Rooted Marketing: Building Marketing Tools into Your Story

Guest blogger: Dineen A. Miller

Nothing like a book contract to make you suddenly aware of the need to think about marketing. Before the release of my first novel, The Soul Saver, I started questioning if current marketing trends in the Christian publishing industry were working. The big picture out there can be quite overwhelming, like a megastore with more choices in products than I have years to live (don’t ask how old I am).

My questions put me on a journey that’s now led to multiple areas of intentional marketing—intentional as opposed to just doing what everyone else is doing. With every marketing avenue we consider, we need to ask why and will it be effective for our particular book/brand/ministry.

One avenue of intentional marketing is something a group of my cohorts and I are calling “Rooted Marketing.”* Rooted marketing refers to planting seeds in your stories to be harvested right before, during and after your book launch as marketing tools. As you’re writing your story, you are literally building in settings, hobbies, causes, interests and anything unique that you can later use to promote your book.

From these “roots” you can write nonfiction articles for submission to magazines, blogs and other sources looking for special interest pieces. You can even start getting speaking engagements based on these topics.

For example, one author shared recently how her research for her book turned into a series of articles for her local newspaper. Another author built in a common theme of a quilt pattern through her book series and included the pattern (one she designed herself) at the back of each book. And still another author recently shared with me that she loved writing home and hearth stories because this had been a big area of enjoyment in her own life. Suddenly we realized she had unlimited opportunities to write into her stories traditions and celebrations that had meant so much to her, and she could give her readers step by step planning instructions to do the same kinds of events and traditions in their own homes. She had not only pulled a theme from the stories she felt so passionate about, she’d created her brand and an ongoing platform from which to promote her fiction.

Rooted Marketing isn’t necessarily “new.” Authors are pulling aspects from their novels all the time to reach more readers and sell more books through online promotions, non-fiction articles, and speaking. But why not start thinking it through before you even start writing your next story?

What can you build into that budding novel that can be a handy marketing tool? Can you even produce articles or downloads while you’re researching and writing it? Imagine finishing your next contracted novel and already having several marketing tools harvested from your marketing garden, ready to use to promote that book when it releases. All that research that goes into making your novel realistic can be put to good use later.

There are so many different ways to market today that we have to be intentional about what we choose. Rooted marketing is like preparing the soil for those seeds so when your book comes out, you’re ready to reap a harvest.

What can you weave into your story right now and build upon later to market that book of yours?

(Find out more at our ACFW Conference Continuing Education class, “How to Market Your Fiction Like a Non-fiction Pro” by Rachelle Gardner, Kathi Lipp, Dineen Miller and Jim Rubart.)

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The Soul Saver by Dineen Miller

Dineen Miller is co-author of the blog Spiritually Unequal Marriage, and the book Winning Him Without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage (Regal, 2011).

Dineen’s fiction includes The Soul Saver, releasing this month from Barbour, and the upcoming novella, A Love Meant To Be, part of the Rendezvous in Central Park collection.

Dineen has won several prestigious awards for her fiction, and her devotional writing has been featured in Our Journey and Christian Women Online Magazine. She’s also a C.L.A.S.S. Communicator and has been featured on the Moody Radio Network, Family Life and Focus on the Family Radio.

  1. Nafaa says:

    Did anyone else niocte how weird the dragon in this video was. It moved very strangely and it had no ropes must of been the touring production. Right? Am I right? Please don’t ignore me. Please?

  2. This is one of the best marketing articles I’ve ever read — especially lately. I think rooted marketing would not only work well, but would also be a lot of fun.

  3. Love this share! Thank you, Dineen. I’ve got tips, tricks and cautions woven within a memoir through Online Dating. Almost sounds as if I’ve got a start to a nice little “pocket guide” pull out. I appreciate you for the advice.

  4. marion says:

    Photo-sharing websites have groups with specific interests. One website has a group posting photos of ancient Egyptian temples. My WIP is set partly in ancient Egypt, so naturally some scenes happen in temples. At some point I hope to post pictures of these temples with captions rererring to my novel. Couldn’t hurt.

