3 fiction marketing mistakes that will hold you back


Let’s be honest: Marketing fiction is harder than marketing nonfiction.

That’s partly because it’s harder to find the readers, but it’s also because fiction relies so much on good word of mouth. Nothing can do more for your novel than friends telling friends how much they loved it.

And this is why fiction marketing mistakes can be a real problem. It’s hard enough as it is — you don’t want to do anything that will make it even harder.

One of those mistakes is reflected in this article title — I had to flag this with the word “fiction” to get your attention. Otherwise, you might have skipped over it, thinking it didn’t apply to you. Let me explain with mistake number one.

Mistake # 1: If the marketing tactic isn’t labeled “fiction,” you discount it.

I’ve lost track of the number of authors who have emailed me to say, “You have so much helpful information on your website but I don’t see much that applies to fiction.”

It’s there — they just don’t see it because it doesn’t shout FICTION!

Actually, most of what works for nonfiction book marketing also applies to fiction. Here are links to a few articles on this site as examples:

  • How to promote your book with tip sheets.” This tactic is effective for both fiction and nonfiction. The first three paragraphs of this article share how the author of a fictional children’s book used this tactic to get national media attention.
  • How to create shareable images with quotes.” While nonfiction authors might share tips or gems of wisdom from their books, novelists can share things said by characters (among other things).
  • How to get media exposure that sells more books.” The first tip — “Go from author to expert” — shouts “Nonfiction tip!” to novelists. But novelists often become experts on the topics and settings they write about, too, and can leverage that knowledge and current headlines to get free media exposure. It takes thought, for sure, but those who make the effort to follow the advice in this article are rewarded.

I see this as such a big problem that I’m going to add a topic category to this blog for “fiction,” then go back to old posts and label them for fiction so they’re better identified that way. I don’t want them to get overlooked simply because they don’t include the word “fiction.”

Mistake #2: Not learning how to market by email.

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to:

  • Build a fan base and stay connected to them
  • Generate reviews
  • Sell more books

And yet, fiction authors still avoid it. That’s partly because of the technology involved, but it’s also because there aren’t a lot of role models and success stories.

Case in point: I’m going to be recommending a colleague’s new email marketing training program for authors in a few weeks and wanted to provide you with extra content you would find helpful — a collection of sample author newsletters. I’ve searched for them in a number of ways, but I’m struggling to find good newsletters because it’s not a common author marketing tactic, especially with authors of fiction.

That’s a problem.

Mistake # 3: Not meeting with and talking to readers face-to-face.

It’s certainly easier to just stay at your keyboard and write. What’s more, writing is a “come as you are” experience — bad hair days and yoga pants are acceptable. Getting out and meeting people, on the other hand, takes planning, effort, and courage. Lots of courage.

But it’s worth it.

When you talk to readers face-to-face, you learn what they like and don’t like about your books.

You learn what they like about your genre and its most popular authors.

You learn what is happening in their lives — details that you can work into your stories so that they resonate with these readers and more who are just like them.

The more you interact with your readers or those who read your genre, the better able you are to produce books they will love and talk about.

Here are a few ways you can connect with readers in person:

  • Invite them to a gathering to provide feedback. Author Chanin Kaye invited people she could trust to be honest to critique her book before final edit. They read the book, then gathered in her home for a group discussion. Kaye’s gathering was book-specific, but you can invite readers to discuss the genre instead of your books. Host it in your home, in a library function room, or at a bookstore.
  • Plan a library or bookstore event with other local authors. Include presentations, workshops, and question-and-answer sessions.
  • Attend book festivals and events. Go local or consider attending one of the larger national or regional events, including RT Con, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, or the Florida Book Festival.

It’s the start of a new year. Let it be the start of your new approach to selling more of your fiction, too. Our “Book Marketing 101 for Fiction: How to Build Book Buzz Basic E-course” teaches you how to find your audience plus what is and isn’t working for fiction promotion today.

What have you been doing to market your fiction that’s working for you?

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

Similar Posts


  1. Thank you Sandra, I’ve enjoyed your insight.
    I agree, gaining traction in the fiction genre is a difficult task. Your strategy will be incorporated into my game plan.

    Thank you,
    Gary Lightfoot
    “Nathaniel’s Chorus”

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful, Gary. Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s an uphill battle, but you can win it with knowledge, perseverance, and a good book!


  2. Great points, thank you! You mention you’re looking for author newsletters – have you found Gail Carriger’s Monthly Chirrup yet? Both her website and her newsletter are deeply branded in her (delightful) Steampunk Victorian manner. I don’t know if you encourage links, but her site is her name, so she’s easy to find. Hope this is helpful!

    1. Thanks, Laura! I haven’t come across Gail’s newsletter but will go looking for it now. I appreciate the tip!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *