Alternative Ways to Sell Fiction

sell fiction

If you expand your marketing activity to include sales through venues other than bookstores, you are more likely to reach your target buyers where and when they shop.

Many authors of fiction have learned that selling their work can be challenging. But if you look beyond the bookstore, you’ll find that many alternative sales opportunities exist. In this post, I’ll present examples of potential market segments that could be lucrative for you. This is by no means an exclusive list, but can be a catalyst to get you started.

Target readers

A basic tenet for selling anything is to first know your target market. No one can market to “everybody,” so consider the “Five Ws” to describe people who could buy your fiction:

  • Who is the typical reader you had in mind when you wrote your book? Is the person male or female? In what age group?
  • Where do they shop? This is where you need to have your book available.
  • When do they buy? Is there a holiday or a special seasonal period?
  • What do they buy (printed books, eBooks, audiobooks)?
  • Why do they buy? Are they seeking a relaxing message? An enjoyable way to pass time on a plane or beach?

It is helpful to group your marketing activities under two major topics: 1) where to sell your book and 2) how to promote it.

Where can you sell your book?

Retail stores. Bookstores are retailers, but there are many other retail establishments that sell books and, in most cases, fiction outsells nonfiction. Examples include airport stores, supermarkets, gift shops, discount stores, and specialty stores. Ask the store buyers who their distribution partners are. Your current distributor may already be selling to them.

Gift shops of all types have books for sale. These shops are located in hotels, hospitals, airports, national parks, museums, and more. Event Network has stores at many destinations throughout the United States and Canada, including zoos and aquariums, historic sites, museums, botanical gardens, and art museums.

Museums offer unique opportunities. The Science Fiction Museum, for instance, sponsors the Horace Awards, hosts workshops, and sells books.

Many national parks have gift shops that sell books. Eastern National operates more than 150 units of the National Park Service in the Eastern United States. The Western National Parks Association is the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service and its 67 national parks in the western United States.

Display-marketing companies like Collective Goods (formerly Books Are Fun) buy large, non-returnable quantities of books directly from publishers at discounts of up to 80%. Then they sell them directly to consumers through displays at the buyers‘ locations in schools and corporations.

Fiction bookstores online. In addition to the major online bookstores, seek niche stores specializing in fiction. Turn the Page Bookstore offers a full selection of popular fiction, Historical Romances Online sells many genres of fiction, Online Novels promotes itself as “The world’s largest portal to original novels, short stories, and poetry.”

Niche physical bookstores. Sell your science fiction through stores such as the Crime and Space bookstore, the House of Science Fiction, Mysterious Galaxy, and Sentry Box, “a Mecca for those interested in fantasy, science fiction, or military games, books, and miniatures.”

Libraries. You may be working through a library wholesaler, but if not, you can contact libraries directly. Find a list of contact information for all U.S. public libraries at

Reading groups. There are people who meet in small groups to read and discuss books – primarily fiction. Reading Group Choices sends a quarterly catalog recommending books to many of these groups, and you can get your book listed in their catalog. Also, Sarah’s Bookshelves is a book recommendation blog “with a list that contains old and new books of various genres that I think have wide appeal and provide compelling discussion topics for your book club.”

Local fairs. Sell books at local events such as craft fairs, gift shows, and holiday celebrations. You can sell autographed books on a non-returnable basis at full price, and you may find the networking beneficial. You can also get increased exposure, since some events attract 5,000 or more attendees. Display your books with other authors to share the costs and have some fun. Find lists of local craft and book fairs near you at

How you will promote your book?

There are many public-relations activities that can reach people in your target markets as frequently and inexpensively as possible. Most media exposure is free, so you can get maximum coverage on a limited budget.

Book reviews. In addition to the major book reviewers, seek reviews from those who specialize in fiction: Danny Yee’s Book Reviews accommodates most fiction genres, The Copperfield Review is “a journal for readers and writers of historical fiction,” Christian Book Previews previews and reviews Christian books, and Bella Online features books by Jewish authors and topics. The Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal Romance site reviews books and has interviews with authors in the paranormal romance genre. There’s also Best Reviews for paranormal romance and Black Gate magazine for reviews of science fiction.

Some award competitions specialize in small, independent, and self-publishers. The Eric Hoffer Book Award recognizes excellence in art, general fiction, commercial fiction, children, young adult, culture, business, reference, home, health/self-help/religion, and legacy books. The American Book Fest Awards were established to recognize meritorious works by writers who self-published or had their books published by a small press or independent book publisher. The National Indie Excellence® Awards (NIEA) competition “is open to all English language printed books available for sale, including small presses, mid-size independent publishers, university presses, and self-published authors. The Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) honors the efforts of small press publishers in providing a critical venue for short fiction in the area of speculative fiction.

Others include the World Fantasy Awards; Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction; the annual The Otherwise Award (formerly the Tiptree Award), given to the work of science fiction or fantasy which best explores or expands gender roles; and the Gaylactic Network Spectrum Awards, which honor works in science fiction, fantasy, and horror which include positive explorations of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered characters, themes, or issues.

Television and radio shows. Could your story serve as the basis for a TV show? Contact Beyond Scared Straight, the series that profiles unique crime prevention programs aimed at deterring troubled teens from jail. Or, be the guest on a show such as Authors On The Air Global Radio Network, a digital radio talk show network that introduces authors and their books to readers and listeners worldwide.

Join associations. Associations offer the opportunity to network with other fiction authors, enter award competitions, speak at events, and sell your books in their online bookstores. Some examples include Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the Horror Writers Association, Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society and the Romance Writers of America.

Participate in communities and forums such as the Artemis Society International, the Planetary Society, and Speculative Vision Science Fiction and Fantasy.

If you expand your marketing activity to include sales through venues other than bookstores, you are more likely to reach your target buyers where and when they shop. Your enhanced promotion activity will maximize your exposure, readership, and word-of-mouth advertising. As a result, you can increase your sales, revenue, and profits from selling your fiction in ways you might not have otherwise thought of.

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  1. Very helpful article as I am an indie in my seventies and just published a second novel in the UK. Have learnt to ask myself, ‘What is the worst that can happen?’ when I ask a shop to sell my book.


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