Friday, February 12, 2010

Marketing Janette Marie Sherrill & Her New Book: Part IV

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

This conversation covers:

* marketing vitamins
* marketing synergy
* rewards for reading

VM: Are you ready for today? This is already our fourth session.

JMS: I have been thinking about ‘marketing vitamins’ all week. I just wonder why authors don’t use more ‘marketing vitamins’ than they do. I mean the idea makes perfect sense.

VM: I’ll bet many of the best selling authors do. They just might not think of it as adding “marketing vitamins’. They write about fascinating people, places, and times.

JMS: That may be true for Nora Roberts and Linda Howard but doesn’t someone have to write about ordinary people in small towns where nothing ever happens?

VM: I suppose they do but it doesn’t have to be you. Does it?

JMS: No, but I’ve been told for years that I should write about what I know. I know about small towns and ranching.

VM: That dictum,‘write what you know’ doesn’t preclude learning about new things. Lean more and you’ll know more. When you know more you’ll be able to write about those things that make powerful ‘marketing vitamins’.

JMS: But if everybody did that, all romance books would be the same.

VM: You mean like they aren’t the same now? The point is, everyone won’t do it. But if they did, it would be harder to sell books. So be thankful everyone won’t do it. That still gives you a chance to have a marketing advantage.

JMS: That’s not a Christian attitude. I’m in favor of sharing what I know to help other writers.

VM: Other writers can read this post. It’s not like you’re hiding your light under a basket.

JMS: But my writer friends all say these posts are too long.

VM: Well, please ask your writer friends how long they should be and maybe we can shorten them.

JMS: Are you serious?

VM: Of course I’m serious. Have you heard of the Smart Bitches? They wrote a book called,“Beyond Heaving Bosoms”.

JMS: Oh, they’re terrible

VM: No they’re not!

JMS: They say romance writers are too nice. Too nice! How can anyone be too nice? They just don’t get it. And their language is absolutely foul.

VM: Their bad language is part of their ‘voice’.

JMS: Well, if I have to choose between being a smart bitch and being too nice, I’m going for being too nice.

VM: And by doing so, you are verifying the premise of their book.

JMS: So what?

VM: So? You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

JMS: What’s your point? I’m not a philosopher like you. I need a little help here.

VM: 'How-To' writing books and helpful editors tell you how to lead the hose to water…that is, how to get your book published. That’s not my goal as a marketing person. My goal is to make readers thirsty for your book. Once thirsty they will find their own water and drink it as well. That is: find and buy your book.

JMS: And your ‘marketing vitamins’ make them thirsty?

VM: Absolutely. Thirsty with desire for the right ‘reading experience’.

JMS: And…

VM: Let me ask you this. Have you ever heard about a book or an author who sells a lot of books; however, when you read one of these top selling books, you find a lot of mistakes and poor writing?

JMS: Yes, but there not as many book like this as some people would have you believe.

VM: I agree with that. But the important thing for this example is that some books like this exist.

JMS: I will admit there are a few.

VM: Good, because do you know what I think is going on in these cases? I think these authors fill their books with ‘marketing vitamins’. Their readers are willing to put up with less than perfect writing in order to enjoy the other stuff. These best selling authors may not be the best of writers but they are good marketers. They are writing what people want to read and most enjoy reading about.

JMS: What are the ‘marketing vitamins’ in “Harry Potter” novels?

VM: Are you serious? “Harry Potter” books are almost all ‘marketing vitamins”! They have everything kids like. The biggest thing is that the kids are smarter than the adults. The kids have privileged information and have powers that adults in the real world can only dream about. “Harry Potter” is ‘marketing vitamins’ on steroids.

JMS: I never thought of it in that way.

VM: Then think of it now. And start thinking of ways to work ‘marketing vitamins’ into your own stories. You need to do this before you write the first word. This is especially important, even vital, when creating a series of novels.

JMS: That’s not so easy to do. After all, I will be trying to create a compelling romance story in an environment in which a million romance stories have already been written.

VM: But that’s the same for every genre -- be it mystery or cowboy westerns. In fact, it might be best to always be thinking of ‘marketing vitamins’ wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Keep your eyes open and become like a reporter with a ‘nose for news’.

JMS: That’s an idea. I already keep an ear out for unique speech patterns when I am in public. I could just as well be looking for marketing ideas. I do have a question. I get ‘rewards for reading’ mixed up with a ‘marketing vitamins’. What’s the difference?

VM: Sometimes the two concepts are similar but usually they are different. For example, I count using multiple senses, like sight, smell, and sound, on a page as being a ‘reward for reading’ but they would not ordinarily be ‘marketing vitamins’. Setting the story in Santa Fe would be a ‘marketing vitamin’ but not a reward for reading.

JMS: I caught something there in what you said. You said that ordinarily, ‘sight, sound, and smell’ would not be ‘marketing vitamins’. That would mean, to me at least, that sometimes they could be ‘marketing vitamins’. Can you give me an example when ‘sight, sound, and smell’ are ‘marketing vitamins’?

VM: Sure, let’s say your hero owns a winery and is an expert wine taster. There are many people who love wine, enjoy wine tasting, and visit wineries. How different wines taste and smell, in this case, would be both ‘marketing vitamins’ and ‘rewards for reading’. Of course, for the ‘marketing vitamins’ to work in selling your book, you’d need to have this featured on the cover of the book. You would also want these aspects to be covered in reviews.

JMS: How can I influence what is covered in reviews?

