The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Books – Something – Profit!

Posted by BigWords on April 11, 2016

An obvious question people are likely asking:

How do you know that what you are doing is different to everyone else?

Which is extremely easy – and yet tiresome – to answer. There’s thousands of indie publishers when you take into account the self-published and the niche publishers, but none (so far) have been set up in a way which embraces the promotion of books irrespective of the publisher. The main goal of That Which Will Be is to celebrate the rich diversity of books currently available.

The ways a person can promote a book on their own is going to be limited by a number of factors:

  • A knowledge of blogs/websites which review books.
  • Ability to present ideas in concise and clear text.
  • Ability to parse the subtleties of a forum or chat-room.
  • Access to websites which require paid access.
  • Access to websites which restrict membership.
  • Ability to network outside key areas of interest.

There are a bunch of other things which come into play, especially when you take into account foreign languages, paywalls, regular internet access, health, income and so on. As a catch-all for the big problems, we can see straight-off that some of the problems which restrict the dissemination of information about a title might be self-inflicted (however involuntarily), so by acting as a promoter I can try and get eyes on titles without authors pissing off people who don’t want to be given the hard-sell.

I’ll admit that there’s a lot of work involved in this aspect of things, and it is early days as far as the requirements go. I have small chunks of the overall layout and reach calculated, along with an estimate of how much work it is going to take. It turns out, amazingly, that the numbers aren’t so bad. In fact, it makes more sense to heavily promote my “competition” than it does attempting to maintain an increasingly irrelevant isolationist ideology.

That’s one aspect that I have been providing people with when asked about why they should join in this little adventure. What I haven’t explained is the extent of the advertising. See, there is only so much that a single website or blog can do, and that – in a nutshell – is the notion which is going to shake things up. This isn’t just a business plan, but a philosophy which is for the benefit of writers, readers and small publishers.

But… It isn’t entirely about that.

Whenever there’s a new idea, it needs time to settle in to a form – the standardized¬† version which has been tested and stressed, which has had the rough edges sanded off for a better user experience. I have a fairly solid grasp on how to roll out the wider application of the concept, and ways to prevent the blatant abuse of same. As I have pointed out – plenty of time to figure things out and examine the repercussions.

There is one thing which has remained constant. Throughout the process of putting writers, designers, programmers, musicians, and other talented people together, there has been a focus on shared benefits. See, it never made sense to my why people disliked the notion of having books adapted into games (Dune, especially, comes in for a degree of criticism in certain circles), or having albums written about characters, or other possibly interesting avenues.

Part of the reason I am offline is this – because the idea will draw out the freakshow crowd who are going to attack everything, and because I don’t want to draw the same freakshows to any of the places I hang out. There is enough to deal with at the moment without having to sort through all the additional crap which can be so easily avoided simply by refusing to make myself a target.

And there’s an addendum to the notion of everyone grouping together. See, I’m drip-feeding you the information for a reason… Should I go all-out and fill in details, the folks who see change – any change – as a threat, and who go out of their way to maintain a status quo… Those people are gonna go batshit. The implications have probably already hit them. As these words sink in, the realization of what I am promoting is likely forming in the brains of everyone else.

The sliding scale.
I want you to consider it.

How many indie titles are out there? Each blog and website deep into promoting works which profit them. Think about the individual push each title gets, and imagine if – even for a moment – the collective might of the self-publishing community working together on a single title… Everyone throwing their weight behind a title in the knowledge that their turn will come and the internet will fill with ads for their novels.

I told you my ideas were scary.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, publishing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Marketing The Bible

Posted by BigWords on March 19, 2011

It occurred to me earlier today that the decreased attendance in churches has nothing to do with the basic message of the Bible, but the way in which the message is perceived. The image of churches is stuck in a fantasy world which is completely unrelatable to the majority of people, so anything that comes with the baggage of religion is immediately regarded as stodgy and as out of date as the clothing and rituals. Having spent a bit of time thinking about this, I realized that there was some merit in using commercial marketing ideas as a starting point to revitalize religion. What twelve-year-old child is going to relate to Jesus? None of them. The answer to this problem is simple – stick copies of the Superman trade-paperbacks collecting the Doomsday and Reign Of The Supermen sagas in front of them instead of bibles. It’s pretty much the same story (without, perhaps, the cyborg Henshaw), and it isn’t as if most people would know the difference.

