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.



The Paramecium Papers

Blog feedback from a feral study group in Dubuque indicates that my focus here on the Round Table has been insanely misguided for years. Or, perhaps it’s an insane study group and my posts have been too feral for everyday people.

Study group spokesperson Vixen Galore said, “Malcolm–I hope you don’t mind if I use your first name–you need a niche. You’re all over God’s multicolored earth here with your posts. After all, you’re writing this blog in hopes of attracting readers to your books, right?”

“Sort of, Vix, but I don’t have a niche because I don’t know who those prospective readers are.”

“You better find out. But first, find something fresh and new and write ground breaking posts about it day after bloody day until the cows come home. My feral advice is paramecia. You’ll have people kicking in your front door in nothing flat.”

Suddenly, perhaps because I’ve been watching tennis matches at Indian wells while drinking moonshine, that advice makes sense. If things go well, I might even change the name of the blog to The Paramecium Papers.

What is a Paramecium?

For those of you who haven’t thought about these cute little critters since your grade school biology class, here’s the definition from Wikipedia: “Paramecium (also Paramoecium) (/ˌpærəˈmʃəm, –ˈmʃiəm, –ˈmsiəm/ parr-ə-MEE-sh(ee-)əmparr-ə-MEE-see-əm) is a genus of unicellular ciliates, commonly studied as a representative of the ciliate group. Paramecia are widespread in freshwaterbrackish, and marine environments and are often very abundant in stagnant basins and ponds. Because some species are readily cultivated and easily induced to conjugate and divide, it has been widely used in classrooms and laboratories to study biological processesIts usefulness as a model organism has caused one ciliate researcher to characterize it as the “white rat” of the phylum Ciliophora.

Since there a billions of these suckers in water, chances are there are millions of them inside you. For all we know, there may even be more of them in your favorite bottled water than the microscopic chips of plastic that today’s news told us about.

The downside is this: we don’t really know what they want (the paramecia hordes, not the pieces of plastic). That being the case, my mission here–my new niche–will be to teach you how to develop your psychic powers so that you can communicate with the so-called white rats of the Ciliophora phylum. So far, it appears that they want most of us to stay more hydrated than we do and to stop killing them by boiling our water or adding chemicals to it.

The other downside is that early results are showing that these tiny specks of life are actually more intelligent than some humans. It’s a group mind kind of thing: they think like the BORG in Star Trek, a true collective where the rights of the individual (including you) don’t mean squat.

Some people tell us that if the planet gets wiped out by a nuclear war, cockroaches will be the primary survivors. Maybe so. But they have to drink the water, and what that means is that the thoughts roaches think they’re having are coming from paramecia.

The inner child people often speak of is really a BORG-like colony of paramecia. If this doesn’t disturb you, then you’re probably not the true niche-reader for this blog.

Upcoming topics for The Paramecium Papers are:

  1. How to ask a paramecium out on a date.
  2. Understanding the kinds of books paramecia like and what they do to you if your’re not reading those books.
  3. How much beer can you drink without out turning your colony of paramecia into a bunch of sots?
  4. Paramecia speak Russian, so they have been meddling in your decision making longer than Mueller suspects, and so far, he hasn’t subpoenaed any of them. (Of course, his colony might be blinding him to reality.)

So there it is, a niche that will lure readers into my magical, paranormal, and fantasy novels and short stories.

Malcolm, Vix, and Paramecia Colony J38