I couldn’t see him. His studio was hundreds of miles from where I sat with my notes, bookmarked novel, and cup of tea. But even from that distance, I could hear the hesitation in his voice during our preinterview discussion. He must have wondered what he could talk about when the author’s product was a story, rather than Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Devotional Life or Scripture Memorization Made Easy.
A nonfiction book creates natural connecting points for radio and television interviews. Ten Ways lends itself to at least 10 minutes of airtime–a minute per point. But what about a Christian novel? What can a novel offer a radio or television interview beyond, “So, what’s your story about?” Though not known as the darlings of media, novels and their authors can create compelling media opportunities.
The Story Behind the Story
After the release of my debut novel, media opportunities rose from the real life event that sparked the idea for They Almost Always Come Home. Having lived through my own story of a husband who almost didn’t come home, through a life challenge that stirred imagination until it became a novel, I was afforded connections with markets that might not have considered interviewing a novelist.
A Felt Need/Lack
Causes like breast-cancer research, human trafficking, and abortion in fiction create issues-driven media links. Christian novels are truth in story form. Bullying in fiction speaks to the concerns of those who experience bullying in their neighborhoods. Taking the emotional journey with parents of prodigal children might help make a great plot line. It can also make a great interview with insights for readers, listeners, and leaders with their own prodigal children. Did writing your novel reveal something significant about forgiveness? Can that subject, rather than the book or author, form a connection with media, maybe linked to National Forgiveness Week or a news event that caught media attention not for the event itself (Jimmy fell down a well) but because of the response of the victims or their families (“We’re not going to sue. The Lord wants us to forgive the company that failed to install a cap on the well”)? Interested media may turn to those who write nonfiction about forgiveness. But if handled well, a novel dealing with the same subject of overcoming the unforgivable may generate attention.
An Appealing Location
The Chamber of Commerce in Cedarburg, Wis., a tourist area that forms the setting for an upcoming novella collection titled Cedar Creek Seasons, is paving the way for its four authors with both local and regional media. In the story lines, the location is held in a good light; and the plot points derived from local happenings are newsworthy.The author team found the same situation true with A Door County Christmas novella collection. The romantic comedies celebrate those locations and prompt readers to respond, “I have to go there someday!” Local secular media approached the authors for interviews because of the location connection.
Did you donate 100 copies of your novel to an adult literacy program? Do portions of the proceeds go to fund mobile libraries for remote but literate villages in a third-world country? Do you personally donate time for your school’s Read-to-Me program–an author giving back? These actions are all newsworthy.
We love quirks in our characters. Is there a quirk in your novel that can rouse media attention? Has your book been photographed on each continent? Was yours the first inspirational book to hold the number one spot on free Kindle downloads? Is your novel written in pig Latin? A quirk is sometimes enough to generate at least a human-interest spot.
What other approaches can we take to help make a fiction connection with media? Prolific suspense author Brandilyn Collins advises, “Think about ways to market before writing your book. As a novelist, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of media for fiction. So when I designed my last three-book proposal, I purposely came up with a book that would inherently contain potential for media exposure.” Collins’s project uses a suspenseful story centered around an issue close to her heart: Lyme disease and the surrounding Lyme wars that unfortunate patients have to fight with the medical community. An intentional marketing move, Over the Edge released May 1. May is Lyme Awareness Month, when the media was more apt to cover Lyme-disease issues.
“My publisher hired an experienced New York publicist to book radio and TV,” Collins said. “Meanwhile, I reached out to the Lyme community, which is big. So there was buzz building there through the Internet. I sold this book not just on the story, but emphasizing to the publisher the built-in marketing potential.”
Nonfiction Companion Pieces
“If you have a current, hot-button issue in your fiction, you have a key to unlocking media publicity,” said savvy author Kathi Macias. Skilled in nonfiction as well, Macias starts tweaking articles to fit upcoming releases months before those books appear on shelves. “With my April release, People of the Book (set in Saudi Arabia and dealing with honor killings), I wrote an article–tweaked/tailored three ways for three different publications–on honor killings and all that’s going on in the Middle East. It appeared in those publications during the month of the book’s release.” The articles opened interview opportunities the novel alone might not have garnered.
Thinking Inside and Outside the Book
Whether through a human-interest angle about the author, the location, the book’s ministry potential, its current-event connections, a relatable topic, or newsworthy plot thread, novelists can help create compelling reasons for media to embrace fiction interviews that entertain, enlighten, and inspire.
Cynthia Ruchti (www.cynthiaruchti.com) is the author of the Carol Award finalist They Almost Always Come Home and “The Heart’s Harbor” in A Door County Christmas novella collection. She serves as the Professional Relations Liaison for ACFW-American Christian Fiction Writers.