Our guest today is Lynne Griffin, author of the family-focused novels Girl Sent Away, Sea Escape, and Life Without Summer, as well as the nonfiction parenting guides Let’s Talk About It: Adolescent Mental Health and Negotiation Generation—Take Back Your Parental Authority Without Punishment. Lynne is a counselor who teaches family studies at Wheelock College, and she is the Social-Emotional Learning Specialist and Coordinator of Parent and Professional Programs for an independent school in Boston. She teaches fiction writing at GrubStreet in Boston and facilitates their program for soon-to-be published authors called Launch Lab.
Whether you’re closing in on a final draft or about to launch your novel, you will need clarity about what makes your novel stand out from other fiction on the market.
Standing Out on the Crowded Shelf—How to Help Your Fiction Find an Audience
For the novelist, the first introduction to the concept of the “crowded shelf” usually comes in the form of a rejection letter. I don’t know a writer who hasn’t been told that their story simply won’t stand apart from other works of fiction on the market. Yet even when you find your champion—the agent or editor who believes in your story enough to bet on it—you’ll still be asked to play a leading role in positioning your novel for discoverability.
Likely you’ve heard writers lament about the high expectations publishers have for today’s author, to participate in (or some cases own) the publicity and marketing efforts related to their novel. Very few writers can pull a Salinger or a Ferrante, getting away without promoting their work at all. But instead of focusing on the good ole days of publishing, when someone other than you lined up book events or secured interviews and profiles, I urge you to turn your attention to the things you can do to position your novel to stand out and find an audience.
Begin by reflecting on your top two or three goals for your novel. Whether you want to entertain or enlighten certain readers or you have something to add to a particular discussion, be sure you have clarity around your intentions. If you don’t know what you’re after, it will be difficult to create a campaign to reach the right readers. For my new novel Girl Sent Away, I knew I had a lot to say about the crisis in our adolescent mental health system. By articulating my mission to create a conversation around building resilience and nurturing empathy—really owning what I had to contribute—I was able to outline my novel’s key themes. Honing my message allowed me to imagine the communities of readers who might be interested in joining the conversation.
Believe it or not, another way to get at your novel’s uniqueness, is to identify its competition. [Read more…]