The Intersection of Marketing & Storytelling

Guest: Chris Bohjalian Bestselling, Award-Winning Author,

A little tenderness goes a long way when trying to reach an audience. If you want to develop a brand message that has meaning, emotional storytelling could be the key to your next marketing campaign. As bestselling author Chris Bohjalian illustrated in Part I of this Renegade Thinkers Unite episode, storytelling is all about touching the audience on a personal level. [Show notes by Jay Tellini.]

In Part II of this episode, Bohjalian talks about the mechanics behind some of the deeply emotional themes he has communicated to his readers over the years. The author’s eloquent words are sure to inspire your marketing team, as he provides narrative advice that can help your brand convey a powerful story. You can listen to the episode here.

Here are some of our favorite moments from the interview:

Drew: How do you market your books when you’re on the road?

Chris: First of all, the book tours changed a lot in the last 25 years. And it’s changed a lot because of the digital era. The digital era has done two things to the book tour. First of all, it has dramatically decreased the number of hardcover books you will sell on a book tour because so many people will buy the book digitally from either Apple, Amazon, Kobo, That means that each event is likely to sell fewer books. Secondly, it is meant—tragically—that there are fewer book stores. We all know that independent bookstores lost a lot of bricks and mortar faces when Amazon started in the late 1990s. We all know that Barnes and Noble is beleaguered right now as it tries to manage these beautiful superstores that were built in the 1990s, pre-Amazon, with how many books they can really move in a 200,000 square foot store. A book tour is different now.

Drew: How is it different?

Chris: You have different expectations in terms of how many books you’re going to sell, but you’re doing two things. You’re being an ambassador for your publisher. You’re being an ambassador for yourself or your brand. You’re getting a chance to connect one-on-one with your readers. And yes, you are getting a chance still to sell books because I sign a lot of napkins, Kindle cases, posters, flyers at book tours now by people who read on a tablet. And that’s fine. It’s all reading. It’s all savoring stories, but it’s different. The days when you might sign four, five hundred books at a book event are waning. At least there are for me. I know that there are authors out there who will sign 400, 500 books at an event but those events are pretty rare for me.

Drew: You’re teaching master classes at Yale and Rutgers. What are you teaching your students?

Chris: I believe television and the digital age have changed how readers approach novels. You need to immerse them fast into what the story is, why the stakes matter, and why it’s emotionally relevant to them. And so what I like to focus on is, how do you begin? What’s your point of view? What’s your tense, and what’s going to create either that sense of dread or momentum or enthusiasm to cause your reader to pick this book up off the table or download it when there are so many other choices? What’s going to hook them on page one.


Meet the Guest

Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 20 books. His work has been translated into over 30 languages and three times become movies.

His new book, The Flight Attendant, lands March 13, 2018.

His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Hartford Courant, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage, and Salon.

His awards include the ANCA Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian Genocide; the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; Russia’s Soglasie (Concord) Award for The Sandcastle Girls; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Trans-Sister Radio; a Best Lifestyle Column for Idyll Banter from the Vermont Press Association; and the Anahid Literary Award.

He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington PostCosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest, and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He was a weekly columnist in Vermont for The Burlington Free Press from 1992 through 2015.

After graduating from Amherst College, Bohjalian started in account service at advertising giant J. Walter Thompson where he met the host of Renegade Thinkers Unite!

You can learn more about Chris on his website.

What You'll Learn

  • How to get consumers involved in your brand story.
  • How to make an emotional connection with your audience.
  • How to find the right angle for your marketing strategy.
  • How to appeal to a younger audience.

Quotes from Chris Bohjalian

  • I believe television and the digital age have changed how readers approach novels. You need to immerse them fast into what the story is, why the stakes matter, and why it's emotionally relevant to them.
  • What I like to focus on is, how do you begin [to tell a story]? What's your point of view? What's your sense and what's going to create either that sense of dread or momentum or enthusiasm?
  • I never write the same book twice.

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