The pic below is some newspaper coverage in Ireland of Dan Brown’s most recent book. It describes how I found echoes my own novel, The Istanbul Puzzle, on many if its pages.
Would you be willing to court controversy to promote your writing?
There are more books than ever getting published. Millions! Seth Godin predicted there would be 1 million published last year in the US. He was probably right. How many will be published this year?
That’s up from 300,000 in 2003, where most writers imagine we still are. And that’s excluding the millions published (self published mostly) in the UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia and all the other English speaking places around the world.
So how can you get noticed among this vast crowd?
Controversy is one way. When I publish a controversial post on my blog the readership jumps 1000%. But is it worth it?
Ask Dan Brown. The controversy over The Da Vinci Code propelled him to become a bestseller. You can see some of the newspaper coverage I received, above, when it was suggested to me that one of his books had an uncanny resemblance to some of the plot elements in my first book, The Istanbul Puzzle.
Ask EL James. The controversy around 50 Shades of Gray made her a multi-millionaire
Then ask Stephenie Meyer. The controversy around the vampires in Twilight helped her to huge success.
So the question for you is, where is the controversy in your book?
I have helped authors find controversy where they thought there was none. But please consider this, are you willing to stand up for what you believe in?
Here is another question for you, do you think it is the writer’s role any more to take a stand, or should writers simply entertain?
If you have any thoughts on this controversial subject please comment below.
I wrote a fiction built on fact novel; Silent Trauma: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-Trauma-Judith-Barrow-ebook/dp/B00AFZ8CLO – expecting some reaction about the drug Diethylstilboestrol that was given to pregnant women, ostensibly to stop miscarriages, during the decades of 1940s-1970s but which caused drastic damage to the daughters born.
Judith, do you have a blog post about this drug? If you do I will be happy to tell all our followers about it. These issues are important. Thanks for your comment.
I’ll look for it, Laurence. Just out of interest, this is the review from the exec of DESAction.org -http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk/des-voice-review-of-silent-trauma-by-fran-howells/
Actually, this is the way I blogged – through Debbie Young’s blog, as an interview. http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/new-book-reviews/silent-trauma-by-judith-barrow/
I have to confess I would be hard pushed to find something controversial in my novel JET!, as an adult science fiction adventure, does the story contain anything that could be construed as controversial? Maybe in the political part of the story, I don’t know, I’ll have to take a good hard look at that.
Having run the JET! story through my mind, I’ve had to conclude that the political situation in that far distant time, the 34th century, is where any controversy might exist. The fact that Catha (formerly China) is the only nation without UWO (United World Forces) membership is a major political issue, and indeed caused the war that ended Earth as we know it. I’ll look for more issues, as I’m sure now there must be others.
I’ve found what I think is a pivotal statement (page 129/130) in JET!, Sirk is addressing a meeting of the UWO council, and says:
“Furthermore, I think the military wanted to know the effects of the Depol on this planet before they used it… fancy that! Wanting to measure the effects of their weapon on their own planet thousands of years in the future! I now have to ask this question,
having heard the evidence I’ve given them, will the UWO still sanction its use?”
This I think is controversial, inasmuch as its content is confrontational, and points a finger directly at the perpetrators of the alleged crime. JET! gives a stark warning to those with a vested interest in using so-called ultimate weapons.
It’s always a case of the pen is mightier than the sword – because what the pen wrote could be around for decades – a sword is wielded instantly and does whatever it has to do at that moment in time. Writing is different and whether one likes it or not, there will be controversy. People will read into your words whatever it is they want to see or not. So, yes some controversy is good, BUT it must be based on fact, not someone’s imagination. I wouldn’t like to lie my way to the top. . .
I am certainly willing to have controversy in my books–(and I do) but in the billion book marketplace I’m not sure this matters. In order to have the controversy be noticed the books have to be read! That’s where I am stuck. How do I find my tribe???????????
Nikki, try TheBookPromoter.com for low cost promotion ideas.
In my novel Peeling Oranges I researched previously censored material about the Spanish and Irish civil wars eg how censored news was censored in newspapers coming from Spain showing the Nationalists as the christian side
and damning the republicans as reds and church burning madmen and extolling Franco. The protagonist Derek Foley is searching for his father when he learns of the impotence of his supposed father, a diplomat in Franco”s Spain. It is the first time to my knowledge a novel has treated early Irish diplomacy as a motif and apart from being a quest and love story, there is a lot of new and ground-breaking historical information in this novel about the Irish Republic and Spaina and Northern Ireland.
James, please write a post about all this on your blog. Then send me a link to it. I will happily Tweet it for a week to our 281.000 followers. This is an important issue for me too.
My first novel, “Of Men and Monsters” is controversial because it involves a young married woman who engages in an affair with a wealthy businessman. In the book, I even have the aggrieved husband research why women have affairs because he doesn’t understand what he is doing wrong in the marriage. Some bloggers have refused to interview me because their blogs are about “family values”. I even wrote about the topic on my blog. I took real life events from the news (i.e., Oprah Show), friends, and having worked in the corporate world for 22 years and wrapped a love story around it. It happens more than people want to admit.
Yes, I’ve fallen foul of the ‘family values’ too – it seems odd to me that sado-masochistic sex is mainstream and a love affair that leads to divorce is shocking?
I wrote a book called “In God’s Silence”, a Creative Nonfiction book about Gays and the Holocaust. There has been some recognition, and 100 book sales but now it has been hard going beyond that. There are few books on this topic, and it is something I feel very strongly about; simply because if we don’t know where we have been, how are we to know where we are, or where we are going. Any ideas? Thank you in advance.
