Usually when we think about “book marketing” we think of glitzy ad campaigns or nuking everyone on social media with relentless messages to “buy my book!” This is a huge turn-off for most writers. We’ve spent months, possibly years, working on a story that is so personally meaningful to us that it’s even hard to describe it succinctly to other people without getting tangled up in words and emotion.
And now we’re supposed to push it onto total strangers using a catchy (or cheesy) hook?
Um, no thanks.
That’s what most of us think and feel when we consider what it will mean to “market my book.”
But, there is another way to look at it. And there is another way to approach the whole book marketing thing that might feel weird at first, but that will actually gain you way more readers than if you go with traditional methods.
It’s called being vulnerable, and being real.
Now, many of you might be recoiling when you read that. It sounds scary. After all, if you’re vulnerable and real about your work (especially online) won’t that leave you unprotected and open to attack? Don’t you need a thick skin to withstand the criticism that is bound to come to any author when they start publishing?
Well, the thing is, yes, you will be more open—to everything. But if you keep yourself closed off and “protected” you will also be missing out on connecting with the readers who will probably benefit the most from reading your book. This is what is known as the power of resonance, and it’s incredibly effective when you use it to be open and honest about issues you’ve experienced in your life that also show up in your writing.
This is how I explain it in Firefly Magic, my book all about marketing for introverts, INFJs and INFPs:
Resonance can apply to fiction or nonfiction. A middle grade fantasy novel about a young girl who is bullied at school has massive resonance potential. A memoir about drug addiction, childhood abuse, or depression has resonance potential too. Any story that deals with difficult emotional issues taps into the potential for deep resonance the story will have with other people who have gone through those types of experiences.
Interestingly, the biggest disadvantage I usually see with this type of work is that the authors sometimes still carry shame about their experience and assume that “no one will want to read it,” “no one will get it,” or “everyone” will find out that the writer is flawed, damaged, or irreversibly broken. Ironically enough, that shame and those fears are exactly what readers connect with the most.
That shame that we might still carry about pieces of our past that have been hidden away in the dark for a long time can stop many writers in their tracks when it comes to marketing. Because even if you’re writing a totally fictional novel, let’s face it, we all worry that our readers are going to examine the characters or the events a little too closely and decide that those characters and events are an exact reflection of us.
But it is precisely the stories that carry the most emotional energy, the most torturous conflict, and the most impossible choices, that captivate readers. Because, really, we’ve all been there. If you’re writing a novel that includes details about a messy divorce and some of those details hit very close to home, you can bet that someone else out there is going to read it and feel understood. If you’re writing about your character’s toxic relationship with her mother and a lot of that relationship came “borrowed” from your real life, again, I guarantee that someone out there will read your story and feel not so alone.
Anything that you’ve ever gone through that you’re embarrassed about, you regret, or that you still carry some sort of shame around, ALL of those things are the things that EVERYONE ELSE on earth has gone through and that hardly anyone except writers and artists talk about. These experiences and your interpretation of them are your gifts to the world.
In Firefly Magic, I talk about how to identify if “resonance” is a key element to your story and can be used to tap into your audience to gain new readers:
Are you writing a memoir about a difficult or exciting period in your life? Or maybe just your life as a whole and everything crazy you’ve gone through? Are you writing about an issue that has made you feel isolated or alone in the past? Or that you’ve been ashamed to share with anyone else? Do any of your characters feel a strong sense of shame because of things that happen to them in your story? Do they feel isolated or alone? If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, resonance might be the magic key to your story.
If you’ve been reading this article and nodding your head because you recognize yourself as a writer or your story as having resonance potential, it’s time to dig deeper into that, even if it’s uncomfortable. By hiding the experiences that make you “you” you’re only holding yourself back, as a person, and as a writer.
Start digging, and then start sharing. I guarantee your writing will benefit from it.
Lauren Sapala is the author of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers, a guide to help any HSP, INFJ, INFP, or introvert writer move past resistance to selling and marketing their work. She is also the author of The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers.