Today we’re featuring a guest blog from Amy Haddock, Senior Marketing Manager at Waterbrook Multnomah, a division of Penguin Random House. Amy helped create the popular “Novel Crossing” website for inspirational fiction readers…
Writing a book is one thing. Getting that book discovered by readers is a whole other thing, right? It doesn’t take long to see that marketing a book can be an exhausting labor of love. As a marketer myself, I understand completely. For me, the goal is always to find readers, connect them with new books that they would like, and to get them to share it with their friends. As simple as that sounds, we all know that to get to this end result requires hours and hours of work, careful educated guesswork, detailed information about these consumers, a collaborative partnership between publishing house and author, and a way to target these readers as a group. That’s why I’m excited to tell you about Novel Crossing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first thing I should probably tell you: I love books. I’m enamored with reading. I have whole bookcases full of titles from decades past that show just how long I’ve had my nose perpetually in a book, but more than that, I love Christian fiction. I grew up on Janette Oke, Gilbert Morris, and Robin Jones Gunn—reading that my Mom deemed “safe” from her own bookshelves—and during countless moves from city to city during my formative years, these books were my constant companions.
I’ll admit, I struggled during my college years to retain my love for reading. I became a “skimmer” extraordinaire to make it through the stacks of articles and textbooks that professors gleefully assigned. Looking back, I realize they were just doing their job but at the time it was all I could do to stuff enough knowledge into my brain to pass my courses, let alone pick up a read-for-fun volume.
After realizing that the life insurance industry job that I landed after college was not for me, I found myself in an interview at WaterBrook Multnomah for a marketing position. That is how I fell in love with books all over again.
So last year, when we decided to create a website for Christian fiction readers, you can imagine my excitement. It was with readers (like me!) in mind that we designed the site. Because, honestly, if you were to ask me which publisher put those Janette Oke books into my hands, I could not have answered that question for a million dollars. Imprints, advances, contracts—I knew nothing about any of those things. I was a reader, and I loved books. How they got into my hands was secondary to those two truths.
Thus, NovelCrossing.com was born. The idea? To create a website that combined what we love about various online communities (GoodReads, Shelfari, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, news sites) and wrap them all up in a place solely focused on Christian fiction booklovers. To help readers discover new books and authors, connect with their favorites, and find friends who understand the “it’s after midnight but I must turn the last page of this book before going to sleep” feeling.
What I’ve learned over this last year has blown me away. You’ll never find another author community quite like what we have in Christian fictiondom. These writers stalwartly defend each other, are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, and are hands down my favorite people to work with.
And the readers? They’re voracious, avid consumers of books. As a marketer it’s incredibly rewarding to hear from them and know that as I try to raise awareness for new books, they are turning pages, loving characters, and anxiously awaiting the next release.
So what does Novel Crossing offer authors? I’m so glad you asked.
- · Promotion. Marketing comes easier to some authors than other, but Novel Crossing is a safe bet that you’re reaching a finely-honed audience. There are lots of ways to promote your latest release whether it be offering up an original piece for our newsfeed, sending an ad our way, asking for a feature video trailer spot, proposing a contest or collaboration…the sky is the limit!*
- · Control. Once an author becomes a member and connects with us, we’re able to grant them the ability to control their own book data, author bio, picture, etc. After all, who knows the book better than the author?
- · Reviews. While Novel Crossing members are able to post regular full-length reviews, users can also choose to do a “one-sentence” review. This feature is unique to Novel Crossing, and we’ve found that more readers are likely to spread the word about their latest read when neither a large word-count nor blogging platform is required. Consumers are also more likely to read a shorter review than a longer one because, let’s face it, attention spans these days aren’t what they used to be.
- · Connection. While we are actively working to engage readers with our site, we know what they really care about—the author! We want to be a conduit for that. The site offers a way for readers to connect with their favorite authors by linking to their platform on each author profile page, and authors can likewise connect with their fans by interacting on the site.
Since we launched, we’re continuing on our path of trying to serve the reader first. We’ve added series labels to appropriate titles, launched a “smart” eNewsletter that only serves up content of interest to the members, and are talking with active members about online book clubs, all the time continuing to enhance the user’s experience on the site. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve what we’re doing. (Have an idea, thought, or constructive critique? Send it my way at Amy@NovelCrossing.com!)
A year in, Novel Crossing is still in its infancy, but what’s really encouraging is being able to talk to the right audience all in one place. As we celebrate our birthday, I hope you’ll join us in raising a piece of cake to the future of Christian fiction and our small roles in the larger landscape of changing lives through story.
*Of course, we have limited space and finite resources, so the sky isn’t REALLY the limit. But you get the idea.