Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Marketing 101

Most writers equate marketing with promotion, but promotion is only 1/4 of the equation. Say what? Let's start with the basics: the 4 Ps. That's Price, Place, Promotion, and Product. So how many of those 4 Ps does a writer have control over? To at least some degree, writers have control over 3 of the Ps. Since writers have no control over price, let's skip that one.

Place. Once you've signed a contract with a publisher, you have no control over where the book is distributed. However, you do have some say as to where you place your book -- meaning where you decide to submit the manuscript. Let's suppose all your dream publishers, let's call them the Tier 1 publishers, reject your manuscript. You now have the choice of sending it to Tier 2 publishers. It's your product, and you get to make the call. Before you leap, do your homework . Think carefully about how selling to any publisher aligns with your long-term goals.

Promotion. No, you don't have control over a publisher's promotional efforts. Yes, you do have control over what you decide to do promotion-wise, given your budget. I won't touch the specifics of any particular promotional efforts. However, I will correct the misconception that the goal of promotion is to increase sales. It's not that simple. Your first goal is to increase Awareness. In large corporations such as the one I work for, market researchers conduct trend studies to determine a product's (or brand's) purchasing strength with customers. The flow looks like this: Awareness, Consideration, and Preference. As a writer, you can influence awareness. It's a saturated market out there, so what can you do that will be effective? The old adage that word of mouth is the best advertising is true. Unless you can score a spot on Oprah, the best buzz arises out of ... the product itself.

Product. As a writer, you have quite a bit of control over the story ~ at least until you get a revision letter (one that hopefully makes your story even better). To create buzz about your story, you need a high concept (a plot that is immediately apparent to the editor/agent/reviewer) and a unique twist on a tried and true plot. Does having a high concept with a unique plot really work? True story: at a recent regional conference, I sat next to an agent at dinner who asked me about my book. I gave her the tag line and she gave me her card on the spot.

A high concept plot is only part of the story. Now you have to grab readers with compelling characters with whom they can relate. Make your reader care, laugh, cry, and gasp. And deliver on your promises. Easier said than done, but think about those books on your keeper shelf and ask yourself what differentiated them from all the hundreds of other books you've read.

All of the 4 Ps of marketing matter, but Product matters the most. The story is the most valuable marketing tool you've got.


Kim Lenox said...

Excellent post, Vicky. You've got a particular expertise where this subject is concerned, so I'm always interested in what you've got to say!

Donna said...

Very pithy and practical--just like you. Thanks for putting it all down in one place.

Edie said...

Great points, Vicky! I agree with everything you said -- only you said it better than I thought it. *g*

Vicky said...

Thanks, Edie & Kim & Donna.

Sometimes I feel like I straddle two different worlds between my analytical day job & my creative night writing. But my marketing career keeps me grounded in the business aspects of writing. To me, it's good news that the book itself is what matters the most.

Michelle Styles said...

Interesting post, but I would just like to point out that even after a revision letter, you do retain a lot of control. The revision letters I get tend to be far more pointing out the problems and letting me discover the solutions. The key is to have as strong of a product as possible. Because the reader's expereincewith one book goes on to sell the next book. It is a matter of appealing to that unique sub section of readers -- those who want to read your sort of books. It is about knowing your market.
Anyway, best of luck with the submissions.

Vicky said...

Great point, Michelle! Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

I like your concept of the 4 P's. Definitely, putting out the best product you can will is the major event.

Good post.


Vicky said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sandy.

SLING WORDS aka Joan Reeves said...

Hi, Vicky! Didn't know you had a blog. Love the comments Kim L. made about your ms. Made me want to read it just because of her remarks! Great blog. I always love it when the importance of the book itself is emphasized because I think a lot of PR frantic authors forget this. I'm going to add your blog to my link list on Sling Words. Cheerfully yours, Joan Reeves

Vicky said...

Thanks, Joan!

Anonymous said...

Great site and great points.