Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Marketing Janette Marie Sherrill & Her New Book: Part 1
This conversation covers:
* “Edgy” Writing, * People Media
* Marketing, Publicity, PR,
* Personal Marketing,* Specialty Advertising
* Selling ‘the reading experience’
VM: Welcome to the “Philosophy of Romance” Blog. Do you know that you’re our first author interview?
JMS: Yes and I hope I’m not the last.
VM: Well, we’ll have to see how this interview goes first.
JMS: It’s good to be working with you again.
VM: I guess we should disclose that you were a fictional character in my book, “Characters in a Romance”.
JMS: Yes and that was a lot of fun.
VM: Did you turn out in the end to be a real character or a fictional character?
JMS: You don’t know? I thought you wrote it.
VM: There are over a hundred characters in that book. I had to use an Excel spreadsheet designed by Myra Johnson just to keep track of them all. I could open the spreadsheet but it would be quicker if you just told me.
JMS: OK, I turned out to be a real person which is ironic don’t you think since I’m actually a fictional character in real life?
VM: Well, I like irony and having a fictional character play a real person fit in well with the spirit of the narrative.
JMS: Don’t you think you should mention that the book starts with a cosmic cataclysm and all the fictional characters are knocked out of their novels and get mixed up with the real people and neither group can remember if they are fictional or real because everyone has partial amnesia?
VM: No, but you’ve already done it. I might add, however, that having everyone wondering if they were real or fictional did add to the tension.
JSM: It was also hard on the characters. Who wants to fall in love with a fictional character if, at the end of the story, you turn out to be real person?
VM: Or vice versa. But let’s talk about your book.
JSM: It’s an ‘edgy’ Christian fiction book that takes place mostly in west Texas in 1876.
VM: What do you mean by ‘edgy’?
JSM: I guess I mean what everyone else means. Is there more than one meaning?
VM: Let’s think about it. Is the book ‘edgy’ because of the type of characters in it? I’m thinking here of gamblers and prostitutes. Or is it ‘edgy’ because it is a little more sexually adventurous than a typical Christian romance? You know, a couple kisses and are almost carried away but pull back just in time to overcome temptation. By ‘edgy’ here I mean the hero and heroine almost sin, realize it, and feel the proper remorse for what they almost did.
Then there is also ‘edgy’ in a dogmatic way where you might have ghosts or a dispute between the hero and heroine about the truth of the belief in predestination. There are probably a dozen ways to be ‘edgy’. How is your book ‘edgy’?
JMS: I’m ‘edgy’ in that my characters talk to God and He answers them.
VM: Do you mean God answers in ‘signs’ or does He actually talk from heaven with a deep resonate voice?
JMS: Let’s put it this way, the characters hear voices that they take to be God’s. Whether it is God or not is up to the reader to decide. But the characters hear voices with their ears.
VM: And you got this book published?
JMS: Here’s the book -- all 476 pages of it.
VM: “When God Answers” It’s an appropriate title, I’ll say that.
JMS: It was the editor’s choice. My title was “Echoes from Heaven -- Traveling the Goodnight-Loving Trail”.
VM: I like your title better. How long did it take you to write this book?
JMS: Ten years. It’s taken me a long time to learn the craft.
VM: As I understand it, you want me to market you, your career, and your books as they come out.
JMS: Actually, my husband wants you to do it. He only trusts you.
VM: That’s because I saved his backside when I marketed all those spec homes he was sitting on. He may be a little biased in my favor. But I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you my best marketing advice and you can take it or leave it. How’s that?
JMS: That’s more than fair. My husband’s company is taking care of the bill, right?
VM: Yes, but we don’t need to get into that here. Now before we start I have to know this: what is your goal in writing?
JMS: How do you mean?
VM: Do you want to write the great American novel and win a Pulitzer Prize? Because if you do, there is very little I can do for you. I’m all about marketing and selling books.
JMS: No, my goal is to make money with my writing. We have two children in college and I’d like to be able to make enough money to support them and myself if my husband were to become unable to work.
