Friday, November 2, 2012

Circle the Wagons--Marketing for the Tribe

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.

Are you feeling like an Indian Guide yet?

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...


Megan Sayer said...

ICRS? Seriously Patti, do you know how many Google pages I had to go through to find something that might be relevant to that acronym? Four.

This is REALLY interesting stuff though. REALLY interesting. So interesting that I'll think about it for a while and then come back and say something intelligent...

Patti Hill said...

Sorry, Megan! I should have written it out. We'll be waiting to here from you. For others, ICRS is the International Christian Retailers Show. This is where publishers and product vendors for mostly independent Christian stores erect big structures to display their products. It's quite the extravaganza.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

I, for one, am just tickled to be part of the Novel Matters tribe.

Can we get t-shirts?

Unknown said...

So the question that pops to my mind immediately is, "when will Novel Matters offer free e-books and other materials we can acquire?"


Bonnie Grove said...

Uh. That "Unknown" person was me.

Blogger is so weird.

Cherry Odelberg said...

"building his tribe means providing services and products his tribe wants, not trying to find customers to buy the things he likes to sell."
That (gasp)
takes my breath away with clarity.
I think maybe I have been an "eat your vegetables writer"
I'll be back after I recover.

Patti Hill said...

Cherry, you can be an eat your vegetables writer for the tribe that likes to eat its vegetables. Our discussions here have lamented that the CBA doesn't have enough eat you vegetables readers or not enough really amazing eat your vegetables kind of writers to draw a crowd. I'm hoping that being an independent will give me access to veggie lovers.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Cherry, I like vegetables. We can have a feast together! :)

Megan Sayer said...

I'm back finally. Whether or not I say anything intelligent remains to be seen.
I love the idea of tribe. I subscribe to Seth Godin's blog, so although I've never read his book I read his ideas every day, and much of it is sinking in, and it's something I've noticed in my own world.
I noticed it first on Facebook, how there was this group of people that always liked my posts, always said something, always checked in with a post on my wall if I was silent for too long. Funny, but cool. Then came the blog. Seriously, blogging is the BEST way to build a tribe, and I've found it so much fun. The weird thing for me though was figuring out who my tribe actually WERE - not their names, I had those, but what types of people they were. Were they believers? Cynics? Parents of small children? Other writers? Friends of mine? What did they want from me?
I'm gradually piecing together the answers to that puzzle, through more interactions with people, and through watching the responses to the things I post, and it's an interesting journey.
On the whole I've discovered this: the people in my tribe are a lot like me, and the reason they like me is because in me they've found a voice for things that are hard to express. Funnily enough this is also why I became a card-carrying member of Tribe Novel Matters. Because you understand me, and you put words to things I feel but have never known how to say, or who to say them to.
It relates back too to what Katy said on Wednesday, about writers need to stand outside the church (and the world) and observe, and write down their observations. When we do that, when I have done that, and long before me, when amazing authors like Adrian Plass have been brave enough to do that, it creates tribe automatically, draws people out of their shells who say quietly "I've thought that for years but I thought I was the only one", and suddenly we find we are standing together. All the content we need to offer people is our honesty, and our bravery in that.
End of rant.
I like vegetables too. Actually my kids think I'm some kind of eat-your-vegetable nazi, probably because I am. And on that note we've moved away from anything intelligent at all, long as nobody mentions pumpkin-in-a-can I can just slink away quietly, right? :)

Bonnie Grove said...

Steve and I had dinner with Adrian Plass a couple of years ago.
He's brilliant.

Bonnie Grove said...

Steve and I had dinner with Adrian Plass a couple of years ago.
He's brilliant.

Samantha Bennett said...

Such good stuff in this one! In answer to your question, no, I haven't offered free content to build a tribe. Honestly, I still feel like I'm in the baby steps stage of tribe building. I started a blog recently with two other writer friends about faith and art and such, and I've found that our readers are mostly people in our real-life community who are interested in writing... Perhaps it's time to add free content into them mix... Thanks for the post!