Many authors of fiction believe selling their work is difficult. But if you look beyond the bookstore you can find many sales opportunities. The information below provides ideas and examples of potential segments that could be lucrative for you. This information is by no means an exclusive list, but as a catalyst to get you started.
A basic tenet for selling anything is to first know your target market. No one can market to “everybody,” so consider the 5Ws to describe people who could buy your fiction: Who is the typical reader you had in mind when you wrote your book? Is the person male or female? In what age group? Where do they shop (that is where you need to have your book available)? When do they buy (a holiday or a special seasonal period)? What do they buy (printed books, ebooks or audiobooks)? Why do they buy (Are they seeking a relaxing message? An enjoyable way to pass time on a plane or beach?).
It is helpful to group your marketing activities under two major topics: 1) where to sell your book, and 2) how to promote it. The sections below are examples to get you started.
Where can you sell your book?
Retail stores. Bookstores are retailers, but there are many other retail establishments that sell books, and in most cases fiction outsells nonfiction. Examples are airport stores, supermarkets, gift shops, discount stores and specialty stores. Ask the store buyers who their distribution partners are. Your current distributor may already be selling to them.
Gift shops of all types have books for sale. These shops are located in hotels, hospitals, airports, national parks, museums and more. Event Network (https://www.eventnetwork.com/) has stores at many destinations throughout the United States and Canada including zoos and aquariums, historical sites, museums, botanical gardens and art museums. The Science Fiction Museum also sponsors the Horace Awards, has chat rooms, workshops, reviews and book sales (http://www.sciencefictionmuseum.com/index.html)
Many national parks have gift shops selling books. Eastern National (http://easternnational.org) operates more than 150 units of the National Park Service in the Eastern United States. The Western National Parks Association (www.wnpa.org) is the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service and its 67 national parks in the western United States.
Display-marketing companies (http://www.collectivegoods.com, formerly Books Are Fun) buy large, non-returnable quantities of books directly from publishers at discounts up to 80%. Then they sell them directly to consumers through displays at the buyers‘ locations in schools and corporations.
Fiction Bookstores Online. In addition to the major online bookstores, seek niche stores specializing in fiction. One example is Turn the Page Bookstore (https://www.ttpbooks.com/index.html) that offers a full selection of popular fiction. Historical Romances Online (https://www.romance.io/topics/best/historical/1) sells many genres of fiction. Online Novels (http://www.onlinenovels.net/) promotes itself as "The world's largest portal to original novels, short stories, and poetry." Is your book about Christmas or on a religious topic? Then sell it through https://www.christianbook.com/. Area 51 Booksellers is an online bookstore specializing in science fiction, horror and fantasy books (http://www.area51books.com/) as is SF Books (http://www.sf-books.com/). Search for niche stores online selling books in your genre.
Niche physical bookstores. Sell your science fiction through stores such as the Crime and Space bookstore (http://www.crimeandspace.com/), the House of Science Fiction (www.scifi-az.com), Mysterious Galaxy http://www.mystgalaxy.com/ and Sentry Box (https://www.sentrybox.com/), “a Mecca for those interested in fantasy, science fiction, or military games, books and miniatures.”
Libraries. You may be working through a library wholesaler, but if not, you can contact libraries directly. Find a list of contact information for all U.S. public libraries at http://www.publiclibraries.com.
Reading Groups. There are people who meet in small groups to read and discuss books – primarily fiction. Reading Group Choices sends a quarterly catalog recommending books to many of these groups. Get your book listed in their catalog at http://www.readinggroupchoices.com . Also, Sarah’s Book Shelves (https://www.sarahsbookshelves.com/) is a book recommendation blog “with a list that contains old and new books of various genres that I think have wide appeal and provide compelling discussion topics for your book club.”
Local Fairs. Selling books at local events such as craft fairs, gift shows and Holiday celebrations can help you make some money as it provides additional benefits. You can sell personally autographed books on a non-returnable basis at full price. And you may find the networking beneficial. You can also get increased exposure since some events expect 5,000 or more attendees. Display your books with other authors to share the costs and have a fun time. Find lists of local craft and book fairs near you at http://www.artscraftsshowbusiness.com/.
How you will promote your book?
There are many public-relations activities that can reach people in your target markets as frequently and inexpensively as possible. Most media exposure is free so you can get maximum coverage on a limited budget.
