How many times have we been told we should be targeting our readers, audience, and customers? Am I the only one disturbed by this advice? Targeting seems like it should involve a Predator Drone…or at least a trebuchet.
For the record, I imagine many authors would view sales (and targeting) with far more enthusiasm if book launches involved a trebuchet.
In the olden days—before Web 2.0—the world was vastly different. It was a horrible existence rife with uncertainty, anxiety and dread.
Case in point, for most of the 20th century, if the phone rang? WE HAD NO IDEA WHO WAS CALLING.
Planning a Friday night? Want to watch a movie at home? You had to bribe that pimply-faced kid at Blockbuster to squirrel away the NEW RELEASE of Speed 2 before they were all gone. Then, after you watched Speed 2 and wondered why Hollywood didn’t just…STOP?
YOU COULD ONLY COMPLAIN TO PEOPLE YOU ACTUALLY KNEW.
Before Web 2.0 life was ugly, brutish and short.
As if pay phones, shoulder pads, and the regular onslaught of boy bands weren’t bad enough? When you went on a date and he/she said they had a good time and would call you, and they didn’t? Two options. Move on like a mature, confident person or engage PSYCHO mode.
There was no ‘checking online activity’ to see Brad really WAS working late like he said when you called him for the 37th time. No, you had to dress up, hop in your 1987 Mazda and find his workplace using the YELLOW PAGES and a PAPER MAP.
Oh and on the way over, you had to make up some reasonable explanation of how you just ‘happened to be in the area’ in that new outfit from Express. The one exactly like Paula Abdul’s—giant hoop earrings and all. #ForeverYourGirl.
We had to own the crazy O_o .
This said, language frequently reflects the emotional state of the times. Words mirror the collective ennui of a culture. Back then? Needy and codependent behaviors couldn’t be properly measured with metrics (I.e. ‘Likes’).
We had to TRUST our hair looked great or that skirt didn’t make our @$$ look like we had two @$$es…all on our own. No posting, getting votes, feedback, and digital flattery to boost our confidence.
Before Web 2.0, we were a skittish bunch. Every moment waiting, wondering…
Old School Marketing
Suffice to say, in a world where we were largely flying blind, it makes sense why so many military words and phrases crept into the marketing vocabulary.
**It’s also the only logical explanation for harem pants.
Terms like strategy, bombshell, media blast, marketing blitz, ad campaigns, and targeting buyers were common, and consumers didn’t take it personally. We didn’t take it personally because business was business and personal was personal.
Back in the day, it was perfectly fine for businesses to think in terms of blitzing, blasting, or targeting because we understood we were consumers, not FRIENDS.
We didn’t mind kitschy slogans to make us feel a company cared because, deep down, we knew they were only pretending to care.
In the 90s, when Budweiser repetitively asked us ‘WASSUP?’ we were pretty sure that was a rhetorical question. No one at Budweiser was waiting for our answer…except Sheila.
This, of course, is no longer the case. Now, in 2018, if Budweiser asks us ‘WASSUP?’ They’re likely hoping we WILL answer. The reason is because branding and buying behaviors have changed.
Brave New Buying
A lot of writers (and companies) gripe that social media is ineffective because there’s no way to trace what, which, and how much activity translates into sales. You know, like a formula or recipe that’s simple, scalable and easily replicated.
Something you could train a weasel to do, because studies have shown ferrets will work for cat food (though raccoons are cool with exposure dollars).
***Note: Remember raccoons are NOT weasels (which are often preferred for direct marketing). Raccoons are marsupials and DO have those adorable opposable thumbs. BUT they’re also attention addicts that require management to ensure they’re not gaffing off texting and posting selfies on Instagram.
Social media is not direct marketing, though the two are often confused.
See, in direct marketing, activity can be measured. Businesses can put out an ad, monitor click rates and see how many clicks led to a purchase. Companies can send out so many coupons and then measure quantitatively how many of those later translated into a purchase.
Why Web 2.0 has been so vexing for marketers is they keep trying to treat social media the same way as direct marketing…and they can’t. Because this isn’t 1999. And, if we do social media correctly (keeping it social) there’s no way to accurately measure, control or quantify results.
It also becomes way too obvious we’re mixing social and market norms and that creeps people the hell out.
