“Who Is Mr. Plutin? has a foothold in several genres, morphing from one to another,
sometimes even within the span of a page, which created an enormous marketing conundrum.”
An author contemplates how to market her
By Rebecca Strong
Until the release of Who Is
Mr. Plutin?, my publisher,
Curiosity Quills, specialized
in genres that are as far from
my novel as Kafka’s Amazon rankings are
from mine. Its list was populated with
fantasy of all kinds: paranormal and
supernatural, horror and science fiction,
and mysteries that traverse time and
space; its covers were for the most part
dark and surrealistic; and its marketing
strategy was clear, especially when it
came to genre stratification.
I sent Curiosity Quills my manuscript
at a time when it was developing plans for
a new imprint: Curiosity Thrills was
supposed to introduce romance and contemporary fiction to the publisher’s roster
of speculative titles. After a few false
starts with my cover, we settled on one
that transmitted the mood of the novel.
In June 2015, Who Is Mr. Plutin? hit
the shelves—under two primary categories selected by my publisher: Mystery/
Crime and Romance. I began to visit my
book’s Amazon page on a daily basis.
Amazon soon caught on and began sending me marketing emails. “If you are
interested in Who Is Mr. Plutin?,” they read,
“we thought you might be interested in
the following titles.” What followed
were books in the Mystery/Crime and
The covers of the recommended books
were either very dark or very romantic,
and they didn’t look like the cover of my
novel, which to me meant that people
interested in those two
genres wouldn’t buy my
book, and, if they did,
they’d be very disappointed.
Who Is Mr. Plutin? contains some
mystery, but the kind that doesn’t take
itself too seriously. It contains romance
too, but very little of it. Overall the novel
can probably be classed as a spy-fi: a
Bridget (Jones) Identity, a Sex and the KGB,
a Spy and the City, a Sophie Kinsella in
Gary Shteyngart’s Russia, and all of the
above at the same time. It’s a light, fun
read with a bit of Austin Powers–type
espionage and some social satire. Who Is
Mr. Plutin? spans many genres and
doesn’t fit completely in any one of them.
While I was writing this piece, another
reviewer compared my novel to Kafka.
The Metamorphosis ends with Samsa dying
and his family relieved that he is gone.
While the end of my own heroine’s
journey couldn’t be more different, I
admit that I am concerned about the fate
of Who Is Mr. Plutin? I don’t want the book
itself to suffer Samsa’s fate.
My book’s genre-morphing nature
makes it a colossal marketing challenge—
especially when it comes to categorizing
it on Amazon and targeting the right
audience. But a challenge can be a good
thing, right? I certainly hope so. ■
A recent review on Amazon called
my debut novel, Who Is Mr. Plutin?,
Kafkaesque. Naturally I was thrilled to
have my book compared to a world
literature classic. Then I looked up my
Amazon ranking, and also the ranking of
various editions of Kafka’s works. My
book’s Amazon numbers were nowhere
near Kafka’s; I didn’t expect them to be,
of course. But it made me think that,
though a metamorphosis worked won-
ders for my book’s main character, Vika,
it did nothing for my sales.
In the book, Vika wakes up trans- formed—much like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa. Without giving away details
and spoiling it for the reader, I’ll just say
that the success of her mission depends
on how she navigates this new state.
She doesn’t become a bug as a result of
her transformation—in fact, she stays
completely human—but everything has
changed. Her thinking is different, her
decisions surprise friends and family,
and her questions make people around
her wonder aloud if she’s fallen off the
moon. Even her style has changed: her
closet is now full of clothes that seem
much different from those she usually
The novel mirrors the predicament of
its protagonist. Who Is Mr. Plutin? has a
foothold in several genres, morphing
from one to another, sometimes even
within the span of a page, which created
an enormous marketing conundrum.
Rebecca Strong is the pseudonym of a writer and
artist living in Madrid. Her debut novel, Who
Is Mr. Plutin?, was published by Curiosity
Quills Press in June 2015.
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