    • Sounds fascinating, Marion! What a great way to bring the book to life for your readers. Just be sure you have permission to repost those pictures. I think most would be thrilled to be part of a story but you never know…

      • marion says:

        Sorry I wasn’t clear. I mean my own photos, no one else’s. You’re right, Deneen, we have to respect copyright. After all, we don’t want anyone messing with our copyrighted stuff.

  5. Very cool post!!!! Unsure about my ACFW status this year… but if I go, a big reason will be to go to that CE course! It sounds AMAZING!!!

  6. Thanks for sharing this Dineen. What about geographical areas? Do books set in certain areas like New York or the beach sell better than books set in Kentucky?
    I’ve written a book set on the North Carolina coast and one set around Lexington, KY. If they were similar stories, would one be more attractive to a seller or agent?
    I enjoyed your blog today.
    Jackie L.

    • Jackie, that I’m not sure about. I don’t think one or the other is inherently better. More than likely the way you bring the setting to life in the book will be the judge. If you’re drawn to both find a way to link them together. What common interests do these two locations hold for you, etc. I’m sure you’ll hit upon something.

      • Dineen,
        Thanks for taking time to reply. In my current WIP set in KY I’m bringing horses into the story.
        In my NC stories, I have many scenes on the beach or in boats.
        Thanks again for taking time to answer my question!

  7. Oooh, it’s an interesting concept, as long as, as Lola above said, “authors [don’t] let the marketing potential get in the way of the story, or else the story will just not be that good.” Quite a lot of books have cool extras that are used to raise interest in the story. For example, Kevin J. Anderson’s Terra Incognita series has original soundtracks (with some pretty big artists, even ) for each book. A couple of bloggers recreated a lot of the meals from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and now an official cookbook is being released based on their research. And everyone knows about the multiple spin-off encyclopedias and tales from the Harry Potter universe, and gobbles them up to expand and feed what’s in the original text. I love it when an author knows enough about their story material to write non-fiction articles or give speeches on related topics; if I hear about the non-fiction first, it makes me want to read the novel even more. Why wouldn’t authors want to harvest these opportunity themselves?

  8. I love this, Dineen. A great marketing idea popped into my head while I was reading this. Thanks!

  9. Julia Reffner says:

    I did a massive amount of research for my first WIP and now I’m thinking about how to incorporate this now. Great post!

  10. Zan Marie says:

    Wonderful post! It made me evaluate the roots in my WIP already–foster parents/chrildren and abuse victims. There’s nonficiton articles waiting to happen with those roots.

  11. Since my MS is set in Northern AZ, a friend of mine suggested having Navajo quilts featured in the cover artwork, or using a Navajo artist to do the all of artwork and feature the appropriate websites. (But if I had a book deal, I’d be happy with stick figures on lined paper.)

  12. What a cool idea! I’ll definitely need to keep this in mind. 🙂

  13. Melissa Tagg says:

    p.s. I love the cover of your book!

  14. Melissa Tagg says:

    Oh, I love that idea. I’m just getting started on a new book, so my brain is pinging with ideas right now. Not only is “rooted marketing” an awesome idea, but it shows business acumen, yeah? We’re writers first, sure, but we’ve got to at some point think like business people, too. And it makes so much sense to start early…

  15. I just didn’t write with marketing in mind. The only thing I can think of concerning my novel is that’s it is great for Colorado tourism; especially for Durango which is on of my favorite places in the world. I would rather keep Durango as my little secret than turning it into a tourist trap. :^)

  16. Such a good topic…and wise advice, Dineen! I have a WIP relating to “peacocks in the house of royalty” so your post has me thinking of how could use the info I’ve gathered for an article. Thanks so much!

