Congratulations, your book has been published. Whether it’s traditionally produced or it’s been self-published, either way, you now have a brand-new book ready to share with readers. It’s an exciting time – but you quickly learn your work is not over. It’s time for the next step: Marketing.
That word can make authors break out in a cold sweat or want to flee and hide out in a cave. Images of being hunched over the computer for hours peddling your book on social media or arranging book signings only to have your mother be the one person who shows up haunt your thoughts.
Many authors think these are the only means to market a book. But that’s not true. The key to selling books is to connect with readers and build a community. This can be done through social media, but it’s not the only way to promote your work. One effective way to grow your audience for both fiction and nonfiction authors is through magazine articles. Writers may be able to reach a couple thousand people with a Facebook post, but one article has the potential to gain so many more readers. From a niche publication like Gluten-Free Living, which has a circulation of 155,000, to a consumer magazine like Shape that has a circulation of more than 2.5 million, your words can have a positive impact on many people. Plus, you get to spend time writing and get paid for it (if you choose the right markets). It’s a win-win all around.
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What is your author platform?
The word “platform” frequently gets tossed around in the writing world. Think about platform as an imaginary stage you stand on, and the audience is made up of people you are connected to. They can be friends, family, colleagues, or others you have met via social media or events. Agents, editors, and publishers appreciate it when fiction authors have an established platform or are working to build one. But for nonfiction authors, who are positioning themselves as an expert in a certain area, a platform is essential.
Magazine articles allow you a genuine way to connect with many potential readers.
The size of your stage and the size of your audience can have an impact on potential readership for your book. But having a large following isn’t as important as high engagement and the strength of your platform. You can have 10,000 Twitter followers, but if you never interact with them (and thus give them a reason to care about your book), that number is irrelevant. An author with only 1,000 followers who consistently interacts with her audience has a much stronger reach and better rapport with her following and therefore a much stronger platform.
Magazine articles allow you a genuine way to connect with many potential readers. Your words provide information, encouragement, or entertainment. If your article resonates with readers, a short bio at the end such as “Barb Smith is the author of The Greatest Novel” might encourage them to look you up and learn more about you and your book. The article also gives you something to highlight on your website and on social media. For nonfiction authors, an article related to your book’s topic is the perfect way to position yourself as an expert. It provides credibility and shows that you have a strong understanding of your subject matter.
Where do you start?
For nonfiction writers, selecting topics for magazine articles is pretty straightforward. Your book is already filled with great facts and information you can break down into smaller tidbits to write about. For instance, some of the material for this article I garnered from my book, Guide to Magazine Article Writing.
Finding the right topic is less straightforward for fiction writers, however. You may think that since you invented the world and story in your book, writing nonfiction articles won’t help you promote a novel. But that simply isn’t true: Even if you write sci-fi and have created a whole new universe from scratch, there are many topics related to your book that will make good articles and will resonate with readers.
There are many key elements, topics, and themes in your book that can be the basis of great articles.
Let’s work through an example: Showtime Rendezvous is a romantic comedy I co-authored with another writer under the pen name C.K Wiles.
Here’s the basic premise of the book:
Kristin Hughes swore she would never work in the theater again, but that’s exactly where the employment agency sent her for her first accounting job. When performer and old flame Devon Dashner appears, he doesn’t recognize his ex-lover. Ten years, glasses, a new hairstyle, and a gallon of dye work better than plastic surgery. Kristin would rather smack Devon than work with him, but with money tight and no other job options on the horizon, she sets out to finish the job and keep her identity and her emerging desires private – at least for now.
There are many key elements, topics, and themes in your book that can be the basis of great articles. You want to start by thinking about the overall ideas that will then be broken down into smaller topics. In the end, the resulting articles may not tie directly to your book, but the goal is to reach the ideal reader of your book. Here are few broad concepts from my book:
- Historic buildings
- Lost love
Look at your own novel and identify key themes that you wrote about or fields that you had to research in order to make your fiction come alive on the page. What subjects are you best suited to write about?
Who is your ideal reader?
Once you identify your themes and topics, think about the ideal reader for your book. This is a key element in building a strong platform. You must know who you are writing for so you can then effectively find and target those readers. Granted, readers in other demographics may enjoy your book, but at this stage, you must focus on your ideal reader. For example, J.K. Rowling did not write the Harry Potter series with adult readers in mind; she wrote those stories for middle-grade readers. The fact that the books became a huge success with all ages, including adults, was a bonus, but they were not her target audience.
For Showtime Rendezvous, the ideal readers are: Women in their 30s to 40s looking for a romantic comedy with a little extra steam to it. Selecting your intended audience will help you decide which topics appeal best to these readers – and it’ll help you figure out where to pitch your ideas, too.
Narrow down your ideas
Once you have your big themes, it’s time to break them down into smaller article ideas. One way to do this is to create an idea map for each subject. Get a blank piece of paper and write one topic in the middle of the paper. Draw a circle around it. From that circle, you will branch with other ideas and draw circles around those. Each circle will have a set of sub-circles relating to that topic, but as you branch out, the ideas get narrower. This tool will help you break down the big concepts into more specific article ideas.
Find and study magazines
A list of magazines and submission information can be found on websites like Funds for Writers, Mediabistro, and New Pages. For print resources, market information can be found in some issues of The Writer and also in Writer’s Market. Find the submission guidelines for each publication, which will give you detailed information about the magazine, the types of articles they are looking for, the different departments in each issue, payment information, and instructions on how to submit your idea.
Because you want to focus on magazines that have a similar readership to your book, make sure you understand each magazine’s target audience.
Once you read the guidelines, it is important to study the magazines you want to pitch. Read through a few past issues to get a feel for the tone of the articles and the style. Is it more conversational? More academic? Are there expert quotes? How long are the articles? Look at the topics covered and the slant of those articles.
Because you want to focus on magazines that have a similar readership to your book, make sure you understand each magazine’s target audience. There are two easy ways to track down this information. One is in the online media kit compiled for advertisers. Here you will find information such as the average age of the reader, their gender, education level, household income, and hobbies. The other is to study the advertisements. What are the ages of the people shown in the ads? How are they dressed? What types of products are being advertised? By knowing this information, you can ensure you are querying magazines that will reach your book’s ideal reader.
Building a readership for your books does not have to be overwhelming and intimidating. By learning how to write for magazines, you will expand your writing experiences while reaching thousands of new readers with each article.
—Kerrie Flanagan is a freelance writer from Colorado, writing consultant, and presenter. She is the author of Guide to Magazine Article Writing along with eight books under her label, Hot Chocolate Press. Find her Magazine Writing Blueprint at WritingBlueprints.com. Web: KerrieFlanagan.com.