Marketing a Romance Novel That’s Non-Traditional

Now available on Amazon in Kindle or print.
Gianlorenzo Bernini, the only known self-portrait in oil

One of the challenges I’m facing is marketing a romance novel that’s non-traditional — that is, doesn’t follow the romance formula. My book The Renaissance Club didn’t start out as a classic romance story formula. I was simply intrigued by the idea of a love story across the ages. As I imagined my heroine, May Gold, I wasn’t thinking about book marketing categories, Amazon, the Big Five, romances, or literary agents. I was blissfully inventing a young art historian who gets to meet her hero, the 17th century genius sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, face-to-face, under the gilded dome of St. Peter’s in Rome. I was engrossed in finding out what would happen if you met the love of your life — in another century. What would you give up to stay with him — would you give up even your own time?

And now I’m looking at what I would give up to market this love story so that it reaches the wides audience. In a way, it’s harder than figuring out how to time travel.

Market a Non-traditional Romance Novel — Categories & Keywords

And then I got an offer to publish the book! After a giddy acceptance and big celebrations came some of the hardest work of all — determining my publishing category and sub-categories on Amazon. Amazon is where you can, as a small press published author, best have your book discovered. This is arguable, but I believe it to be true. I learned, possibly too late, that determining your proper category is crucial to marketing your book well.

Then came launch day, and a dizzying blog tour month! Thrilling to hear from friends and strangers who bought and loved my book. After that, came all the post-writing marketing business, and trying to figure out how to put my book in front of people I don’t know or can’t reach through my fairly extensive online networks. The vast public out there, possibly full of people who would LOVE this story, but haven’t had a chance to see it. How to get them to see it?

Categories and keywords are the way readers search for books online. They also search in bookstores for categories, but the typical store doesn’t parse categories as finely as Amazon. Pick your Amazon category and sub-category correctly, and your book should be shelved well in bookstores too.

Your Book’s Discoverability & Categories

Discoverability is the buzz word for getting out the word that your book exists, showing a cover image, and a blurb with a link. It’s hard enough to market a romance book when you fit neatly into the formula. But when you overlap with the category of  women’s fiction, as my book does, you have to think about the expectations of readers who are quickly browsing through ads, emails, and Amazon categories. What is each reader looking for in her next read? Does she want steamy close encounters? Is she looking for a heartfelt journey toward love? Does she look for adventure or suspense mixed with a story of love and happy endings? My book is really a non-traditional romance, a women’s fiction book about find love, confidence, and creativity that overlaps several categories: romance, time travel, women’s fiction, magical realism (or fantasy, depending on the retailer’s categorization system).

Here’s a great article from Jerich Writers on choosing the right fiction categories on Amazon — and the complexities of keywords and categories in that biggest of retailers. The article is aimed at self-publishers, but the knowledge is applicable to all. My publisher asked me to choose categories. Most publishers don’t give authors the choice, but if you have a choice, study the market and determine where you’ll get the best support from Amazon. I found that to market my non-ttraditional romance novel

Here’s a good piece from Romance University on promoting a romance novel — though it could as easily be applied to other categories of novel.

More to come on this blog! This is a big topic. Do you have ideas, links, blog posts to share on this topic? Let me know in the comments. I love to hear from readers.