Marketing Fiction – Selling the Make-Believe

Photo courtesy of C. Hope Clark.

By C. Hope Clark

When an expert sells their book, they are selling their expertise as well as the print volume in their hand, on the screen, across the billboard. A reputation serves as most of the author’s platform, which many consider an extreme advantage of nonfiction authors over fiction, those who choose to live in the land of make-believe.

But fiction authors are experts, too. Marketing and promotion isn’t natural for most writers, and for those steeped in fiction, the idea of stepping into the real world to sell books is akin to standing nude in traffic.

The mental gymnastics that go into prepping for a talk are similar to promotional posts, interviews, and advertising a novel. As author of The Shy Writer Reborn, I consider myself expert in evolving from a traumatized new writer to today’s confident speaker. I taught myself mental tricks to enable me to stand on stage. Let’s look at some of those angles:

  • You are the expert of whatever you wrote. Nobody was in your head as you created your world, characters, and plot. Nobody can negate your fiction and what you meant.
  • You are a three-dimensional person. You have your own personality, hobbies, genealogy, ethnicity, upbringing, humor, hair color, education, music preferences, reading likes, family, and address. Those are yours to use as you deem necessary.
  • You love what you do. Sitting at a screen for months on end to make a story work is not purgatory. We talk best about that which we adore.
  • You are a storyteller. So why not tell stories every chance you get? People love stories.
  • You have passion. Tap it when you speak, sell, and promote, not just in your writing.

So you have tools, talent, and passion. How can you use those in marketing your fiction? I’ve written two mystery series – Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries.

Photo courtesy of C. Hope Clark.

Appearing first with Lowcountry Bribe, Carolina Slade works for the government, in a rural setting, often assisting farmers and those affiliated with them. During my self-imposed book tour one summer, I focused on states that understood agriculture. I continue to have rabid followers in Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. I own chickens, a spin-off from my interest in nature, so I post pictures of me enjoying them. I’ve posed about my garden, and expounded on how it relates to writing, or how I’ve used it to weather the self-doubt moments. Having worked for agriculture, I pull upon experiences, the funnier the better, because Slade has a wicked sense of humor.

Echoes of EdistoBeginning with Murder on Edisto, the Edisto Island Mysteries have a great protagonist in Callie Jean Morgan, but I’ve garnered more mileage out of flaunting the setting – Edisto Island. I’m continually talking about my visits there, sharing pictures of surf, flora and fauna. I relay to readers about turtles, the environment, and how it’s known for its lack of commercialism. The soothing, getaway factor of the beach captures lots of attention, especially such an unusual beach set in the middle of nowhere.

With a husband and sons in law enforcement, and with my experiences in minor federal investigations, I try to talk the talk of crime. With a history in South Carolina, I talk the weather, culture, scenery, and food. Since I adore dachshunds, they appear in pictures or become the objects of lessons I teach. Sometimes I talk simply about being happy with life.

And last but not least, I am passionate about the stories I have managed to put together, and the methods I’ve used to bring them to print. So I teach, write, speak, and interview about writing. I’m currently under contract under a library grant to teach new writers.

Become known for being passionate most of all. The general public is starving for some sort of magic that makes their lives better, brighter, happier. As an author of a wonderful story, maybe even a series, you have the potential of helping them find that happy place. But you have to be excited about what you do for others to believe you.

Not long ago, after teaching a class on publishing, a lady around thirty came up to be and stated she wanted to be me. I’d never met her and she’d never read my books; however, I somehow conveyed to her that writing and publishing my stories was heaven on earth for me. “You’re living the dream,” she said. “You’re where I want to be.”

That’s how you build fans.

I can give you tools to use to market yourself as a fiction author (guest blogging, social media, speaking, signings, readings, podcasts, conferences), but the magic is in the pool of talent you’re drawing from, and how you use that magic to make someone else’s world better.

Take some time to define you just as you would in developing a character. Interview yourself. Create that bible of resources you would for a new character. Define your likes, dislikes, interests, history, friends, education, and so on. Note everybody you touch. Note your talents. Then imagine reaching out people. Step it up a notch and imagine the opportunity to share your passions with them, whether it’s in a ball room speaking, or on a postcard in the mail. You are empowered with enthusiasm. You’ve created a fictional world nobody else has. You cherish your characters and the lessons learned in the tale. You love your life and the chance to be a writer and share stories!

Just remember, however, it’s about making their lives happier, not yours. You are already happy. Your goal is to take all those connections in your world and strive to use what you know and who you are to entertain them. In other words, drop the screen you’re hiding behind. Let the world know who you are, what you love, and how you hope your writing makes their day brighter.


Photo courtesy of C. Hope Clark.


  1. Hope Clark adores writing and reading mystery, loving the challenge of solving crime. She exudes that enthusiasm in both The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries. Her latest is Echoes of Edisto, the third Edisto book. Hope also is founder of FundsforWriters, a website and newsletter chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. And yes, she loves what she does. /