What do authors tell people when they ask what their book is about, (what is in it)?
What should authors say about their book’s content when marketing/publicising?
To some the above may appear to be odd questions; Of course, they know what they should be saying – can there be any doubt?
Well yes there can be.
A strange concept some have put forward is to NOT say what the book is actually about. What do they mean by that?
Their take is to focus upon how social attitudes have changed, at least to some degree, to the point a majority now simply want to know what is in a product (book in this instance) for them. What is really being pointed out is how much more self-centred people have become in modern-day society. The moral rights and wrongs of such an attitude are not under discussion here.
So what should authors be saying about their books, whether in: person to person discussions; on-line interactions; or in publicity and marketing material?
Whether liked or not, it must be accepted everyone, yes even authors themselves when considering a purchase, wants to know if a product will be of interest or use to them. That is only common-sense. No one wants to part with their hard earned money for something that is not going to meet their requirements or at least fulfil some desire or other. Consequently, to that end, it makes sense for an author to highlight aspects that may benefit or interest the prospective reader.
Now, still acknowledging the truth of the above, it merits looking at the aspect of authors telling people what is actually in the book whether it be fiction, biography, non-fiction, etc. How many of those reading this article would consider purchasing a book without some idea of what it is about? What the likely content will be? Whether it would be of any interest to them? For example: readers who favour biography may not have the least bit of interest in a science fiction story or someone who loves romance will probably not wish to purchase a book that is all about history. Just a couple of examples to help focus thoughts. Naturally, there are readers who enjoy a mix of genre though undoubtedly there will be ones they have absolutely no interest in. Unless there is some indication of a book’s content the prospective reader will have no idea if it is for them and may well simply turn away and go on to the next thing.
Logic, taking into account prevalent attitudes and desires, is to provide elements of both a book’s content and of how it may be of interest and possibly help, to a reader.
What an author decides to say about their book(s) will also have an impact upon their marketing and publicity campaigns. The majority of authors will know these are longterm activities/occupations. They cannot expect to simply make a few random statements of a book’s availability and think it will immediately hit the bestseller lists. Or, for that matter, that all readers will be aware of its existence or will want to purchase it no matter what. Most independent (indie) authors will acknowledge the excitement and anticipation they had when publishing their first book to only be disappointed that people seemed to be unaware of its existence or to show any interest in it. Therefore what is said about a book is very important.
So what do authors say about their books? What information do they need to impart? How are they to draw attention to their product? How are they to get readers interested?
Rather than just ramble on, a few examples of how some current authors go about the task will now be highlighted.
Pamela is currently in the process of researching and drafting the biography of an exceptional woman (now deceased) who promoted the case for Australia’s Dingos. Though this is a longterm project, anticipated at the start to take two or more years, various titbits of information (discovered during the research process) have been shared. Some are amusing while others are informative and some are personal. These certainly build anticipation and interest and give a clear indication of what readers are to expect from the eventual publication. Pamela has used her website, multiple blogs and varied social media outlets to good effect. Some examples (each link will take the reader to different posts highlighting varied amusing, informative and interesting aspects):
Main website – books page: Contains information of how some research material came into her possession.
Random Jottings blog: Pamela shares some of her own personal Dingo experiences.
Dingo Lady Blog: Specifically set up for the project and in which much is shared of the subject’s experience.
Facebook (Account for Dingo Lady): Bits and pieces from the Dingo Lady blog.
Goodreads: Besides reading and reviewing a variety of books, including ones relating to Dingos, Pamela has also enabled blog posts to be added to her profile thereby adding a further source of information for readers.
Personal Accounts: Though intended to be principally about her as an author, her interests and to share relevant topics posted by fellow members and authors Pamela does, again circumspectly, include some information about Dingos and her forthcoming book within her personal social media accounts (Facebook; Google Plus; Twitter; Pinterest).
By utilising all of the above Pamela has ensured readers are left in no doubt about the new book’s proposed content and, just as important, what will be in it for them e.g:
- Increase their knowledge of the Dingo;
- Understand historic attitude of Australia’s government;
- Comprehend roots of existing laws;
- See how modern-day attitudes toward the Dingo have changed;
- Appreciate the purpose and reasons for campaigns and petitions to protect Dingos.
Note: As may be seen from her website Pamela has previously published For the Love of a Dingo which is a combination of her own and Berenice Walters (the subject of the biography) writings.
Lucinda has an ongoing fictional series (Amie) as well as a number of published memoirs. Her approach to sharing information is a little different to Pamela King’s. It is as effective but provides an example of how different authors approach the same objective.
In the Amie series (primarily based in Africa) Lucinda occasionally homes-in upon serious facts and historic practices that still impact people today. Her memoirs also highlight some serious matters.
Readers of this article need to note, though the serious side has been mentioned above Lucinda does have a great sense of humour that constantly comes through making her books very readable.
Lucinda principally uses a combination of her blog and Facebook account together with a newsletter to share up-to-date information about her books and to build anticipation.
Lucinda’s Blog: Lucinda likes to share a mixture of topics and information that will appeal to a variety of different readers with an occasionally mention of her books included. The link utilised for this paragraph is an example of a post that also contains an extract from one of her memoirs.
Facebook: Used to primarily help readers know her as an individual. However, there are occasional shares of posts and articles, notably by others, that relate to her books.
Google Plus: Used to share posts and comments about her books. Again, comprises a circumspect mixture.
Newsletter: Perhaps her most important and forthright sharing of book information. Within these monthly letters Lucinda frequently shares back stories, principally to the Amie series, as well as reader related topics and interviews. The letters are informative and entertaining and readers are encouraged to subscribe.
Naturally, details of books are also included in Lucinda’s website and her other social media accounts e.g. Twitter though she prefers to principally share new, up-to-date details and information through her blog.
T. R. will occasionally share information about books through social media though most is kept to the ‘Books’ page of this website and to the individual Book Landing Pages. In an attempt to incorporate both aspects of telling and not telling what is in a book and thereby hopefully meeting readers expectations and needs, landing pages use a variety of approaches: some give an idea of what is in it for the reader combining extracts from reviews to provide a fuller idea of book content as in this memoir landing page. In others, book synopsis’s combined with review extracts are used as with this biographical fiction landing page.
To meet present day reader desires it is probably best if authors adopt a combined approach of both telling what is in a book for the reader and of what the book is about.
The examples given above show how the regular, frequent, sharing of small portions of information, through websites, blogs and social media, help create interest, anticipation and an awareness of where the book is relevant to a reader’s interests, needs, desires., etc.
Of course, all the above require a time commitment that is always a challenge for authors.