Help Desk: Your novel IS a consumer packaged good

You’re at your favorite supermarket. There are aisles and aisles of edible perishables, but your job is to pick up some staples – milk, butter, bread, and maybe some breakfast cereal. But of course, you can’t leave the store without your favorite goodie.

You walk up and down the aisles, but you can’t find it.  Frustrated, yes, but you will not leave without it.   You see a store clerk and ask about its whereabouts.  The clerk says they moved it to the middle of the center aisle.  They’ve positioned your favorite, and obviously, everyone’s ideal comfort consumable to move some of the unpopular products.  No matter which side of the aisle you enter, you must pass by a lot of other goods to get it to it.

Now that’s power.

How did this product become empowered to practically fly off the shelves, taking with it other less desirable products?  The answer is simple. You and everyone else has been seduced by its packaging.  Your favorite goodie is packaged to be desirable first, so it will become a lifetime habit.


Think about it. The fact that it’s so popular and we’re so human means this product feels like an intimate hug wrapped in (fill in the blank).  How does it taste? Smell? What’s the texture? – How does it feel in your hands? Does it fit perfectly between your fingertips?  Do you rub your fingers together after consuming it to brush away the crumbs or do you put it to the tip of your nose for one last whiff of the delectable treat before it’s all gone?

What are the dominant colors?  What colors did the designer select to accent and highlight the package to communicate? Is it sealed, to heighten your anticipation when you attempt to open it?   Can you re-seal it once you have one or two, or does it remain open as to entice you to finish the whole package in one sitting?

“Look at me, Look at me!”

Finally, how does it introduce itself?      

“The Kid in you remembers”, “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever”, “Because You’re Worth it”

OK, those memorable lines belong to snack and beauty products, but isn’t your novel a consumable treat for the mind?   Why aren’t taglines such as those used to communicate to your audience what’s in it for them (WIIFM)?

So many novelists don’t realize their book is a consumer product package with benefits.  Look up the definition of consumer product package – you will see the similarities between a novel and let’s say L’Oreal cosmetics or Little Debbie baked goods.

For example, think about your last reader’s description of your book?

‘Satisfying, so good, intriguing, riveting tantalizing.’  Did she follow-up with, “I devoured your book, I want more”?

Take cues from your readers.  They may not have to open a box or tear open a bag to get to your novel, but they will devour it like it’s a Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pie.

Think like a Con Artist

Determine what you’re really selling and market it.  Does your novel send a message of hope, determination, courage, and protection, et al.?

Instead of trying and failing miserably at marketing a novel like non-fiction book that uses facts as a selling point, promote the experience, the feeling it produces or the lesson it imparts.  Promote a message that will set it apart from the 50,000 * other novels published each year.

Marketing gurus called this term Unique Selling Proposition.  Don’t get caught up in the name, however, just find out what is at the heart of your novel and promote the heck out of it.


*Bowker (Books in Print) reports 50,498 fiction titles were traditionally published in 2013.  Self-published titles take that number higher. Bowker reports 1 million titles were non-traditional publications.

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