So how do I use the magic Marketing Mantra myself? I thought if I gave you an up-to-the-minute overview of an actual practical usage of the thing, you might see better how it all falls into place and might work for you.
I write books about books, rather than fiction. As a student of literature, and then a teacher of the same subject in a school in England, I ended up reading a lot of great works of fiction and analysing them. During the 2000s, I developed a theory of literature which I tested in front of class after class of students, and all of them had a jaw-dropping response. Many demanded that I write a book about what I was showing to them — this eventually became my well-received manual, How Stories Really Work, published in 2016, since when it has never received less than a five-star review from readers all over the world.
Here’s the mantra which I also developed over several years, after trying to market my book using conventional methods, and after extensive study of what makes marketing actually work:
Attract generally; attract specifically; engage fully; provide more.
To attract generally, you have to know who your target readers are and match them with your writing personality — in other words, you have to name out who you want as superfans by examining your own work in depth and working out exactly who would like it. For me, that would be fiction writers— not just any fiction writers, but those writers who were serious enough to have committed to building a career and who had perhaps either tried to sell books using ordinary means or who were completely at a loss when it came to marketing and selling. Furthermore, my target market was even more specifically people who were interested in what makes fiction ‘tick’ — what kinds of things are at work behind the scenes which make a story effective with readers. I wanted to get hold of writers who wanted to improve their work, who were hungry to learn more about the craft of writing, but who had perhaps been disappointed by what they had read in normal text books about the subject.
My Writing Personality? I get so excited about my favourite topics and wanted that to come across with a degree of informality, while also retaining the sense that I knew what I was talking about. So my book had to be a mix of friendly, open and casual style with focused scholarly substance, using examples which were from both popular and classic literature. One’s writing personality is a little like a ‘dating profile’, I imagine: you want to present a persona through your writing which is attractive to a particular kind of reader, and off-putting to the readers you don’t want. I didn’t want an esoteric, academic crowd (they tend to be over-critical and unreceptive to innovation), but neither did I want anyone who was just there because they were interested in some kind of ‘get rich quick’ scheme — I wanted my target market to be serious writers who were open to new ideas and willing to experiment.
Using the above, I set about attracting people generally, per the first part of the mantra. I did this by establishing a writers’ Facebook group — the Inner Circle Writers’ Group — which I then allowed to grow organically over a year or so, while retaining close control over whom I admitted and what topics were permitted to be posted. This cultivated a wide, international body of ‘warm prospects’ — people who were interested in the subject of writing, being a writer as a career, and every other kind of associated topic. The group grew from a membership of a few hundred to begin with to over a thousand and at this writing is approaching 7,000, with new members being added every day.
Attract specifically and engage fully
I attract people specifically by regularly posting an ad for my portal. My portal? To reiterate, a portal is a gateway book or story — a piece of work which serves as a perfect introduction to an author’s wider range. Mine was obviously How Stories Really Work — it served and serves as a doorway through which readers can discover a whole new way of looking at literature, marketing, writing careers and more. The portal comes in at the ‘engage fully’ step: you use it to make sure that, once a person has committed to purchasing your product, you really have their attention and gain real credibility in their eyes.
How Stories Really Work sells regularly. I use no ads of any kind other than the one in my group; I don’t overtly ‘sell’ the book anywhere else. I occasionally mention it in conversations, only when appropriate. I’ve probably sold over a thousand copies since its release, with figures growing every month. It frequently gets rave feedback and more five star reviews.
Has this made me rich? No, but that’s neither the point nor the expectation. How Stories Really Work is a portal: it’s designed to introduce readers to the wider world of my other writings. From reading the book, several readers have gone on to purchase my e-course How to Write Stories That Work — and Get Them Published, and my other books, such as Myth & the ‘Now’, The Seven Levels of Attention, 7 Secrets of Successful Stories and so forth. Many of them have also purchased my writing and editing services and I have plenty of other things in the pipeline in terms of ‘providing more’ for them. I am passionate about my subject and don’t expect to stop generating useful and hopefully insightful material for the foreseeable future.
You see how this might work for you as a fiction writer?
Working out your target readers and writing personality is an interesting process; running a group which serves to gather in a potential ‘warm’ audience can be fun and morale-boosting; delivering a portal product which you know will have an effect is satisfying; and then providing more encourages you to do what you love doing anyway: writing.
The alternative is at best unappealing, at worst a complete waste of time and energy: you could write one book and fire ad after ad after ad about it into the void in the hope of occasionally hitting a target reader, while at no point being able to have a live conversation with anyone remotely interested in the kinds of things you love.
I know which I would rather do. I’ve tried both and the better method is the one which produces actual sales and a following readership, rather than heaps of frustration and exhaustion.
Build a career organically; be a writer for real — a writer whose books are actually bought, read and loved by a following of fans.
Questions? Email me: