Showing posts with label marketing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marketing. Show all posts

Book market trends and other things you have no control over

Jul 26, 2011

One of the most popular questions I heard people ask agents when I went to a conference back in May was about trends-- were the agents still looking for this trend or that trend, what trends were over, what trends were predicted to be next. Many writers want to write stories we love that will also fit into the marketplace, and knowing trends can help with that.

Unfortunately, the thing about trends is that they're not something we can control.

Trends are determined primarily by readers, and then by publishers trying to flood the market with what readers seem to want. It's possible to predict that because readers want dystopian, they may want science fiction next because they're related, but who knows. Maybe somebody will write an amazing book about a schizophrenic teenage elf, and readers will go nuts looking for more fantasy with mental health themes.

The advice professionals give out about trends and writing for them is usually the same: don't write for the trends, because by the time you hear about it, publisher's lists are most likely full of it. Just write the best book you can, one that you completely love, and if it's amazing, it'll find a home.

The thing about trends and hitting them or missing them is that it's almost purely based on luck. James Dashner mentioned at that same conference in May that when The Maze Runner was being published, it was around the time when The Hunger Games was getting popular. His publishers were excited to have another dystopian/post-apocalyptic story, because the market was primed for it. He was lucky, he said.

I've been thinking about trends a lot because I'm currently querying a dystopian novel. I wrote it before I knew much about the trend, but I'm not quite as lucky as James Dashner. While the trend is picking up in the reader's market, publishers have dystopians planned on their lists for the next few years. This doesn't mean I have no chance. I love this book, and I think it's pretty darn good-- otherwise I wouldn't have the courage to query it.

Here's the thing about trends though-- and about selling your writing in general. It's all about preference. It's about other people and what they like and what they're sick of and what tickles their fancy on a Wednesday at two p.m. when they read your query or pick up your book. And you really have no control over that.

What you do have control over is writing something that YOU love, which is why that's the standard advice from agents about trends. The other thing you have control over? Studying and applying writing craft and a hefty dollop of imagination to make your book amazing. Because everybody prefers amazing.

So, my friends, what are your thoughts on trends and writing?

Effective Marketing Strategy for Writers-- Creating a Plan for Using your Tools

May 27, 2011

There's an attitude among some writers and authors about marketing that is best described by the groan you hear when they mention it. We are writers, not marketers! they declare. And this is true.

Here's the thing, though. Marketing your own work isn't something to be afraid of. In fact, it's flat out awesome! You, the person who knows your books inside and out, gets to be the one to put them out there. You get to represent your own career! Yes, it's a little work, and yes, it might not be something you're familiar with, but a little knowledge can change that.

No worries, some writers say. I'm on Twitter, Blogger, Facebook, MySpace, Goodreads, Tumblr, and a million other places. Marketing is taken care of.

Well, sort of. Marketing is more than just tactics and tools. You need to have a marketing STRATEGY, and that means you need to know how to use those tools. Strategy is an individual thing, but the basics of marketing are always the same. Robison Wells, author of the upcoming dystopian novel Variant, gave a presentation on marketing at LDStorymakers. And he does this for a living, so he knows his stuff. (If you want his whole presentation, click here.) Let's dive in.

Strategy 1: Define your Brand
When trying to determine your marketing strategy, keep in mind that your direction is determined by your BRAND: a collection of all the impressions readers have of you. Are you sassy, witty, wise, intense, silly, helpful, or anything else? If you want to develop a brand associated with your name, all your marketing tactics (blogging, Twitter, etc.) need to point to the same (few!) impressions. That is your brand. And branding will affect and influence reader enjoyment and their willingness to buy your books. You can start defining this by thinking of the message you want to send your readers about you as an author-- not just about a single book.

Strategy 2: Understand the 4 P's of marketing
Marketing isn't just promotion and advertising. There are 4 basic parts to marketing, and the more you understand them, the more effective you will be.

1. Price - Unless you self-publish, you can't really control this. And if you do self-publish, do your research. There's a lot out there about setting a price high enough to ensure perceived value, and low enough that people will take a chance on you.

2. Place - This refers to where your product can be found: in stores, online, at conventions. It can also refer to self placement in a bookstore. You may also be able to sell your books in uncommon places, depending on what it's about. For authors, it's good to make connections at your local bookstores-- the more the workers there know you, the more they will promote your book to shoppers.

3. Product - What do readers get from you that they don't get somewhere else? This includes positioning, or your niche in the market. It can help to devise an internal statement that can help you determine your position: "For the reader who wants [genre], my book offers [similarity] and [difference]." This can help you promote the book to the right people.

4. Promotion - This focuses on your readers. Reader demographics can be broken into three groups: your fans (those who love you; family, friends, blog readers, etc.), those who will never be interested in what your write, and the swing group. The swing group are those in the middle who could go either direction.