VM: Well, I would have a picture of the winery on the cover or a picture of people tasting wine in the wine tasting room. As for having ‘marketing vitamins’ featured in third-party reviews, I would also send a few reviews with every review copy of my book I sent out.

JMS: Won’t reviewers resent that? Won’t they think you are trying to influence their reviews?

VM: There’s something you have to know about a lot of reviewers. They are often pressed for time. They often are assigned books they don’t particularly want to read. I’ve read many reviews where I know for a fact the reviewer never read the book. All they read were other reviews or the blurbs on the back cover. If you supply some example reviews with your book, you make it easy for the reviewer who is pressed for time. All the reviewer has to do is change things a little bit. I’ve even seen publisher’s reviews run word for word. Of course, some reviewers will not read anyone else’s review until they have written their own.

JMS: You seem to know a lot about reviews.

VM: I’ve done reviews for years. I’ve know other reviewers. I’d say I’ve done over 1,000 reviews overall in newspapers and on various blogs. But reviewers and how to deal with them is a subject for another day. It will take a full session to cover the review process. This will include influencing reviews and marketing the reviews you’ve received.

JMS: Ok, so let’s get back to ‘marketing vitamins’. Setting the story in Santa Fe is a ‘marketing vitamin’ and ‘five-sensing’ the story is a ‘reward for reading’.

VM: Yes. One other thing. A ‘marketing vitamin’ is something you put in the book to make its appeal stronger and help sell books. It’s just one small element of the total marketing effort. Marketing is everything you do in providing the product. Writing your book so that it provides a high ‘rewards-per-page’ score will help generate repeat sales and good word-of-mouth advertising. Word-of-mouth is a very powerful form of marketing. So improving one area of marketing contributes to strengthening all the other areas. That’s why it’s important to try and do as much as you can to market your book. Your goal should be to achieve synergy in your marketing efforts.

JMS: What do you mean by ‘synergy’?

VM: The term ‘synergy’ is often explained by saying that it’s a situation where ‘1 + 1 = 3’. That’s like getting more energy out of a machine than the energy that went into it. It’s like a miracle.

JMS: Doesn’t that defy physics?

VM: It sure does. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. And it’s impossible to make a perpetual motion machine. But I am not talking about physics. I’m talking about marketing.

JMS: Do you have an example?

VM: Here’s one I actually used myself in marketing. Let’s say I am marketing a grand opening of a condominium project. I have $100,000 to spend in advertising. I could spend it all on newspaper ads and produce a grand opening weekend of $2,500,000 in sales. I could also spend the whole $100,000 on TV and get $1,500,000 in sales. If I spend the whole $100,000 on radio, I might be lucky to generate $1,000,000 in sales. As you can see, some media is far more effective than other media. This depends on the product, of course. So from what I said, where would you spend your $100,000 advertising budget?

JMS: Obviously, I spend it on newspaper ads because newspapers have real estate sections and people go to newspapers to shop for real estate. I would have expected newspapers to be stronger in producing sales for condominiums. I think that is obvious.

VM: It does make sense but remember synergy. Here’s what I actually found. If I spend $80,000 on newspapers and $15,000 on TV and $5000 on radio, my result would be over $3,000,000 in sales.

JMS: Why?

VM: I used the TV ads to tell viewers to be sure and read the newspaper ads. I showed the newspaper ads on TV. It was very clear that the newspaper ads had lots of information on the condominium project and the grand opening. Because we ran the ads on TV, more people actually saw and read the newspaper ads.

I also used the radio for a ‘live event’ promotion of the grand opening itself. This was to attract people who were out driving around. They would hear about the grand opening and come over and see what was going on. A remote on radio also makes the event you are having seem bigger and more noteworthy.

Combining all three media produced a synergistic effect. It was like a perfect storm producing higher sales than using all the money on any given media. A marketing person is always interested in the mix of media selected and the amount of money that goes into each medium.

JMS: Does this synergy concept apply to everything?

VM: In what way? It doesn’t apply in real physics. There the goal is usually to reduce friction.

JMS: No, I mean more in what authors can do to market their books. Like book signings and book giveaways and blog appearances.

VM: Absolutely it does. The best thing about a book signing is the publicity it can generate for an author. Ideally, you should try to have all your marketing efforts leveraged to produce maximum synergy. Otherwise you can spend a lot of time and money just spinning your wheels. Getting maximum synergy is what I’m trying to convey to you in all these sessions. To be really successful you have to take command of marketing your own career and your own books.

JMS: Can’t I just hire someone to do this?

VM: Sure, when you’re Nora Roberts you can. Until then it would really help you to understand how to market yourself synergistically.

JMS: And you think you can teach me how to do this?

VM: Of course, but not in one lesson. It may take twenty-four lessons or more. Rome wasn’t built in a day and besides you’ve already achieved something much more complicated than that?

JMS: What?

VM: Leaning how to write well enough to get published. That’s what.

JMS: I just thought you could tell me in an hour or two.

VM: No way. There are college degrees in marketing. Even with all I am going to tell you, you are only getting what you need to know as an author marketing herself and her books.


JMS: Oh, that’s my cell phone. It’s Jack. I need to take this.

VM: So what did Jack say?

JMS: I need to leave. He needs me to meet the vet. Cow emergency.

VM: Cowboys with cell phones. What’s wrong with this picture?

JMS: Let’s talk about writing the series next time. I think I need to think over your synergy ideas and come up with some more ‘marketing vitamins’ anyway.

VM: Yes, and I’ll make all your friends happy by keeping this post shorter than the other ones.

JMS: They love you anyway.

VM: You’re such a tease.

JMS: Bye.

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