Marketing Our Books by Theme

by Dan Walsh

A few weeks before Christmas, I had the privilege of sharing the podium with Jaimie Engle, a novelist of children’s and young-adult fiction, at a Saturday morning workshop
for writers in Mount Dora, Florida. I was there to share some of the
things I’ve learned about transitioning from traditional publishing to
the indie world. Jaimie was there to share some tips she’s learned about
marketing books. In my column this month, I want to talk more about what
Jaimie shared.

Specifically, one theme. That is, getting better at marketing our books by their theme.

It’s something I’ve believed in for some time and have even practiced. Hearing Jaimie, reminded me how important and effective this kind of marketing can be, especially for an indie or hybrid author. What is, “Marketing by Theme?” Let me define it by sharing a little of Jaimie’s story.

She writes in the children and young-adult fantasy, sci-fi genre. Jaimie shared how, at first, her book sales were okay but not great. Then she got the idea, rather than to just keep pitching her books the old fashioned way, she would zero in on the main message or theme of her story. Her first novel, Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light, deals with the subject of Bullying. She actually wrote the book to help her young son who had been bullied at school.

As you know, bullying is a HUGE problem in schools today, public or private. It’s a topic constantly in the news and a challenge most parents of school-age children will deal with at some point in their children’s lives. Jaimie began to market the book and herself as a speaker, focusing on helping children (and their parents) deal with bullying. Suddenly, she began getting all kinds of opportunities to speak about this in a variety of venues, including public schools. AND…not surprisingly, after hearing her speak a lot more people wanted to buy her books.

If you’d like to check out Jaimie’s story for yourself, or her books – CLICK HERE.

What’s My Theme?

Some fiction novels may not have a strong, central theme. Some of us may simply write books to entertain and tell interesting stories. But I’m sure a lot of us do have strong themes in our hearts: topics, messages, maybe even scriptural truths we want to communicate through our fiction stories.

The idea is to spend some time focusing in on that theme(s) and figure out who our best target audience is. Who really needs to hear the message, or theme, unveiled through our story? What would be the best way to make those people aware of the reasons why this is a book they would absolutely enjoy. More than that, a book that might even benefit their lives in some significant way.

I’ll use my novel, Rescuing Finley, as an object lesson. At first glance, someone might think, “Oh, what a nice, heartwarming dog story.” If you read some of the 343 Amazon reviews (4.8 Star avg, in case you’re curious), you will see lots of people saying this about the book. But if that’s all the book was, I could only market it to dog lovers.

But that’s not all Rescuing Finley is about. It also talks about some major, cutting-edge themes going on in society right now. For example, did you know that–on average–20 Iraq/Afghan war veterans are committing suicide every day in the US? Most of them dealing with severe PTSD issues. It’s a horrible tragedy. Millions more vets and their family members are struggling with PTSD-related challenges on a daily basis.

I became aware of this through my wife’s experience as a certified dog trainer, through a program at our local prison. This program takes dogs from a rescue shelter and pairs them up with inmates who train the dogs. When the training is done, they are given absolutely free to military veterans to serve as companion dogs. It has been proven that these dogs literally safe veterans’ lives. Programs like these are popping up all over the country, because of the amazing and life-changing results.

As I researched this, I got a great idea for an inspirational, romantic novel. So, I wrote it. But Rescuing Finley is not just for dog lovers (although dog lovers are clearly loving the book). It’s also a great book for millions of military veterans and their family members, especially those wrestling with PTSD. The novel even includes themes that would really encourage people who work with rescue dogs or in programs that help rehabilitate prison inmates.

Think about your novels. Are there any central themes you could zero in on that would provide fresh marketing opportunities for you?

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Who really needs to hear the message~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)


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Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes.
He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times) and 3 Selah Awards. Three
of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book
Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his
wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and
spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.