More and more businesses are recognizing the importance of having an appealing story. On his Influential Marketing Blog, Rohit Bhargava looked at the ways the website Gilt.com has become successful (it offers luxury goods at a discount). One element they highlighted is that Gilt.com actually has a section of each product page called "Backstory." Here's what iMediaConnection said about this:
"Every product sold on Gilt.com has a backstory which is almost as important as the product itself. Why? Because when it comes to many luxury products, there is an inherent need from the customers to have a shareable story that they can tell to others along with the products they purchase. It is not about buying a blender. It is about buying a blender from a Belgian company that has been making them since 1930, and that you cannot find in any retail store near you."
It can be very useful for writers to have their owns stories--personal ones, I mean, that will help the media pigeon-hole you.
Yes, that's right--I'm suggesting you cooperate in having the media put you into a box. If you don't, they won't bother with you and your work will not get the attention it deserves.
Here are some examples:
J. K. Rowling - single mother struggling to get her book written early mornings in a cafe with her pram next to her. Before "Harry Potter" really took off and became the story itself, this was a hook that appealed to the media.
Carl Hiaasen - reporter who puts his eco-values into hilarious crime novels--all set in Florida, the state whose destruction he laments.
Jackie Collins - glamourous writer who lives the trashy Hollywood lifestyle she writes about.
Notice that these are all (more or less) true stories. It's not about faking something--you'll be found out and be discredited (which can also become a story and some people come back from that one, too). But ideally it's about looking carefully at your background and experience and teasing out the elements that make a good authentic story.
My example: the story behind a lot of my goal-related activities, like the Writing Breakthrough Strategy Program (see www.jurgenwolff.com), stem from the fact that some years ago my house burned down and shortly thereafter I landed in the hospital with a potentially life-threatening condition (blood clot). That caused me to reassess my life and make some big changes. It also led me to do that reassessment every couple of years without needing a catastrophe to prod me, and to helping others decide what's really important to them and going for it. (I haven't really used that story much in my marketing--like many writers, I'm shy about trading on stuff like that...but we have to get over it!).
If your story is directly relevant to what you've written, so much the better--for instance, my friend Janice Day wrote a book called "Getting It Off My Chest" about how her experience of breast cancer led her to change her life.
If you don't have a story, you can create one--again, authentically, not by pretending something's happened that didn't. For instance, somebody was the first person to Twitter an entire novel, sentence by sentence--that became the story.
Right about now you may be thinking, "Wait a minute, shouldn't the real story be the merits of the book? Shouldn't good writing get attention without the need for stunts or stories about the author's life?"
I agree, and when you find a door to that world, let me know and I'll join you. For now, we're stuck in the real world. Here, a story draws attention to your writing--and THEN it can rise or fall based on the reactions of people who read it.
So....what's YOUR story?
(PS: I'm writing this on Christmas Day...do you think maybe Christianity has lasted this long because--whether or not you believe it to be literally true--it has a great story?)