Charlie, try TheBookPromoter.com for low cost promotion ideas.
My book, “View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale” attacks the “single bullet theory” put forth by the Warren Commission and speaks of a far reaching conspiracy that extends to the highest reaches of government. As readers follows the journey of the characters they soon discover the cover-up continues and there are those in power who still fight to keep the truth hidden away.
I admire the kind of controversy that opens up political secrets, closed groups and abuse of any kind to public scrutiny, so I’m all for your Puzzle books, and ‘View from the 6th Floor, and conspiracy theories. I’m not sure about pseudo-sexual-shocking but your question is – do they sell. Definitely! You only court the danger of controversy when you’re successful – as Charlie Hebdo shows.
In my own work, I was told not to write about the Freemasons – one aspect of ‘Faithful through Hard Times’ my WW2 biography of a young soldier in Malta, using the words of his own diary. I was proud of having figured out enough ‘secrets’ to becautioned and the Freemason meetings are definitely staying in the book.
Another book, ‘Someone to Look Up To’ exposes the cruelty and corruption in animal shelters, and the training methods of charlatans that lead to animals being abandoned – all true stories and told from a dog’s point of view.
I am prepared to take any flack that comes for telling some unpleasant truths in these books.
“Baudelaire’s Revenge” apparently packs a lot of controversy for American readers (less so for Europeans) because of the sexual mores (and especially their brutality) of the 19th century in France. It was a difficult book to write, but, after all my research on how women were treated back then, I didn’t want to “soften things up”. Nevertheless, I scratched my head when a female reviewer wrote on the Amazon page of “Baudelaire’s Revenge”: “It’s rather like a very dark “Fifty Shades of Grey” written for men.” Luckily, she also wrote that the novel is well written, which can’t be said about “Fifty Shades of Grey”. I never intended to write a “scandalous novel”, I wanted to be true to my subject and I did…No novelist who has respect for his trade will deliberately seek controversy, but he will follow the mood and the atmosphere his story demands….
It’s funny that you ask ‘Is the writer’s job just to entertain?’ as I would think to a certain extent the answer is ‘yes.’ The whole social media thing has now brought light to the ‘should you ever meet your hero?’ issue, as you can go on Twitter or Facebook and see what their lives are about, hear their opinions on small and more important issues. I personally like the less is more thing. Sure, I want to know about the person, but I amn’t a fan of someone pushing an agenda, either for themself or someone else, it’s not fair on the people who oppose said agenda. Plus, chances are, they’re alienating a large amount of their readership. As for E.L James and Stephanie Meyer, I’m not sure that they were controversy, possibly a tiny bit of luck there ( excuse me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think either idea was new, it was just that they were unusual at the time and somehow got passed around.)
I agree about the role that luck plays. All we can do is write well and see where it takes us.
Derek, luck and hard work seem to go hand in hand!
I’m not sure you can write to court controversy, but you can certainly use it as an angle to raise your book’s profile if a potential controversy comes to light. A bit like making a virtue out of a vice. In the end, a story about the book can be as powerful a sales tool as the story within the book.
I’m writing a series of thrillers and books one and two (Standpoint and Line of Sight respectively) are already published. As luck would have it, BBC1 is showing a great spy series at the moment – The Game – which is something I can refer to on social media. Not quite a controversy but the same principle applies. As my novels hint at a dark underbelly in world – and especially European politics – I keep my radar tuned to any Euro scandal that might touch upon similar themes.
1. Fiction can’t work without conflict.
2. Some types of conflict work well in their own right, but are not controversial in a 21st Century social media sense.
3. Are well-written, less ‘controversial’ books doomed to be bad sellers? I don’t believe so – but they may be harder to sell.
4. Luck? A factor perhaps, but I’m reminded of the maxim of professional sports players: the more I practice, the luckier I get.
5. Does it come down to what kind of writer an individual wants to be, and what kind of reader is being targeted?
6. A million books is a lot of competition, so shouldn’t we all focus on nurturing more and different readers by writing better books?
This is the good/bad news about self-publishing – anybody can publish anything. With so many books out there, most of which are poorly written, most authors feel as if they are trudging through wet cement. It’s more difficult than ever for quality to rise to the top. Talented yet unknown writers now spend way more time self-promoting, tweeting, commenting, blogging….. And that’s frustrating when what we really want to do is write our next book.
As for luck, I agree with Paul. As Benjamin Franklin said: “I am a strong believer in luck and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
Working on a non fiction book about police protection programs. It will be very surprising and will shock some people. I guess this will cause a good bit of controversy.
Many thanks for this connection, and for your thoughts on controversy. As you well know the reason for controversy often arises from confusion on hard data in the first place.
Nowhere in mind medicine is the confusion more abundant than in the diagnosis and treatment standards that don’t sufficiently exist for the treatment of “ADHD.” One of the most popular, most easily recognized and mistreated mental conditions on the planet is treated globally without specific Medication Rules! And to beat that point, the primary medications are controlled substances!
For more notes on this quandary I’ve shortened a URL to highlight a post on just one set of helpful hints through video explanations:
Many thanks for your consideration!
Dr Charles Parker
Author: New ADHD Medication Rules – Brain Science & Common Sense
A good subject, Laurence. I have tried to make my book ‘Jaguar!’ as controversial as possible. It includes murder, violence, sex, obsession, bi-sexuality, incest et al. Yet all done at a fast pace and with a sense of humour. The funniest throwback from this approach is my friends and family (particularly my wife) all look at me in a strange, suspicious way now!
Mine too! But no harm done! We writers are allowed to be strange.