Last week I exposed why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books. Sorry. I didn’t make the rules. Anyone in publishing more than a minute will tell you that the only way to sell books is 1) good book and 2) word of mouth. Ads, commercials, trailers, mailers, bookmarks have minimal effect on the overall sales numbers. If you want to know why, read last week’s post.
Sometimes it seems that life would be easier if traditional marketing could sell books because then we could pay for a nice book trailer and program an automated platform to blitz out “commercial” on every social site. Yet, the fact remains that books are not tacos or car washes. So what’s a writer to do?
Too many writers are in search of what I call “the White Stag”—the voracious reader who devours books like candy. WHY? How many books can you write? Who cares if someone only reads two books a year if one or both are YOUR books? Writers spend far too much time marketing to a very small segment of the population that defines themselves as “readers.” Too much book marketing is happening in places where we are least likely to find most people—book stores, author blogs, book review sites, reader forums. And, you know who makes up the most of these “reader” groups?
Thus, not only are we marketing to one of the smallest sections of society—the self-professed avid reader—but we are also spending far too much time marketing to each other. Writers get on Facebook and Twitter and hang out with each other, befriend each other and talk to each other. They blog about writing and talk about writing…at the expense of talking to potential readers.
Make no mistake, writers are awesome. I spend most of my time talking to writers. Yet, in fairness, you guys are my demographic. Ah, but hold on. Calm down. Writers are incredible, kind and talented. We should befriend writers. They are our professional core and our support network. Yet, where the mistake happens is that fellow writers are our comfort zone. We cannot mistake our professional network for our reader demographic. Will writers make up part of our readership? Yes…but they are not ALL of our readership.
We MUST reach out to fresh blood and bring new readers into the family. If we don’t our platform becomes almost inbred, then starts playing the banjo and firing a shotgun in the air and it’s all downhill from there.
Too many writers spend too much time talking to a small group at the expense of the big picture.
Now, another HUGE misconception many writers have is that, unless someone professes to love reading that they, therefore, do not read at all. Major misconception. Avid readers simply need far less convincing because they already love to read.
Think of it this way.
If I am from India and I grew up eating curry all my life, then likely I will seek out Indian food restaurants. What if, however, I happen to open an Indian food restaurant in Garland, TX? In Garland, there happens to be a lot of people from India. Ah, but the problem is that with a large population of Indians comes a larger presence of Indian food restaurants. If all of them are catering to Indians and offering all kinds of authentic cuisine, then that is very steep competition. How can my little Indian restaurant survive?
I have to think differently.
I can go after the same patrons as all of my competition (fellow Indians), OR I can seek to introduce an exotic food to outsiders who don’t already believe they love Indian food. If I can convince Joe American to just try something different once…then my food can make the fan. Joe will see that MY Indian restaurant has awesome food, and he will not only be loyal (since he is still afraid that other Indian restaurants will give him heartburn), but he will also tell all of his Joe American pals who don’t believe they like curry either.
His opinion will carry more weight with this new population of potential patrons. Why? Well, it’s nothing shocking for an Indian person to love Indian food. BUT, for Joe American who normally lives off hamburgers? His opinion is gold. Joe and his pals likely will still believe they hate Indian food….but THIS restaurant–MY restaurant–is different. My restaurant is that perfect choice for a date night or when you just want something different.
It just takes some creativity when defining our demographic. Put another way.
Why was Julia Child so successful? She made fine French cuisine accessible to average people. See, the other French chefs of her time defined their demographic far too narrowly. They all targeted an elite group of foodies. Julia, however, saw her demographic as anyone who could masticate food and who wanted to enjoy the experience. If you liked good food and maybe liked to cook, YOU were her demographic. Guess what? That was a demographic of hundreds of millions. The result? Julia Child became a legend. She didn’t patronize regular people. She believed that just because they hadn’t grown up in high society, didn’t mean they wouldn’t embrace it and love it if given access.
Too many writers narrowly define their demographic as those people who say they love to read books and they patronize non-readers.
Yet, what is our REAL demographic? Anyone in need of informing or entertaining. THAT demographic is MASSIVE and when we writers mobilize THAT sector of society—the fat part of the bell curve—this is when literary history is made.
The DaVinci Code, the Harry Potter Series, Twilight, Tuesdays with Morrie, Water for Elephants, The Help all ignited a passion for stories in people who normally would not have defined themselves as avid readers.
There is a logical fallacy that is decimating writer platforms. What is a logical fallacy? Well, for those of you who’ve slept since your school years:
All apples are fruits, therefore all fruits are apples.
All avid readers read books, therefore the only people who read books are avid readers.
Non-reader is really a highly inaccurate term. Just because people don’t list reading as a favorite hobby doesn’t mean they don’t read at all. In fact, this group that believes they don’t enjoy reading can become some of THE most fiercely loyal fans. Why? Because they still believe they don’t like reading unless they are YOUR books. See that neat transition?
There are millions of people who claim they don’t like reading, but they bought every last hard-cover of the Harry Potter series. Many of them might not ever read another author because J.K. Rowling has their undying devotion.
So how do we tap into this fat part of the bell curve? How do we convince people who’d rather hack up monsters on X Box or watch American Idol that our book is worth parting with their precious free time? It’s actually pretty simple. Get out of the comfort zone. Writers are wonderful. Writing groups rock. But, here are the problems:
1. This is an oversaturated market. It doesn’t take any creativity to market to fellow writers or avid readers. Every writer who gets on social media has the same “bright idea” and talks to the same people in the same forums.
2. Writers are wonderful and supportive, but we all know a half a zillion writers and can only buy so many books.
3. If all of us are only talking to other writers or avid readers, then our word-of-mouth has a limited range of influence.
The upside to branching out to non-writer groups:
1. We are likely to be the only writer and so we will be more unique and stand apart. Writers do have a certain celebrity status and regular people get excited to meet published authors.
2. Since this group doesn’t have 142 friends with new books out they are easier to move toward the sale. They will generally be more excited about the sale as well.
3. If they buy and LIKE our books, they are more prone to talk about it. Why? Because they believed they disliked curry reading, yet now they LOVED the experience. So now they want to proselytize to all their friends who also believe they can’t stomach Indian cuisine reading about this AMAZING restaurant book that is different. It is actually FUN, and AWESOME, and NOT PAINFUL. THIS is how real word-of mouth catches fire, goes viral, and mobilizes that fat part of the bell curve that creates publishing legends.
Next week we will talk more about some ways to break out of the comfort zone and start tapping into larger networks that can become readers. Go after new blood. I want all of you to start having more confidence in your work. Yes, your books can be loved by people who love to read and that is wonderful. But how wonderful will it be to be such a great storyteller that you CREATE a passionate reader? THAT is talent and what all good stories are capable of. Humans are story people. It’s in our blood. You have the power to ignite that hidden passion, so why settle for less?
What are your thoughts? Opinions? I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of August I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.
In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.