery or an angel, this aspect should be included on the cover, to give the readers an immediate understanding about what kind of magical creatures the novel will include.
- The style: Photographic or illustrated, or a balanced mix of both. Having a book cover that can pass for a photograph taken in real life is not recommended (although, it worked well for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But, the reason why it worked was because the plot itself featured black and white photographs of the titular peculiar children, and the cover communicated that pretty well). Covers that can pass for photographs usually make the readers think of non-fiction, photography and other art books, and, even textbooks! Because of that, an illustrated cover is the better choice. However, if it’s completely illustrated, it might give an effect of a comic book, so a perfect meld of both is needed. If your novel strays too much on the realistic side, it might seem like a cheap indie book and cover. If it strays too much on the illustrated side, it might confuse the readers and make them think that it’s a comic book.
You might be tempted to create your own cover, but, keep in mind that it’s better to pay a certain sum to get a great, professional book cover, because that is the first thing that the readers will see.
3. Creating the Perfect Blurb
The blurb is the description of the novel, and, after the cover, it’s the next thing your prospective readers will pay attention to. Now, a blurb can be a hit or a miss. When it comes to fantasy novels, the blurbs tend to be on the longer side and descriptive, or, on the shorter end of the spectrum, with sentences that hide the story rather than reveal it. Epic fantasies tend to explain the world, which is why they’re often long.
How to create the perfect blurb?
If you’ll choose to write a longer blurb, make sure you don’t end up retelling the whole story – or, in other words, writing a complete summary. You need to introduce the protagonist, the world, the problem the protagonist has to solve, and present the personal stakes involved for him or her.
If you choose to write a shorter blurb, then your task will be more difficult. You will need to write in some details about the story, without revealing too much. Here’s an example, taken from the blurb of the novel Unsouled, by Will Wight:
Sacred artists follow a thousand Paths to power, using their souls to control the forces of the natural world.
Lindon is Unsouled, forbidden to learn the sacred arts of his clan.
When faced with a looming fate he cannot ignore, he must defy his family’s rules…and forge his own Path.
Three sentences, and each one describes the world, first, then the protagonist, and the challenge he has to face in the novel. It reveals almost nothing about the world and the story, which can be a hit or a miss for some readers, especially if they want to know exactly what kind of world they would be entering before they buy a novel. As such, it’s advisable to do some research on the market by analyzing other fantasy novels’ blurbs. This way, you can get creative with your blurb and try to write one in an original way, while still keeping up to the standards of the genre and its unwritten rules.
Now that the cover and the blurb are out of the way, we can talk about what you, as the author, can do to market your book, and here, it doesn’t matter whether you’re getting traditionally published or not. Because even if you have a publisher, remember that they have a lot of books to publish. And while they have teams dedicated to each phase of the publishing process, they may not have the funds or the interest in extensive promotion and marketing of your novel, which, again, may lead to some disappointing results. As such, you, as the author, need to as much as you can to help your novel gain both traction and interest (especially within the fantasy community). And for that, you need to join the crowd on social media.
Having accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads is a must, and we would even suggest to find more places online where you can connect with fantasy readers. However, just making social media accounts is not going to be enough, especially if you don’t have the backing of a publishing house.
As such, you will need to create accounts that will fall somewhere between personal and business accounts. Meaning, you can’t use your private Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, where you’ve got pictures of your drunken escapade in college, or content that is not related to books at all. And with Goodreads, you can’t be just an author that does not read or review other novels (especially if you’re publishing independently). On the other hand, you also do not want to create accounts that are too business-looking, where it seems like you hired an assistant to make promotional posts about your novel, or novels, and nothing else.
5. Perfect your online presence
The perfect online presence has no definition. There is no formula that you can apply and create a platform of followers on social media. For that reason, you need to begin your online presence a lot earlier than the publishing date of your novel – again, especially if it’s your first novel. Even if you have the backing of the publisher, when readers DO get to hear about your novel, or see a sponsored add, you can bet they will seek you out on social media. As such, make sure to create and cultivate your social media accounts – even if they’re linked and you’re posting the same things – for a while before you publish your novel. A good way to do this is to both give and take on social media: create content about your writing, your writing habits, and your life too, without cluttering your account, and other people’s feeds too.
Additionally, you can join different groups and join their conversations, post reviews of the novel you like (but refrain from posting negative reviews on other authors, because you don’t want to be the author that blasts other authors in order to make themselves and their novels look better). In other words, your online presence needs to be more positive rather than negative, because the publishing world is the one world where negative press is bad press (and you definitely need to think of your online presence as your public media presence because everything is available and easily reachable online).
In conclusion, do not be the author who only talks about themselves on social media. Post praises of books you loved, and be present for other authors too. Cultivating online friendships with other authors can also aid in your natural joining of the crowd, and connecting with other readers and reviewers – as a reader – will ensure that your prospective readers are already looking at you, as the author, in a favorable way.