VM: In that case you don’t plan to Diva me or the publisher. You’ll be willing to change your writing if it means you’ll be more successful in advancing your career and making money.
JMS: Yes, absolutely.
VM: And you don’t intend to take ten years to write your next book.
JMS: I want to write two books a year to start out and work my way up to four to six books a year.
VM: Well, then you are going to have to write shorter books.
JMS: The publisher also as a 172 page line of shorter romances. I’m working on proposals for that line right now.
VM: That’s great. If you do this, I can help you the most. But here’s something else. Marketing, even the best marketing, can’t make you successful alone. In fact, good marketing will kill a bad product faster than anything else. That’s because with good marketing everyone runs out and tries the product right away and then when they find out it is not good, their bad word of mouth kills the product before the manufacturer can fix the problem. So if you have a bad product, it really helps to have bad marketing as well. Fortunately this is often the case.
JMS: I don’t have a bad product. I think it’s good and will get better.
VM: I’m not only talking about literary merit. I’m talking about a product that provides the most enjoyable reading experience on a page- by-page basis. This involves my research on ‘rewarding the reader’ for reading. You know, I’ve written over three million words of direct response advertising copy and since people will not be bored in print, I had to write copy that people would read and read all the way to the end. To do that I had to become an expert in rewarding the reader, paragraph by paragraph, so they would not stop reading.
JSM: How do you reward a reader other than have enough tension to keep them turning the pages?
VM: I’m glad you asked that. I am going to give you an advanced copy of my six-hour seminar workshop manual to read. The title is, “Rewarding Your Reader: Workshop Manual". Please, don’t let anyone else read it. It’s not finalized and no seminar dates have been set yet.
I want you to study the manual. The best selling authors that I have studied all reward their readers many times per page. It’s important that you know how to do it.
JMS: You’re giving me a homework assignment? You want me to read your workbook on ways to reward readers?
VM: Yes, if we are going to exert the effort necessary to grow your career and sell your books, then I’d like us to have the potential to make you one of the mega selling authors in your field. To do this we need books that reward the reader as much as the best selling authors do. We also need books that are reader friendly.
JMS: Reader friendly?
VM: Yes, absolutely. Just as you get points for rewarding the reader, you also lose points when you are not being reader friendly.
JMS: Why would an author do that?
VM: I am sure that they do not know that they are doing that. But we will get into this in more depth the next time. Right now I’d like to cover a few marketing terms that it is important for you to know.
JMS: Marketing terms?
VM: Yes, when we talk about marketing in the future, I want us to be using the terms in the same way or else there will be a lot of miscommunication.
JMS: What are the terms?
VM: First is ‘marketing’. Marketing is everything you do that involves your product. That’s yourself as an author and your books.
JMS: Everything I do?
VM: Yes, marketing covers everything: advertising, publicity, public relations, personal marketing, and people media.
JMS: So marketing covers everything.
VM: Everything. Now, advertising is paid and placed commercial speech. With advertising you are paying to run an ad with your message in a given medium. On the other hand, publicity is what the media says about you. You can try in influence publicity but often you cannot. You don’t pay for publicity.
JMS: Can’t you pay for publicity. You know, pay money and the medium runs a favorable story about you or your book?
VM: You can do it but it is as dishonest as hell. We used to call newspapers ‘whores’ that would run favorable news stories about you based on how many column inches of advertising you bought. I will not have anything to do with paid publicity which is designed to deceive the public. So then, publicity is what the media says about you.
JMS: What about PR isn’t that the same as publicity?
VM: Not at all. Public Relations has to do with how you or your company interacts with the public. For the most part you control this. Often it deals with product return policies and price guarantees and making in-kind donations to charitable events, how your employees behave, things like that.
JMS: What about personal marketing? Is that like holding book signings?