The Ten Commandments are another area which needs work – ten simply isn’t a good number to use. It’s too high for a nifty mnemonic, and it is too low for the Pok√©mon trend of collecting variants and new cards. There should be a new commandment released each year, preferably coinciding with a tie-in computer game, comic book and cheaply made Saturday-morning cartoon (killing off the characters at the end of each season to encourage children to buy the new action figures to coincide with the new season), and limited edition commandments for the elite collecting market. If it wasn’t already taken, the “Gotta Collect ‘Em All” line would have been a perfect way to get children interested in the Ten(-Thousand) Commandments… And that’s without mentioning the associated action figures. Oh yes… I really have put some thought into this.

Action Jesus – Ready To Smite. Which, while I’m thinking about it, could have an awesome theme song based around the concept…

ACTION JESUS DESERT WARFARE PACK!!!

ACTION JESUS WITH ROCKET LAUNCHER!!!

ACTION JESUS SOUL RESCUE MODE WITH ASSAULT RIFLE!!!

GLOW-IN-THE-DARK JESUS – BACK FROM THE UNDEAD!!!

JOHN THE BAPTIST SCUBA-GEAR AND MINI-SUBMARINE!!!

LUCIFER, WITH AK-47 AND 3 PULL-APART MINIONS!!!

MARY, WITH INTERCHANGEABLE WEREWOLF HEAD!!!

“THE LITTLEST WHOREHOUSE” FULL INN PLAYSET!!!

Y’see, kids don’t want the tolerance and preaching. They want shit blowing up, they want overly-muscled men beating on each other in bloodless carnage which gives them the release they will eventually discover, upon puberty, with the mindless action films of Stephen Seagull and Jean-Claude Van Damn-Is-He-Still-Acting. By combining the best elements of He Man, Mask, Transformers, GI Joe and Thundercats (and making Mary hot for a change), the product will sell itself. Churches could have merchandise instead of the rather outdated “charity collections” – and really, would you rather have a cheap plastic action figure for your money rather than eternal salvation? Of course you would…

If anyone at the Vatican is interested in this exciting proposal, contact me immediately. I even have plans for a sequel to the bible… The plot threads hanging over from the original Bible are calling out for a blockbuster publishing sensation to rival the success of The Da Vinci Code.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Some More Thoughts On Marketing

Posted by BigWords on January 29, 2011

So it is probably time to give meaning and structure to the contents of the last post, having taunted and tormented you with it long enough. The idea was really quite simple, though I never expected such a large bump in stats. Jeez guys, it isn’t that people need to hear the same shit regurgitated a thousand different ways, but in my brief examination of the whole “make money online” nonsense, I have found a bewildering lack of thought and foresight. Of the handful of books I flipped through in preparation for this little thought-experiment, the same dull, tired and unimaginative information is disseminated time and time again. I’ll save you a bunch of money (and a whole lot of time) by distilling the contents of most of these books, blogs and articles into one easy-to-understand sentence –

Put links up everywhere and hope people will click them.

Um… No. Really, no. This is the equivalent of the kid shouting “Hey mom, lookit me. Lookit what I did. I set my head on fire, mom. Lookit me. I’m gonna be famous on YouTube. Aaargh. My head. Aaaaarghhh.” It has the same aura of desperation and unoriginality which flows from the pores of people who let camera crews follow them around as they go about their day to day business, and just because the ploy worked for Ozzie Osbourne does not hold that people want to see other former stars do the same. It’s the fat guy in the cowboy hat, sweating profusely as he hawks used cars, talking faster in the hopes that the heart attack he had before going on air doesn’t fully hit until his paid minutes are up. If the notion that links alone are the solution to everyone’s money problems, then things are much worse than I thought in online marketing.

This approach is so wrong in so many ways that it is difficult to know where to begin. I find it incredible that people are still writing about the way marketing was done in the late nineties, and that people are still buying into this crap is even more worrying. The only thing accomplished by providing countless links to one single page (for there is always a nexus point people are pushed to in traditional marketing) is to give people the opportunity to purchase an item. It’s a one-shot deal. It’s a quick fuck up a side alley, which both parties will think no more of come the morning. And the kicker? People don’t learn anything from this technique.

Before you start complaining that I’m being too dismissive of putting links into every forum post, blog comment and tweet, I’ll lay out some simple facts for you to ruminate over. A sale – specifically a download – does not guarantee that people will bother to read / listen / watch the download. It’s not the only problem you will face if you’re looking at marketing as an attractive money-making opportunity, but it is the big one – if the people who have purchased from a link once don’t follow through by enjoying the download, what is there to bring them back? The old methods of shouting attractions out to a largely disinterested audience have been replaced by infinitely more complex interactions by salesmen and “audience” (for they are such), people advertising wares must change their behavior also.

The role of marketing is NOT to sell things. Selling things is a by-product of advertising, but it is not the primary reason to advertise. The true role of marketing is to change the perception of those who are being advertised to. The main objective is to build a base of customers who will return again and again to buy more things, and this is the reason links are pointless. I can’t state this enough, because the pervasive attitude of the books on the subject are so far from the mark that they give a false impression of human psychology. We aren’t wired up in a way which looking at meaningless links will affect in any meaningful way.

How often have you heard people say they record television shows so that they can skip the adverts?

We remember things by context and narrative, so by engaging in a discussion with people, marketers stand to have a much better impact. The way that such a discussion can be created – to create a relationship with consumers which might last longer than that one solitary purchase – is not in the realms of brain surgery. I’m talking about some really simple and interesting things here. It doesn’t have to be of the scale nor complexity of a massive ARG, and it really doesn’t have to take a year to plan. A little fun and experimentation can go a very long way, and I’ll go one further than that- if the first link on a Google search is the link to the product, I’m gonna buy it, and then forget to check out the rest of the links.

By providing a little difficulty into the process of getting something, and by making me work for the thing I am looking for, I am forced to read about it further, and (hopefully, if you have done your job right) get more enthusiastic about the process of getting my hands on it. This increases my odds of actually reading / listening / watching the damn thing, so it is in people’s best interest to have the point of sale lower in Google rankings than the material which discusses the product. It’s part of that long-term relationship-building which will lead to interest in future material from the same source. There’s no secret to getting people returning time and time again. Oh wait… I haven’t explained the image yet, have I?

A minor confession here – the pic won’t help you. Much like the rest of the information online about marketing, which panders to instant gratification and completely ignores any long-term strategies for the extended shelf life of the product, it is a phantom. It’s Keyser Sozer. The truth of the central phrase (in clear English) is all about the interaction with whoever is looking at it. It sells itself as a path to something, and that is precisely what this post is all about. I’ve been here before, and I still hold that people aren’t trying hard enough to keep people coming back to them time and time again, because serious and prolonged investment in propagating the image of a product (more than “Hey, click the link dude”) is the most important part of any enterprise. Also, by drip-feeding information and making people follow a trail of crumbs to the product, which is a way to have a conversation with purchasers, the mess of links which are clogging up sites will soon dwindle.

This is about being smart, as much as it is about being visible. This visibility, so lauded by mediocre hands, has made many products anathema to me. I have no idea what Covonia (or however it is spelled) is, but because of the prevalence of the adverts, I now have no interest in ever purchasing it. I hate those adverts. Being very visible can HARM you.

“Hey mom, lookit me. Lookit what I did. I set my head on fire, mom.”

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Some Thoughts, Part Five – Marketing

Posted by BigWords on April 5, 2010

I’m coming back to the world-building again, so I can tie in with some things raised in connection regarding the Extras I mentioned. This will lead into thoughts on marketing in due course, but my main focus is on the perceived problems with side-issues such as podio, vlogging and other new-media which are struggling to maintain the levels of interest which marked their early days. Podio, in particular, has come under more scrutiny than it really should, given how malleable and open the basic concept is – and this is partially the fault of early successes not leading to more breakthrough authors. The format is, if you believe the reports from the front lines, not living up to its’ full potential. I posit that there is something inherent in the way we look at media which is to blame, and suggest that the way such things have been approached by writers is too mired in traditional thinking to continue as is. Remembering the way other audio successes have accomplished their status is vital in crafting an effective assault on the market.

Nathan Bransford recently pointed out that a novel cannot be turned into a phenomenon by the publisher, and that is fine as far as the novel itself goes. I’m not going to disagree with him, but I will point out that there is a vast difference between a single novel and the world in which the story takes place. Stories, as I pointed out, are not bound by novels. We should be looking at the problem of how to create popular stories and not novels – two very different things in the digital era. This is something which should begin long, long before the book is sold, never mind published. The current advice is to start publicity as early as possible before the novel hits the shelves, but there is no standard set. Keep researching this area, even after digesting this post. I’m sure you will be wondering how all these disparate things are connected, being grabbed seemingly at random… Well, they are connected, and in ways which authors should be already be considering – it doesn’t take much work to come up with a wholly-contained and flowing narrative utilizing the strengths of the internet, and you too can mastermind a phenomenon if you put all your energy into doing so.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock… This is the sound of your window of opportunity slipping away. It is the sound of other authors stepping up to the challenge. It is a sound you should be listening to. There is little time, and little opportunity left, once the book appears in shops, so pay attention to the flow of media which attracts attention outside of the publishing world. This means podio, short videos on YouTube, multiple websites, and an eye towards a simple ARG which builds your characters up in the minds of potential customers. Yes, customers. Lets not be artistic when it comes to getting the novel out there, because it’s a business, and in business you need targets to hit. The artistry comes in deploying just enough material to grab the peoples attention, but not enough material to damage any sales. It’s all about raising questions and withholding answers, and this is where we can really learn from the past.

One of the most celebrated radio plays in the history of the medium is War Of The Worlds, and it still has a certain power to this day. The effectiveness lies in verisimilitude, and this is a vital point. In using podio effectively, strength rests in its’ immediacy. While I’m pointing out the obvious, I’ll also add that the most effective lie is sold to an audience wrapped in truth. If you are using in-character audio to build a market for a novel, then lower-key is more effective than a full-orchestra production. Same thing goes for video, with CCTV having much more power to sell the fiction than a glossy HD short film. When plotting out the back-story for a novel, the material which would provide such content generates itself if done thoroughly enough. This opens up a secondary marketing tool beside hooking potential readers into the characters’ lives. You may not have deliberately looked at an ARG, but it is very likely that you have seen elements of one if you spend enough time online. The most effective ones are designed with the specific objective of blending in to the rest of the web. Once people invest enough time into the characters they will be more willing to invest money in the novel.

The in-universe marketing plan is only one side of the equation, and some blatant (i.e. traditional) marketing is also required, but using fiction to sell fiction is still a under-developed area which needs more uptake before being dismissed. The requirement for authors to use accepted social media is still important, but relying solely on this doesn’t answer my earlier question – what investment (as a reader) do I have in the characters before I drop my money on the novel? The answer is one which you should come to on your own. Of course, if you are intent on relying on a Facebook fan page, it is essential that communication is not restricted. Proper discussions, which doesn’t include endless press releases or ego-stroking. I used to be very interested in a particular SF series’ fan scene, but since it turned from a to-and-fro with the audience to a narrower focus, spewing out information rather than engaging people with ideas and nuggets of behind-the-scenes material, I lost interest. I’m sure others left at the same time, disappointed with the shift away from interaction.

