Sunday, August 31, 2008

Using a Website to Sell Novels

One of the things I have been thinking about recently is how can a novelist use a website to sell books? It is very important that we draw a distinction between novels and non-fiction books. It may not be easy, but with non-fiction the formula is straight forward.

The Non-fiction Method

People choose which websites they visit based on a felt need. Often, the felt need is translated into a search engine query. Unless you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have found this post by typing how can a novelist use a website to sell books or something similar, into Google or some other search engine. You may have clicked on the link because it may answer your question. Following that thought. If a non-fiction author has written a book about Habakkuk, it is reasonable to assume that the people who will buy the book are looking for information about Habakkuk or other books about prophets. The author can provide this information on his website and then simply say, “if you would like to know more, read my book.”

The Problem With Novels

This approach above will not work with novels. Fiction readers are still looking for information to fill a felt need. As a point of interest, you might visit the romance discussion area on There you will find comments like, “I am looking for a book where the man just got out of jail and the woman is a librarian.” The problem is that not everyone is looking for the same thing. Some people would be happy if the book is a page turner. Most people are looking for a novel that they can put some confidence in before they waste several hours.

A novelist can’t say, “I have a great book.” No matter how good the author is, as soon as she makes that claim she is daring people to disagree. So while a potential reader might type this is a great book into a search engine, the moment the reader finds a website with the author saying, “this is a great book, buy it today,” the reader is turned off.

Making it Work With Novels

Here are a few suggestions:


You’ve heard the expression, Show, Don’t Tell. Instead of telling people, a lot of people have read this book and they liked it, show it by including statements like the following from some of my readers:

  • I really enjoyed Searching for Mom – Kylene S.

  • Searching for Mom is a great read. – H.

  • Searching for Mom was very touching. My father died when I was young… – W.

  • My daughter-in-law gave me a copy of Searching for Mom and I didn’t put it down until I finished it – E.

  • I love Searching for Mom - Lisa

Why does this work? We generally give people the benefit of the doubt and expect that they believe what they say. We expect the author to believe his book is good, no matter how horrible it might be, so we can easily dismiss a book if the author is the only one who says it is good. It is much harder to dismiss the opinion of the people who have read the book. The book might have problems. It might not follow the rules. It might could be tighter. It might have some unbelievable elements. Whatever might be wrong, the statements by the readers will make it clear that they enjoyed it anyway. If all we have is the author’s statement and we see some problem with the book then we might conclude the author thinks too highly of himself.

Write About the Theme

One of the people who read Searching for Mom wrote to me saying that she lost her father when she was young and was touched by the story. In Searching for Mom it is Sara’s mother who died, but it still made that connection. If you want to attract people to your blog or website who might be interested in your novel, focus your attention on the non-fiction theme of the book.

Suppose you have written a love story involving a coal miner’s wife. Love stories are a dime a dozen, but if you can make a connection with some coal miner’s wives, you may be able to make some sales. I don’t know if there is such a thing, but suppose a woman is looking for a support group for coal miner’s wives. She searches the web and finds a link to your website were you talk about coal miner’s wives. She gets interested in what you have to say and reads more. She may come back later. She may come back several times and each time she sees that you have a novel about coal miner’s wives. At some point her curiosity gets the better of her and she buys the book.

More Later

Time and space prevents me from mentioning some of the other suggestions I have. I hope that you have found these helpful. If time permits I will attempt to provide additional suggestions at a later date.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What Makes the Olympics Special

The Olympics are over. As we look back at it, what is it about the Olympics that made it so special? Is it because it brings the world together for two weeks of peace? No, there was no peace. Even at the Olympic games President Bush was talking to the Russians about a war with Georgia. A Cuban athlete and his coach were barred from a sport for life because the athlete kicked an official in the face. There were questions about judging practices and questions remain over whether the host country, China, cheated to obtain some of their many medals. Peace? There was no peace.

Was it special because of how much China put into it? Maybe if you went, but for those of us at home it wasn’t so impressive. Sure, they threw many resources and many people at it, but what good is numbers when it lacks beauty? The 2008 Olympics were held in some of the ugliest buildings in the world. No, it wasn’t the resources they threw at it.

The thing that makes the Olympics special is the celebration of our similarities. Look at the contrast between the people of the United States and the people of China. We have freedom of religion and don’t appreciate it. They want freedom of religion and can’t get it. We place great importance on empowering individuals to accomplish great things. They place great importance on group accomplishments. We take pride in being a great melting put of cultures. They take pride in a very old culture.

When we watch the Olympics, we don’t see those differences. Instead, we see similarities. The athletes are from many different countries, but they all want to represent their country well. The fans come from many different countries, but they all want to see their compatriots succeed. When an athlete wins, they celebrate in the same way. When an athlete loses, they grieve in the same way. The Olympics show us that people are people, no matter which country they are from, no matter what their skin color or religion. The Olympics shows us that we are all brothers. That is what makes it special.

It will not bring peace. The flame fades and we return to the political race. We are reminded once more that though we may all be brothers, we have different opinions and we are very stubborn. At times, we have a right to be. Some of the issues that divide us are very important. Does life begin at birth or at conception? Does the government have the right to tell a woman she must carry her baby full term? Does the government have the right (as in China) to kill her unborn child? Should the United State be fighting other people’s wars or not? No matter where you stand on the issue, these are important issues and they must be resolved. It is not enough to agree to disagree as is done at the Olympics. With these issues there is right and there is wrong and they cannot co-exist.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Men's Fiction vs. Women's Fiction

On the surface, when we consider the difference between guy fiction and gal fiction, we might say that guy fiction is about blowing things up and gal fiction is about relationships, but if we look at a guy movie like Die Hard we can see that the main character just wants to rebuild his relationship with his wife and the bad guys are getting in the way. In other words, guy fiction is about some of the same things gal fiction is. The true difference, if there is one, is in how the protagonist solves the problem. In both, the protagonist will debate until he or she figures out what action to take, but that is where things change.

In guy fiction, the action that the protagonist takes tends to be more physical. He might not blow something up, but he might build something or go somewhere or stand in front of thousands of people to ask his girlfriend to marry him.

In gal fiction, the action is more subdued. The action she takes might be to talk to someone, even though she fears how he will respond. She may ask someone to help her with something. She may meet someone at a romantic location.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t women who enjoy stories where the protagonist takes charge of the situation or that there aren’t men who enjoy a more subdued action, but if we must draw a distinction between the two, that seems to be the difference. It is possible, and some writers do this, to have women’s fiction in which there are several explosions and men’s fiction in which there are none, but even then men’s fiction tends toward a take charge attitude by the protagonist.