The first week, I showed how the Law of Leadership, Law 1, knocked the wind out of the common Indie Author goal of being #1--and showed why that's not as good as being first. That took us directly into the Law of Category, Law 2, which one would assume Indie Authors, of all people, would understand, given most of us write in categories called "genres." However, reality is that more Indies "write for the market" they imagine exists--or one that people tell them is "hot"--rather than marketing their original work to the audience most likely to be interested in it.
Identifying the target audience (or market) is one of the slippery slopes Indies seem to fall down far too often. Personally, I think it all goes back to knowing yourself, your writing and your brand. Then correctly identifying yourself and your writing to others--describing yourself with just the right words. Let's all admit it, pitching is not one of those things we authors do particularly well--or not unless or until we practice it. Repeatedly. This goes back to my related discussion of becoming the Company you want to keep.
Branding yourself, in its essence, is the basis of Laws 3 + 4: the Laws of the Mind + Perception. For Indie Authors, this is a hard one to grasp because we're all still so tied to those "Best Seller List" numbers that the traditional "Big Six" publishers want to promote as the "end all and be all" of author achievements. Did you notice that the marketers for the Big Six still wonder why overnight sensations cannot sustain in the marketplace?
Appearing in the public eye "overnight" is great--it's called a breakout novel--but it should be the result of a deliberate effort and planning, not a stroke of sheer luck in timing. So that's this week's discussion, conveniently, Law 5: Focus. I think identifying and choosing, then applying your focus is the key to successful application of the first 4 laws. Strange how the Ries/Trout laws build upon each other isn't it? (Not!) Click through the jump to read more.
Law 5: Focus
The fifth immutable law of marketing states that one of the most powerful things you can do is own one word in the prospect's mind. Choose that word carefully. Recall Law 1: Be First. Choose your own word, not the one already in use by J.K. Rowling, not the same word as Stephenie Meyer chose. Don't try to be another one of them. Be a first one of you.
You don't need to pick a word that perfectly describes your first book--or your current book--or any book. You don't need to pick a unique or extra-special word--you are what's unique and special. You are the snowflake. Your book is the blizzard. The word you need to pick is the one which burns your voice into your reader's mind. It doesn't need to be just one word--it could be three or four, just not a rambling paragraph. Pick a unique and special concept, a singular idea that is yours and yours alone. Own that one word or idea in your reader's mind and the other 100,000 words will follow.
Use the K.I.S.S. Rule
If you're not familiar with this acronym, it stands for "Keep It Simple, Stupid" and the idea is that you don't need something bizarre, new-fangled, made-up or "unique" in that strange way. Pick a word or concept right out of the vernacular, out of everyday speech, something readers already know--and replace that word in their minds with YOU.
Some Examples of Focused Brands
One of my favorite Romantic Suspense genre authors is Suzanne Brockmann. She is famous for writing stories about U.S. Navy SEALs. She owns that singular concept. When SEAL Team Six recently killed OBL, Suz was actually blessed with a boon of PR because Amazon, USA Today and various other places immediately thought of her as the "go to" for the idea of "romance novelist who writes about SEALs." Ironically, after 20+ years of writing SEAL stories, Suz just recently decided to follow after the Stephanie Meyer market and write YA vampire books. We shall have to see how this pans out. I hope she doesn't give up her forte entirely. She's quite good at it after two decades' practice.
Here's one that never ever wavered. You hear the name Tom Clancy, and even if you've never read one of his books, you know he writes spy thrillers, suspenseful action-movie fodder, shoot 'em up style cloak and dagger mysteries. Right? I'll be surprised if anyone here didn't know the name Tom Clancy. Leave me a comment!
Similarly, does anyone here not know what Agatha Christie wrote? H. G. Wells? Shakespeare? I'm choosing classics here to show you just how enduring it can be to really own a word or concept in the prospect's mind. It's not something that comes and goes, not if you really own it. Will anyone else really be as famous for a hat-wearing cat as Dr. Seuss? These names--and ideas--are in your mind for a reason. They are strongly-branded. They are focused brands.
Category Leadership and Your Chosen Word
The connection between Law 1 (leadership) and Law 5 (focus) is that the leader--or first--in a field owns the word that is that category (Law 2). For instance, when people say "I need a Kleenex." Americans, at least, know they mean "disposable pocket facial tissue," and not necessarily the Kleenex brand. Owning a word means your product has become the "thing."
Law 6 Exclusivity
Two competitors cannot own the same word in the prospect's mind. This law of marketing "widgets" probably doesn't apply the same way to Indie Authors. I'm inclined to skip right over Law 6. For us, we "exclusivity" is a very different idea and our category of book (or genre) might divide, die, re-emerge -- many times over the course of our book's life. It's possible to lead by creating your chosen category, by making your chosen word (concept or voice) as unique and special a snowflake as you are. The trick is to define the category and then get others to write in it so as to insure the category (genre) lasts as long or longer than the life of your book.
Stephanie Meyer sure did recreate--or rebrand and redefine--her chosen category of "Young Adult novels with paranormal creatures like vampires and werewolves." Those stories have existed for years--centuries--but she refocused the idea by making it her own. Now everyone's trying to write in that category. As a result, Stephanie Meyer is assured a leadership position in the new category.
Make your concept uniquely yours and it will lead a new "overnight success." Readers everywhere yearn for something new, something different. Be that new and different--and focused--something for which they yearn. Be you.
The much-awaited fly-through Hoosuite's "Publisher" feature for scheduling tweets is coming tomorrow in the Tuesday Tip, 10am Eastern Time. See you then!