Many books in the speculative fiction genres—whether they are stand-alone novels or books in a series—are stories of worlds. While there are characters with stakes in these stories, these characters are often chosen because their decisions impact the world around them in big and momentous ways. In essence, you are telling part of the history of your make-believe world.
Think of it this way: We write, sell, and read history books. Often, these histories are told through the point of view of certain people who took part in the making of these histories. These books balance showing that point of view with the telling of events and facts beyond what that point of view could have seen and experienced.
As science fiction and fantasy writers, we do the same. The difference is that our stories are fiction. Our worlds are make-believe. We can make the story end however we want.
But this isn’t a post about the power and joys of writing. This is a post about marketing the worlds we create.
History books sell because they are important. History books often go unread because they’re boring. Be warned: Your job as a writer is to make the story of your world important to your readers, not to bore them to tears.
So, how, when marketing your book, do you make your world important to potential readers?
Like most of marketing, this process starts before your book is published. As you are writing this book, you have to think about what makes this world important to you. You need to capture that in the writing itself. You also need to think about how this sense of importance may also be important to your readers. You need to capture that in the writing, too.
You need to be able to articulate these two qualities—how they overlap, how they interact, what they mean—to yourself as succinctly as possible.
Then, you need to be able to take the succinct statements you’ve come up with and write them as an appeal to your audience. This becomes the heart of your marketing message.
As you actually make your pitch, you do need to touch on other elements of storytelling, especially character and plot. It’s not really a story without character and plot. But if the heart of your story is the world you have built, then the heart of your message will be about the world you are sharing. You’ve got to make that matter to readers or they won’t be willing to spend their time on your story.