When my first novel came out, my publisher’s PR department had me write articles for magazines, websites and book bloggers to promote my book.
It’s difficult to say exactly which pieces drove sales and put royalties in my pocket, but one thing was sure: I wrote a lot of free material.
A chat with a writing colleague led me to approach the release of my second book a different way. We realized that even though essays and articles are traditionally used to generate income via book sales for non-fiction work, we know there is money to be made writing articles and personal essays.
We often use our lives as inspiration for writing, so why not use our books as a prompt for material we could get paid to write?
Here’s part 1 of 2 on how to exploit your novel for additional publishable material.
1. Location, location, location
Where is your novel set? New York, Teheran, Moscow or Buenos Aires? Wherever it is, chances are you can find something interesting about the locale and write an essay about it.
Keep an eye on the news coming out of that place, choose an angle that would connect that news to the action in your novel, and pitch away.
Where have you set your scenes? Do your characters visit spas, go to museums, jump off buildings, or hide in caves? Wherever they are, you can probably come up with an article that could include one of your chosen settings.
How about “Ten most visited caves in the world”? Or “Spas made famous by novelists?” Or “Buildings that remind people of dragons”? You get the idea.
Travel and airline magazines can pay well for these kinds of articles.
Chances are, your characters eat at some point in your narrative. Whether it’s a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs or an exquisite five-star Michelin dinner, you can get mileage out of any and all food mentions in your work.
Write a round-up of most common breakfast dishes in the world. Or create a listicle of hardest-to-get-into Michelin-starred restaurants. Or combine the two ideas and see if you can find Michelin-starred restaurants that serve breakfasts.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to food — and food-based ideas you can extract from your work.
Look for magazines aimed at food lovers — there’s no shortage of the latter, though pay can vary.
Does your character like luxury brands? Do you write erotica and include adult toys in your narrative? Or is there perhaps a furniture theme?
Take a look at your novel and make a list of every accessory that makes a notable appearance. Brainstorm the angle you could take on those accessories. “Most popular high-end brands in fiction” or “Sex toys through the eyes of 10 characters” could make quite an interesting piece.
Consumer-focused websites for specific industries often look for these types of articles.
5. Your characters
Is your hero based on a real-life crush? Does an old boss make an appearance?
You don’t have to name names, but if there’s a story behind the story, there’s a market for it.
Whether you’re in hiding from the North Koreans because you’ve made fun of Kim Jong-un or your book centers on that time you were betrayed by your best friend, you can write a personal essay about it. (Just make sure you do it under a pen name so no dictators can put you on their A-list).
You may be able to look for publications that profile famous people. The higher the profile, the bigger the publication that might be interested.
6. Your research
Not everything in your book came straight from your imagination. Some of it came from Google and other research portals.
Did you find yourself deleting your browser history in case the FBI wondered why you were looking up how long it takes someone to die of hemlock poisoning? Or are you now an expert on apple breeds in 18th century France?
If so, there’s a probably a publication out there on just that niche. Alternatively, it might fit into a more general-interest piece. If you went down the rabbit hole researching trivia for your novel, readers will be just as curious.
Sites like Mental Floss, Ozy and The Atlantic are full of quirky and interesting articles that may inspire a new way to share your research.
Your characters learned and grew through the events you wrote for them.
Whether it was how to get over a broken heart, or fix their finances and get out of debt, or to make amazing cupcakes, those characters must have top notch advice for others wanting to do the same thing.
How-to articles, especially food-based, can find homes in all kinds of publications.
Do you have any ideas for themes and topics inspired by your books?
In part 2, we’ll show you how to turn you — the writer — into a source of money-making, book-promoting essays.