Thursday, October 16, 2014

Four Tips for Marketing Like a Storyteller

Amy Green - Fiction Publicist at Bethany House Publishing
By Amy Green - Bethany House Fiction Publicist

If you’re like a lot of writers, the idea of self-marketing is either A. boring, B. uncomfortable, C. terrifying, or D. all of the above.

But here’s a secret—as a writer, you already have all the tools you need to be a good marketer.

A bunch of successful, completely-unrelated-to-fiction corporations are throwing around the buzzword “narrative marketing.”  Fancy marketing gurus are realizing you can’t just shout, “Buy this! Click here! Give us your money!” But when people care about a product—when you build a story around it so it has meaning—the product sells. (For examples, see any commercial that tries to get an emotional response, whether that’s a laugh or an “Aww!” moment.)

As fiction authors, you already have an advantage. Here are some ideas of how to apply it.

Know Your Characters’

This is How to Plot 101, right? As an author, you need to understand what your protagonists want and find ways to make that clear to the reader.

One of Today's Giveaways
Thanks for including
me Amy! 
Your fans are like characters. You start out knowing very little about them, but they each have unique personalities, pet peeves, and wants. But by the end of the “story”—whether that’s a blog post or a book signing or a letter to librarians in your state asking them to order your book—you want to understand what these people want and do your best to create a happy ending by giving it to them.

On social media, you can’t go wrong by being your genuine, enthusiastic self—many readers want a personal connection with the authors whose pages they’ve “liked.” For in-person interaction, make it fun: have a giveaway, bring food, call your email sign-up a “guest book” and use a pen with a giant daisy on top. When writing that letter to librarians, think of the angle that would intrigue them—local author, a fresh look at state history, the lack of books for this age group or on this subject?

When you consider the people you’re talking to and their wants and needs instead of just what you want to say, it makes a much better experience for everyone.

Build Suspense

In a really good story, the reason you keep turning pages into the weary, bleary-eyed hours of the night is because you absolutely must know the answer to the question: What is going to happen next?

Leave a Comment
for a chance to win
The River by Bev Lewis 
With publishing, the answer to that is always the same: the next book is coming out! And you’re going to love it! But you won’t have a new book releasing every month, unless you’re some kind of superhuman. So, what to post in the in-between time? Here are some ideas:

·         Have a dramatic cover reveal . . . and tell fans a few days ahead of time that it’ll be coming. Maybe even show a tiny bit of the cover along with the date of the full reveal.

·         Give fans a sneak peek of the story. Whether that’s hints about a character, a few “teaser” quotes, or an exclusive excerpt for people who are a part of your email list, readers love to see what your story is going to be about.

·         Host a contest a month or so before the official release date, with the prize being early copies of your book. Be creative—have readers guess what type of restaurant the heroine runs, tell them to caption the cover image with what a character is thinking, play Mad Libs with one of the scenes of the story . . . anything goes!

Show, Don’t Tell

Hopefully, you have a critique partner who spills red ink all over “telling” phrases like, “She was hurt by his unkind words” or “Suddenly, he felt very angry.”

It’s the same with marketing. Sure, you can just state things outright. But why would you? Here are some examples:

Showing: When it comes to book covers, what draws you in? What turns you off? Join the conversation on my blog.

Telling: My book is really great! You should all go give it a five-star review on Amazon!

Showing: Here are some of my favorite reviews so far—thanks to everyone who supported my book by leaving a review during release month!

Now, will there be times when there’s nothing more to say than a headline about a free ebook deal or a new release? Sure. And that’s just fine. But whenever you can, do more than just convey information. Tell a story.

Limit Your Subplots

Yes, subplots add depth and interest to the main story. But if your romance also has a railroad tycoon trying to shut down the orphanage and a maid struggling with a murder she witnessed, and the protagonist’s mother petitioning the city to allow women in the annual horserace while simultaneously trying to reunite with her prodigal daughter, and a troupe of circus performers seeking shelter from an incoming tornado . . . you may have a bit too much going on. (I got exhausted just writing that sentence.)

In the same way, there will probably be one or two main areas where you focus your marketing. Maybe you love writing guests posts for blogs. Maybe Facebook and Pinterest are both really fun for you. Maybe you see your website as being very important and update it often. That’s your main plot.

D'Ann Mateer's Latest
Also in today's drawing!
Feel free to add in subplots—use Twitter for announcements even if you’re more of a Facebook person, try writing for a few blogs during release month even if that’s not your normal strategy, get with some writing buddies at a conference and make a fun, chatty YouTube video. But don’t overwhelm yourself.

