Write Fiction And Sell: 3 Tips To Attract Loyal Readers

Today, self-publishing is big business. With many millions of books available, how do you write fiction that stands out?

It can be a struggle. Not only do authors compete with other self-publishers, they also compete with:

  • Traditional publishers.
  • Literary agents.
  • Amazon’s powerful imprints.

Traditional publishers are relaunching authors’ backlists. Literary agents survey the battlefield, ready to pounce on new authors with top-selling novels. And, of course, Amazon has its own imprints which compete in the marketplace.

There’s heavy competition. I’ve spoken with desperate authors. They’re advertising heavily, giving away books, and creating mailing lists. This all takes time away from writing.

How do you keep your sanity, especially if you’ve launched novels which are duds, rather than bestsellers?

How to write fiction, keep your sanity, and attract readers

It’s tempting to think that more marketing is the answer when your novels aren’t selling. It couldn’t hurt. On the other hand, it may not help.

My preference is to do minimal or zero marketing for new fiction, whether it’s a novel, novella, serial, or short story. I want to see how the product does on its own.

However, I’m sure you’re wondering: how you attract loyal readers without heavy marketing?

Start with the books: craft books which attract readers.

1. Write better books: craft books readers love

I love fiction because you never stop learning. Brilliant authors help you to lift your game—you can discover devices to improve your books.

For example, I love the ticking clock device because it’s so simple. Although it’s commonly used in thrillers, you can use it in any genre; a countdown keeps readers reading.

Bestselling authors with long series can teach you a great deal.

Speaking of long series—a series helps you find loyal readers.

2. One snowflake isn’t a blizzard: write in series

Currently, I’m rereading Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series of 28 books. They’ve sold for many years. Each new book sells the entire series.

The length of the Sharpe series gives you a clue to success: if a series sells, keep writing the books.

Cornwell published Gallows Thief in 2001 and judging by the openness of the book’s ending, I think he meant to write a series. Sadly, no follow-ups were published, so chances are it didn’t sell as well as the author hoped.

A suggestion: instead of focusing on standalone novels when you write fiction, think in terms of a series from the beginning. Writing a series can be easier than writing a standalone.

Launch two books close together, then launch the third quickly. Keep going with the series if the books take off.

3. Help other authors: we’re all in this together

Since self-publishing is a global industry, other authors aren’t your competition. Join authors’ groups or create your own, not only to collaborate but also for motivation and support.

When you support authors’ books, they may reciprocate.

But what if your novels just aren’t selling?

Should you still write fiction if your novels aren’t selling?

Occasionally, an author asks whether they should quit fiction.

In a word, no. Every word you write teaches you something: you’re developing a skill. As it happens, one of my friends wrote 11 novels before he sold one—to a traditional publisher. Not only did the publisher give him a contract, but they also bought three of his novels.

You never know. If you write fiction and enjoy it, keep writing, because you haven’t yet found those loyal readers who will love your books.

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