One of the things writers are most surprised to hear from Lucinda in our coaching sessions is that when we talk about comps, agents and editors aren’t simply thinking of books, but of the larger landscape for content, which can include anything from a popular podcast, to a Netflix series, to an article in The Atlantic that’s gone viral. What editors are really paying keen attention to are trends in popular culture. They are trying to be futuristic in projects they acquire—anticipating what sort of literature readers will want to consume one to five years from now.
This is why when writers become fluent in and active on these mediums—like podcasts, television, and social media—they can begin to paint an argument to agents and publishers for how their book, whether fiction or nonfiction, fits into that large universe of popular culture.
What this means for writers is that you might think about diversifying. Content is everywhere, it’s still very much being consumed, and what that means is there are still fresh audiences you can reach with your book’s message—audiences you never even expected.
Because different content mediums are becoming more important to a book’s success, agents who are interested in your idea or your manuscript will quickly Google an author for a sense of her online presence after receiving a query. Many of you are well aware of the importance of being visible online, but here’s something new to consider: adapting your content to a particular medium–whether digital, visual, or audio–can give you a competitive edge.
For those writers querying agents right now, hoping to get a book sold or a film deal underway, consider these small, grassroots ways to attract a gatekeeper’s attention:
A YouTube channel or a podcast that speaks to the themes of your book.
Media presence can be of vital importance for nonfiction authors, and YouTube allows a platform to let them shine, while continuing to explore a book’s topic and cement their expertise. Memoirists can share their most dramatic life stories, envisioning themselves on the stage of the Moth or TedX. Even aspiring novelists can take advantage of these audio-visual mediums by reading and reviewing other fiction books, while lending a unique point of view. (More on this critical point below!)
Marketing your message or “aesthetic” on TikTok and Instagram.
Before you even begin to mention that you’re writing a book, you’ll need to seduce your audience. Try to create an experience that gives the viewer a tangible impression of who you are, and what kinds of opinions or contributions from you they can expect.
Create your own aesthetic by discussing destinations, fashion, music, popular culture of any kind, all of which will one day relate to your book’s aesthetic, mood, and message. Commenting on popular culture but lending your unique perspective, voice, or humor, you can rapidly capture an audience.
If you’re thinking: can I share all of this content for free if I plan to use it in my book? Counterintuitively, the more free content an author provides, the more inclined people are to buy the actual book. Why? Because you have proven value to your followers, research demonstrates that most fans will buy your content, repackaged, when the time comes. (Too many examples to count: from Mark Manson to James Clear to John Carreyou to several authors of ours at LL. Free content was never the issue.)
Of course there’s delicacy: as a novelist, you wouldn’t want to read your first 3 chapters aloud on a public YouTube channel and risk modest viewer numbers at that. But you may use an excerpt on your blog, or a pull quote on your Insta feed. Novelists can compile playlists to accompany their book, or create outfits that their main character might wear. Definitely explore #BookTok for more ideas on unique content creation.
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Today, traditional publishers and agents are thinking untraditionally; or rather, we’re evaluating a book’s potential more expansively, within a greater universe of content. At Lucinda Literary, we encourage an active embrace of non-book mediums, and what we’ve detailed above are just a few preliminary ideas to get your wheels turning. Being active on the right platforms for your unique idea can only help expose you to the gatekeepers (agents, publishers, and producers) who are looking for talent just like yours.