An author emailed last week wondering if this technique of reader magnets works better for non-fiction than fiction – and this is a question I get on pretty much any marketing strategy. Which is fair enough. So, we’re going to take a brief pause on the email series this week and look at the difference between marketing fiction and non-fiction to answer that question conclusively.
I have lots of experience marketing both kinds of books. Aside from my own output over the last eight years of self-publishing fiction and non-fiction, I had the opportunity to consult on all kinds of launches and backlist promos and marketing campaigns for big authors in many different genres. I don’t do so much of that work anymore, but I still have a relatively good idea about what works and where things vary. In general, you can assume that something is more or less universal useful unless I specifically flag it… but let’s take a run through it all now.
Everyone loves a bargain so price promotions (and free promotions) work well for every single type of book, whether fiction or non-fiction. There are some variations within genres, however. For example, free is more powerful in romance than any other genre, where readers are much more price sensitive than, for example, historical fiction. Or thrillers. Those latter two genres were slower to go indie, for various reasons, and readers will tolerate higher prices (meaning you can sometimes present $1.99 or $2.99 as an attractive discount, whereas the latter might be your list price sometimes in romance). Same goes for many categories of non-fiction. But all readers will jump on a free or 99c promotion, no matter what kind of book it is.
There is a surprising variance in Facebook Ads that doesn’t get spoken about enough. Romance and thriller writers can (sometimes!) have an easier time of this – if their comp authors are targetable interests – but science fiction and fantasy authors will be scratching their heads at some of the huge authors which can’t be targeted at all, and will face a much steeper learning curve with the platform. Things can be even patchier for authors of non-fiction. If you work in a niche where interest targeting is very expensive, then you will have a similar problem. For example, writers are very hard to target because various course sellers drive up the price of reaching those eyeballs to incredible amounts. The same pattern repeats itself in several niches and you may have to find other routes to readers.
That route might be content marketing, which is often a central marketing pillar for the non-fiction author – think blogging, podcasts, email, YouTube, guest posting, etc. Content marketing is all about sharing information about the subject/problem and getting your sweet claws into the reader before they even know what’s happening. However, this is much, much harder to do for fiction, and I tend to limit content marketing in fiction to specific aspects on Facebook and via email, of course.
Wonderful for writers of any kind… if you can get through the painful process of testing and find yourself a few targetable authors. However, if you write in a niche not served by BookBub, and your comp authors collectively have no presence there – which can be the case for authors of niche non-fiction and, perhaps, certain KU-dominated pockets – then you have a tougher road ahead.
I don’t care what you write about, how niche it is, where the readers shop, or what their general habits might be, email is important and useful to writers of anything. Even if you published hand-printed poetry chapbooks, or leatherbound, hand-painted medieval recipe books, an email list would be useful to have. The only slight difference is that non-fiction authors might find it more beneficial to contact readers more regularly than the once-a-month I usually suggest to fictionauts.
Ditto. Everyone loves getting a cookie. You might be worried about freehunters, but you can weed those out during your onboarding process, something we'll probably talk about when we resume our series on email.
I don’t really see a lot of difference across genres or between fiction and non-fiction with Amazon Ads – it’s the same frustrating platform as always (for me at least, YMMV), just maybe a little easier to use Auto Ads with a non-fiction book as the system seems to have more tangible bits to chew on, if you know what I mean.
These go hand in hand with price promotions and the same advice applies there really, although, obviously, someone advertising a How To on repairing RVs isn’t going to get the same results as someone with a well-presented Historical Romance or whatever. That goes with the territory.
I’m repeating some elements here but the phrase is common enough to be worth tackling separately. I define an author’s platform as their collective presence on the internet: website, blog, social media, email list. If you have read my blog post on building an author platform, you will know that I think author platforms are better at the job of retaining readers than enticing new ones to your work – particularly for authors of fiction. As such, I prefer to focus on basic content marketing via Facebook and email for the task. Non-fictioneers can add blogging or YouTube or whatever content channel might be cultivating as well, of course, as they will also be gaining new readers via their author platform.
That should be everything. To be clear, I approach launching a non-fiction book (or promoting a backlist one) pretty much the same way as I would a fiction book, I just lean more on things like email and content marketing over Facebook Ads (which have a much bigger role to play when promoting fiction). Similarly, I wouldn’t bother doing any guest posts (or any blogging at all) when promoting fiction but tend to lean heavily on that kind of thing for non-fiction.
Horses for courses.
P.S. Writing music this week is Robert Johnson with They’re Red Hot.