Here’s the bottom line, coming from an official publishing company marketer and everything: You don’t have to do it all.

Stick to your main plot for most of your self-promotion—take the thing you like best and learn more about it, get good at it, be consistent with it. Try out some new subplots from time to time, but don’t overwhelm yourself (and lose valuable writing time) by putting everything on your To-Do list at once.

Right now, everyone else in the marketing world is trying to apply the principles that you already know and use in your fiction writing every single day. Enjoy being on the cutting edge . . . and get out there and share those books with the world!

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for all four historical releases from Bethany House this month. FOUR BOOKS-FOUR WINNERS
Tried and True by Mary Connealy,
The River by Beverly Lewis,
Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer, 
A Bride in Store by Melissa Jagears


  1. Welcome to Seekerville, AMY! One of my favorite names. Thank you to MARIANNE for the heads up that Blogger wasn't putting our post up on time.

  2. Don't put me in to win my own book, but I wanted to say hi to Amy if she came by! I think your tips are great! Thankfully I'm doing most of them, but I could definitely think of some more ways to build suspense with my announcements, I think.........speaking of, I have a new cover to reveal, must think of something suspenseful.....

  3. Those were great tips Amy! I'm not an author, but I think I could apply a lot of that as a new blogger ...

    As a reader, I love book cover reveals (especially if the art is really good or striking --Bethany House does some of the best, IMHO) and sneak peaks. The authors I pay attention to usually will do this or be fairly active online.

    Thanks for the chance to win!

  4. Thanks for the great tips, Amy! Definitely an article I'll be bookmarking for hopefully one day in the future :)

  5. Hi Amy,

    Welcome to Seekerville! Your great tips make it seem not quite so scary. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Amy, thanks for being here!

    First, thank you for these tips. Sometimes I forget to shake things up a smidge and then follow through, so this reminder is a printer and keeper next to the computer.

    We all need nudges and while I tend to need more than most (laughing!) if I have a concrete reminder of these things, I grab the ten minutes here and there and do it... so this reminder rocks!

  7. Amy,

    Great tips for getting readers engaged.

    I'll be trying these in the future.


  8. Hi Amy,
    Bethany House is one of my favorite Christian publishers.

    Please enter me in the drawing for one of these great books, thanks for the opportunity!

  9. Hi Amy, welcome to Seekerville! I enjoyed your post (as a reader).
    I would like to be in the drawing for Melissa's book!

  10. Hi Amy. Im sure it's because of you that I can rely on Bethany House to have the best plots, best authors, best covers ...oh, you get the idea. If Bethany House disappoints, it's me. Thanks, Amy, and, TINA, I wasn't sure if I was just impatient!have a great day. It's a lovely rainy day here. I'll bue able to sit I side and READ

  11. Thanks, all! It's fun to be here representing Bethany House and the mysterious and (sometimes) scary world of marketing. :) Feel free to ask book marketing related questions, and I'll do what I can to answer them.

  12. Amy, these are excellent tips! My brain is clicking into gear thinking about applying your ideas to my situation. Yes, definitely an "aha" moment this morning! Thank you!

  13. AMY! Thank you so much for this insightful look at marketing! I'd certainly answer "D--all of the above" to your multiple-choice opener, so I am definitely going to take these ideas to heart.

    However, be careful using words like "being your genuine, enthusiastic self" around people like RUTHY and JULIE. They generally have more ... um ... enthusiasm than all the rest of us put together!

  14. Welcome Amy! I feel like I know you too after all the facebook parties for Bethany House authors.

    From the viewpoint of a reader who is in the beginning stages of fulfilling a dream to be a writer, I have found that being able to interact with the authors on social media has caused me to purchase more books.

    I am also on several street teams to help authors promote their books.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Good morning, Amy! I don't have a book published (yet!), but I know I don't want to be the kind of author who shouts at everyone. Buy my book! I like how your tips include our natural bent toward story. Thank you for taking away some of the intimidation.

  16. Hi Amy, Welcome to Seekerville and thank you so much for dropping by.

    What great marketing tips.

    You just made it sound more doable than my usual reaction of terrifying. smile

    It also helps to have a great product which Bethany House does. Thanks again for dropping by.

  17. Amy, I've always believed that keeping a strong publication schedule helps to keep an author in the public eye.

    Do you find this to be helpful, to have authors who produce regularly (1-2 books/year) so that their readers can anticipate releases?

    And what's your opinion of book signings? Are they worth the time and effort, or is it smarter sometimes to connect via blogs, facebook, twitter, etc.?

