two sides of marketing: what makes people buy your books
I was reading through Chris Brogan’s blog the other day and noticed a post he did about “the two sides of marketing”:
Some marketing is designed to convince you that your life would be better if you had this (we’ll call that the A side). Other marketing is designed to find the people who are actually seeking that and give them more education to help them make a decision (this, we’ll call B). When I look at how we use social media more often than not, it’s for B and not A. We usually use social media to listen for the people who are expressing an interest in a product or service that we offer, and then we give them content like blog posts and videos to help them better understand how much better the world would be once you really get the product or service that you want.
He later points out that
The A-side of marketing, the “ADVERTISING” side of marketing, still has to sneak in between what we know and what we NEED (being bombastic and smirky here) to know, so that we can then help educate people (the “BRIDGING” side of marketing) that it’s what they want.
When it comes to marketing your fiction, you have to figure out whether you’re going to play the A or the B side (or, more likely, how to combine them). But it’s not like you can “educate” people about why reading your book will make their world a better place.
Because it’s not like fiction solves a particular problem or fills an easily identifiable need. The needs of readers will vary and whether your work satisfies those needs can be wildly subjective (especially since the most powerful kinds of fiction also tend to be the most polarizing). If I start educating you about why you should go to Amazon right now (!) and buy my first novel, it will come off as a hard sell. Because it is. And since I’m the one who wrote the damn thing in the first place, you’re not likely to think that I have anything other than my own best interests in mind.
I lack credibility.
Someone once told me that people buy books from authors they like. While I think there’s some truth to this, I also don’t expect a person who likes me to automatically buy my books. And if the only reason I’m trying to make you like me is so that you will go off and buy those books — well, ugh. That’s not particularly authentic of me. That has the tone of a used car salesman. Or saleswoman. You know what I mean.
So I would put it like this: people buy books from authors that they resonate with. And by resonate, I mean that there’s something about the author’s voice and point of view that they can relate to. That point-of-view compels them. It sparks off a sense of recognition. (This also works in reverse. When I read a book that I resonate with, I go online to find the author.)
It’s a chemistry between author and reader.
It can’t be faked.
It just is (or isn’t).
So you educate people — you do what Brogan calls “bridging” — by putting yourself out there in the different social media spaces and expressing yourself (your self) and your point of view. To catch interest, that point of view has to be passionate, and to earn trust, that point of view has to be consistent over time. Which doesn’t mean that you hit the same points over and over again (although you certainly can, if you’re artful about it); it means that you unfold your beliefs so that they build on and deepen each other. They create, in the reader’s mind, a sense of who you are as a person and writer. The stronger that sense of identity, the more likely it is that your Ideal Readers will find it and align themselves with it and go on to buy your books.
They have been officially “educated”.
Before other people can know who you are, you have to figure out how you want them to know you. This happens partly through instinct, experimentation and strategy, and some of it is beyond your control (since you can’t control the conversations other people have about you). You want to play to the natural strengths of your own personality and find that sweet spot where your deepest interests overlap with the needs and interests of others*. You’ll not only find your audience this way (be it very large or very small), you might even find a self in you that you didn’t quite know was there.
* If you blog, for example, you’ll start to notice the blog posts that generate the strongest reactions. If you follow those reactions, they’ll lead you to the sweet spot. Which is why you might start out blogging about one thing, but end up blogging about something else. Your life online is like your life offline; it grows and evolves and sometimes surprises.
image by Reynald Belanger