Friday, March 11, 2016

Marketing for Fiction Writers

I wanted to follow the eloquent posts this week by Donis and Barbara with my own thoughts about Women's History Month. But I'm going to wait until next time and think a bit more. This post will be about marketing. I suspect I may be more susceptible to a sales pitch than my colleagues on Type M because I study mass media/popular culture. I am sometimes drawn in while I'm analyzing what is happening. A really good marketing strategy leaves me wanting to see if the product lives up to the hype. Yesterday morning, I watched a marketing master at work.

I tuned into a webinar conducted by publishing executive and life coach, Michael Hyatt. I discovered Hyatt because he was mentioned in a non-fiction author's blog post. She had a link to his website, and I found him interesting enough to read a few of his posts -- and ended up on his mailing list. I received an invitation to join his webinar, offered at several convenient times. He promised to tell me the three questions I needed to ask and answer to set my life priorities. Now, I should say here that he caught me at a vulnerable moment. Within the past couple of weeks, I'd almost said "yes" to something that I knew would be stressful and require a learning curve. I managed to step back and ask myself if I was the best person to do this and, more important, how would this affect all the others things I had committed to getting done within the next few years. But it was a close call, and it made me aware of those time management issues that I am always trying to balance. That made me an excellent prospect for Hyatt's webinar.

I tuned in -- but I almost logged out in the first ten minutes. Hyatt began his presentation by jarring his listeners to attention. In his conversational tone, he mentioned his friend who was an actuary. He had asked his friend how many of the thousands of people attending the webinar were likely to be dead in the next two years. He shared the statistics. Only a few, but not what you want to hear as you're sipping your morning coffee. Before his listeners could flee in horror, Hyatt followed up with the acknowledgment that he had delivered unsettling news. Knowing he was going to do that he had looked for humor in the situation and found it in the form of amusing last words on tombstones. As we were recovering from the "Boo!" we'd just gotten from the Grim Reaper and chuckling along, Hyatt moved into his presentation -- about having an opportunity to design the legacy we would leave behind. During the next 40 minutes or so, Hyatt provided a blueprint for identifying priorities and staying on track. When he was done, he offered his book for sale -- sharing the major league blurbs and early sales ranking. He also offered more giveaways to those who would make their purchase and enter the information from the sales receipt.

I was impressed by Hyatt's marketing, but I didn't buy -- until I was in a bookstore later in the day. I remembered his book, but didn't see it. I asked about it as I was checking out and was told the book was just out and not in stock. Asked if I wanted to order, I said yes. Even though I hadn't ordered his book after his webinar, Hyatt had found a way to influence my buying behavior. At the end of his presentation, he had quoted psychological research on failure to follow through. I had linked failing to buy his book with failing to set my priorities and being vulnerable to "opportunities" that were not right for me. The fascinating aspect of his strategy was that he had given me enough information during the webinar to be able to implement his blueprint. But I thought I would do it better with his book in hand.

Hyatt hooked me because he tapped into a universal fear. Then he offered  me a way to harness the anxiety he had induced. He convinced me that he had the solution to my problem. He could be confident that I and other members of his webinar audience would be receptive because we were the people who allowed him to reach out to us.

The challenge for fiction writers is to identify the readers who respond to us the way I did to Hyatt. We have to identify the readers who would be interested in our books and then get their attention in a crowded marketplace. We blog, we tweet, we do YouTube trailers. We sign in bookstores, do talks in libraries. Attend conferences and participate in panels. We Skype, send out newsletters, and do workshops. Most of us try not to shout "buy my book" or become spammers. But are there lessons we can learn from a master marketer like Hyatt about offering something of value and connecting with readers at a deeper level?


jinx protocol said...

This is the very aspect of the writing biz I've failed to latch onto just yet. I love writing, love publishing, but taking those next steps is where I stumble. What are the initial steps beginning self-published writers need to take in order to make their work legitimate?

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

I haven't tried self-publishing, Jinx. But from what I hear from both writers and readers, the first step seems to be to get a really good editor before going to press. A good editor can catch typos, grammatical mistakes, and other problems that distract reader. He or she can also make suggestions for minor revisions. The next step seems to be sure that you have a great cover. After that, I understand that some of the same strategies that work for traditionally published author would be effect when it comes to marketing -- blogging, twitter campaign, virtual book tours (guest posts), etc. I'm about to start using my research for my books in my marketing. I have loads of interesting material that never made it into the books.