A Technique to Extend Your Book’s Expiration Date

Understand your audience before taking the stage

Keep it fresh by reimagining your presentation

How do you keep the marketing fresh when your novel’s a year old and new books keep pouring out day after day?

Try thinking more about each of your audiences.

Bootlicker, for instance, is a story about rough-and-tumble Southern politics, inspired by a reporting career that included daily coverage of one-time “States’ Rights” presidential candidate Strom Thurmond.

The story is fictitious, and it is rare that I ever mention Thurmond in public appearances, even though one of the key figures in my novel is a U.S. senator named Mac McCauley. To be clear, McCauley commits atrocities that are not intended to be associated with Thurmond.

When the opportunity came to speak to an audience of senior citizens, however, I built a program around the 1948 presidential election. You’ll remember that was the one where Democrat Harry Truman upset Republican Thomas Dewey in a race that many journalists called incorrectly. There were even headlines pronouncing Dewey the winner.

There was a third candidate as well. Strom Thurmond. The fiery South Carolinian spouted a lot of angry segregationist rhetoric in the race, and managed to get himself quite a bit of coverage, including a Time magazine cover.

The goal in mentioning all this was to jog the collective memory of an audience that would possibly recall the 1948 election. Even if they didn’t remember, people appreciate it when you make the effort.

Factoring in the audience’s perspective instead of focusing only on what you want to say makes your program more relatable. Once the connection is made, it becomes a simple matter to bridge to your novel.

Your takeaway: don’t take a one-size-fits all-approach to author events. Instead, find a way to connect by doing a little research beforehand. Think about who’s going to be filling the seats, what they care about, and what will resonate.

Have any of you had similar experiences? If so, please share.

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