Lady leaves baby on top of car roof
Man steals kitchen appliances and heads to Mexico
Woman grows lavender to fund a horse ranch
Newspaper headlines can be sensational, their purposes begging us to read more. Likewise, we want our novels to be eye-catching, causing readers to want more.
Without being cheesy or over-the-top, you can tactfully use current events to sell your story. In fact, many authors get their book ideas by reading the paper.
Last winter I watched a documentary on the National Geographic Channel and within minutes had a story to tell. Inspired by Mose Gingerich, an ex-Amish in Missouri, I wrote Still Life in Shadows, a modern-day inspirational story about a man who not only leaves his Old Order lifestyle, but helps dissatisfied youth do the same. I was intrigued by Mose’s encounters and struggles as a “free man”. With so much romantic bonnet-fiction being written these days, I wanted to do something different: introduce readers to a more realistic side of the Anabaptist farmlands.
Here’s how using current events helped me promote my novel and how you can use these tips to find ways to market your next book.
1. Network: When the ten-week documentary Amish: Out of Order was scheduled to come on TV, I used the situation to create a buzz about my novel. A journalist who had interviewed Mose Gingerich interviewed me in the Columbia Daily Tribune. I shared the news clip of my interview on social network sites and invited my readers to watch the upcoming TV episodes. After the first aired, many wrote to tell me their feelings about the shunning of ex-Amish youth. I even got in contact with Mose! And yes, some pre-ordered my novel.
2. Blog: Write about how you came up with your novel idea and ask to be a guest on others’ blogs. Find interesting facts – especially little known ones – and incorporate them into one of your posts. Have a weekly blog post about your book’s topic that relates to what is happening around the events in the news. Don’t be afraid to be controversial.
3. Become an expert: This means doing research. Fall in love with your topic or otherwise the desire to become better educated won’t be there. Since mine is the ex-Amish community, not only do I watch the documentaries on TV, but I have attended library events focused on the Amish. When I wrote A Wedding Invitation, I’d worked in a refugee camp so I had a considerable amount of knowledge about Amerasians – displaced children from Vietnam – to add to my story. I continued my education about them and was able to include more details in my work of fiction.
4. Continue to follow stories: Each time there is an update or new article, opinion piece or something related to your novel’s topic, highlight it and pass it along to your social network sites. The opinion might be totally opposite of yours – that doesn’t matter – use it to get your novel into the limelight.
5. Learn to laugh: No matter what your novel is about and how you came to write it, or which event you used, no one wants boring. So learn to laugh at yourself and look for fun ways you can get the buzz about your book going. Don’t neglect the humor to keep your readers wanting to read more about who you are and what you write. Although A Wedding Invitation has sad situations based on the lives of refugees from war-torn countries, there is the mishap of going to the wrong wedding. I let that scenario stimulate funny discussions with my readers, too.
So pick up your paper or turn on your TV to capture the current events. Then weave your own story around one to produce a novel everyone wants to read.
Alice J. Wisler lives and writes in Durham, NC. She’s the au / thor of five novels, the newest – Still Life in Shadows – coming out this August from River North. She also teaches online grief workshops and speaks across the country at seminars and conferences. Read about her work at http://www.alicewisler.com and at her Patchwork Quilt Blog: http://www.alicewisler.blogspot.com.