  17. This is something I think about a lot. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but my manuscript has a strong Christian rock music theme. I’ve known many people who were inspired, encouraged and even saved through Christian rock music. So it seemed natural to have the music play a role like this in my character’s life. It has also become a regular focus on my blog. I like to intersperse Music devotionals among inspirational writings. I recently was blessed to find a collection of testimonies from Gomers—aka Third Day “psycho-fans”—and I have been given the okay by the authors of them to post them on my site once my current series is over. They really show how the music impacted their lives and brought them to Jesus through tough circumstances. Just like my story. It wasn’t meant to be a marketing tool, but it definitely fits in with the theme of the manuscript. And if a few lives are touched by it … Praise God!
    Still, marketing-wise, I would definitely like to explore writing about music for other publications and market to a Christian-rock-loving audience.

    • Connie, sounds like you are on the right path already and doing some amazing things to reach others. Love it! Keep reaching! You’re doing fabulous! I’m a Third Day fan but never heard of Gomers. LOL! I may have to check that out. 🙂

  18. I’ve been creating Spotify playlists of songs mentioned in my books.

    My next book is about women and tattoos, so I’ve been thinking about seeing if I can have it as a tattoo shop waiting room item.

  19. Wonderful ideas! Thanks for the suggestion of thinking about weaving marketable elements in as we write.

  20. Great post!

    I totally didn’t root anything intentionally, but the title and theme of my book is lending itself well to some fun promotional ideas.

    The title of my debut is Wildflowers from Winter and the theme touches on the idea that God can use those barren, cold seasons in our lives to bring about something beautiful.

    So today and tomorrow, I’m doing a Wildflowers from Winter blog hop. Where people are telling their real-life “wildflowers from winter” stories on their blogs. I’m hoping these stories will bless readers, glorify God, and spread some buzz about my debut.

    • Katie, I’ve been watching your posts on all this and think it’s so beautiful—really captures the beauty from ashes theme. I think we can find many things already in our stories. I know these will bless and encourage many on your blog. That’s sharing life’s ups and downs, sharing God’s hope and redemption in the middle of it all, and being real about it. That kind of authenticity is what brings transformation. Love it!

  21. Patti Mallett says:

    This whole idea is great to have in my back pocket as I begin writing about a place I dearly love. You’ve reminded me to do more research on the area, and I have just the book (or will after I hunt through the house).

    At first the whole idea seems a bit overwhelming, but when the idea is to plants seeds to harvest later on, when interacting with the readers, it seems like a natural thing to do.

    Thanks for sharing, Dineen!

    • Patti, the goal of this (and our course in September) is to give authors tools and ideas that will make this doable and not overwhelming. We can’t do it all so why not pick what we want to do and do it well?

  22. Sue Harrison says:

    Thank you for this information, Dineen! My current WIP has a tie-in with musicians, and I play in a country/gospel/bluegrass group. I’m hoping to be able to use this connection to promote the book, and I’m also using a rescued animal connection – with a YOUR PET! blog post each Wednesday.

    When an author can use a “life love” for a marketing base, marketing is not quite so scary and can really be a lot of fun!

    Great Post, Dineen!

  23. You’ve given me a great idea. I’m getting ready to publish a novel that takes place during the duration of a trip across Route 66. The cities and places along the way are all great options for marketing the book.

    I’d rather write the book and then let the marketing fall into place, but alas, I still believe in Santa Claus.

    • Patricia, you crack me up. That’s an awesome idea! I’ve traveled that route and found it fascinating. You could take those locations in your story and do a real feature of each location. Do a series for your blog, submit it to your local paper for the travel section. This route is so rich in detail and Americana! Sounds like a blast to me. 🙂

  24. Jeanne T says:

    Love this idea, Dineen. As I’m writing my first draft, I’ve been trying to come up with creative places for some of the scenes to occur in. Perhaps, that might work for creating rooted marketing opportunities?

    Loved this post today.

    • Jeanne, that sounds like a great idea. Make them locations that you love and have traveled to or make it a wish book! Something you could create as your dream travel book. Or perhaps some common connection between these places—restaurants, the beach, historical aspect. There are so many possibilities. Run with the one that excites you and brings out your passion in the story. 🙂

  25. Great post Rachelle. This has given me some great ideas. I would like to see more post on topics similar to this. I am very interested in different ways to market yourself and build your platform.

