Promoting fiction

Dear Editor, So, when should I begin building my promotional platform?—Kathryn

For fiction? Screw platform.

Focus on your story.

Donald Maass and Lisa Rector talked about this in our interview, pilule and what they said makes a lot of sense: the platform thing is a bit blown out of proportion regarding fiction.

Some publishers are even writing articles now about the fact that online presence accounts for, actually, quite a small percentage of overall sales.

You know what sells in fiction? A gripping idea that plugs into the collective social consciousness of a certain time and place. The Twilight books do not sell on the quality of the writing. They do not sell because Stephenie Meyer was all over the web before she started querying agents. They do not sell because vampires were a fresh and new take on love stories.

They sell because she hit the right note between current popular genres in our culture—paranormal, specifically vampire, and romance—and a new angle—YA. And once she hit that note, she sustained it. She hasn’t tried anything new. She just keeps giving her readers what they expect. (I’m guessing she also got an agent in her corner who really knows the ropes.)

Now, I don’t necessarily recommend trying to be Stephenie Meyer. I think she should learn her craft. But you can learn your craft AND do what she’s doing right, and then you’ll have published fiction to be proud of.

What’s your novel? Mystery? Romance? Thriller? Fantasy? Sci fi? Horror? Historical? Adventure? As we’ve seen from the rise of romance in this time of economic catastrophe, love stories fit in pretty much anywhere. Everyone wants that little extra thrill. Mix romance with any of the other popular genres, ask yourself, “What is nobody else doing with this genre right now?” and use that as your jumping-off point for story.

Then focus on your protagonist(s) and make them the most interesting, human, multi-faceted, deeply motivated character(s) you possibly can. Give them intense, overriding needs: finding love, fighting danger, restoring justice to an unjust world. They will tell you what their story is about.

Create a rock-solid plotline out of that. An unexpected hook. Hair-raising conflicts and complications. A climax like electrocution. You know the drill.

Then spend a long, long, long, loooooong time enjoying every minute of writing that story scene-by-scene, development-by-development. Luxuriate in it. Wallow in it. Fill your mind with your imaginary universe, roll around in it, get it all over you.

Forget about the life of a marketer.

You’re not a marketer. You’re a writer.