VM: Yes. Personal marketing is how you as a person interact with other people. Book signings are a form of personal marketing. They are also part of marketing. What you wear to a book signing is also part of marketing. How you handle the book signing is also part of marketing. Often the best thing you get out of a book signing is the publicity in announcing it. Your book signing itself might reach ten people while your publicity could reach 250,000. You’re going to find out that you’ll be doing a lot of personal marketing in order to generate publicity.
JMS: Is having a blog and being a guest on blogs part of personal marketing?
VM: Yes and no. ‘Yes’ if you actually manage your blog and ‘no’ if you are not personally involved in the running of the blog. That is, if it is just a picture, bio, and catalog of your books.
JMS: What’s ‘people media’?
VM: It is well known that ‘word of mouth’ is a very powerful form of marketing. Advertising people have tried to co-op this area by saying they can actually do things to create favorable ‘word of mouth’ advertising. By doing this they can earn more money. It’s not all smoke and mirrors because advertising agencies, at least the good ones, measure results. They test, test and test to see what works best. So instead of ‘word of mouth’ being something an advertiser has heard about and hopes to get at some point, it is something that can be manufactured by advertising.
JMS: I don’t see how they can do that.
VM: It’s not easy. It would involve tie-ins to other products for which there in a natural affinity. I also think this is dishonest to an extent. For example, you have a lady who sells you cosmetics and she is paid to mention how she tried a new product and how good it was. This looks like a sincere recommendation and it could be but it is still a disguised advertisement.
JMS: I don’t like the sound of that.
VM: I don’t either and I don’t think it has been very successful because it is very hard to get your sales people to do it. However, the term ‘people media’ has taken a foothold and when I talk about it, I’ll be taking about our efforts to generate favorable word of mouth.
JMS: What about giving away bookmarks and pens and other things with your name on them?
VM: That’s called specialty advertising. It is a very big market in the U.S. With an author it is going to be part of her personal marketing. But we can get into all this next time. I just want us to be clear on what we are talking about.
JMS: So what is my homework assignment?
VM: First read my workbook on Rewarding the Reader. I need you to understand the concept and be able to count the rewards in a piece of writing. The workbook is divided into six chapters which represent one hour of lecture. Try to do the exercises at the end of each chapter.
I’m going to give you three books. One each by: Louis L’Amour, Janet Evanovich, and Nora Roberts. I want you to read the first 50 pages in each book underlining each place the author has rewarded a reader. When you are done, add up the rewards and divide by the number of pages. Write down each author’s reward per page score. I’ve already done this so we can compare scores. Then I want you to do the same for your book. Do the other books first, however, so you can get some practice.
JMS: What if I don’t do it right?
VM: It’s not science yet. A machine could not do this. At this point it is an art. I don’t get the same exact rewards per page when I count the same writing over again at a later date. Since I cannot get reproducible results, it’s not science. But that’s not important because the system works. The best selling authors that I have scored have very high scores. I want you to also have high scores. The best way to get good word of mouth is to have readers who really enjoyed reading your book.
Remember this: You are not selling a book. You are selling a ‘reading experience’. Best selling authors produce the best ‘reading experiences’ and not necessarily the books of greatest literary merit. All this is explained in the workbook.
JMS: Will this change my writing style?
VM: It will make your writing better, more reader friendly, and keep the pages turning --but it shouldn’t change you style or voice.
JMS: What are you going to do?
VM: I’m going to read your book and see how often you reward your readers and how reader friendly the book is. Next time, I will critique it in a basically different way than you’ve probably seen before.
Everything all the romance writing books teach you is fine. You don’t have to unlearn anything. I’m interested in improving your reward score and that is something I don’t believe anyone else is doing, at least, not in a direct fashion.
JMS: OK, until next time. We both have work to do.
VM: Just to be clear then. We will meet often over the next year. Each session will be spent on specific ways to market you and your books.
JMS: Will we be able to talk about anything personal? You know, to give it more human interest?
VM: A little bit, maybe. Like what’s the name of your horse?
JMS: Archibald. But we call him Archie.
VM: Until next time, give Archie a hug for me.