Market Norms are when a prostitute expects money in return for *wink wink nod nod* ‘favors.’
Social Norms are when a wife does those same ‘favors’ for her beloved husband out of love because getting paid for it would be seriously strange.
That seems obvious, right?
But what if wife has a wonderful and romantic evening with her husband, but then early the next day, she asks him to fill out an on-line survey rating how he enjoyed his night? And tells him that, when he completes his survey, he will be texted a code he can then redeem for free pancakes?
Yes, I just took that to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL of weird!
But y’all see what I mean when I say that you just can’t sneak that stuff in there! We SEE it. We FEEL it.
Don’t Cross the Streams!
While many businesses still use direct marketing tactics, these methods are becoming increasingly less effective when used exclusively. Companies need to be on social media.
Another observation to point out.
Unlike a company, authors are humans. When we don’t act like a human…people grow quickly suspicious.
A lot of authors rightfully feel dirty when told they need to be targeting their readers. Are we selling a book or doing a mob hit?
***Because if this is a mob hit shouldn’t we get paid better? Asking for a friend.
We’re writers, which means we appreciate words have power. If we are targeting people so we can bait, blitz, or bundle them, it’s tough to hide our less-than-authentic motives.
Words impact thoughts, thoughts directs actions, and actions create results. If, behind the scenes, we view people as resources only to be plundered for personal gain (by targeting them), it makes us feel ookie when we try to pretend like we really care.
…unless you’re Brad.
It’s All in Our Head
I’ve spent the last several posts working to make ‘sales’—which is pretty critical to success—far less icky. It doesn’t need to be icky at all, actually.
As mentioned, words hold tremendous power, and a simple mental shift can make a massive difference. This is why I dedicated a lot of my branding book (Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World) to neuroscience. How is the human brain impacted as technology shifts?
Technology changes, but humans remain the same.
How does the human brain operate in a virtual world? What factors can render content invisible? Why do humans SEE certain types of content and yet remain oblivious to other types?
Words play a massive role in first, being visible and then, making a positive connection. For instance, did you know the human brain only begins listening at the first active verb?
When we tell people, ‘Don’t forget to buy my new book,’ their brains hear, ‘Forget to buy my new book.’
This is one of the reasons negative goals are virtually useless and produce terrible results. Try this simple exercise in your everyday life. I make it a point to phrase as much as possible in the positive. State what I want, as opposed to what I don’t want.
‘Remember to pick up the dry cleaning’ or ‘Remember you put your keys in the side pocket of your gym bag’ yields far better results than lecturing myself on all the stuff ‘I don’t want to forget.’
Why I take time to mention this is because a simple adjustment in vocabulary can ease our own anxiety, allow us to feel authentic, and thus we’ll come across to others in a far more genuine way.
No Targeting? So WHAT Do We DO?
When we are targeting our audience, the core objective is for us to do all we can to ensure we’re respecting our audience’s time (I.e. Don’t repeatedly pitch people who rent an apartment about the benefits of vinyl siding…unless you want to be stabbed).
These days when we’re all about social, community and friending, I recommend we define then identify our audience.
If I write books about dragons and sorcerers, what kind of people are likely going to like these kinds of stories? What do we share in common? Maybe they like WoW, or GoT or ASOF, OMG!
I write suspense thrillers. We share a love for Dateline, podcasts about serial killers, and a morbid and socially unacceptable sense of humor. In my case, targeting my audience could be fatal. But identifying them is pretty simple. If they laugh at my memes and add additional morbid commentary? We’re peeps! If they report me to FB? Likely not my audience.
I give ways and specific exercises for how to find ‘friends’ in my book. Why? Because I was a nerd with paralyzing social anxiety and no social skills. Meaning I had to break all this down using science.
Don’t judge me.
***There was a good reason I was single until I was almost 35.
Anyway, what I realized (while researching ‘how to make friends without using chloroform’) was that ‘identifying our audience’ is something we’ve been doing since we were kids.
You love Dragonlance books? Me too! Did we just become best friends?
***Kids who liked Dodgeball, conversely, ‘targeted’ their audience.
When we identify our audience and all the hobbies, topics, interests we’re likely to share, then it’s far simpler and more authentic to strike up a conversation and connect. Instead of targeting victims to pummel with BUY MY BOOK, we can locate others who like what we like.
