Over the past several weeks' worth of Monday Marketing articles, I've been discussing Branding as the concept applies to Indie Authors, specifically. I keep name-dropping the backbone of the industry (IMO anyway), Al Ries and his co-author of the "Bibles" that built the industry, Jack Trout.
Two weeks ago, I recommended you buy yourself a copy of the best little book ever written on Marketing, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Did you? It's only a 1/4" thick paperback so if you did, by now, you should have read through the whole thing. You might have felt all fired up by the inspiring words, but then deflated, thinking, "That's for people selling things. I'm selling books. It's different." I'm here to tell you, No, it's not.
As an Indie Author, you are selling an idea, just like everyone else. You are positioning yourself in your reader's minds as the solution to their craving, just like Starbucks, McDonalds and [insert your favorite chocolate maker here]. In fact, because you're Indie YOU are in charge of all of your marketing. Then again, YOU are responsible for doing it all, too. It's not hard. Learn it, understand it, breathe it, become it. What is it? It is the secret to your success. It is understanding who you are because you are your brand. For an Indie Author, unlike other widget-makers, your position in the reader's mind, is who you are. To those paying customers, anyway, you are your Company.
The first thing to understand about the 22 Immutable Laws is that they
do all apply to every single business model out there. They might not
all be as easily adapted to book-selling as they are to selling other
widgets or craving-satisfiers like a Big Mac or half-caff latte, but your indie books can be sold and marketed just like everything else out there. You are what has to be adapted.
Stop being an author for a second and become your Company's Marketing guru. Then throw away all of that advice you've been getting from publishing "experts" and think outside the publishing "box" to open your mind to the marketing world. Don't run with the rest of the millions of wannabe Indie Authors. Be part of my blizzard of unique and special snowflakes.
Starting today, and spanning the next several weeks (or months through the end of the year), I'm going to discuss the 22 Immutable Laws, one or two at a time, and relate them to how an Indie author can use these fundamental concepts to successfully self-market your way onto a bestseller's list. Click through the jump to see how the first two immutable laws apply to Indie Authors.
First Law of Marketing: Be First
I'm paraphrasing the Ries/Trout law, but this is the gist of it--and duh, who doesn't want to be first? But Ries/Trout aren't saying be #1 in an existing field. They said to be first, to lead. You're a writer, you really should know the difference between the words (smirk). Just in case you don't, no condenscion intended, I shall elaborate to be perfectly clear here because this subtle difference between first and number one is the crux of the First Law of Marketing.
First means no one else has done exactly that until now, when you do it.
First means your authorial voice is fresh and original, your writing style is unique. Your approach to storytelling is new. (hint: perception is everything!)
In Webbiegrrl terms, being first means you truly are a unique and special snowflake in the blizzard of Indie Authors. Your individuality not only shines, it outshines all of the trend-followers blasting into the bookstores like a huge snow drift on a wind gust, then quietly melting away to oblivion like they never existed.
Being first is a challenge, but when you're first, you'll get noticed. It's hard not to notice the leaders of any field! Leaders stand out. Leaders forge through the snow and others follow in their footsteps, using the same path the first one forged. Behind them. Okay, second isn't bad (several companies have actually built their brand on being second, which I'll discuss later in this series), but second is not first! I challenge you to be first. It's harder to plough your way through untrodden snow, but it's well-worth the work if you want to have a long-lasting career, not just a one-hit wonder for a day.
I can hear you now, whining away with the single-most popular whine going around Indie circles these days, "J.K. Rowling wasn't first, but she's pretty darn successful. I don't want to be first. I want to be rich like Rowling."
Actually, J.K. Rowling was first. She did something no one else had done--not quite that way--and then she did it again, repeatedly delivering on her brand, again and again, satisfying the cravings of her readers. Later in the series, I'll address why you have to be repeatedly "be first" in order to hold the market share position, but let's stay focused on really grasping this "first" idea.
Being number one is probably what you keep trying to do instead of trying to be first. From Amazon to New York Times, they all have a #1 spot. We all want it. We're told that's how to measure success. I'm here to tell you, it's how you measure success after you have won the position in the market.