Book reviews. In addition to the major book reviewers, seek reviews from those who specialize in fiction: Danny Yee's Book Reviews for most fiction genres (http://dannyreviews.com/subjects.html),
The Copperfield Review (http://www.copperfieldreview.com) “a journal for readers and writers of historical fiction,” Christian book reviews (http://www.christianbookpreviews.com/) and reviews of books by Jewish authors and books on Jewish topics (http://www.bellaonline.com/subjects/3373.asp). The Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal Romance site reviews books and has interviews with authors in the paranormal romance genre (http://sffpromance.iwarp.com/). Also try the Best Reviews of para normal romance (http://thebestreviews.com/) and Black Gate magazine that reviews science fiction (http://www.blackgate.com/).
Some award competitions specialize in fiction. The Eric Hoffer Book Award recognizes excellence in art, general fiction, commercial fiction, children, young adult, culture, business, reference, home, health/self-help/religion and legacy books (www.HofferAward.com). American Book Fest Awards were established to recognize meritorious works by writers who self-published or had their books published by a small press or independent book publisher (http://www.americanbookfest.com/). The National Indie Excellence® Awards (NIEA) competition “is open to all English language printed books available for sale, including small presses, mid-size independent publishers, university presses, and self-published authors (https://www.indieexcellence.com/). The Washington (DC) Science Fiction Association (WSFA) honors the efforts of small press publishers in providing a critical venue for short fiction in the area of speculative fiction (http://wsfa.org/site/)
Others include the World Fantasy Awards (http://www.dpsinfo.com/awardweb/worldfantasy/), Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction (http://www.sfsite.com/06a/theo58.htm), the annual Tiptree Award is given to the work of science fiction or fantasy published which best explores or expands gender roles (http://www.tiptree.org/) and the Gaylactic Network Spectrum Awards (http://www.spectrumawards.org/) honor works in science fiction, fantasy and horror which include positive explorations of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered characters, themes, or issues. Search for those applicable to your work.
Television and radio shows. Could your story serve as the basis for a TV show? Contact Beyond Scared Straight, the series that profiles unique crime prevention programs aimed at deterring troubled teens from jail (https://www.aetv.com/shows/beyond-scared-straight?newexp=true) . Or, be the guest on a show such as Authors On The Air Global Radio Network (https://authorsontheair.com/) , a digital radio talk show network that introduces authors and their books to readers and listeners worldwide.
Join associations. Network with other fiction authors, enter award competitions, speak at their events and sell your books in their online bookstores. Here are some examples of national and local associations: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (http://www.sfwa.org/), The Horror Writers Association (http://www.horror.org/), Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (http://www.kcsciencefiction.org/) and the Romance Writers of America (https://www.rwa.org/)
Radish is an app for serialized fiction (https://www.radishfiction.com). On Radish you can write, share and monetize your bite-sized serial fiction stories, perfectly suited for reading on smartphones.
Book Summaries (https://readitfor.me) Readitfor.me provides the user with the core content of a book in three separate formats: 1) the traditional written summary provides a concise summary of the book, 2) the audio summary provides the core content in an easy to listen format and 3) the video summary where the content of a book is presented using slides and narration.
Create a Game Based on Your Novel. Stimulate word-of-mouth communications and get people to return to our website frequently by creating a game such as NationStates (http://www.nationstates.net/) a simulation game based on the novel Lexicon by Max Barry.
Participate in communities, forums such as The Artemis Society International (http://www.asi.org/), the Planetary Society (http://www.planetary.org/) and the site for Speculative Vision Science Fiction and Fantasy (http://speculativevision.com/)
Podcasts. Build your reputation for expertise in your genre by being a guest on others’ podcasts such as Over My Dead Body (https://wondery.com/shows/over-my-dead-body/)
If you expand your marketing activity to include sales through venues other than bookstores you are more likely to reach your target buyers where and when they shop. Your enhanced promotion activity will maximize your exposure, readership and word-of-mouth advertising. As a result, you can increase your sales, revenue and profits from selling your fiction in ways you might not have otherwise thought of.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org), and the founder of Book Selling University (www.booksellinguniversity.com). He is also the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books. Brian offers commission-based sales of books to buyers in non-bookstore markets. Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premiumbookcompany.com.