A Marketing Handbook for Writers: Part Four - The Arcane Magic
If you have been following this series of articles about marketing, you should know by now that it is a lot less mysterious than it seems, provided that you apply certain principles.
What happens more often than not in practice is that a conventional writer crafts a book, which is hopefully designed to create a particular impact upon readers; this is then prepared for publication; then, in traditional publishing, a separate entity called ‘the publisher’ pumps it out into the marketplace and hopes enough readers will come and read it. The ‘flow’ of this is largely the wrong way, from a book outward to a potential reader. The writer should at all times be concerned with building channels that flow inward, from the reader to the book.
This inward flow begins with directing the attention of someone who needs or wants what you provide. That doesn’t mean ‘everyone’s attention’, only the attention of those who need or want what you provide.
Do you see how you can breathe a sigh of relief right there?
You only have to locate those who are already interested in what you have written. That’s not everyone, only those who are already interested and have a gap in their worlds ready to be filled by your book.
That gap, if you can imagine it, is a tiny void which is operating like a minuscule vacuum cleaner: it seeks to draw in something that will fill it up.
That something is your book (and other books like yours, but let’s imagine that there is a small void which exactly matches the shape of your book).
So instead of picturing the public as a huge crowd upon which you have to push as much material as possible in the hope of getting a sale, think of them as vacuum-cleaners to one degree or another. A large number of them will be ‘switched off’ - they are the customers who are not interested in the type of thing you have written and who perhaps never will be. But some in that immense crowd will be actively sucking in air, looking for something to fulfil them. They may not seem to give any outward sign that they have their ‘vacuum-cleaner’ switched on, but somewhere in their world their Hoover is humming. And where a Hoover is on, there will be tell-tale signs.
The key thing to keep in mind at all times as you read this is that if their vacuum cleaner isn’t switched on, that person isn’t a prospect for your book.
If your story is any good, if it is well-crafted and appealing, there will be a significant proportion of people who are humming. They might not realise it, the hum might be weak, they might be doing something else at the time, but their vacuum is ‘on’. You don’t have to spend thousands or waste months trying to attract people who weren’t interested in the first place - you just have to find those people whose vacuums are already ‘on’.
How do you do that?
By following a natural law.
If their vacuums are on, there will be subtle signs. The power of that vacuum, however weak, will have affected their behaviour in small ways. They may have searched for your kind of book on Google; they may have joined writers’ groups to do with such things. They may have ‘liked’ ads about such books. They may have also explored associated books, different variations of the same kind of book.
Put yourself in their shoes: what would you do if you needed to find your book? Where would you go? How would that need affect your behaviour, if only slightly?
When traditional publishers dominated the field, the place to go to find a book was either a bookshop or a library. But in these days of independent publishing, where do people search? Google. Or other places on the internet.
That’s where your book has to appear.
Not all over Google; not all over the internet. Just in those corners where people look for books like yours.
‘Oh,’ you may well groan,’ he’s talking about Google ads and that kind of thing.’
Not exactly. Of course, such things play a role. You had better have some kind of web presence in today’s electronic age, if you want to contact anyone at all. But that’s just the beginning.
Remember the sequence outlined in previous articles:
1. You selected someone to whom to show your story.
2. You intrigued them in some effective way.
3. You got their commitment to read your story.
4. You delivered the book to them.
5. Your story satisfied them.
By doing a little market research as above, you have selected a group of people to whom to show your story.
The next step is to intrigue them in some way. This might not be as difficult as you think. Remember, you have already to some degree pre-selected this audience: you are in a place, more or less, where ‘your sort of people’ are gathered - perhaps a group on Facebook, or a writing forum, or in a magazine, or in a particular kind of bookshop. They already have their vacuum cleaners on; they are already slightly interested in the kind of thing that you have written, or they wouldn’t be there.
What tools can you use to turn that slight interest into intrigue?
There are a number of things: book covers, book blurbs, posters, press releases, statements, reader reviews, the context and position of your book in relation to others with which readers will be familiar. Each one should be designed to magnify intrigue.
How do you do that?
In the same way you did it in your story.
By making readers wonder what will happen next; by increasing the feeling of mystery; by engaging a sense of morality; and by touching on themes of universal interest to your kind of reader. These are all story elements; they are also design elements. Think of each one when putting together a book cover, sketching out a book blurb, devising a poster, writing a press release, drawing up a statement, selecting a reader review, and placing your book in relation to other books.
You’re digging a channel. If you’ve managed to get into proximity with the right kind of readers through market research, they are already ‘flowing’ in a channel to some degree. Your book cover or blurb or poster or whatever must dig a deeper hole: it must get them to flow in your direction.
Most readers, intrigued enough to pick up your book, then look at the first page. You’ve probably done this yourself - you’re mildly interested in buying a book, a particular blurb or cover captures your attention, and you flick to the first page ‘to see what it is like’. This is your chance, as a writer, to deepen that hole further, to really carve out the beginnings of a channel. Your opening sentence and first page should magnify the intrigue; you should move them along towards a commitment to purchase your book.
But of course, while that results in a sale when done correctly, things don’t end there. No business should aim for sales alone: only full customer satisfaction should serve as their aim. You want your story to fulfil the reader, to leave him or her with such an impression that they will read your tale again, to touch them so deeply that they will recommend it to others. You want your story not just to be bought, not just to be read, but to be loved. And that is what will occur, if you apply the correct crafting principles.
However, by taking those same principles and applying them to the world of marketing you can now perhaps see that writing and marketing are not worlds apart. Whereas before it seemed that there was a limbo between you and the reading public in which a mysterious alchemy needed to do its arcane work so that sales would occur, it is perhaps possible now to glimpse that that magic is neither mysterious nor arcane, but is an extension of the magic you already work as a writer.
Become a wizard: write, then sell, then satisfy. Using spells like these, you can change your world.
More marketing articles will follow soon.