The problem for us Indie Authors is this: Only one book at a time can be #1, and those lists are fleeting, changing daily (literally, hourly on Amazon!), so instead of competing with a million or more "popular" voices, be the first of your special kind of voice. Position yourself in readers' minds as the first author who's really "gotten it." Whatever "it" is, be the "it" that they've been craving. Be "it" first.
I can hear you crying, "But someone else already was the first!" (e.g., J.K. Rowling's already done it! How can I do it first again?) Genres have existed for years, and as soon as they get labelled, newbies come along writing books to fill them up, then one or another genre gains popularity. As a result, even more books are written specifically to fill that genre "need" so it's just impossible to be original anymore!
Again, I say, No, it's not.
Stop buying into the nay-sayers' propaganda. You can let them accept failure while you pursue success. It's all about perception--it's how you present yourself. Choose your own labels. I'm not Christian but I always think of and love Max Lucado's book about not allowing others to label me with their ugly, grey and meaningless dots.
This idea of creating your own labels is one of those very subtle but magical facets of the art of branding, and Ries/Trout called it Law Number 2, which really, is just an extension of Law Number 1 in my opinion.
Second Law of Marketing: Category
Here, Ries/Trout emphasize that it's better to create a category in which you can be first than it is to be better than others already operating in an existing category. That is, don't aspire to be the next J.K. Rowling. Instead, aspire to be the next you.
Rowling didn't create a new genre, exactly. I was assigned reading of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings back when I was in grammar/elementary school, but Rowling's books are, technically, in the same genre called "YA fantasy." Instead of trying to be better or overtake the established cult following LoTR had gathered, Rowling took a new approach, a new slant on the concept of YA fantasy. Same elements of the genre--magic and spells and talking animals and ancient legends becoming real--but she wrote different stories entirely. She wrote her stories. Her established cult following is just as strong now as LoTR was when it came out (or as it was renewed to be when the movies were released in recent years).
I don't write YA fantasy. I write Romantic Suspense. Guess what? Once upon a time, that subgenre didn't even exist. There used to be just "romance novels." Today there are over a dozen subgenres under the umbrella of "romance novel." Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts have dominated the (ironically named) "category" romance novel markets for the last few decades. Both of them branched off to be "first" to try other forms of "romance novel" and voila, each of them single-handedly created a new subgenre of "romance novel" in which they were first to write. Hey, guess what? They are both still bestsellers.
There is enough pie to go around in the worldwide English-language fiction market. In the North American fiction market alone, sales have been rising--even though the Big Six like to tell you "Woe is me, Big Publishing House. I have to take on fewer and fewer authors and do less and less for those I do launch because the market's so terrible."
Give me a break. Book sales are up, not down. The Big Six just aren't getting the lion's share of the sales anymore so they're whining like little children in the playground whose favorite jungle gym is being used by other kids. Time to share!
We Indies are actually taking over the eBook market and I'll have you know, with new POD options opening up each day (like Amazon's CreateSpace and Lulu expanding its service packages), Indie Authors are gaining ground in the traditional markets, too. Adding in the ease with which Amazon makes international sales possible for Indie Authors using the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, there is definitely enough of the English-speaking book market pie to go around.
Indie Authors can redefine the industry. I believe we don't yet even grasp just how powerful we are, as a collective. When I first started writing fiction, my current genre of choice, Romantic Suspense, didn't even exist. I plan to tap into the untapped market I have yet to name (grin)
Even the idea of "genres" in fiction is new to the early 20th century. The publishing industry has been changing, and is quickly changing right now. Help effect the change by choosing your own labels. Describe yourself and your writing not as "like" someone else but as "nothing like it before."
This may sound as though it goes against conventional wisdom and advice to "write for the market," as in "write whatever it is that people are already buying, just do it better." That's good but that's not going to get an Indie Author to the #1 spot on the bestseller's list. What will is the difference between being first and just being one (of many).
For tomorrow's Tuesday Tip/Tool, I'll be delivering the much-promised article on Hootsuite. I'll try to do some screen shots and give actual button clicks for the harder-to-find/figure out features that I love but Hootsuite has a "university" you can check out for that level of learning. I'll focus more on the use of Hootsuite for Indie Authors specifically.