The Under Ground Writing Project

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M is for Marketing, and P is for a bunch of other things.

Posted by John Ridge on September 8, 2012 at 12:10 AM

Earlier this week, Jenny talked about marketing. Scroll down if you haven't read it.

Everything she said was right. Yes, numbers are important, really important. Yes, there are plenty of great and awesome products out there that sit in obscurity because no one is talking about them. Yes, it can be a big pain in the tush to make the switch from the creative grind of writing a book to the grind of getting people interested in your book through increasing the chatter on the social media networks. Yes, if you're an annoying person, you reduce the chances of people picking up your work for the first time without recommendation from someone they trust.

Here's the thing: It can be a bigger pain in the tush than that.

Many marketing philosophies contain a set of "P"s. Depending on who you ask, there are four, seven, six, fifty-million (this is usually espoused by the hyperbolic and Nth-degree deconstructionist.)

Let's start with the classic four: Product, Promotion, Price, and Place.

Product: The thing you have created that solves a problem for your customer, i.e. your potential reader is bored and uninspired and they need something to spark their imagination.

Promotion: The process of informing the public of where and how they can get their hands on the solution you provide, i.e. how you advertise, where you do your book signings.

Price: How much value you place on your solution compared against the value the public wants to get from it, i.e. depending on your method of publishing, you ask the reader for a certain amount of money for the right to read your story.

Place: The method of actually procuring your solution, i.e. ordering from Amazon, walking into a bookstore, downloading through your e-reader infrastructure.

There are some schools of thought that have added a few more.

Packaging: How the product is physically presented to the public, to include websites, brochures, in addition to the cover (which is in fact where a book is judged by the most people).

Positioning: What kind of reader would love your book? What kind of reader would you be wasting your time trying to sell to? How does your product compare to its competition? How do your biggest supporters feel about it? How do your biggest detractors feel about it?

People: There are a multitude of people involved in getting a book from the writer's desk to the reader's lap. Can you name them all? Can you name what stake they have in getting the book there?

Here's why all of this is important. The most effective way to new generate a new customer comes from something you have near the least control over: The Referral. How many books have you read because someone whose opinion you trusted said, "Oh, I think you're going to LOVE this one!" In order to have referrals on your side, you have to create one of the best books they've ever read. The decision to refer it to a friend has to come from the reader, and from a place free from a sense of coercion or reluctant obligation.

The Ps mentioned above are means to speed up the process of referral. You have to convince complete strangers that your book is worth reading, and becoming part of their library of books that changed their lives. The more you can convince, the bigger your referral pool becomes, and the rate of referral turnover increases.

A lot of how you get your book sold depends on the ever-growing number of book distribution models that have arisen in the last fifteen years. If you can go with a publishing house, they likely will have a department dedicated to the marketing of books. This does NOT mean that you should sit back and wait for them to do their thing. It is still your product, and you need to be cognizant of what they're doing. This is still your baby they've got their hands all over, you need to be able to assess that your baby isn't being mistreated.

If you go the self-publishing route, or release an e-book, it's all on you how quickly the buzz develops and how quickly new readers come to your product. Also, if you have a traditional publishing contract, there may still be quite a bit of responsibility on your shoulders in doing marketing work for your book. Some houses spend as little money as necessary on unproven names and talent. This does not make them heartless, they just can't risk dumptrucks of money on every new author they sign, otherwise they'd go bankrupt very quickly.

Which comes back to Jenny's original point: Great products virtually sell themselves. Great products generate loads of referrals. Great products stimulate multitudes of ideas when the Ps are applied. But, great products don't do much more than sit on the shelf and wait to be read. It's up to you how quickly new sets of eyeballs come to it.

Now, quit reading this and go write something.


Categories: Writing Process, Publishing

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Reply Jenny Maloney
2:23 PM on September 7, 2012 
I LOVE this! Yes. What John said.
Reply Oliver
10:25 AM on September 11, 2012 
I thought the sixth P was prostitution for a second.
Reply John Ridge
11:59 AM on September 11, 2012 
That sometimes happens if you read too fast.

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