Over the Labor Day weekend, Defiled was unveiled for the public at the Atlanta Journal Constitution Decatur Book Festival and I learned all over again the basics of selling a product new to the market. Over and over again I was asked, “What’s it about?” or “What kind of book is it?” There are any number of answers to that question from the metaphysical to the prosaic.
“It’s about the need for civil disobedience. You, know, like Thoreau urged a few hundred years ago.” That did not get an enthusiastic reaction.
“It’s about the difference between system-generated justice and fairness. The lead character won’t settle for justice, he pursues fairness at any cost.” That mostly received confused looks.
Okay, I’ll simplify: “It’s about a messy divorce.”
“They’re all messy,” was the most common response.
“Yeah, but this one ends in a murder plot.”
“Oh, it’s a murder mystery! Plenty of those for sale.”
“Not like this one.” Skeptical looks.
“What category is it in?” I was asked several times by people who wanted to quickly pigeonhole the book either for consideration or rejection.
“Well, most people would call it a legal thriller,” I responded.
“Like Grisham and Turow?”
“Yes, but the lawyers and judges aren’t the main characters or heroes; the husband and wife are protagonist and antagonist respectively.”
“That’s weird,” one man said. “It’s not really a legal thriller.”
He was right; Defiled is more like Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train). After some asking around I learned that their novels are in a category variously referred to as Domestic Thrillers or Domestic Noir. And that’s what Defiled is–Domestic Noir. Once browsing readers knew the correct category they quickly became interested or disinterested as the case may be but at least they weren’t confused.
So I learned sales 101 all over again: Properly position your product so that people shopping for apples buy apples and not oranges by mistake. To those who purchased Defiled, I say Thank You! and I hope you enjoy Domestic Noir. But if you were shopping for a legal thriller you won’t be far off.