Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Promotion: Compelling and Enticing

Reading thuRsday

Why do you choose to read a given book?

All the reasons you might give can be reduced to either you felt compelled or enticed. (Actually, our reasons can be spread along a spectrum from compelled to enticed, but it's easier to talk in terms of dichotomies than the fine shades in a spectrum.)

Books that become a cultural phenomenon (i.e., most people have at least heard of them), do so on the strength of a social compulsion. How many times have you picked up a book because everyone else was talking about it and you wanted to be part of the conversation?

As writers, there's nothing we can do to cause our books to become a social phenomenon. So the more interesting question is how, given the means in our power, can we appeal to readers. Which brings me back to compelling and enticing: we can pitch our books either as "something you gotta read," or as "something you want to read."

A compelling pitch usually centers on a situation or issue the reader might confront. There's an immediacy because it's in the world of our common experience. An enticing pitch plays on mystery, wonder, intrigue, or as the kids say, something cool. There's a fascination because it's outside the world of our common experience.

Reading a list of new YA novel recommendations, I noticed a pattern: the realistic stories had compelling pitches and the fantastic stories had enticing pitches. The former implied, "This could happen to you," while the latter asked, "Wouldn't it be cool if this happened?"

I find this a useful distinction as I choose books to read and think about promoting my own projects. How about you?

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

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