Communication is vital to every aspect of marketing, even if no stakes are involved. It doesn’t matter that a novel isn’t being run through the presses, because we (as authors, readers, listeners, viewers, or merely interested observers) are curious about the world around us. This is the primary reason why ARGs work, and why we should foster as many connections with potential readers and collaborators as possible. Looking at the interlinking segments of the internet as being held apart by barriers is old-media thinking, and trying to interlink everything is verging on madness. A happy medium is difficult to find, but the balance at the moment for most is skewed in favor of the kind of press ads which wouldn’t look out of place in a magazine. This is the internet. Use it.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Some Thoughts, Part Three – E-Books

Posted by BigWords on April 1, 2010

There is going to be more details on my view of world building soon enough, but it is time to lay to rest a couple of issues I have with the way we look at e-books. This market has been a source of enough opinion already, but there are so many areas in which writers, publishers and the underlying software in severely under-performing, that it really needs to be addressed item by item. We are, of course, talking about a digital format, so there are distinct advantages to the collation of information surrounding them than traditionally published titles – software generates an unbelievable amount of information, and yet nearly everyone is (with some exceptions) ignoring the possibilities. I’ll try to keep things simple for now (on a subject I am returning to later), so that the debate can be re-shaped with more focus on the information-generating powers currently being left idle.

Data Collection

The requirements (as I see them) for successful data accumulation are as follows:

  • Total sales (all time)
  • Monthly sales figures
  • Weekly sales figures

It is possible to determine which titles are rising in relation to others, and analysis of trends, purchasing habits, and customer returns (where a second title by the same author is later published) could move e-books into a more central position in the publishing industry. Real-time analysis of which hard copies are selling, which are stagnating, and which are dropping in sales on a day-by-day basis would be an impossible task, but there is no reason that the information from their digital cousins can’t be put to good use. Extrapolating larger movements may be beyond the data, but for specific information we are on safe ground.
The second part of this information is in regards to format. Are the .pdf’s selling more than .azw? How do .txt downloads compare to .fb2? Breaking down the overall sales figures into categories based on their format will show which e-readers are being used, making more direct advertising possible by marketing to the demographic which is most likely to purchase the title on a specific platform. That, I’m afraid, came out as a bit of a tongue-twister. Here’s the English translation – if there are more people purchasing the .txt version, then you push the .txt copy. If more people are using the Kindle download, you push that. It isn’t ignoring the other sales, but refining the marketing to focus on the area in which the best return is coming from.

  • Direct links from Blogs
  • Direct links from Facebook
  • Direct links from MySpace
  • Direct links from Twitter

One way of separating the sales information between impulse purchases and recommendations would be to have the number of links to the download page tracked. With this, it is possible to note how many sales were the result of direct links rather than casual browsing of the site, so that already-successful books (which are gaining further links) can be more heavily marketed so as to result in hardback and paperback sales. But there are problems in using this data set without trying to discover the variables which lead either to a sale, or to the visitor departing empty handed. It is a given that writing is a creative act, but selling (and the marketing behind the selling) is a science as much as anything. We need to think more scientifically about the way that sales are occurring in digital formats.

###

Double-blinds

There are three main elements which can affect the selling potential of a title, and those need to be addressed individually and as a collective force – beneficially or otherwise – to the potential of an e-book. Using double-blinds (webpages which are identical in all but one aspect from the main sell-through page) can help show which aspects of the shop window need to be spruced up to encourage people to part with their money. There are enough websites already established whose purposes are specifically geared to selling books, so implementing some of the following suggestions should be taken with the full knowledge that the market is still fragmented. Unless a title is an exclusive, any data collected will be tainted by the fact that other locations are in direct competition.

Cover Art

Does the cover art attract more buyers than not? Or is it, in fact, irrelevant to the eventual sale? Does it turn people off the idea of buying the book? There are so many reasons why digital copies have potential to supersede sales of hard copies, and this is one specific area in which e-books are vastly different to the ones on your shelves – they need not necessarily even have covers. If two sites, differing only in the inclusion of the cover art, could be compared over a reasonable length of time, there would, undoubtedly, be a considerable amount of data to indicate whether the cover art is helping or harming sales. This information would then inform all future releases by the publisher, strengthening market position with hard facts rather than supposition and perceived wisdom handed down from bricks and mortal sales outlets. The one genre which would be most affected by this would probably be fantasy, which has – for a long time – relied on the power of a strong visual on the cover to entice casual readers.

