One of the biggest challenges in writing, other than the writing itself, is how to make your content marketable and sellable to others (how else will your book get an audience, after all?). This is something I've run into while preparing to query my novel--finding the marketable hooks and plot points that will draw people in, as well as finding ways to network and build an audience.
Structure Your Novel to Make it More Readable
Literary agent Jill Corcoran just wrote a great blog post about activating the first part of a novel (you know, the part that usually has all that backstory?). Jill says, "start right before everything changes for your main character." Backstory is a nice way to help a writer get to where the character needs to be, but on revision, those placeholders can easily be cut.
For example, my main character, Marnie, grew up without her mother. In the beginning, I had a whole section of flashbacks to earlier parts of her childhood--asking her father where her mother went, meeting her stepmother, etc. Upon revision, I found these parts, while interesting (at least to me, anyway) bogged down the overall narrative. 20 pages or so--gone. But I'm hoping my book is better for it.
Partner Up with Other Authors/Writers
I know I've said this before in my post on beta readers, but networking with authors and other aspiring writers opens up all kinds of possibilities, including, but not limited to:
1. A group who can give your work the edits/critiques it needs
2. People who can help you through roadblocks we all run into in the writing process (and if they're already published or repped by an agent, they may be able to give you some insider info about what to do (and what to avoid))
Fellow writers may also be able to help you promote your work, and help you find where you're marketable (take this example from a group of authors in Philadelphia.)
In the last few months, other writers have helped me answer the following questions:
1. When is a novel ready to query? (When you're not editing anything except a punctuation mark here and there)
2. What about my novel needs improvement? (Need to be clearer about the protag's motivation, and which aspects of the plot are most dire)
But remember, this works both ways. In turn for the wealth of advice I've received, I try to help promote newly published authors by featuring their work on my blog, and hope to someday conduct interviews like those I've seen from Literary Rambles and this recent entry from Eliza Loves Sci Fi.
Don't Use Facebook as a Promotional Tool Unless...
...you already have a professional following. I've seen agents successfully promote the work of their clients this way, but if you're a lone author looking for an agent, publisher, or audience, Facebook isn't the place for you.
Back to Eliza, who shares her less than positive experiences with Facebook, and demonstrates why Twitter is a better networking tool. (Caveat: Don't query an agent on Twitter unless you want yourself blocked).
Librarians should also heed this advice, as evidenced by this most recent entry from Annoyed Librarian.
I think that's enough for one day, don't you? I'd be interested to hear from others about positive (or negative) promotional experiences.