When marketing to your fan group, it's fairly simple: keep them happy. Keep consistent with your brand message, and they'll keep coming. For the swing group, your goal is to pull them into your fan group. So do some market research: find out why the fans love you and use it to promote yourself to the swing group.

Strategy 3: Use your strategy to pick your tools
There are different categories of marketing tools, and some work better for writers than others. You can't use them all, so pick a few.

Advertising: This includes billboards, commercials, and anything that shouts at a customer. Not usually the best avenue for writers.

Public relations: Anything you do that's newsworthy. Getting interviewed on the radio or an online magazine might go here.

Personal selling: This is where social media falls, and it's very effective for writers.

Sales promotion: For writers, this includes things like contests and swag (bookmarks, etc.) This is also pretty effective.

Whatever tools you pick, keep in mind you can do things cheap, fast, or with quality. And you can only pick two of those. If you plan your strategy ahead of time, you have a choice in how you're going to do it.

Strategy 4: Find Friends

Here's the thing to remember about marketing: nobody cares what you say when you're the salesman. When you're "pushing product," people get annoyed and tune out. So what's the strategy here?

What people care about is what their friends say. This is where social networking really comes in handy: it's all about being social. Making friends. That's not to say you should have calculated friendships; that feels fake, and nothing turns people away faster than insincerity. Make friends for real! Talk about a fun way to market.

So, my friends, let's try a little experiment. Remember Strategy 1, defining your brand? Let's do a little market research! I'm curious what your impression of me as a writer (through my blog) is. If you leave a comment including two to three words you think of when you come to my blog, I'll come to your blog and return the favor! Let's help each other determine our direction.

P.S. Don't forget, if you want to achieve a writing goal through the month of June, join me for JuNoWriMo! You don't have to finish a 50,000 word novel unless you want to-- just make a writing goal and stick to it the whole month!

Lessons from Writing Conferences-- Your Name Really is Your Brand

Feb 17, 2011

So, I've made a little change to the blog. Or a big change, actually. You'll notice my blog name is no longer Life, the Universe, and Writing (that's now relegated to the sad position of tagline). And for good reason.

Today was the first day of BYU's sci fi/fantasy/horror writing conference: Life, the Universe, and Everything. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and inspiring. I made a few new friends, saw a few old ones, and learned something interesting.

I met someone I've so far only known through her blog. She thought she'd been to my blog as well, but couldn't remember my name. I mentioned the name of my blog, and she said, "Oh, yeah, I remember now."

You know what my immediate thought was? BLOGGER FAIL.
My writing blog, like many of yours, is for two main purposes: to share the writing journey with other writers, and to basically market my name. If people who come to my blog don't immediately associate my name with it, I'm not reaching that second goal.

I've heard time and time again that for writers, your name is your brand. Today, that message finally hit home.

So, my friends, think about it. Are you getting your name out there the way you want?

Social Networking for Writers-- If Facebook Exploded Tomorrow

Jan 8, 2011

Don't forget to sign up for the What's Your Process blogfest-- share your writing process and learn from others!

I read an interesting article last night on CNN that stated Goldman Sachs' investment in Facebook is a sign of the beginning of the end for the social networking site.

I don't know if this has any merit, but it made me think. As writers and aspiring authors, we are encouraged to use Facebook as a marketing tool. What would happen if Facebook, or Twitter, or Blogger-- the trifecta of social networking-- were to collapse tomorrow?

We debate all the time about whether we should tweet, and if we should have a fan page on Facebook, and how often we should blog. One expert says do it this way, and another says to do it differently. You MUST post more than once a week, you MUST interact with others on Twitter, you MUSTMUSTMUSTMUST.

No, my friends, you musn't.

What you MUST do, if you plan on selling whatever fabulous book you are writing, is to connect with people. Oh, you must write a fabulous book, of course, but that's just a given.

Social networking is just what it claims to be: networking. Making connections. Reaching out to one person at a time and saying I understand you, or we are the same, or let's learn from each other, or millions of other things. People once did this by talking to other people, like in person, maybe at a grocery store or a bus stop...it's sort of cool, if you want to give it a whirl.

So stop stressing about whether you should Facebook, Tweet, or blog, and start focusing on making connections. Where and how you do it is up to you, but keep in mind that these sites are just tools. If social-network-site-Armageddon came tomorrow, you'd find another tool to reach those people you've connected with.

As long as you're making those connections.

So, my friends, how are you making connections? Any thoughts on the demise of Facebook? Who will you talk to/tweet/blog comment to today?

P.S. For the best book I've ever read on marketing/networking/sales, check out The Greatest Salesman in the World. It's not even boring, I promise-- it's fiction.

 
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