  18. Hi Ruthy! (I'm a regular Seekerville reader, so it's fun to "chat" with you ladies.)

    Yes, it is helpful for readers to be able to anticipate when a book is coming from a favorite author (and not have to wait *too* long for the next one!). For authors doing one book a year or fewer, I think connecting with readers via social media in between is even more important. I'd suggest sending out a quarterly newsletter with updates on your current WIP, any backlist ebook specials, fun facts, and so on to keep your name in readers' minds. Even if you don't have a release every three months, you can still find something to talk about!

    Book signings...depends on your goal. I think a launch party signing at a bookstore is a great way to celebrate with those most excited about your books. If you can do some sort of presentation at a library, book club, or store or join with a few other authors and make an event of it, turnout tends to be better. Local signings are also wonderful for building a relationship with booksellers in your area, who can be great allies. It helps if you actually have a relationship with the stores already--if you're a regular buyer, not just coming in to talk about promotion of your books! I think if a writer comes to a signing armed with candy, a newsletter sign-up list, and reasonable expectations, it can be a good way to connect with readers and make a few true fans. But if events drain or frustrate you, they're not necessary.

  19. Amy thanks so much for these marketing tips.
    Beyond being able to WRITE, we need to know what to do, how to partner with our publisher, and market the books.
    It's one of those things that surprised me when I got a book published. But I've learned to enjoy it.
    Some... :)

  20. Great tips, Amy. This side of the business of writing is a bit frightening, I will admit. Putting ourselves out there in person is scary. It's so much easier to just hide in our caves.

  21. Speaking of MARKETING...I'm giving a speech at the library in Logan, at 1:30...if anyone is in the area.

    Amy made me do it! (don't try to pretend differently, Amy. I could SENSE you urging me onward, though you didn't actually say anything)

  22. Glad to find this post. I gave up last and went to bed.

    My answer is D. :)

    Thanks for the tips.

    Fresh coffee brewing.

  23. Thanks for the fantastic post, Amy. It's a great reminder. I have a new book releasing TODAY, and I confess that I am guilty of having too many subplots. I struggle with knowing which venue to focus on. But this post is very helpful. I've got to get my marketing narrowed down.

    I'd love to be entered in the drawing! Playing by Heart looks fascinating and I LOVE the cover!

    Amber Schamel
    Bringing HIStory to Life

  24. The Artist Librarian, all these marketing tips are solid and they apply to marketing anything, yourself, your blog, right?

    Go check out
    The Artist Librarian Blog

  26. Jackie of course it's not scary.

    RUTHY is scary, but not marketing.

    What's that classic saying about public speaking???

    Our debate team wore a T-shirt that said, "We do for fun what most people fear more than death."


  27. Ruthy no no no no please don't shake things up.

    That always leads to trouble.

    (hint to Seekervillagers...if Ruthy says she's going to shake things up.......just read it as though she said....Run for your lives!)

  28. Myra is really right about this part.......
    However, be careful using words like "being your genuine, enthusiastic self" around people like RUTHY and JULIE
    Honestly I try and be someone way, way cooler than myself, I mean c'mon!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Welcome to Seekerville, Amy! Love how you tie in storytelling with marketing. Your methods sound doable and fun. Social media isn't my strength, but you've given me some good ideas. This post is a keeper. Thanks!

    And thanks for the great giveaways!


  30. Meghan you're saying we SHOULDN'T shout that?


    Okay, rethinking my whole strategy. Dang it!

  31. Well, since we can ask questions... :)

    From your experience, which venue generates the best return on the time investment?



    Days of Messiah, Vol. 1

  33. I just got a copy, Amber.
    Days of Messiah 99 Cents. YAY!
    I couldn't resist.

  34. Hi Tracey, Bethany House is fantastic isn't it??? I'm sure that's not prejudice on my part! :)

  35. Mary, I will take full credit for that and anything else you want to blame on me! ("BHP Scapegoat" sounds like a cool job title, right?)

    Amber, that's a great question! Unfortunately, like most great questions, it doesn't have a simple answer. What is the best return on investment is something you do consistently (which means you should probably enjoy or at least tolerate it). Fans need to have a place where they know they can interact with you on a regular basis. If that's blogging (on your own or guest posting on other's blogs), go for it! Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter? Make one of those your home. A monthly newsletter that's both fun and informative? Do it well. I think gathering a group of committed readers to help spread the word (a launch team or street team) is always a good idea, and newsletters at least quarterly are too, especially since they don't take a ton of time on a regular basis. There are some platforms I wouldn't recommend sinking a lot of time into (Google+ at the moment, YouTube unless you're already tech-savvy, a *daily* blog unless blogging brings you great joy and you can still manage to meet your other deadlines), but other than that, it's really up to you. (Congrats on the release too, by the way!)

