The Seven Functions of the Self-Published Author: The Marketing Machine
Planning is intangible, but vital to success; Management is equally phantom-like, but essential if one wants to make one’s dreams come true; and Marketing… well, every time I use the word ‘marketing’, I probably get the same cringe response, simply because, as a set of ideas linking Management to Finances, it has gotten itself a bad name.
In my book How Stories Really Work I use the analogy of making a cup of tea to describe these seven functions. The idea of having a cup of tea is the Planning function; deciding how it will be made is Management.
Marketing is the function that determines whether or not the level of desire for the cup of tea is going to produce the energy and items needed to make it. If it fails, desire never gets high enough to get any motion occurring.
Then Finances is having the energy and goods, Production is obviously making the tea, Quality is checking it, and Distribution is drinking it. All of these are vital steps in the cycle of the cup of tea. But Marketing is perhaps the most misunderstood.
Relate this to writing and books: the idea of writing a book (and the central ideas in it) stems from the Planning function; deciding how it will be written is Management. Marketing is the function that determines whether or not the level of desire for the book is going to produce the energy needed to reach for it. Finances is obviously having the money, Production is writing the book, Quality is editing it, and Distribution is getting it to readers in a form in which they will actually read it.
Traditional publishers market a book for you and this is aimed at getting enough sales so that you eventually receive some royalties. As a self-published author, you will need to market your own book. But if Marketing is ‘the function that determines whether or not the level of desire for the book is going to produce the energy needed to reach for it’, how does that translate to practical steps you can take right now?
How does one accomplish the Marketing function? How do you, the writer, determine the level of want in a potential reader so that they are prompted into action and actually buy your book?
As discussed earlier, many writers assume that this is what happens in Distribution — that the mere appearance of their books on the shelves or websites of the world will result in readers reaching for their wallets. That’s not usually what happens. Books sitting in shelves or websites are static objects. Marketing is what supercharges them so that they draw in attention like magnets.
Essentially, marketing is communication.
Marketing is what you communicate about your book other than the book itself.
Marketing is largely to do with positioning, appearance, relationships, and emotive power.
It might seem to you as a writer that putting your book on Amazon ( a kind of positioning) and giving it a colourful cover and a blurb which summarises what’s inside is ‘marketing’. That’s about 5% of what’s needed — and some of it is wrong.
Firstly, ‘positioning’ has almost nothing to do with appearing on Amazon (which is part of Distribution more than it is part of Marketing).
Secondly, your ‘colourful cover’ might be entirely missing the point. What looks good to you might actually be repelling your readers, not because it looks horrible, but because it isn’t sending out the right signals for those particular readers.
Thirdly, if your blurb is written in an attempt to summarise the story inside, it’s probably totally ineffective and may even be shutting down potential buyers.
Remember, Marketing is what you communicate about your book other than the book itself. You’re trying to tell your readers a story — how do you get them to come closer and listen?
Firstly, you have to learn to ‘position’ your story with things that readers already recognise and like.
Secondly, your cover needs to be pumping out the right signals.
Thirdly, your blurb needs to be charged with emotive power so that it attracts potential buyers.
Each step, one, two, three, should each be designed to hook and pull in the attention of your prospects — note, not any old attention, just the attention of YOUR prospects. Correct positioning means that you get the right people’s attention; correct cover design means that you draw in that attention; a powerful blurb means that you compel the prospect to take the next step, which is probably to open the book and ‘look inside’.
After that, it’s up to your story to take them the rest of the way.
Marketing will have accomplished its task of determining whether or not the level of desire for the book is going to produce the energy needed to reach for it.
Do this right and you get a sale and so proceed to the next function: Finances.
So a writer — or any business anywhere — should be using the tool of Marketing to grab, attract and boost attention so that money comes in. The book — or any product — then does its work.
Like any motor, this can become self-firing: readers, super-thrilled by your book, then do the job of Distribution all by themselves, and you get the ‘word of mouth’ effect which pushes many books to the top of bestseller lists. At that point, you have a fully functioning machine which isn’t short-circuiting itself: your ideas have been managed and marketed so as to produce an energy of their own, which then empowers you to create more ideas, and so forth.
Without Planning, Management and Marketing, the machine falters and putters to stop; with all seven functions in place, the vehicle can go somewhere. Or, to return to the piano analogy, a more musical symphony results.
More will follow soon.