When you’re writing fiction, incorporating trending topics, or creating diverse characters – is always such a great idea. But how you get publicity for your book is another matter entirely. Too often I see authors launching their books, very proud of the topic they’re addressing or the characters they’ve included – but with very little thought paid to how this will play out with the readers.
Right now, in particular, there’s a big need for diversity in fiction. Even though a lot of industry publications say that “we’re there” – meaning we have lots of diversity in fiction – we really don’t. For example, a few years ago I worked with an African American author who wrote children’s books with diverse characters. She told me that when her daughter was little, the only children’s books she could find had white lead characters. So, she decided to create a line of children’s books dedicated to filling that void, and she’s done so brilliantly. But there’s a catch, and we’ll dig more into this in a minute.
Including Trending Topics You’re Passionate About
We’re all passionate about something, but being passionate about a topic and including it in your book is a whole other arena. For example, let’s say you’re passionate about the environment, and you want to create a fictional story about climate wars or something else along those lines. Great idea, but you need to be mindful of what your goal is for the book. There’s a fine line between a topic you feel compelled to write about and crafting an interesting story. By the same token, just because you created a lead character who is, single-handedly, fighting a climate crisis, that doesn’t make you an expert, and your book shouldn’t be pitched that way.
How to incorporate diversity and trending topics and get publicity for your book is a delicate dance. The idea is that while there’s nothing wrong with infusing your book with a trending topic – things change rapidly, and what we’re obsessed with today may not last till your book is out. The pandemic is a great example of that, where lots of authors came out with books on the pandemic and lots of these books failed. This is because they were offering guidance that had already passed its shelf-life, or it incorporated a storyline that was just too close to reality for a good many folks (which is partially why interest in dystopian books tapered).
Dial into Important Issues with Purpose and Accuracy
If you’ve settled on a topic, or a character or characters, remember that your reader has picked up your book for a reason. Likely it’s because they’re looking for more books on politics, ecology, diversity… So, your reader is going to be particular about your story but also about your use of this important topic or topics. And I mention this, because so often authors feel like they can throw in a big topic like ecology and pull in that audience. Not so fast! First, do your research.
Yes, I said research. And by this, I mean dive into the market you’re writing about. Listen to podcasts that address ethnic issues, talk to advocacy groups, watch some Ted Talks – read in both fiction and non-fiction! All of this will help you to create accuracy in your topic presentation, character development, and storyline.
Now if you’re an ecology professor writing a fiction book about a climate war, or you’re a Hispanic author writing a Hispanic romance novel, that’s a different game. What I’m talking about here is writing something you may not be directly exposed to, and that’s where some good research comes in.
Your Expert Status
I talk to a lot of authors who, because they’ve infused an important, trending topic into their book, want to be positioned as an expert. Consequently, they also want media. In very rare cases do I even recommend this. Yes, I love that you’re passionate about whatever story you’re writing about, but passion and expertise are two very different things.
Instead, focus on genre-appropriate blogs – because many bloggers and influencers are looking for just these topics. A solid hit on one of these great sites can net you a lot of readers. Also, pushing yourself as an expert is a hard climb, especially with fiction. And a true expert status requires a lot of work in the area you’re writing about, too.
Remember: When it comes to how to get publicity for your fiction book – including a trending topic or diverse character – it doesn’t give you a reason to “coast” on your book promotion.
You can’t polish a poorly written book by including a trending topic or diversity angle, and sorry to lead with that, but you’d be amazed how often I’ve seen this happen. By the same token, you can’t skate by on your promotion if you’re keying into a super-hot trending topic. Make sure your Amazon retail page is solid (and any other retail page you have your book on). Create a solid author website. In other words: do all the things.
We love working with diverse books and trending topics, and we absolutely need more diversity in fiction. But you still have to do the work. You still have to get out there and find your readers. A diverse character or trending topic doesn’t give anyone a straight path to success, but it’s definitely a great way to elevate cultures, people, and hot topics. Good luck!
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