As many readers will know, I’ve written a book, A Marketing Handbook for Writers, Part 1, which goes into some depth and detail about what marketing is, how it works, and how, as writers, we can get the upper hand on its principles and use them to market our books.
Part of what the book tackles is the myths about marketing that are so all-pervasive that we believe them implicitly to be true. These things seem obvious to us, and for me to question them in any way seems, at first glance, to be folly -indeed, almost heresy. And yet, when we try to apply the myths, we waste money and time on campaigns which do nothing at all for us, putting our lack of good fortune down to the fact that we must be missing some key ingredient in our approach, or that we just have to 'think bigger' or 'try harder'.
The truth is that we have been fooled by a set of illusions.
Here are some of the biggest ones:
1. ‘Marketing success depends on the amount of force or effort put into flowing out about your book (or any product).’
If there are 7 billion people on the planet, we only need to contact a fraction of 1% of them to be wealthy beyond our wildest dreams - that’s the line of thinking that we pursue, convinced that, if we work flat out and pump Google or Facebook with well-thought-out ads, we can reach that number of people. After all, ‘it’s just a numbers game’, we tell ourselves: contact 1,000 people and at least 3 are going to buy our book, surely?
Well, no, actually. You can ‘contact’ 10,000 people and it’s quite possible that no one will buy your book. Maybe, just maybe, if you manage to put an ad in front of 100,000 people - a convincing ad, which has been well-tested and uses certain guidelines well, you might sell a couple of books. But what about the 999,998 people who saw your ad and didn’t blink? What happens to them? To them, you become part of the general background noise of an advert-laden culture. If you even registered with them, you were no more than a nuisance; if you register with them next time, all they’ll remember about you is that you were a nuisance the first time.
Think about it: recall the last television ad you watched, or the last ad you saw on social media, not an ad about something that you were remotely interested in, just the last ad. You weren’t drawn into action by it, were you? If you see it again, chances are you will probably not act, and may even feel resentful that this thing is being put in your face again. If that’s how you feel about advertisements that are thrust in front of you, why should anyone feel differently about your ad when it is thrust in front of them?
The fact that one or two people might click a link, or make a call, or do something based on an ad which has appeared before millions of people is what continues to fuel the advertising industry as a whole. But at what cost? At the cost of boring or even alienating the vast majority of people who didn’t act because they saw an ad, and were never going to.
Modern advertising is based on the idea that to kill a mosquito, you need a bazooka. It’s locked into an overkill pattern, blasting more and more ‘messages’ at more and more people in the hope of causing one or two to act, as though the population at large were robots or deaf people who just needed the volume turned up to receive the communication.
No - it’s just not an effective or efficient way of running anything. The truth about what makes marketing and sales work is quite different. But you and millions of others have bought into the myth about force and power to such a degree that you might fail to question it even now.
The truth is that marketing really depends on affinity and need. More on those in my book.
2. ‘Sales is the end product of the whole process.’
Here’s another one that seems obvious to you. ‘Of course it is,’ you might say, ‘as the whole reason I undertake marketing is to sell my books!’ It probably seems ludicrous for me even to question that the final step, at the end of the long campaigning about your book, is for a customer to step up and pay.
But that really isn’t the end of the thing, especially for writers. You started off wanting to get some ideas and words which you had strung together, into the hands, minds and hearts of readers. The process doesn’t end until that is accomplished. The awkward fact that someone has to actually buy an artefact from you along the way, in order to acquire the words so that they can read them is almost an embarrassment. If you focus only on getting them to open their purses and wallets, you’ll miss the target completely and end up with the marketing model above: having to contact literally hundreds of thousands of people in order to find one who was ready to buy anyway.
Marketing is not hypnotism: you’re not trying to overcome the determinism of the customer in order to compel him or her to part with money (though if you read some marketing and sales guides, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was). On the contrary: marketing is about finding those people who are already ‘awake’ to your message and looking for exactly what you have to offer, so much so that they are willing to pay for it.
3. ‘The process of writing and the process of marketing are somehow disconnected.’
When it comes to trying to sell books, writers really have the upper hand in the marketing field. I wouldn’t want to be in the business of trying to sell saucepans or shoe polish - such things are mere static objects, they have no real attractive power of their own except for their cold function. But stories? That’s a different matter. Marketing a story is an extension of the story itself - it is an attempt to reach out beyond the book and attract, fascinate and grip a reader, just like the story within the book is supposed to do. In fact, storytelling and marketing are really the same thing, as my book explains.
As writers, we have been led to believe that the process that we undertake to produce a story is one thing, while the act of attempting to get that story to readers in the marketplace is a different thing entirely. We tend to believe this to the degree that those mysterious processes of the marketplace become arcane to us and almost a matter for the occult alchemist. We think that, once we have completed our final draft, some other kind of expertise must take over, wielded by masters of another kind of wizardry entirely.
But it’s simply not true.
If we have written an effective story which pulls readers along, glues them to the page, engages them on the level of morality and meaning, and provides them with a fulfilling conclusion, we have already performed a major marketing feat: we have taken people whom we have never met, led them through a series of steps, affected them emotionally, perhaps even spiritually, and along the way they have of necessity parted with some money. That’s a marketing campaign in miniature right there.
Storytelling is not only not separate from marketing - it is marketing. Writers are possibly better at marketing than anyone else, because that is what they do when they tell a story.
Please stop wasting time and money on the above myths and learn how you can use and apply what you already do as a writer to achieve success in marketing.
A Marketing Handbook for Writers, Part 1, is available here.