Content Marketing Interview with Simon Fairbanks, Fantasy Author and Content Strategist

Today I’m chatting to Simon Fairbanks, who won a writing competition I judged recently.

Simon is a content strategist for Pickle Jar Communications. In this interview, he explains how content strategy can help your writing and your book sales.

Tell me about your writing.

I write fantasy novels and short stories.

Tell me about your day job.

I am a content strategist for Pickle Jar Communications. They’re an international consultancy for the education sector. We help schools, colleges and universities with digital strategy for marketing and communications. This includes creative web content, social media planning, and content strategy.

What is content strategy?

There are many definitions. I have quite a long one. Are you ready?

At Pickle Jar Communications, we define content strategy as the process of supporting organisational goals by planning, creating, distributing and maintaining content in a way that is useful and usable to the audience, and understandable and adaptable to machines and intelligent systems.

Do you have your own definition?

Good content is story. Good content strategy is story-telling.


An effective content strategy gets the most from a story by thinking about the best way to tell it. Who is the story-teller? Where are we telling the story? How is it being told? When is it being told? Are we telling too much or too little? Who will enjoy our story the most?

As a content strategist, I ask these questions and make each story as impactful as possible. Happily, the education sector has a lotof good stories.

How does content strategy help your writing?

In so many ways!

The above questions that I ask as a content strategist, are the same questions I ask myself as a writer. 

For instance, who is the story-teller?

I always consider which is the most effective narrative viewpoint when writing a scene. For my novels, The Sheriff and The Curse of Besti Bori, I write in closely-written third person and frequently head-hop between characters. This ensures I am delivering the most dramatic perspective.

Also, how is it being told? 

I have written short stories in lots of different formats. My collections, Breadcrumbs and Boomsticks, contain stories that are first-person, third-person, dialogue-heavy, description-heavy, interwoven with flashbacks, top-and-tailed with a framing device, told through rhyming couplets, and more. I adapt my approach to make the story as engaging as possible, just as I would with content.

Finally, are we telling too much or too little?

In the education sector, some stories require a video to be told in full, but others simply require a single tweet. Similarly, when writing fiction, I will use the length that is most appropriate for the story. This is why I have written stories of such varying length: novels, novellas, short stories and flash fiction. I never try to overwrite or underwrite a story to fit a particular length.

How does content strategy help your book marketing?

Again, in so many ways. I’ll give you some examples.

Firstly, audience

The Pickle Jar definition above describes the importance of content being “useful and usable to the audience.” 

Audience is a key consideration when marketing a book. Writers have to identify their target market and finds ways to approach them. There is no point writing a guest post on a crime blog if I want people to buy my fantasy novel. 

“Usable” is also an important consideration. I take great care in ensuring that my e-book and paperbacks have been formatted correctly, stripping out broken hyperlinks and checking page numbers. Otherwise, a reader won’t be able to navigate my story, they may post a bad review, and my book marketing will suffer.

Secondly, planning and distribution.

This is mentioned in the definition too. Planning the timing of your book marketing is crucial. I am currently writing a Halloween novel. People are more likely to buy that novel in October, as Halloween approaches, so I plan to save my marketing investment until then.

As for distribution, I ensure my books are distributed widely for all devices: Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Apple, as well as paperback. This makes them accessible for a wider audience, which again helps my book marketing.

Finally, supporting goals.

In the education sector, we always ensure our content strategies fulfil the goals of our school and university clients. 

The same should be true of book marketing. It should fulfil your goals as a writer. For instance, if you goal is to make money, you will need to market heavily, probably investing your own money into digital advertising. 

However, if your goal is to amass a collection of glowing reviews from respected book bloggers then you could approach them directly with an informal email, politely offering them a free copy.

Any final words?

If you know of a school, college, students’ union or university which would benefit from digital communications support, then Pickle Jar Communications would love to hear from you. We always welcome informal chats about websites, social media, digital strategy, training, and more.

Oh, and please buy my books!

Thanks to Simon for your tips on content marketing.

You can read more about Pickle Jar Communications on their website. They have an active blog and you will find three cute dogs on their team page! You can also follow them on Twitter.

You can read more about Simon’s writing projects on his website. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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