Marketing seems to drive some writers crazy.
I suppose one reason why traditional publishers developed as they did was because they were supposed to handle the ‘commercial’ end of the writing business so that writers wouldn’t have to engage with it. Writers like to write; they don’t really like to ‘sell’.
That’s a perfectly understandable point of view at first glance. Who wants to be involved in the sleazy practice of trying to get people to buy things?
But, as I have written at length elsewhere, it’s also a highly illogical point of view, based on some erroneous suppositions and false conclusions. The problem is that, in order to get some writers to see the illogic and to reject the falsity, whole frameworks of thought and belief need to be blown wide apart. People — not just writers — like their frameworks: they are sources of security and comfort. The idea that they might have to give them up seems frightening, even when the Promised Land of viability and joyful creation lies beyond.
So let’s start with some basic truths and see if we can begin to glimpse that Promised Land without too much disruption.
Marketing is communication.
The word ‘marketing’ has come to be associated automatically in most people’s minds with the dubious practices involved in promoting and selling a huge variety of products in order to make money, often from unsuspecting masses of consumers who may or may not actually need those products. Writers, emerging from their dens into this bright and often glitzy world, can get understandably suspicious and even revolted by what they see as a lack of ethics — ‘compelling’ people to buy things without due regard for those peoples’ freedom of choice.
But in essence all marketing is is communication. Communication is defined as the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium, or a successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings. The word originally comes from Latin communicatio, from the verb communicare ‘to share’. What a writer is trying to do with marketing is to complete a cycle which started when the writer first had an idea for a story. That idea went from mind to page or screen, then into some sort of finished document. But the aim was to get it into the minds of readers.
The job of transmitting the idea across space to readers is the job of the marketer.
The marketer’s task is to ensure that the original idea actually makes it into someone else’s head. They do this by a) isolating what it is about that original idea which makes it appealing enough for a selected audience to want to pick it up, look at it and then go so far as to want to pay money for it so that they can make it their own and b) finding the exact people who might be interested in that original idea.
As I’ve written elsewhere, this means that the act of marketing is actually an extension of the act of writing, if the intention of the writer is to get his or her books read. Ideas flow from the imagination to the page and then across to the reader. If they don’t make it across to the reader, they don’t get read — simple as that.
In fact, one could switch this around and say that the act of writing is actually an extension of the act of marketing. From the very first word that the writer commits to the page, he or she is seeking to appeal to a reader (even if that reader is at first only the writer), to motivate him or her to continue, to build up an emotional commitment, and eventually to get that commitment strong enough for the reader to reach for a means of purchasing the book.
All writing involves marketing; all marketing involves the writer; and that’s because both are intimate acts of communication.
We’ll take a look at one way of breaking this communication down into workable parts next time.