We can talk about video games, movies, hobbies, crochet, pets, unicorns and untraceable poisons… You know. FUN STUFF!
Ideally, these conversations will lead to conversions.
Using common ground and shared emotional touch points, we can make loose connections that then foster relationships and perhaps grow into actual friendships. This means that one day—when we have a book (or another book) for sale—we’ve already done the ‘hard’ work.
We’ve cultivated an audience of friends, advocates and hopefully fans eager to see and help us succeed. Since we’ve created a micro-community, we come across as vested because we are. We have a reputation for giving more than we take.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Do you hate the Old School marketing jargon as much as I do? I hated it back when I was in sales. Always made me feel greasy, as if I had to view people with dollar signs over their heads.
Do you see the value of simply rephrasing targeting to identifying? Does that notch the terror down to maybe low-level-eat-some-chocolate anxiety?
I love hearing from you!
What do you WIN? For the month of JULY, for 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Class Title: Building a Believable Steampunk World
Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $50.00 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY, July 20, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST
Who doesn’t love some steampunk cosplay? Corsets, goggles, awesome hats…
Steampunk has become one of the hottest genres today, crossing the lines of YA, NA, and adult fiction. It seems like it’s fun to write because it’s fun to read.
However, there’s a world of difference between the amateur steampunk writer and the professional steampunk author, and the difference lies in the world they create.
Is your steampunk world historically-accurate enough not to jar the reader out of the narrative with anachronisms? Does your world include paranormal as well as steampunk? Are the gadgets and level of sophistication in keeping with the technologies available at the time?
Steampunk is not an excuse to take short-cuts with history. Good writing in this genre requires a solid grasp of Victorian culture and history, including the history of science, medicine, and industry.
This shouldn’t scare you off from writing steampunk, but it should encourage you to take this class and learn how to create a world that is accurate, consistent and immersive.
This class will cover a broad range of topics including:
- Not-So-Polite Society: Just how prim and Victorian do you want to get?
- Grime and Gears: How to research Victoriantechnology, science, medicine, and industry without dying of boredom?
- Putting the ‘Steamy’ in Steampunk: How to obey (and more importantly, break) Victorian rules of romance;
- Keeping it Real…ish: How to drop in historical details without info-dumping, and how to describe and explain your steampunk innovations without confusing.
A recording of this class is also included with purchase.
Class Title: World-Building for Dystopian Fiction
Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $50.00 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, July 27, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST
There’s no greater fear than fearing what dwells deep in the dark corners of human nature. Dystopian literature, for all its bells and zombie whistles, shines an unforgiving light on all those shadows.
Can’t think of any dystopian-genre books off the top of your head? How about:
Farenheit 451, The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, The Lorax, The Stand, Neuromancer, Ender’s Game, Divergent, World War Z, Underground Airlines, Brave New World, Ready Player One, A Clockwork Orange, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (just to name a few…)
Still, it’s a challenging genre to write. Done badly, dystopian fiction is the equivalent of that emo kid down the hall in your dorm who drinks way too much coffee and just won’t quit playing The Cure.
Done well? We get the dangerous thrill of skidding close to the edge of moral insanity, looking through a mirror darkly and seeing ourselves and our neighbors, and a hyper-creative outlet that combines the dubious fun of post-apocalyptic totalitarianism (zombies optional) with chilling truths about human nature.
Topics covered in this class include:
- Having fun with things you shouldn’t: why destroying society is just so much fun!
- ‘First Fright’ vs. ‘True Fright’: sure, we’re afraid of enforced barcode tattoos because totalitarianism!…but maybe we’re really afraid because it really sounds so seductively convenient;
- Picking and choosing ‘normal’: how to balance having enough familiarities with society today with creating shocking changes that go right to the heart of our fears;
- Fear leads to the dark side (unless you’re already there): creating dystopian characters that invite both shock and sympathy;
- To apocalypse or not to apocalypse: do we really need nuclear fallout or an alien invasion…or can we do it all ourselves?
- Playing with your food: how to put a new and unique spin on zombies, aliens, and food shortages (i.e. asking critical questions like whether Soylent Green is gluten-free).
A recording of this class is also included with purchase.
About the Instructor
Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.
BRAND NEW CLASS IN AUGUST!
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $50.00 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Thursday August 9th, 2018 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST
Writers are in the entertainment business. Notice the second half of our job title is business. The lifeblood of all business is sales.
But, to be blunt, most creative professionals would rather be stabbed in the face than ‘do sales.’ Yet, if we don’t sell books, our career is doomed (regardless of how we publish).
One of the MAJOR reasons so many people are afraid of sales is because what’s being taught as ‘sales’ is actually ‘direct marketing.’
Direct marketing is NOT sales. It IS, however, pushy, icky, and hasn’t been effective since The Spice Girls were cool.
Sales can be fun. In fact, believe it or not, humans are wired for sales. It’s part of our biology. Problem is, humans are also wired to overcomplicate things…which is why so many of us freak out over sales.
This class is to remove the fear factor and clarify what selling entails for the professional author. Not all products are sold the same way…which is why there are no late-night infomercials hawking Hadron Colliders or F-16 fighter jets. Our sales approach must align with the product we’re selling, or we’re doomed before we begin.
This class will cover:
- Why direct marketing doesn’t sell books;
- Tame wasters versus time savers;
- How to be paid what we are worth;
- Ways we can make ads, promotions and marketing far more effective;
- The unique way books must be sold;
- How to set goals and create a scalable strategy;
- Explore the S.W.O.T. analysis and why we need one;
- How to differentiate our brand and product in an over-saturated marketplace;
- AND MORE!
***A FREE recording is included with class purchase.
Oh wow!! I wish my stories/novel drafts were ready to go – this post all by itself makes so much more sense than others I’ve read about selling or marketing a new book. Saving this post…
Thanks so much, Kristen – You’re a bright light!
Another blast of fresh and clarifying air to blow out all the outdated marketing cobwebs. And along with a bucket of laughs. Thank you yet again, Kristen! Your book has helped keep me at least semi-sane, and it has certainly shored up my resolve to keep on blogging.
Another great article, Kristen. Thank you! This goes so well with the points you make in Rise of the Machines, but adds some clarity imo.
Keep up the good work!
Kristen, reading your posts is like breathing in fresh air…thanks so much for both the LOLs and the nuggets for me to ponder (wildly mixing metaphors here). I don’t know how you do it.
I’ll have what she’s having… 😉
Always such entertaining and enlightening posts! Love your sense of humour, Kristen. You never fail to make me laugh, and yet learn at the same time. And believe me, that’s high praise as I’m a hard audience…ah…member? 😉
lol – I love this post and agree with it 100% but…I can’t ask my friends to fork out money for me. I don’t even feel comfortable talking about writing because it makes me feel like I’m trying to guilt /them/ into doing something for /me/. I think I’m just a lost cause. 🙂
No, you just need to strengthen your confidence. The actions we fear most often are the very ones that are necessary to make it to the next level. Nothing great was ever accomplished in the comfort zone 😉 . If you write an excellent book and spend most of your social media time being an actual person, it will feel a lot less icky. Alas, one of the reasons many writers do fear selling is, on some level, they know the book isn’t ready for sale. They don’t trust the quality.
I agree : Old-school marketing feels very removed from the PEOPLE and more about their roles (or the roles you’d like them to take on).
“For the record, I imagine many authors would view sales (and targeting) with far more enthusiasm if book launches involved a trebuchet.”
As a reader, I would be much more likely to go to a book launch if it involved a trebuchet! 😀
I’m a little late to this party, but it’s been a nutty couple of days here on Ol’ Cape Cod. Like you, I have a strong sales and service industry background, and some of the trends I’ve witnessed over the past 25-odd years have driven me up a tree. I swear, ever 10 years or so someone writes a new manual and the entire business world follows the Hot New Idea.
But I digress. *rant over*
I’ve always believed the best ‘marketing’ comes from relationships, because if I can’t connect to you, I can’t connect to your product.
Fabulous post, thank you! And no, it’s not just you – a trebuchet would be a lot of fun, lol! But seriously, as always your marketing advice is saavy and common sense – except for the “common” part. This also definitely makes the idea more logical, less sleazy, and more fun!