The last couple of times I've posted –here and here—I addressed the question about marketing fiction, mostly because I’m going independent, but I’m very sorry I didn't know these things when I was published by legacy publishers.
Michael Hyatt is the indisputable leader in marketing for all things publishing. As the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, you would expect his publisher to provide hot shot marketing help. Hyatt doesn’t count on this kind of help and neither should we. He carries all of the responsibility for the success or failure of his books. In fact, he calls himself the Chief Marketing Officer for each of his books.
And so, fellow CMOs, we’re going to look at a surprising trend in marketing.
I’m not sure how I happened upon Jeff Goins, but it probably had to do with the fact that he was offering a free ebook, You are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One). As it turned out, he was about to release a nonfiction title, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, that he wrote with Hyatt.
Goins is about the age of my sons, boy-faced with an engaging voice. I downloaded the free book and signed up for his newsletter. At the time, I was just getting back to acting like a writer and thought a few pointers might be in order.
Goins offered other free ebooks and became a sort of cheerleader on a weekly basis. Then, he offered ebooks and MP3s for sale that would aid my writing goals. I didn’t mind one little bit when his newsletter arrived, and I actually bought the bundled package.
How did he do that?
I don’t buy things from people who knock on the door or telephone me or send me emails. That would be stupid.
But I did buy Goins’ package.
I don’t regret it. The materials are helpful.
But how did he…?
He made me part of his tribe. Several years ago, Hyatt was telling everyone to read Seth Godin’s groundbreaking marketing book, Tribes. I resisted. Now, I’m thinking I’ll have to read it, take notes, and memorize key passages.
In summary, Grodin’s approach to marketing starts with permission, “the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.” The people who anticipate your messages are your tribe. They want to hear you because doing so helps them connect, not only with you but with others. Everything you do, marketing-wise, is directed at feeding, growing, and satisfying the tribe.
Without knowing what we were doing, Novel Matters has become a tribe. You come of your own volition to read our take on the life and craft of the novelist, and you developed relationships with other members of our readership, or tribe, by offering your wisdom and experience. We love that!
For the novelist thinking about developing her tribe, the emphasis is not on going out and finding readers. The emphasis is on writing books for the tribe. This sounds a little bit like pandering to genre standards, and that’s exactly what it means if you write genre fiction, and that’s exactly what you must do.
If you don’t write genre fiction, like the six crazy women at Novel Matters (we won’t be calling ourselves chieftains anytime soon), your tribe might fit into what Donald Maas calls high-impact fiction. We’re starting a book club on his book, Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in January. In essence, we’ll be researching what the 21st century reader wants in hopes of building a tribe, aka readers.
This marketing strategy works outside the publishing world. My husband owns a garden center. For him, building his tribe means providing services and products his tribe wants, not trying to find customers to buy the things he likes to sell. It seems commonsensical when stated like that, but it is a different way of thinking about marketing.
Let’s go back to Jeff Goins and his give-aways that drew me into his tribe. This sort of give-away works for fiction, too, although authors are just starting to try it.
Why does giving things away to your potential tribe work? According to Goins, it’s because people don’t necessarily value what they buy. They value what others value and what others are talking about. By building a reputation as a creative, generous person, readers will feel included in your tribe. And buy your book. (Pretty please!)
So, what are we giving away? Diamonds? Luxury sedans? Small islands? In that case, I would have to jump out of the novelist pool. No, Goins and Hyatt promote the idea of giving away content. We’re writers, after all.
Here’s a list of ideas for fiction writers (BTW, this marketing thing would be a lot easier if we were nonfiction writers, but fiction writers NEVER take the easy way out):
A collection of your blog posts. You already know which ones struck a nerve. Fortunately, the whole world hasn’t read your blog, so your posts are fresh content to many. (Oh, you didn’t know that. Sorry.)
Recruit people to be “sneezers,” folks you bring into the process early on. Let them be part of selecting a cover, giving feedback on scenes, voting for the best pictures for a trailer. These folks, according to Hyatt, will be your best influencers. Thank them with free copies of your ebook.
Send out early releases of your book to a selected number of influencers who will agree to write a short review—the good, the bad, and the ugly—on Amazon and other outlets. You should thank these folks with more new content (anyone tired yet?), like devotions that tie into the story, a short story, or deleted scenes.
Goins adds that we should have a reputation for being generous and thankful, so send out thank-yous for all tribe help.
Form a launch team with a team-member only FB page that includes recipes tied to your story, excerpts from the book, posts written as your protagonist, and historical tie-ins from your research. The page can also be a forum for brainstorming ways to get the word out about your book.
Tracy Higley has a landing page with a great example of using content freebies.
Have you offered free content to build your tribe? What would have made your efforts more successful? What skills, like creating a landing page, did you have to learn to pull this off? Would you offer free content in the future? Would you rather be an Indian Guide? Any other marketing ideas you would care to share--the wonderful and the lame? I'll start with a lame one. I made 500 flower pens (like the ones kept at cash register to keep you from stashing the pen in your purse) with my book's title printed on the side. There's a rumor I dressed in a gardening outfit and traipsed around ICRS handing out pens to almost no one. Completely unsubstantiated. But then there were the lapel pins...