6. Attending conventions
Though we currently live in very uncertain times, it’s worth noting that as an author, attending conventions is a must. Now, there are two ways to attend, as a fan and as an author. If you have a publishing house backing you, you might get a book tour to promote your novel directly in bookstores, and you can organize this on your own (especially locally), if you’re self-publishing in print (which will come at your own cost), by organizing events at the bookstores that will be selling your self-published novel. However, attending conventions can get you a foot in the industry door. These events are often attended, not just by authors and fans, but by editors, agents, and other people in the publishing industry.
However, you cannot just attend the event and hope for the best. You should attend lectures, workshops, Q&A’s with authors, and do everything you can to interact with as many people as possible. On the other hand, keep in mind that you shouldn’t talk about your novel – or novels – unless someone specifically asks you a question about it. For that reason, prepare a short but concise answer, one that you can use any time you are asked about it. There are tools online that can help you with this, because this is usually considered “elevator pitch” – to refer to the fact that you have about a minute or two to introduce a stranger to your story, and convince them that they want to read it.
On the other hand, if you go about a convention trying to get anyone who will stand still for long enough to listen to you go on and on about your novel, not only will you not get a foot in any doors, you may also be actively blocked from it – even if your novel has the potential to be the next Harry Potter. As such, make sure that you behavior and decorum are very good when you’re attending conventions, and remember, you only get one chance to leave a good first impression.
7. Create contest giveaways
Contest giveaways, or book giveaways, are online events where readers can win a book for free. There are several online platforms that allow you to do this, like Goodreads, but you can also create them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. In order for your giveaway to be successful, you need to ensure that you target audience knows that they can enter a contest to win a free copy of your book (which is where your online presence comes into play). Additionally, the winners of the giveaway should be people who are interested in your book and love the fantasy genre. Why? Because they are more likely to leave reviews (be it positive or negative – which can happen sometimes). Additionally, if the winners of your fantasy novel are not primarily fantasy fans, you might get a review that is not very positive, even though you have a great book in the genre.
So, what type of giveaways can you make? Actually, there are many types of contests that you can hold, although this will depend on your publisher, especially because they might hold a contest giveaway too (although, this type of giveaways will usually involve more than one author and more than one novel). But, the giveaways can include a signed book, an ARC (usually held on NetGalley for reviewers), and other merchandise goodies, like t-shirts, mugs, and other items that are related to the novel. Most often, the giveaways include bookmarks.
Bookmarks are one of the best ways to promote your novel, because they are cheap for the author to order and send to their readers, and often, authors only ask the interested readers to sign up for them (meaning, there is not even a contest involved).
On the other hand, if you’re traditionally published, you will receive copies from the publisher (maybe even some free audiobooks too, if your novel is getting an audiobook version), which you can use to giveaway too. Organizing such contests can offer you an opportunity to gain traction, and if you use paid tools to promote the contest, you can reach more potential readers. Moreover, since most fantasy novels today are series rather than standalone novels, if the readers of the first book like your novel, you will be able to continue writing the series where each book will bring more readers and each subsequent published novel will already have a waiting platform.
8. Offer ARCs to Popular Fantasy Reviewers
While a contest is a good way to attract new readers, other prospective readers will be reluctant to either pre-order or buy your novel. Because of this reason, getting reviews before your novel is published – through Advanced Reading Copies, or ARCs – is an imperative part of a novel’s marketing strategy.
When it comes to the genre of fantasy, the reviews gain an even bigger importance, because many readers want to make sure they know what type of fantasy world they would be entering (epic, dark, realistic, with or without magic, and so on). Additionally, notice that we use the word popular fantasy reviewers – meaning, people who have established themselves as good book reviewers in that genre. We mentioned NetGalley here, the platform that offers prolific reviewers the chance to win ARCs of upcoming novels. If you can’t get your book on Net Galley, you can always contact these reviewers directly and offer them a free ARC or a copy of your novel, in exchange for a free, unbiased review. However, do not offer them any money – that’s a huge red flag for readers, and it often leads to the author getting “blacklisted” by prospective readers, and you can be sure that the reviewer will tell in their review that they’d been offered money for that review (even if you do not specify that you want a positive review, the exchange of money indicates that). This becomes even worse when you realize that popular reviewers can have thousands of followers who will read the review. It only takes one such review to cast doubt upon all the other positive reviews that your book has, so, in the end, it’s not worth the hassle.
On the other side of the coin, of course, are reviewers who will ask for money to write a positive review (or just to write a review). Be wary of these too, because they may not even read your novel and simply leave a generic, positive review that will not convince anyone who reads it (although, these days, popular reviewers with their own platforms are rarely reviewers who accept money to review a novel).
9. Followers, reviewers, and street teams
If you cultivate your social media presence carefully and in a positive manner, you will gain followers who will like what you have to say or post on social media. This will make them pre-disposed to help you out as a writer, which is why it’s important to have a platform these days – even if you’re getting traditionally published. As such, make sure to interact with them, and to make them feel like a part of your fandom, they are not just an audience that is there to give you credibility as a writer (and today, many publishing houses take the aspiring author’s platform of followers as a basis upon which they decide whether to sign the author or not).
