How to Integrate Your Opinions into Fiction and the Value of Print Ads


book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I have strong political opinions, especially in light of the recent presidential election in America. I’m not one to write a letter to the editor or other nonfiction essays and opinions, but is there a safe way to express my opinions through fiction?

A: Absolutely, and you can have great fun doing so. Conflict and suspense drive fiction, so you have the perfect setup in fiction to voice your opinions through one or more characters. You can then add conflict by having other characters disagree with the character or characters’ opinions and act based on that disagreement.

When two or more characters disagree, argue, attempt to make their points, or act out of anger or disagreement, conflict arises. Remember, though, that a strong plot must unfold and carry the story. Perhaps the plot could even involve the characters’ differing opinions and therefore place one or both characters under suspicion for a crime.

Fiction does have to be believable and somewhat based on truth. As a result, an interesting side effect of creating conflict through differences of opinion is that you will be forced to study, understand, and write about the opinions that oppose your own. While the exercise may not change your opinion, you will be even more informed than you already are, and your readers will learn a great deal of interesting details when they read your work of fiction.

Q: I’ve been given a 45 percent discount on an ad in The New York Times, where I can promote my self-published novella. The ad would cost me only $3,000. What do you think?

A: I’m not a book promoter, but an editor, so I cannot professionally evaluate the worth of such an offer. I can advise you only of my opinion of the financial aspects, which means I’ll speak from my gut feelings, rather than giving professional advice on the subject. Nevertheless, here goes:

Do the math. I will pick a number out of the air as an example. If you are fortunate enough to make $5 per book sold, you would have to sell 600 books on the one day the advertisement appeared, simply to recoup your expenses, before you even made a profit. I suspect, but have no knowledge to back up my suspicions, that only the bestselling books by well-known authors might sell as many as 600 copies in one day. I also wonder if an ad in a newspaper in print or online would compel readers to stop reading the paper and either put the newspaper down and go online or switch to another website to order a book online.

It’s been my experience that I sell the most books wherever I appear in person. Print ads, on the other hand, have given me weak responses in terms of sales. For example, one particular ad resulted in my selling one copy of one of my books. Pitiful.

I won’t delve into the fact that few people even subscribe to a newspaper anymore, because in the end it is up to you how you spend your promotional dollars. I suspect you can find cheaper, more effective ways to promote a novella, however. I suggest reading a book on how to promote a book. I’ll bet (but I don’t know for sure) that such books do not recommend buying advertisements in a daily newspaper.

For much more information on hundreds of subjects of vital importance to writers, order Purge Your Prose of Problems, a Book Doctor’s Desk Reference Book.

Send your questions to Bobbie Christmas, book editor, owner of Zebra Communications, and quadruple-award-winning author of Write In Style: How to Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, will answer your questions quickly. Read more Ask the Book Doctor questions and answers at


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