When I started reviewing travel novels and contacting authors, the most frequent question I get asked is, “What is a travel novel?” The second most frequent question is whether or not their book can be considered a travel novel. Let’s discuss what constitutes a travel novel.
But first, why should it matter to you whether or not your book is a travel novel?
If your book can double as a travel novel, you can tap into an additional genre and double your prospective audience. You can also double your marketing channels and types of messages you put out there. Now, you aren’t boring prospective readers with the same marketing pitch over and over. You are giving them a variety of reasons to pick up your book, each more compelling than the last.
Who buys travel novel? Travelers! Each year, millions of people buy books set in the location of their next vacation to be read on the plane, train, and beach. Put on your savvy marketing hat and look for ways to reach readers while waiting for their planes to depart or while lounging around the beach or pool.
Find a way to make your novel useful to readers while on vacation. This can open up new marketing avenues you’ve never considered. A strategy that has worked well for Chris Titus, author of The God Complex, was to create a self-guided tour of Prague based upon the locations described in his book. Readers who visit Prague will experience the city in a unique light, turning their trip into a novel adventure. This is the type of adventure readers will talk about with friends and other prospective readers, generating the coveted ‘word of mouth’.
If your book can work as a travel novel, don’t miss out on this great marketing channel! This could be the boost you are looking for to increase your readership and make your books known to a larger audience. It’s not only about making sales but sharing your novels and letting more people experience the wonderful stories you create.
So what is a travel novel?
You won’t find ‘travel novel’ in Wikipedia, but you will find travel literature. Travel literature is “travel writing aspiring to literary value.” It is typically a record of the author’s experiences when touring a place for the pleasure of travel.
When it comes to travel novels, the author has woven his/her experiences into a compelling storyline that creates a deeper connection between readers and the setting. Readers will pick up many of the same cultural references and nuances as found in travel literature. However, this will happen in the midst of a torrid romance or gripping adventure. This will surely heighten your experience when visiting the same locations as the characters in the book.
An example of this type of novel, one which I have reviewed, is The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands. The author shares her passion for Provence, an area she fell in love with, by depicting the different sites she visited as told through the triumphs over losses and problems faced by the novel’s main character, Katherine. This made for an uplifting story, which would also make for an uplifting trip to Provence.
While it helps if the setting plays a significant role in the plot development, it is not critical when deciding if the book could be considered as a travel novel. As a reader and travel novel reviewer, I think a novel still offers significant value to readers and travelers if it only offers enough descriptions of a place to make readers more aware of their surroundings from a historic and cultural point of view. If the book makes them want to visit the location, even better.
For me, I believe the two most important ingredients when deciding if a book can be considered as a travel novel are as follows. The first thing I consider are the descriptions of the city, state, region or country where it is set. This includes the details the author uses to describe the area. They should be factual, authentic, and unique to that area. The second item I consider is how well the story injects the reader into that location. If the storyline makes me feel like I was there, whether or not it compels me to visit the region, I think we have a bona fide travel novel.
So if your book can be considered as a travel novel, it’s time for you to tap into this rich genre and get to know more travel readers. They just might be visiting the setting of your novel!