Preview Chapters

Here’s another aspect which people don’t seem to be taking enough attention of, and it is one of the areas in which the success or failure of a specific release may hinge. Do readers appreciate previews? Of course they do. To say, from this one statement of fact, that the addition of a preview is beneficial to all titles is, however, rather limiting in establishing their overall status in the way e-books are sold. Until it can be established that a preview is helping the sales, we won’t know for sure that the inclusion of such things on sales pages are adding to the uptake of purchases. Again, a proper study would be needed to see which books perform less successfully when a preview is included on the sales page. It would be interesting to see how well a popular book (something in the highest sales bracket) compares in two instances – one with, and one without a preview. Would it matter to overall figures? Probably not, but the data which could be collected from this type of study would be very interesting.

On-site Reviews

This is the one aspect I am still undecided on, especially since there is no “minimum IQ requirement” to access the internet. If reader reviews are included at the point-of-sale location, then there will undoubtedly be the usual slew of poorly thought-out, barely-literate, venomous bile – aimed as much at the writer or publisher as it is at the book in question. You can, if you wish, see some of these types of comments on Amazon. Unless moderation is implemented in advance of comments being shown, any possible discussion which could be generated by the reviews and comments will be irrelevant. I like hearing well-constructed arguments in favor of, and against, titles, but there are limits to what should be allowed. Overly-glowing reviews always feel like the hand of those involved in the release, while the most bitter attacks feel like the work of people aggrieved for reasons unconnected to the title. Both extremes should be avoided, as they have equal ability to sour the prospect of a purchase.

###

There have been calls for a serious and informed chart for the e-book specifically, but the way in which charts normally work are skewed towards the top 100 best-selling titles. With songs, or films, and especially games, this isn’t a problem – those markets are moving fast enough that anything outside the top hundred are rapidly shifting, but books have a way of staying much, much longer at a respectable position. Bronte, Austen, Dickens and Shakespeare will always be sold, so the classics must be taken into consideration when looking at charts. I like the US music chart method – separating the releases out into genre, because this seems to make more sense than a grand list of everything. It makes sense that payed and free, and fiction and non-fiction be separated, but I would go farther than any previous suggestions. An independent body would be able to verify figures, and remove suggestions that slight-of-hand is at work in buoying certain heavily-backed releases. A group without vested interest in the success of a title would also give readers confidence in the numbers being thrown around by publishers.

I’ll come back to the subject of both e-books and marketing soon enough, but this seems to cover everything I want to say here. Adding to this would merely serve to confuse an already complex set of issues, and I want there to be clarity in these thoughts.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Selling Out Is This Season’s ‘Black’

Posted by BigWords on August 7, 2009

Read this, then come right back…

All done? Then I will begin.

I have no problems with being a complete whore, and if anyone wants to publish me, then sign me up for the ad-filled version of publishing. Yeah, ads in books is gonna be huge. Look at the things we can expect, and just try and convince me it isn’t a good idea…

  • SF books containing money-off vouchers for Richard Branson’s space flights (once, y’know, he gets the damn thing off the ground).
  • Ads for chainsaws, guns and self-defense techniques in zombie novels.
  • Condom adverts in erotica, and maybe sponsored versions of the books bundled with catalogues of ‘adult products’.
  • Biographies filled with ads for the products of the subject in question.
  • Barf bags with sponsored logos pre-packaged with gore-filled novels.
  • The Secret should be filled with ads for deprogramming centres.

The special treatment that novels have had, compared with other mediums, must come to an end sooner or later, so I’m cautiously optimistic that some fun will be had with the idea. If you’re gonna sell out, you can at least do it with a smile on your face…

It’s not as bad as you probably imagine it to be, and I can see where the use of adverts might actually make a book more interesting. Have you read any of Dan Brown’s trash-lit? Well, sticking a few ads in one of those fuckers will be a blessing. There will be something in the books I can read without giving myself a screaming migraine.

Feel free to disagree as vehemently as you like.

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