If you want your book to sell, make it resonate

Reading David Farland's book on my Kindle!!!

Reading David Farland’s book on my Kindle!!!

If your book reminds potential readers of other books they’ve read and liked, chances are it will sell better than if it’s totally and completely original.

That’s according to David Farland, author of Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing.  In this book, Farland said resonance in writing happens when an author builds on a theme or motif, revisiting it through the story.

Ultimately, it allows readers to relate to your book.

For marketing purposes, it makes sense for authors to figure out who their writings resonate with—and why. It can help them pitch their books to agents and publishers. If their book is a success, knowing why it resonates can help them repeat the process in other writing.

Farland describes three types of resonance:

  • Resonance within a genre—this means knowing the code words used in a particular genre. Wording for science fiction, for example, would be different than wording in a historical romance.
  • Resonance with life—this draws upon the reader’s own experiences. Farland suggests Harry Potter as an example, since most people can relate to the angst of school and friendships.
  • Resonance with emotional needs—this type of resonance may act, in some ways, as a support for someone experiencing emotional distress. Farland described how a book about an autistic child might resonate with a mother of an autistic child.

I once heard that all books come from books. Authors are told to write what they know about, and they’re often inspired by stories they heard or read when they were children.

On the other hand, books that are too original will be unsaleable, even if they’re well-written and intriguing. If there’s a track record out there for similar books, publishers have an idea of how the book could sell. Without that comparison, the financial risk seems too great for a marketing board to seriously consider.

One idea from near the beginning of the book: if you’re going to write in a certain genre, you need to immerse yourself in it. It’s not enough to read a book or two in that genre, think you know everything and try to write a book. You need to know what kinds of tools are used, what kinds of speech the characters would hear, the setting.

I believe resonance extends to nonfiction works, as well.

In one university class, I enjoyed a textbook that included snippets of real human interaction. A myriad of real-life anecdotes were used to illustrate a series of abstract principles. Because it was simply written and had an imaginative visual component, it was memorable. I did very well in that class.

One more idea: For marketing purposes, communicating resonance to an audience is why cover art is so important. David Farland uses book covers made by Darrell Sweet, who also illustrated the covers for Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan. Read more about that in his book.

As I think about resonance and how it relates to my personal writing, I can’t help thinking about my conversation with an agent last year. We were discussing a very early draft of a book I wrote for one of my children. Her eyes grew wider and wider as we talked.

“This is very, very creative,” she said. I felt proud of how I’d pulled some wildly abstract ideas together for an original, action-packed plot based in the local area.

And then she explained it.

“You need to build on the geography here,” she said. “This is what people in this area will relate to. This is what will make it sell.”

That book is now being read by a content editor, and I’m sure the outcome will exclude at least some of those original elements. I don’t know whether it will ever see print, but I can say this—it’s made the importance of resonance rise to the surface.

I’m glad for the education, and I highly recommend this book.

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