May 14, 2012

Getting Closer to Elvis

by Doyne Phillips, Marketing Editor

I was once checking through customs in Rome and the young lady, seeing I was flying into Memphis TN, asked me if Elvis was still alive. I answered, “Some think so”. She said, “Before I die I am coming to Memphis to see Elvis”.  

Have you ever been to Graceland? Millions have gone there to get closer to their idol; “to see Elvis.”  

The Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, a seaside home in Salem, Massachusetts, was built for Captain John Turner in 1668. Having visited the home I can easily see the attraction. But the draw is Captain John Turner’s cousin Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne wrote a book about the home and due to the popularity of the book the home is better known by the title of the book, The House of the Seven Gables. Seeing the home with its secret staircases and notable architecture makes the book come alive. 

In Oxford MS, not far from the Greek revival home known as Rowan Oak, you can find seated on a bench in front of City Hall a life size bronze statue of Rowan Oaks' former owner William Faulkner. Faulkner’s writing about the area in which he lived went so far as to have a detailed map of the fictitious county of Yoknapatawpha. From this many locations were spoken of in his books As I Lay Dying, Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, and TheUnvanquished. It was believed to have a strong connection to the county of Lafayette, the county in which he grew up. Tours of the home, the city and surrounding areas are available.   

The question is, like the chicken or the egg, which came first? Were people drawn by the book, the author, or the location?  I think the answer is not which one came first but how wonderful the connection is. It is like Graceland and Elvis!

Let’s take that concept one step further. What if you wrote a book about a specific area that was a popular tourist area and also used the location to market the book? In April 2011 Andrew Andrews published The Noticer, which made the New York Times Best-Seller List. It is about a mysterious man suddenly appearing to certain citizens of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, AL and assisting them with their problems by using common sense. This was based on a true encounter Andy Andrews had years ago in that same location. Orange Beach is now Andy’s home town. It is also the Gulf Coast destination of hundreds of thousands of beach goers each year, my family included. 
On a recent trip to Orange Beach I discovered in a gift shop Andy’s book The Noticer displayed alongside a Points of Interest brochure. The brochure compiled points of interest in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores AL "that have special meaning for New York Times best-selling author Andy Andrews.” How brilliant! The connection with the book and the author are much stronger when you can see where the story took place.  

If you have written a book and have used a well-known destination a brochure like this may be of help. If you are considering writing a story and have yet to decide on the location, again this may help. Help your readers to make the connection. You can’t leave Graceland without feeling a little closer to Elvis.  

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