With time, you can create a street team – a group of fans and readers who love your work and help you by word of mouth and recommending your novel. Additionally, they can create social media groups for fans of your work, although this will ideally come after you’ve published your first novel.
And, finally, the reviewers and the reviews. You will rarely find a novel that has exclusively positive reviews. More often than not, your novel will receive both positive and negative reviews. Your novel will never be universally liked by all of your readers. It can be tempting to turn against the reviewer, and maybe even ask your street team to mark their reviews as not helpful, or to dislike the review, or even report it. You might be tempted to make a social media post about how unfair the reviewers were towards the novel, and how they simply did not get it, and that their review is just a ball full of hate.
Do not that, in any kind of situation. We’ve previously discussed that it’s important to keep a positive social media presence, and if you start attacking reviewers who left a negative review, you will only mar your own name and brand online. Because the readers and reviewers do not feel free to express their own opinion when the author tends to fight back and attack them, simply because they didn’t like a book. Additionally, it makes one seem like a bad person, and no one will want to read your novel after that. And even if your novel has been out for a while now, it doesn’t mean that it’s potential for gaining new readers is diminished. In fact, as with most series, people tend to begin with the first novel, and if you create such a situation with a reviewer, new potential readers will be put off.
10. Using paid marketing tools
When it comes to paid marketing tools, these can include promotions, sponsored ads on Goodreads and Facebook, and again, you might even be tempted to pay for a couple of reviews in order to gain traction.
In this situation, there’s an important distinction between getting traditionally published, and independently published. Usually, the publisher takes care of the paid marketing tools, and depending on your contract, there may be only so much you can add to their marketing plan.
But, if you’re publishing your novel independently, you will have to use these tools to promote your novel. Here are some things you can do:
- Sponsored ads, mainly on Goodreads, but Facebook might be an option as well, especially because there are groups on Facebook where you can promote your novel (please keep in mind that these groups are not fan groups, they are groups where self-promotion is encouraged and accepted, and self-promotion is not accepted into the usual groups). Keep in mind that you need to specifically find the right audience for your sponsored ad. For example, readers to this day believe less in sponsored Facebook ads for novels, but may view a sponsored novel on Amazon or Goodreads more favorably.
- Book promotions: If you’re self-publishing on Amazon, you can use their tools, some of which include offering your book on a deal (be it free or really cheap, like $0.99 or so). Please keep in mind that you this type of promotion should only be for a limited time, because you don’t want to make the readers think that your novel is so bad, it’s only worth $0.99.
- Illustrations and fan art: Fan art is a great way to communicate with your readers (meaning, you should encourage your readers to create and share fan art – a good way to do it is through a contest). You can also encourage them to make memes as well, and share them with you. You can later share these on your own platform (website and social media accounts), which will give the impression that the readers love your novels so much, they’re creating fan art. Additionally, you can also commission art for your book, tease only a few images, but include the rest in the novel (especially if it’s an ebook). If you are publishing in print, it might be too expensive to print because illustrations are in color and need special paper too. However, if you can make your own art, even better. For example, Marie Lu has done a wonderful job of enticing readers for her YA fantasy series, The Young Elites and Legend, by creating wonderful illustrations of her characters and their clothing (which is specific to the fantasy worlds she’s created, especially in the Young Elites). However, if you’re not good at drawing, commissioning art to help visualize the characters and the setting can make a huge difference in attracting more and more readers.
Marketing your fantasy novel is not a process that you should start after you’ve published your novel. In fact, your online presence as an author should begin a long time before you’ll publish anything. The best way to try to get more followers – regardless of which social media platform you’re using – is to read novels in your genre and post reviews – positive reviews. If you read a novel that you dislike, refrain from making a rant review from your professional author account, because you do not want to be the author that blasts other authors.
The number of your followers will depend on how much give-and-take you offer on social media. The more you interact with other authors and readers, the better, but make sure that these interactions are positive and genuine. And, the best timing to do this might even be before you’ve started on the first draft of your novel.
Once you have a certain number of followers, you can create contests and giveaways to entice readers, and you should also offer ARC’s to popular reviewers in exchange for an honest review.
In the end, marketing your fantasy novel will be a taxing and demanding job. It will ask of you, as an independent author, to think not just like a writer, but like a marketing expert as well. Because of that, it’s worth noting that there a benefits from hiring an expert in the field to help you with this, if you can afford it, but be prepared to handle most of the cost on your own. If you’re getting traditionally published, make sure to cultivate a relationship with fans of fantasy novels online, and to support other authors as well (and note, many of them will return that support when you will need it). And remember, you online presence should not be all about yourself, or all about your novels, but somewhere in between.
Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As a screenwriting student, she is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, watching a film or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her own.