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Marketing Questions For Writers
Lessons from the Past
My parents were teens during the Great Depression. One does not live though an economic disaster like that without having some pretty clear views on money. One of their views was that their only son needed to go to college so that he could find success and never have to live like they had to live. Understandable when viewed from their experiences; also understandable was their insistence that their only son major in business when he went to college, for big money followed big business, and to them big money spelled success.
So their only son majored in Marketing while in college, and because he was an overachiever he tossed in an Economics major while he was at it. He hated those courses because he wanted to be a teacher, but he respected his parents and he understood where they were coming from, so he hung tough and received his dual degrees in 1970 and then went forth into the world to seek his fame and fortune.
Lovely story and I wish I could tell you that I found fame and fortune but alas, I became a teacher. LOL
However, the education I received in Business was not wasted. Over the years I have owned three businesses, and many of the business principles I learned forty years ago were still valid when I had my businesses and they are still valid today.
Let me share some of those principles, fine-tuned with writing in mind, with you. If you are not writing for money then stop right here and go watch some daytime television. This one is definitely not for you. If, however, you are interested in making some money at this writing gig, then read on.
The Business of Writing
If you are earning income writing, or if you want to earn income writing, then writing must be treated like the business it is. That means developing a business plan and that means developing a business strategy.
I don’t know how many writers I have heard bemoaning the lack of income, but when asked what their product is they cannot answer. Make no mistake about it: your writing is your product….but your definition must be more specific than that.
A must have book for freelance writers
Is Your Product Unique?
I want you to take a second and answer this question: what do you give your readers with your writing? Be as specific as possible with your answer. Now, answer this question: who is my target audience? Now, answer this question: do I provide a service for my target audience with my specific product?
This is, in fact, Marketing 101. Identify a need, identify a specific buying audience, and then sell your product as an answer to that need for that specific audience.
I can hear a heckler in the cheap seats yelling out….”but I’m a novelist; I don’t need to worry about answering your stupid questions.” And I would say to that novelist that you, sir, are an idiot if you believe that. This is exactly what publishers do when they take on a client. They tailor their ad campaign with a specific buying audience in mind; they tailor their ad campaign with a specific need in mind. It has worked for Madison Avenue for quite a long time now; there is no reason to believe it won’t work for a solitary writer.
Marketing is the name of the game
Is Your Product Worthy of the Effort?
I guarantee you right now that I could take a mediocre writer and, given enough money for an ad campaign, I could make him, or her, a reasonably rich person. However, that is not the real world that we live in. Barring some lucky circumstances that cannot possibly be foreseen, most writers are judged on the quality of their work, and their success, ultimately, depends on that quality.
Here, then, is the biggest problem I have with online success stories in the writing business. Today anyone can write a book. If the stars align just perfectly anyone could go viral….but….that does not mean they are good writers.
Do you want to bet your future on the stars aligning perfectly or do you want to give yourself a fighting chance by churning out quality writing?
For a few months, years ago, the Pet Rock was the latest sensation. In the end, however, it was just a rock. Is your writing just a rock or is it a boulder made from exquisite minerals? Let me put it another way. Who remembers Mungo Jerry? In 1970 that British rock group had a #1 song called “In the Summertime.” End of story; they rapidly disappeared from the rock scene.
Do you want to be a one-hit wonder or would you like to have some staying power with your writing?
Improve your product; keep improving your product; give yourself a fighting chance in this business by being the best writer that you can be.
Are You Networking Properly like Your Writing Life Depended on It?
Because, quite simply, it does!
Networking is a new phenomenon, right? Wrong! Long before the computer hit the world scene, Hemingway networked, as did Steinbeck, as did all the others. They mingled with writers. They made contacts in the publishing business. They ate, breathed and slept writing.
And so must you!
How many writers do you know who think that networking solely consists of spreading their work on Facebook and Pinterest? Quite a few I would venture to guess; you may be one of them. Networking refers to making contacts in the industry and not seeing how many Facebook sites you can post your work to.
Here’s the problem with networking on Facebook: everybody does it and eventually it becomes like background music on an elevator. You hear it but really don’t pay any attention to it.
The publishing business has changed drastically over the past decade with the advent of self-publishing and ebooks. Publishers are not eager to take a flyer on a new, unknown writer. With that as a truth, you must pay your dues and make yourself known. You do that by working your way up through the ranks. You build your platform. You pick up some bylines. You meet publishers and agents and writers and you establish a bond with them. Then, and only then, provided you have the skills necessary, will your star rise high enough to be seen by those who can advance your career.
More helpful tips
Those Are Just the Basics
A marketing campaign for a writer is like a rock hitting the lake and the ripples that are generated from that rock. You need a lot of ripples as a writer, and you need to find a way to keep those ripples circulating. It’s nice to make a big splash, but the income will come from those ripples.
I have given you some things to think about. I see far too many writers flailing away in their craft, and I have had far too many writers ask me why they are not succeeding when in fact, to the trained eye of a marketing expert, their failures and shortcomings were very predictable.
I would love it if the literary world were set up so that the best writers made money and it was all judged just on talent, but that ain’t the real world. Talent is huge, but so, too, is the ability to market that talent and let the world know about that talent. If I had to pick the number one comment I have heard from writers, it would be that they don’t like to market themselves. They are writers, not marketers. Well, good luck to them because they are going to need it. Who do you suppose is going to market your work if you don’t?
It is never too late to do things the right way. Go through this article question by question. Answer them and then start to devise a marketing plan. I’m willing to bet you will be pleased with the results.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”