Here are some brutal facts of marketing:
Your readers are currently doing something else. They are busy and their attention is on other things — not only other books, but Life and work and bills and everything else.
If it helps, you can imagine them like a swift-flowing river at your feet, thousands of gallons of water — or attention, in this case — pouring past you every minute.
You might try yelling about your book from the riverbank, but chances are you’ll be ignored.
The truth is, you don’t want the attention of the whole river anyway. You only want to attract the attention of those people in it who might be interested in what you have offer.
So what do you do?
You dig a channel. This is where the analogy breaks down a little bit, because your channel will also contain filters, so that only those people who are super-interested in your book get closer and closer to it. Finally, the people who are really going to enjoy it buy it and read it.
But to draw in readers like that you have to turn your book into something that grabs their attention. It’s a Catch 22 situation, because the thing that will really draw their attention is the story — but you have to get them close enough to buy the book so that they can see the story.
So you have to use what we might call the external factors of a story to get them closer. These external factors — the positioning of your book in the marketplace, your cover, your blurb, your opening sentences (given that most book buyers will open the book and read the first bit before they buy) — have to be powerfully magnetic, then, don’t they? They have to draw their power from the core of the book, its central vacuums or themes; they have to hit potential readers hard with a kind of mini-version of what the whole book is about. That’s what it will take to attract them closer and to get them to part with their cash.
Don’t waste energy trying to affect those on the remote edges of what you have to offer — aim for the warmer public, the ones whom you know are at least partly interested.
A better analogy than a river might be a bunch of frequencies, passing right past you — and even through you — while your own wavelength is drowned out. What you need to do, to find YOUR buyers, YOUR readers, is tune in to their frequency (see the above diagram).
The brutality of this is that, unless you manage to do this, your book will sit in the sidelines ignored, in the same way that hundreds of radio frequencies are passing through you right now and being ignored.
Reducing this down even further: what you are trying to do with a piece of fiction is capture attention and get emotional commitment; what you are trying to do with a piece of marketing is capture attention and get financial commitment. But your tools are the same: holes, vacuums, gaps, incompletenesses, unknowns — the very stuff of which universes are made.