Tell the Story Behind the Story

By | April 21, 2009

Every book has a story about itself.

The story of the writing of a book-length work (or a substantial article) – how the work came to be – is grist for your publicity mill. It’s an effective and easy-to-use tool in your efforts to establish Brand You, your personal brand.

Why? Because it tells two stories: one about the work itself, and one about you as a person writing the work. Hearing why an author picked a given topic, how he/she researched it, designed its telling, and populated it with happenings and ideas and and characters . . . is of great interest to many readers.

Here’s a great example:
Clues in the Shadows (A Molly Mystery): The Story Behind the Story

Here, author Kathleen Ernst uses a wonderful batch of photos from the Library of Congress to illustrate and talk (on a page on her excellent, content-rich website) about the research she did in writing this middle-grade reader, Clues in the Shadows, a mystery in the immensely popular American Girl line of books, doll, and zillions of accessories.

In this piece, Ernst shares how she came upon ideas that she incorporated into the story:

Many of the programs urged children to compete against each other, seeing who could collect the most paper or scrap metal.  Sometimes children struggled to meet expectations.  When I read about that, I decided that was an important idea to introduce in Clues in the Shadows.

Well-researched background like this impresses educators and reviewers. And readers themselves (in this case, kids) always like to see “behind the scenes” . . . to peek behind the curtain, to feel that special sense of privilege when someone takes you backstage and gives you a personal tour.

Of course, this is great stuff for any published (or soon-to-be-published) writer’s blog. Here’s another example (from a project I’m working with), the story of writing a historical novel for young readers, by two sisters, Hilda and Emily Demuth, centered around a historic plank road that ran by their childhood home in southern Wisconsin:

Plank Road Summer blog

Why does this behind-the-scenes storytelling work so well?

Because at the core of storytelling is the desire to be connected with each other. This goes back to the roots of oral storytelling, where the story never existed without the teller.

So take the time to create and share the story behind your major pieces of writing. It will draw in the reader and extend your personal brand, presenting you in a most-favorable light: how you (as a skilled, thoughtful pro writer) take raw ideas and turn them into literature.

Don’t just serve the dish. Let them see and appreciate the making of the dish. As brand-meister Martha Stewart would say . . . “And that’s a good thing.”

3 thoughts on “Tell the Story Behind the Story

  1. Tiara

    It’s always helpful to be reminded that writers become successful because of who they are almost as much as what they write. Besides giving readers a “sneak peek” into the making of their novel, what other ways can authors (especially not quite yet published authors) brand themselves?

    Reply
  2. Philip Martin Post author

    Thanks, Tiara, for the comment and question!

    For “not quite yet published” authors, I usually recommend building online presence. A well-structured blog is a great way to develop beginnings of a brand or platform.

    I’ve got a few articles on market-savvy blog basics at my LitWave site:
    http://www.litwave.org/

    Check the “Helpful Resources page for tips you can follow yourself (or I can help with an inexpensive LitWave program).

    Also, here’s an article on my main site (Great Lakes Literary) on building a brand online
    http://www.greatlakeslit.com/articles/personal_brand_online.html

    The main thing: A brand is built bit by bit. So before you’re published is a great time to start!

    Reply
  3. TerriRains

    Neat post. I’m fascinated by “behind the scenes” stuff. I’m the kind of person who likes the documentaries on “the making of…” more than I do the movies themselves.

    This is interesting stuff. Thanks!

    Reply

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