  36. Amy, thanks for visiting Seekerville today and sharing so many great marketing tips.

    I've taken note!

    Love FB. Love being able to interact with so many folks. Any tips on how our feed can be seen my more of our friends? Just be active on the site...or is there a secret I don't know?

    Remember when all friends received all FB messages? If only...

  37. HI Amy! Such great tips and ideas here. Thanks the the clear examples paralleling writing examles. I've been in sales and marketing most of my adult life, but I always learn from people like you, who are on the front lines.

    I try, I REALLY try with my social media, but technology is my weak spot. I had a friend get me registered on twitter and teach me how to use it, but after a month I couldn't remember what to do! Even with my copious notes.

    Because it confuses me, I've decided that I'm a candidate for 'hiring' a techie to post my social media updates/blogs, etc. That way I can write what I want to say and be assured it gets out there. Luckily, I have adult children who work in the tech industry. Plus,I'm fairly certain they work for babysitting chits and restaurant gift cards.

    And I have to admit that babysitting grand babies isn't nearly the work it takes for me to figure out HTML or why my post just disappeared when I didn't touch ANYTHING on the keyboard.Lol.

  38. this is a great post. i would've never thought about the writing process being so similar to the marketing process. way to switch up my paradigm on something i fear. (of course, not published yet - but will be as long as i apply lessons learned here @Seekerville)

    would love a shot at winning Melissa's book since i already have Mary's. (now, back to work *sigh*)

  39. @MARY CONNEALY, you have every right to be proud of your publisher, they are the best of the best, as are you, perfect match up!

  40. Excellent tips that correlate marketing to writing. Thank you for sharing these.. JennaVictoria

  41. Excellent tips that correlate marketing to writing. Thank you for sharing these.. JennaVictoria

  42. Debbie, there's no magic trick that makes FB show more of your posts to people...however, posts that get more "likes" and comments are then shown to more people. (So be sure to be supportive of posts from fellow authors' pages!) My tips are: use pictures along with a post whenever possible, ask questions of your readers (even though that means risking the awkward silence where no one answers...this happens sometimes even on BHP's page!), and occasionally post book-related news from influential websites or online newspapers (they tend to score higher on FB's "is-this-important?" meter).

    And Lyndee, I understand the struggle! I actually don't like Twitter much at all, or Instagram. Our nonfiction publicist is always pestering me to use them more. Sounds like your solution is a good one!

  43. Amy, welcome!! This was such a great post! I hadn't heard of that type of marketing, but I love the idea. Also loved how you tied it in to writing a book! :)

    Thanks for being with us today!

  44. Wonderful tips! I have struggled with marketing this last year, and I think I needed those perfect tip on how to "show, not tell" in marketing.

  45. Oooh, and thanks for the tips in the comments!

  46. Hi Amy! I really enjoyed reading these tips, and got some great ideas! I am not published yet, but I actually work in marketing for my day job. I love thinking of new and creative ways to market my company's product (I work for a symphony, so it's always music and concerts!), and it's fun to get out of the same old thing and do something interesting!

    I just saw a clever marketing campaign utilizing a "scavenger hunt" idea. Basically, this other symphony hid sea monster stuffed animals all over town (the concert theme is music having to do with the sea), and then posted clues on their Facebook and Twitter feeds for people to try to locate them. Then, once fans found the stuffed animals, they took a picture with the sea creature and posted it to social media, which got them in a drawing for tickets. This could be adjusted somewhat for an author.

    Have a wonderful day!

  47. Thanks, Amy, for the FB tips!

    Stephanie, cute scavenger hunt idea! Thanks for sharing!

  48. Thanks, Missy! I have to admit, it's a secret dream of mine to teach about marketing at a writing conference someday--but thanks to technology, it's like I have one right here!

    Stephanie, I love that idea! How fun!

  49. You're welcome, Debby! I thought it was really cute.

    BTW, you can pay for your posts to be seen more on Facebook. I just finished a campaign that "boosted" my post for the symphony. It was very successful, and doesn't cost much. We spent $75 and our post was seen by more than 21,000 people, generating lots of shares, comments, and "likes." Just a suggestion, if you have a huge new release, it might be something to consider. You can spend as much or as little as $5. Although, I've never seen it in action for an individual, just for companies. Amy's tips were great.

  50. Good point about buying an ad, Stephanie. But I think that's only for Fan Pages...which I don't have yet.

    Something to consider!


