Viral Marketing and Historical Fiction

Robin Maxwell has seen the future–and now she doesn’t even have to change from her writing pajamas.

No more grinding book tours, begging publishers to pay for expensive front-shelf space, or competing for dwindling review space in newspapers and trades.

In a Feb. 2 blog article for the Huffington Post, the author of eight historical novels (including The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Signora da Vinci) describes her journey from traditionalist to digital publicist par excellence.

Maxwell recounts how she was taken under the wings of two younger historical novelists, Michelle Moran and C.W. Gortner. Fellow scribes in the genre will of course know those two accomplished authors from their tireless and generous participation in forums such as Historical Fiction Online. According to Maxwell, they opened her eyes to the near-miraculous marketing possibilities available from the use of blogs, websites, interactive communities, and online reviewers.

Two truths among many can be drawn from Maxwell’s fascinating journey. First, it indeed seems essential for an author to find a publicist who is on the cutting edge of the digital revolution. Second, the author must now shoulder most of the marketing roles once performed by the publisher.

In academia, the old saw was “publish or perish.” In commercial fiction, the new law apparently is “become interactive, or perish.”

Pity the poor writer who merely wishes to write. One wonders how the late J.D. Salinger would have fared entering anew this modern publishing world.

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