  26. CG Blake says:

    Interesting concept here, but I find myself agreeing with Lola. Unless the marketing angle is an organic part of the story there is a risk that it will take the reader out of the story or detract from the essence of the piece. Still, given the right circumstances I suppose it could work. Thanks for this post.

    • You’re right, CG. It does need to be organic. I think we have more to draw upon from our lives and experiences that will not only enrich our stories and characters, but our readers’ lives too.

  27. Donna Pyle says:

    My hats off to you for thinking about marketing as you wrote your manuscript. That is the epitome of trust – knowing it will be published and marketing would be key. Well done and thanks for the great tip!

  28. Natasha says:

    Great ideas! Thanks for this…

  29. Such a wise way to go about this. I love and see much value in preparing the soil.
    ~ Wendy

  30. Sounds like an interesting approach and I def. think it could work.

  31. I think these are great ideas. I’ve thought about setting a book in a national park and seeing if I could sell it in tourists shops in the parks. Or doing a middle grade mystery that involves a field trip to an aquarium and selling it in aquarium gift shops.

    Alaska is full of tourist shops and they all have book racks. If I ever publish a book set in Alaska, I’ll be visiting the distributor up there.

    My children were homeschooled so we did a lot of visits to national parks as we drove our converted school bus around the country, learning geography and history on the road. And at every park I’d buy them a book. I think there are lots of parents and grandparents like me, who want to buy educational gifts in those overpriced shops.

    It goes without saying that the books have to be crafted well and story is king. But you have to set your book somewhere and your character has to have some hobby or some job, so why not be intentional about those things? Why not give the character a hobby you can use later when you market? I think this is really a smart way to go.

    • I agree, Sally. And all that experience you have as a homeschooling mom is invaluable! Sounds like you will have a lot to offer your readers. 🙂

  32. carol brill says:

    I agree with Iola this needs to be crafted carefully so that it does not turn the novel preachy or overtake the story’s true voice

    • You are right, Carol. If we use it to enhance the story and see it as a way to benefit our reader too, I think it’s a win-win. My goal is always to entertain and serve my readers.

  33. Great post. I’ve had fun opportunities to pull from my the Appalachian fiction for blog posts that incorporate music and country living. I’m so thankful to get to write what I love. Congrats on your new book, Dineen! I’m so happy for you. 🙂

    • Thank you, Joanne! I’m excited for your book too. I still can’t get it out of my head after just reading the blurb. I really want to read your book! Hugs!

  34. This is a fantastic idea. I’ve done this with my new series by weaving in hobbies & projects I love. I’m going to start a new website based on one of the character’s websites in my book–all fun stuff I’m passionate about.

  35. Iola says:

    It’s an idea worth considering, but authors can’t let the marketing potential get in the way of the story, or else the story will just not be that good.

    If quilting is relevant to the story, sure, add it in. But don’t add in quilting just so that you can try and market the book to quilting groups.

    On a related topic, I’ve just read a Christian novel that had bookclub discussion guidelines at the back, which is pretty common, and not a problem. But when I got to the four-week study guide based on the novel, I started wondering if the novel was about the story, or about the study guide. Perhaps if the study guide had quoted the Bible more often than it quoted the book…

    • Lola, you make an excellent point. Our stories do need to reflect our passion as do these seeds we plant for later use. The author who used the quilt is an avid quilter and seamstress as well as an amazing writer. I love how she was able to combine two passions and her readers benefited too. 🙂

  36. This is a great idea and marketing tool. I’ll be giving it some thought as I work through my manuscript. Thanks for the tip!

  37. This is a great article and I will be contacting you for permission to repost this on our Author Marketing 101 site.

  38. Daniel says:

    I did something like you suggest. My first novel is about a hypnotist and his use of erotic hypnosis in his relationship. At the back of the book, I included a non-fiction article about erotic hypnosis, and a link to the web site where I sell hypnosis mp3s.

    I was criticized for using the book as a marketing tool to sell my hypnosis recordings.

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