  51. What a fabulous post!!!

    Thanks Amy and Mary!

    Love that writing/marketing analogy. This is one of the few times marketing has made sense to me! I read through the points thinking, I could do that! :) Actually made me kind of excited about marketing. Haha!

  52. Wow, what a helpful post, Amy! Thanks so much for sharing great tips. You make marketing sound more do-able! I loved this!

    I'd love to be in the drawing. :) I already have Melissa's book. :)

  53. Great stuff! Love all these ladies and those books. I hadn't seen Anne's new cover! <3 it!!!

  54. Amy - thanks for the terrific marketing advice!

  55. I would love to win these books! I love these authors! I'm loving all these birthday posts!!! The covers of these books from Bethany are fantastic! Thanks ladies for another wonderful day at Seekerville :)


    Really appreciate all the great advice because, but I would like to add E. Nauseating to the list for self-marketing. I absolutely DESPISE self-marketing and would rather clean my house, which if you saw my house, you would know how much I hate it. :)

    I knew I was in trouble when I got to your fourth point -- limit your subplots. YIKES ... with my first seven books about a close-knit Irish family of 15, I truly don't know how ... :| But I definitely see your point in relation to self-marketing, so point taken and applauded. :)

    Thanks for some great insight!


  57. I hope to someday be at the point where I will need to think about marketing. In the meantime, this was interesting to read. Please enter me into the drawing for the books.

  58. What a fabulously creative way to encourage us, Amy! Thanks so much for visiting today and for making it seem possible to do promotion without terror!

  59. @MARY CONENEALY Thank you! I'm really excited! I am SUPER happy that both Days of Messiah Volume I and II are on sale for .99 through October to celebrate the new release.

    I hope you enjoy it!My dream is to someday be a BH author like you. ;)

  60. Late to the party but I really enjoyed the post. Thanks for sharing, Amy!

  61. Amy, wonderful ideas on marketing. It's not my strong suit, so these are really helpful tips!

  62. Thank you for the great tips!
    Please enter me.

  63. I always learn something from you...thanks for sharing :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  64. MYRA SAID: "However, be careful using words like "being your genuine, enthusiastic self" around people like RUTHY and JULIE. They generally have more ... um ... enthusiasm than all the rest of us put together!"

    NO ... we just use more exclamation points and talk louder!!! :)


  65. Thank you for the tips, Amy! I'll keep them in mind when I have a book to market. :)

  66. Hi, Amy!!

    I enjoyed and appreciate your interesting post - thank you!! I also appreciate the marketing authors do to make us more aware of their wonderful books!!

    Thank you for the opportunity to win one of the four books listed - from Bethany House!!


  67. Very interesting thank you. Sometimes I like the subtle approach & at other times feel free to hit me with it.

  68. Thank you for the terrific tips, Amy!

  69. great article, all 4 are great books :)

  70. Thanks, everyone! It was so fun to join you all in Seekerville. Maybe we'll cross paths at a writing conference someday--I'd love to meet you all in person and give you a you-can-do-it hug!

    Also, Julie, I'm with you on a dislike for cleaning, at least. :) Myra's comment made me laugh...I can be that person as well!

    So encouraging to hear that the post was useful in toning down fear of marketing even a little. I want to be the person in CBA marketing who turns on a flashlight and assures you it's just the wind blowing the curtains and not a monster after all.

  71. Hi, Amy. From a reader's perspective, I love connecting with my favorite author's through FB and their blogs. I really enjoy the little updates and teasers on books that are soon to be published and I think anticipation is definitely a helpful tool for marketing a book.

  72. Wow! How did I not know you had a blog?! Following now! Thanks for the great tips!

  73. I'd love to know your secret for getting readers to come to and comment on your blog.

  74. Four book giveaway! What a great birthday present!

  75. Wonderful tips, Amy! Thanks for sharing with us here at Seekerville!

  76. Thank you for taking time out to help all of us who are looking to publish a book and become an author!!!

  77. Hi Carolyn,

    Tips for blogging...there's obviously no one way to do things, but here are a few thoughts. (I'd also suggest looking up whole posts/books that others have written on this subject.) It can help to join a group blog with other writers (or ask others to guest post for you) so there will be more than one person promoting each post, and each will have a different audience. Occasionally having a contest/giveaway where people comment to win can be helpful (and make sure you ask a few writing buddies to share the post to help spread the word). But the only real answer is patience and consistently good content. In a world where there's a lot of "noise," it's hard to stand out, and it often takes time to establish a following for a blog.

  78. Thank you for your comment about creating deeper meaning in your characters in storyline. It's so important!