Book Marketing Tip for October 12, 2012

Today’s Book Marketing Tip: Position yourself as the writer who excels at the types of books other writers find difficult.

Writers face tough competition from each other, and the ranks of authors grows rapidly each day. There are about one thousand new books published every day! It is almost impossible to achieve visibility in such a large crowd.

Sadly, most all of these books are redundant. Many read exactly like some other book, and there is little new information being shared. Stories carry old plots, old concepts, and characters we have seen before.

However, once in a great while, someone breaks the mold. An author goes out on a limb. There is a runaway leader. Most importantly, they do better than I just did at avoiding all the old clichés.

These authors write something new, or new ways to write, or simply give a refreshingly delicious twist on a typical plot. They do what other writers have not dared to do.

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Who would have expected a heptalogy of large tomes to succeed as children’s literature? (J.K. Rowling and the folks at Scholastic, that’s who.)

In Harry Potter, for example, J.K. Rowling took the chance on writing a heptalogy made of thick tomes. All the other writers of children’s literature believed that their readers needed shorter books, and episodic series. Rowling decided to write a much longer form. It was tough to write, and certainly tough to market, but once she willed it to happen, books flew off the shelves.

E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey

E.L. James tried her hand at kinky romance, and that resulted in a bestselling book that broke all records for book sales.

Another risky book is Fifty Shades of Grey. Other erotic literature novels have been widely accepted: Story of O, Lolita, and perhaps Anne Rice’s Beauty series, but these never rocketed up the bestseller lists. Perhaps because E. L. James did not set out to create a commercially viable book in the first place, she felt she had the freedom to write a distinctly lurid, disjointed romance that followed none of the conventions of either erotica or romance. It is likely that this uniqueness is what has made it such a success.

The Advenutres of Hucleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Mark Twain broke with many of the tenets of his day that dictated how writers should write novels.

Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in a conversational tone with dialect dialogue. This was unheard of in his day, when most all writers used a much more rigid style. This appealed to more of the working class, which at the time was finding it had more and more free time to read, and a methodically growing literacy rate. Twain made the reader his best friend, putting plot and character before style and literature. This made him perhaps the most famous novelist who ever lived.

Looking Glass by James R. Srickland

Looking Glass by James R. Strickland is one of the titles from Flying Pen Press that goes where few authors dare to tread.

Flying Pen Press publishes Looking Glass by James R. Strickland. This is another unusual book that breaks from the crowd. We market this book as “cyberpunk” science fiction, but it clearly has no “punk” to it. Instead of a story about criminals jacking up the networks, this is about an IT security technician who has to find a serial killer within cyberspace—a killer that uses the Internet as a lethal weapon. Strickland tells his readers that he considers the book to be a “cyberthriller” rather than “cyberpunk.” But that’s not what makes it different.

What makes Looking Glass such an extraordinary book is that Strickland presents new human emotions derived from technology that is not yet currently available but which is fairly close to actual conception. Giving humans new emotions is generally avoided by most authors. Most authors focus on the human condition as it is currently perceived. However, we know that as technology changes society, it changes how we interact, and that changes the way we think and feel and react. It has always been thus. Strickland dives into this field of social science fiction with ease, or at least he makes it look easy. It is this examination of a part of humanity that has yet to be unleashed that makes Looking Glass such a profoundly strong novel.

Also, Strickland is not afraid to let his main character cuss up a storm, as that is her nature as a nearly paranoid schizophrenic, a trait indispensable to her cybersecurity profession. Many writers avoid such flow of profanity, especially the F bomb, but Strickland makes it work as clear narrative. The coarse language illuminates the new social diseases and human frailties Strickland lays bare. Such language may be considered obscene when other authors use it, but Strickland makes nasty words sing with depth and tone.

When authors go where authors are rarely willing to go, it gives them a type of genre to themselves. Such writers strive to break the rules, defy conventions, and delve deeper into storytelling. This is where it is hard for other authors to follow, and this is where truly great storytelling begins.

What conventions are you willing to challenge? What are most other writers avoiding that you can tackle? Find these, attempt these, and open a vein.

So, what conventions are you willing to challenge? What are you able to tackle that frightens other writers?

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About David Rozansky

Publisher of Flying Pen Press; Author's Business Manager; Author of Fishnets & Platforms: The Writers Guide to Whoring Your Book; Aviator; Author; Adventurer.
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2 Responses to Book Marketing Tip for October 12, 2012

  1. I’ve never thought about what I was willing to challenge in terms of my writing – I’ve always just tried to do the best job possible in telling the story I wanted to tell. But I suppose that, buried within that, is the idea that I would tell the story in the manner I want to tell it, as well.

    For me the challenge is to write genre novels as though they were literature. I’m not interested in writing a thrilling page turner where the plot is everything, nor a microscopic examination of the foibles I see in the world as embodied by my very flawed main character. I want to write books that keep people interested in what happens next, but also leaves them thinking about ideas and ideals.

    I want to be as good as LeGuin or Bradbury.

    I may not get there, but the journey may be as valuable as the destination.

    • Folding fine literature into genre fiction is a no-no, we are told, because genre readers generally do not enjoy fine literature. Because this is a risk, most genre readers know well enough not to make genre fiction too intellectual. Just tell a good story; don’t delve too deeply into the human condition. That’s what makes genre fiction “genre.”

      So, when you take such a risk to keep readers thinking about “ideas and ideals,” you are taking that risk. This means that you are going where other readers do not want to go. I commend you on that.

      We often see books that cross from genre fiction to literature gaining great acceptance among the general readers, once the book is noticed and approved by such readers. Because so few writers take this route, it becomes the place where you can excel in a way that other authors can’t (or won’t) compete.

      (For those who do not know her, Robyn McIntyre and I often trade wits and barbs on Twitter, especially during #SciFiChat on Fridays. Her Twitter handle is @RobynMcintyre and her rather thoughtful writing blog is at RobynMcIntyre.wordpress.com.)

      Thank you, Robyn, for the thoughtful comment.

      Keep ‘em Flying,
      David A. Rozansky