Book Marketing Now: S.B. Divya
S.B. DIVYA, Hugo and Nebula-nominated author and editor, shares the marketing strategies for her new post-human space opera, MERU, the nuances of a sci-fi audience, and the power of pre-pub buzz.
Welcome back to Book Marketing Now, a monthly feature of Books, Marketing, & More where I share interviews with writers about their marketing and publishing journey as they share the inside scoop on releasing books into the current market!
Other past interviews and insights here!
The big questions it asks get even bigger, encompassing the nature of community and what it means to belong to each other. Meru proves a worthy addition to the canon of post-human space epics. — Washington Post
If you’ve been following this newsletter for awhile, you know that science fiction is my happy place. So, I am utterly thrilled to share this guest interview with Hugo and Nebula award-nominated author, S.B. Divya. A former editor of the award-winning science fiction podcast, Escape Pod, and author of two sci-fi novels, Divya is also a prolific short fiction writer. Her latest accomplishment? Her novellette, “Two Hands Wrapped in Gold”, a stirring, remixed fairytale, has been nominated for a 2023 Nebula!
Divya’s new book, Meru, is a space opera (!!) exploring the complex nuances of society, intelligence, and humanity. Here, she shares the nuances of marketing Meru and her works in general: pinpointing specific audiences within a genre; the benefits of Amazon promotions; and using excerpts and expertise to connect with readers.
How did you initially market Meru to your agent/publisher? Was that different from your pitch for your first novel, Machinehood?
I first spoke to my agent about Meru before we had even sold Machinehood. I had the kernel of the idea already and wanted to run it by her, and luckily she was fully on board. With Machinehood, I didn’t talk to my agent about it at all. I just wrote it and handed her a (fairly terrible) first draft with the question: If I can fix this up, do you think you can sell it? She acknowledged that it would need a lot of work, but she did think it was saleable.
What has been your marketing strategy now that you’re marketing to readers?
The approach to publishers and readers has been quite different for each book. In the case of Machinehood, we pushed the thriller aspects as well as the strong artificial intelligence component. The latter was particularly important for publicity, too, since I have a background in engineering and have studied and worked on AI algorithms.
For Meru, however, we emphasized the space opera angle, since that’s a subgenre that a lot of science fiction readers are familiar with. It’s also one that publishers are usually looking for because there’s a larger audience for it compared to other types of science fiction.
Can we talk a bit more about that audience? What are the best ways you’ve found to reach them?
My audience is mostly comprised of science fiction readers who like big ideas, fast paced plots, strong characterization, and lots of “science-y stuff.” I play around with gender and non-Western cultures, and I tend to go heavy on world building, too. In terms of demographics, I’m aiming the books at adults, but I think they’d be fine for mature teenagers too.
I’ve found that appearing on panels and podcasts has helped with reaching my ideal audience. People are often intrigued by my science and engineering background as well as my views on the future, and that leads them to pick up my books. For both writing and speaking, I like to take the approach of getting people to question their assumptions, and I don’t usually provide easy answers. Not everyone enjoys this, but the ones who do tend to really like my books.
I know the pandemic had a profound effect on your health and you’ve published two novels in the shadow of COVID-19. How have these changes influenced your approach to marketing?
For both novels, but especially for Machinehood, which came out in March of 2021, I’ve tried to do a lot of promotion and marketing online. This includes virtual bookstore appearances, podcasts, Clubhouse meetings, giveaways on social media, and other ways to get the books in front of people virtually.
With Meru, I’ve been able to do a little more in person marketing, like bookstore events and conventions, both of which I greatly enjoy. Unfortunately, due to complications from Long Covid, I don’t have as much energy as I used to for these more physically present activities, so I’m grateful that many of the virtual events from pandemic times are ongoing.
What marketing efforts seem to have driven the most interest in your book?
With Meru, I was lucky to have it listed as part of Amazon’s First Reads program a month before its release. This meant that the ebook was available for free to Amazon Prime Members (and deeply discounted for everyone else), which built up a lot of momentum in terms of reviews and ratings. It also meant that the book hit #1 in a couple science fiction subgenres (Hard SF and Space Opera), which gave it some extra visibility. Not everyone who tried the book during the promotion liked it, but about 75% percent gave it 4 or 5 stars, and the vast majority of them had not read any of my previous books.
I’ve also found that having an excerpt posted online, especially at a well visited site like tor.com or Barnes & Noble, can really help bring the book to the attention of a wider audience. People definitely like to get a taste for the writing style and the main character before they commit to buying a book.
Finally, is there a tea that has helped you get through the marketing process!
Yogi Throat Comfort tea is my go-to choice. I do a good number of podcast interviews as part of my book promotions, so my throat gets pretty dry and scratchy. This tea not only tastes delicious and is caffeine free, but it keeps my vocal cords going through these long conversations.
Follow S.B. Divya:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Mastadon
To order Meru:
Bookshop.org | Barnes & Noble | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon
S.B. Divya (she/any) is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She is the Hugo and Nebula nominated author of Meru and Machinehood. Her stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and she a former editor of Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast. Divya holds degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing. Find her on Twitter or at www.sbdivya.com.
Support S.B. Divya and other authors publishing in these here pandemic-y times by following, reposting, sharing, reviewing, requesting, and/or reading their books (and buying when you can)!
Happy reading & writing!
Writer & Marketing Coach
Keep Writing, Keep Connecting! Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Website
Allison Pottern Hoch has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and as a writing/marketing coach for authors. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea.
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