Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nonfiction as a Promotional Tool

by Terry Ambrose 

Should I tweet more? Blog more? Use advertising? Stand on a street corner and scream at the world? The options, as well as the opportunities to spend money and time, are endless.

I like to compare today’s publishing world to the California Gold Rush. The comparison fits because the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill brought 300,000 hopefuls to California in search of instant riches. In 2003, 300,000 books were published in the US. By 2011, that number had grown to over three million. Along with the mountain of new titles came writing services—growth of everything from book editing to book creation to promotion services boomed.

Most authors I know are searching for ways to sell more books. And just like those miners who spent their life savings on tools, maps, and services, today’s writers are wondering which tool might be best, which path they should follow, and whether they should advertise or use a promotional service. The opportunities to send out money are far greater than those to bring it in.

One of the options I’ve chosen to increase my name recognition and build a platform is through writing for an online news source. I write a column about crime fiction for And, in fact, I’ve featured several of the authors on Crime Fiction Collective. I mention this because, right now, I want to extend an open invitation to contact me the next time any of them would like a little extra coverage. That, however, is off point. The point is why I think the online news source route is the right one for me.

Write on demand
When taking on an assignment for an online news source, there are expectations that you’ll actually produce news stories. For me, this means writing to deadlines that I establish. Once that deadline has been set, I feel pressure to meet it.

Sharpen your writing skill 
In addition to deadlines, an online news source may have length requirements for articles. Unlike less structured forms of writing, I realized that my words had to fit in a box of a certain size, which took some getting used to. But, over time, I started thinking differently about what I wrote and how I wrote it. The process became easier and as that happened, I also noticed that I could craft better fiction more quickly.

Name recognition

I’m still amazed when I go somewhere and meet someone new and they tell me that they follow my news stories. The topic you choose will affect your visibility and name recognition. Therefore, you want to think carefully about what topics you choose to write about. However, there’s another type of name recognition that has come with the columns that I chose and that has to do with industry professionals. By writing about fiction, I’ve met and established relationships with people I never would have met had I followed a different path.

Who should write for an online news source?
Is this approach for everyone? Absolutely not. If your interest is in blogging and conveying your own opinions and not in reporting, this is not for you. However, I’ve found that writing online news has helped me in many ways—some of which I didn’t foresee. And, it’s a chance to spread my reach while bringing money in, not sending it out.

What do you think? Is this a good approach for you? Do you have questions about how to get started? What’s worked for you?
Terry Ambrose ( started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. In addition to writing fiction, Terry also writes three columns for His debut novel is “Photo Finish,” a Hawaiian mystery. Deborah Coonts, author of "So Damn Lucky", the latest in the Lucky O'Toole Vegas Adventure Series called it “a mystery as refreshing as a visit to the islands themselves." Terry’s new release is “License to Lie,” a suspense novel. Hank Phillippi Ryan, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity award-winning author called it a “smart and twisty tale of high finance and double dealing.”


  1. Thanks for your post, Terry.

    I read that when choosing how to market, you are far ahead of the game if you understand your strengths and use those in the best way possible. I learned after my radio interview, for example, that my voice ain't half bad. It would probably be a good idea for me to try some podcasts or other "audio" marketing options. I just haven't quite had the time to figure out how to put those together.

    It sound as if you have the perfect vehicle—for you—through your news reporting. Congratulations!

  2. Thanks for posting with us! I wrote for the Register-Guard part-time and I not only loved my job, it gave me a lot of great exposure. I've also published articles in The Writer and Mystery Scene, which is even broader exposure.

  3. Hi Peg, that's really great that you've got a voice that would work for that sort of thing. The technology, of course, always has a learning curve, but knowing that audio is an option is pretty cool.

    LJ, you're right, those are some pretty good places to get exposure!

    I really enjoy the chance to investigate new things and meet new people through that outlet, so it's a good fit for me.

  4. I've discovered that the key to good marketing is to love what you do. If you love writing articles, it will show and translate into recognition. Love writing blog posts? Same thing applies. Follow your passion, your instincts, and the rest will follow and fall into place.

  5. Good point, Drew. If you're not liking what you're doing, it does come through!

  6. I appreciate the insights - and the offer. I do a lot of non-fiction writing, and editing. Your route wouldn't work for me (since you asked) since I'm not a reporter-type. Deadlines aren't a problem, nor research. I actually did a bit of journalism back when my beard didn't have any white - actually, when I didn't have a beard.

    Thanks for the post. I learned something. (Now if I could learn how to get my little picture in here.:)

  7. Thanks for the comment, Daniel. I agree that this option isn't for everyone. Since you do a lot of non fiction writing and editing, you might want to look at options there for exposure. Are there ways you could turn that work into some sort of promotional/exposure opportunity? (or perhaps you're already doing this)

  8. I think your analogy to the Gold Rush is a good one. Will CreateSpace be the Levi-Strauss of our eBook era? I appreciated your advice about seeking writing opportunities not related to your fiction. Do your Examiner pieces identify you as a novelist?

    A.S. Clarke


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