Write to Market: Deliver a Book that Sells by Chris Fox
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer
K.M. Shea — or Kitty — loved the old stories of King Arthur and fairy tales when she was younger, but she always wondered what the stories were like from a girl’s point of view.
When Kitty embarked on her author career, she was traditionally minded, collecting more than 50 rejections before deciding to self-publish. Her first book did okay, she says, but when she released a retelling of the old Robin Hood tales and it did better than her first book, she knew she was on to something. So she followed up with a retelling of King Arthur from a girl’s point of view. The response was greatly encouraging, she says.
Kitty decided to continue with the King Arthur stories, but not before wrapping up a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which eventually became the first book of her popular Timeless Fairy Tales series. She is currently working on Book 8, based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty. She’s also written a two-book series called The Snow Queen that serves as a prequel to her Timeless Fairy Tales series and connects the worlds together.
Her next book will be Book 7 in her King Arthur and Her Knights series.
The Benefits of Retelling a Familiar Story
One of the biggest benefits of retelling a familiar story is that the audience is already there. Title recognition is a big factor in discoverability, and readers are more willing to take a chance on something familiar.
It’s important, Kitty cautions, to do your research and understand what your targeted audience is looking for. While fans of Jane Austen might be more open to creative iterations of their beloved stories, including modern settings, fans of King Arthur require all the set pieces of a castle, knights, and magic, and would be less likely to cross over to a King Arthur story set in, say, 2075.
It’s also important to develop your own brand of fiction, a style that your fans will love and grow to expect from you. Kitty’s stories always include humor, strong protagonists, and a happy ending. Because of this, many of her fairy tale fans have crossed over to her original work on the strength of her storytelling.
Marketing Timeless Tales
So far, most of Kitty’s growth has been organic, although she just started getting into Facebook ads. Having a pre-existing audience out there that’s already interested in the tales that she’s telling is one huge factor, she says, but she says she owes a lot to her readers, who she calls her Champions, who are wonderful about writing reviews and telling other readers about her work. When she was younger, Kitty wrote to a few authors that she loved and never heard back, so she really felt it was important to build personal relationships with her readers, which is why she regularly connects with her readers through her newsletter, blog, and Facebook.
While she doesn’t operate a standard street team that receives advanced copies of her books for reviews, Kitty does “unlock” freebie stories and chapters related to her current book each time she accumulates 25 reviews over all platforms, which her readers really appreciate.
Another big factor, she says, is her prolificness. Kitty says that it’s typical for readers of Romance and YA to expect lots of stories and often, much more than, say, mystery readers. Also, frequent releases help boost the algorithm and increase her discoverability.
“What I found is basically as fast as I can release them, as long as they’re quality, my readers will be super happy and they will continue to do super well. So really, the defining factor isn’t necessarily are they going to get sick of them, as much as, can I keep the quality up and not go crazy.”
Advice to New Authors
Go back and listen to as many episodes of RSP as you can. The more authors you listen to, the more likely you are to innovate and come up with your own thing that will really work with your stories. You’ll also pick up industry standards for what you should probably be doing.
Keep in mind that 90 percent of the marketing decisions you make will be done before you write your book. It really pays to do your research and understand what your audience is looking for in terms of characters, genre, and tropes, so that you can deliver what they truly want.
- Check out some of the more popular YouTube personalities and take notes on how they treat their followers in order to develop your own rabid following.
- Look at common entrepreneurial practices to see what might translate well into your own career. A good place to start is business podcasts. (Staff recommendation: The Smart Passive Income Podcast with Pat Flynn.)
- Try your hand at retelling an old tale in your own flavor. Be sure to make sure the stories you are retelling are in the public domain. According to Wikipedia (which includes a nice list of popular public domain tales), “Every book and tale written prior to 1787 is under public domain (or in most countries 1945)….”
What famous tale would you love to retell or read a retelling of?
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