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Writer’s Platform: Writing About Your Novel’s Subject Matter

The experts–and I use that term cautiously–tell authors not to write posts, tweets, and Facebook updates that say, one way or another, “Buy my book.” Why not? For one thing, it’s SPAM insofar as others are concerned. For another thing, it’s boring.

I think the experts are right when they say prospective readers won’t flock to your blog or Facebook page if all you’re doing is running a series of advertisements. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that most readers of popular fiction are drawn to mainstream novels because they’re interested in a novel’s location, the careers/hobbies of the characters, or the various tie-ins the novel has to old myths and legends.

Most of us buy books for a compelling story. I read a fair number of black ops books. Right now, I’m reading Agent in Place by Mark Greaney. I picked it up at a CVS and thought it looked interesting. I wasn’t attracted to it because I’m a student of guns, spies, conspiracies, or anything else related to the plot of the thriller. I think a lot of readers are like me in this respect.

We see a few reviews, we hear friends talking about what they’re reading, and we read the back covers of the novels we see in the local Barnes & Noble. I doubt that many of us consider ourselves experts in the subject matter itself except, perhaps, in historical novels where we like certain time periods and dynasties.

So why do the experts tell us to write about the subject matter behind our novels? Obviously, they think that we’re writing for people who like certain subjects and might tend to read novels about those subjects. I can see that readers might choose novels about witchcraft or political intrigue or rogue lawyers. Yes, they may find an unknown author’s novel by using search terms focused on the subject matter and discover his/her novel in the process.

While this seems logical, my experience is that very few of the readers who come to this blog and read about the hero’s journey, hoodoo subject matter, or magic ever purchase my books related to those subjects. They read the blog, enjoy a few hundred words about a subject they like, and then move on. That’s to be expected because most fiction readers buy books by authors they’ve already heard of.

I’m not a typical reader. I buy black ops books and I buy magical realism books. I suspect many readers are like this: they have likes that nobody suspects. Yet, the marketing gurus have to tell little-known writers something. They tell me to write posts about hoodoo, magic, 1950s racism, and Florida. So that’s what I do, but not because I think those who read those posts will zoom out to Amazon to buy my novels. I write posts about those subjects because I’m interested in them.

It’s gratifying to see–from this blog’s statistics–that a fair number of readers have been lured to Malcolm’s Round Table to read those posts. I read similar posts on other people’s blogs and get a lot out of them. In fact, finding readers for our posts is almost as good as finding readers for our novels. We’re exchanging facts and ideas, and that’s a good thing.

As a writer doing research, I love finding blogs and websites created by people who believe in their subjects and freely give away information and ideas. I compare such information to Wikipedia, peer-reviewed books about the subjects, and professional websites hosted by museums, societies, and foundations. One has to double-check everything. But those who offer information for free on their blogs have my respect and admiration. Many hope that I will click on the Amazon links to their books, but as a poor, starving author, I can’t buy from everyone!

I wish I could. I’m often tempted. Yet, months or years later, I see novels by those blog posters and recognize their names. I read the blurb on the Amazon listing or, in bricks and mortar store, the back cover of the book. And I think, “I’ve seen this author’s name somewhere before.” So I buy the book. That’s what most of us hope will happen even if it takes a while.

–Malcolm

 

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