Thursday, July 16, 2015

Literary Comfort Food for a Fed Up Citizenry ...

How to sell books. That's the question, isn't it, at least for those of us who've chosen to commit stories to print in the hope that another will pay for the pleasure of reading them.

I've always marched to the beat of my own drummer when it came to the stories that I've chosen to tell. I've written two pretty straightforward novels of libertarian political suspense (The Third Revolution and Middle America), a soft sci-fi/adventure about a young girl and her runaway pets (Little Birdies!), a sort of speculative political thriller about a new alcohol prohibition and a group of neighborhood friends who decide to go another way on the matter (The Last Bartender), a soft sci-fi, archaeologically-themed action/suspense/political farce (The Cenacle Scroll) involving the political and religious chaos that follows the unexpected appearance of the (assumed) Holy Grail in the US, and a soft sci-fi mystery/adventure (Aqua Vitae) about a wildlife biologist who accepts a too-good-to-be-true job and ends up having to unpack several puzzling ecological mysteries before finding herself targeted by the government agency whose failed experiments have gone native.

This eclectic portfolio has been, as you might guess, marketing suicide. You don't need an MBA to see that the smart move here would be to pick a lane (i.e. a literary genre), and stick to it. Become the political thriller guy, the sci-fi/adventure guy, the dystopian future guy, the detective/crime procedural guy, the medical mystery guy, the vampire/zombie/time travel guy. Pick a lane!

Targeted advertising is easier if you pick a lane. Building a unified reader base is easier if you pick a lane. Finding a traditional agent/publisher is easier if you pick a lane. Using an outside marketing service is easier if you just pick a damn lane!

The truth is that I have picked my lane, though I've chosen to go with theme, rather than the more easily marketed concept of genre. If I may:

Ben Kane finds that he bit off more than he could chew when he takes over the Governor's office in Montana, and finds himself arrayed against the might of the US federal government, but is simply unable to back away from his principles.  

Young Mandy Grant finds it impossible to accept the death sentence demanded by a nervous public and their government representatives for her runaway pets, and plots their rescue.  

In the aftermath of a newly imposed prohibition on the production and sale of alcohol,
Justin Gardiner and his friends just want a damn beer, and they're prepared to do what they have to do to get one.

Graduate student Jennifer Goodwyn makes one ill-considered decision regarding an ancient relic and finds herself swept up in a religious and political maelstrom of her own making. It needs to be fixed, and she needs to do so without getting caught, and without anyone else getting hurt in the process.

After a string of career setbacks, wildlife biologist Jackie Bannon takes a leap of  faith, unintentionally stirs up a mystery that was better left untouched, and needs to extract herself and her friends from a sudden and dangerous game of "kill the messenger."

All of my protagonists want the usual things out of life, and take seemingly rational steps to reach those goals, modest or otherwise. Other people, more organized people (say, local, state or federal government agencies, for example) sometimes take exception to individual needs, wants or circumstances, and do what they can to thwart individual action. Some individuals (say, the ones I choose to write about) feel they have no choice but to follow their conscience and do what they have to do to get where they need to get, regardless of the forces brought against them.

So if you don't mind veering out of your literary comfort zone just a bit, I believe you'll find that at the heart, my stories have what you're looking for: regular people, who for whatever reason, suddenly find themselves up against it and, along a few close friends, choose principle over authority.

As always, thanks for your support...

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