Fellow author Dale Cozort recently returned from agent Donald Maass’s High Tension Workshop. (Okay, it wasn’t recently — it was back in April, but who’s counting?) Cozort reported that according to Maass, the keys to keeping modern readers’ interest are finding something fresh — a different way of looking at events — and finding ways of getting the reader to identify with the character or with the scene.
According to The Everything Blogging Book by Aliza Sherman Risdahl, the key to keeping blog readers’ interest is “Taking hobbies and interests and finding a different way of looking and talking about them.”
In a recent comment, blogger extraordinaire and my marketing guru Sia McKye wrote, “There’s only so many ways to market things. If you observe, market and promotion tend to follow certain patterns. That’s because those ways work.” This seems a bit depressing to me. If everyone is doing the same things, then how does anyone ever stand out in a crowd?
Then I had my aha moment. If the key to writing is to find a different way of looking at things, and if the key to blogging is to find a different way of looking at things, then obviously, the key to promotion is to find a different way of looking at things. I know this syllogism would never pass muster in a logic class, but there is little logic to be found in writing, blogging, and promotion. Hence, at least in my mind, the conclusion works.
I am aware that those of us who are published by small independent presses are at a disadvantage when it comes to selling books. The publishing corporations and the major independent publishers use resources to which we have no access. Still, I have never been one to let such minor considerations get in the way of my dreams, and I intend to do everything I can to become unobscure.
So the question arises — how does one find a different way of looking at those promotion and marketing patterns? I’m sure you will be as glad as I am when I hit upon the solution. At least you won’t have to listen to my constant yammering about finding ways to promote.
August 25, 2009 at 8:39 pm
You prompted me to remember a Malcolm Gladwell article I commented on several months ago, in which I wondered about the same thing – how can we think outside the box?
My last thought was collectives, formed of writers, artists, editors, marketers; everyone helping each other to complete projects using their specific skills.
August 25, 2009 at 8:57 pm
That’s my problem exactly — how do I think outside the box? I read of an experiment where people were handed a candle, a book of matches, and a box of tacks, and were asked to attach the candle to the wall. The tacks were too small to go through the candle, so most people tried to melt the wax and adhere the candle that way. It didn’t work. A few people removed the tacks from the box, tacked the box to the wall, then set the candle in the box. I’d never have figured it out. I’m not an “out of the box” thinker. Can you train yourself to be an innovative thinker? I don’t know.
August 25, 2009 at 9:03 pm
I don’t know if you can do it yourself. I’ve learned to do it more by working with others and observing everything I can.
I can’t do those exercises either. At all.
August 25, 2009 at 8:43 pm
One of the things that brings readers to THE ONION is that fresh look at things. Perhaps a similar mindset attracted buyers to pet rocks some years ago.
The solution is often illusive, though, since being different and/or finding a fresh perspective doesn’t always equate to being interesting or being good. It’s hard to know at times just how far to push the envelope.
August 25, 2009 at 9:04 pm
Malcolm, this article in part was prompted by your comment on one of my facebook groups. You said (if you don’t mind my quoting you): While small publishers are a wonderful gift to writers and readers and while there is a deluge of information for writers on the Internet about marketing and book promotion, the Internet is vast and covered with authors blogs and sites like wildflowers in a mountain meadow.
I’ve learned, though, that the hard truth is that for most of us, all those blogs and virtual authors’ tours and all the rest of it are still soundly trumped by the old line publishers whose books appear with lavish ads and notices of MAJOR MARKETING in catalogs by Baker & Taylor and Ingram. In one month, a new release with old style marketing has more exposure that the rest of us can get after years of social networking and blogging. We need the push that gives us the kind of name recognition and exposure that is mandatory for selling fiction.
Can we give ourselves and each other the kind of push that is necessary to become selling writers? Part of me says yes, but we need to see things in a different light, but then again, as you say, how far does one push the envelope?
I might not be able to push envelopes or to think outside boxes, but I often can puzzle things out. I’m hoping that success isn’t as unattainable as it seems.
August 26, 2009 at 9:57 am
If we keep mulling this over, maybe we can figure out how to give each other the right kind of push. To a large extent, I think publishers have more credibility doing promotion than authors because, while they obviously have a product to sell, readers and media outlets presume publisher marketing/PR is professional and than author marketing/PR is a hobby? Why, because tooting one’s own horn is never as effective as having somebody else doing it.
Maybe that “somebody else” can be all of us + the publisher.
August 26, 2009 at 2:25 pm
I like the idea that if we keep mulling this over that we can figure out how to give each other the right kind of push. I had a bit of an epiphany today, realizing that it’s not so much what we do on the internet, but how everything we do links to everything else. Perhaps in the linkage we can create something vital.
August 26, 2009 at 8:44 am
Some famous writer/author said the key is to write. My first impulse was “HUH?” until he went on to explain, not to me personally, but to …
“Finished your first book? Good, write your second. Then your third. Then your fourth. And your fifth…”
IOWs, keep publishing those books. It may take seven or ten of ’em, but the point is readers will begin trusting you, reading your work, and searching for the next one, until one day someone will say “Have you read Pat Bertram’s books?” And I’ll say, “Yes, all of them.”
By “trusting you” I mean they’ll learn that PB is known for good, solid stories about characters we can all relate to and care about.
I don’t think it’s about something fresh as it is about writing stories with characters in situations that instantly hook us, make us wonder and question, and leave us wanting more and more and more ….
When Frank Sinatra died, they said he would never be replaced. Of course not. Yet we still rush to the nearest concert to hear so-n-so and Michael Buble and so’n’so and…
My 93-year-old MIL said just the other day, “Even at my age, I’m still meeting such nice people.”
Well, look at me babbling away. Back to work, Joylene
August 26, 2009 at 2:31 pm
So nice to see you babbling away, Joylene, though it wasn’t babble by a long shot. You made very good points. Once I get some of this “mulling” out of my head, perhaps I’ll free enough mental space so I can get back to writing. Though I still have a bit of leeway. My third book, Daughter Am I will be coming out next month, and my fourth book Light Bringer will be coming out next March. So I have a year to finish number 5.
August 26, 2009 at 3:24 pm
Which means you’re definitely on the right track, Pat. I think you are right about the people that come into our lives. Some for a season, some for a reason. I’m honoured to have you in mine.