Tag Archives: marketing

The Power of Three

“I’m not dead yet!”

Sorry for the extended silence over here. I’ve actually written a small handful of posts in the past two months, but they were either too trivial or too whiny or involved too much navel-gazing. So I deleted them and decided to wait until I could fit all those qualities into one post.


I’ve been busy writing. And deleting and editing and writing and deleting some more and . . . I swear, I will never participate in NaNo ever again. I suspect I’ve deleted or completely re-written every single word spewed forth in November. Mind you, I think NaNo is a terrific thing for writers if it works for them. I’d absolutely recommend that any interested writer give it a try, because you never know what might work if you don’t try it. But it’s just not a good fit for my writing process. Geez. I’ve never had to do such a major overhaul.

There, that takes care of the trivial whining portion of the post.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about marketing. Trying to think like a reader. Luckily, I am one! In fact, I am a voracious and highly experienced reader. So I’m the perfect person for me to ask about what works in terms of marketing books [just nod and agree as if that made sense].

What works for me? When I discover a new-to-me writer and read a book of theirs that I really like, the first thing I do is check to see whether they’ve written anything else. If they have, I’ll buy another book. If I like that, I’ll buy a third. And a fourth. And probably the entire backlist, provided it’s priced such that my budget can handle it.

But what happens when I read a book I really like and there are no more books by that person? Well, of course, I make a mental note to remember that person’s name. Because that works so well. Not. Sure, I could make an actual list. But I know how hard it is to write a book. I hope that person will write another, but I’ve seen dozens of writers disappear in my decades of reading. So I’m not counting on it.

Seeing an author’s name once or twice is not going to make it stick in my brain, no matter how much I might have enjoyed their writing. There are just too many other books and authors out there. And I read A LOT. But three times . . . there’s something memorable about that. Seeing something three times, searching Amazon three times, buying an author’s books three times, and — this is KEY — really enjoying something three times. That would leave a lasting impression, even with me.

Now, the importance of having a backlist is not a new concept. I’ve heard it from several sources, but probably heard it first from Bob Mayer. He has an uncanny knack for being way ahead of his time. Our time? The times? Whatever. I’m sure his prescience is a direct result of all those alien abductions. Anyway, I remember him saying there’s not much point in marketing your books until you’ve published at least three of them (there’s that number again).

I’ve decided to take that advice a step further. I’m not going to publish any of these stories I’m currently writing until I have at least three of them ready to go. Because if someone really likes a book I’ve written, I want them to be able to buy another one immediately. And, if they enjoy that, yet another. I might never get a second chance to capture that person’s attention. There are just too many other books out there.

I want that person to remember my name when future books are published. I figure three books ought to do it. I might be wrong. I have no statistics or publishing experience to back this up. All I have is my intuition and experience as a reader. But I’m pretty average in terms of remembering things [just nod and agree, humour me] and it seems to work for me. It makes sense to me.

As a writer, putting books out there as soon as they’re ready to go is a seductive prospect. Everyone does it that way, even traditional publishers. It would certainly satisfy my towering impatience. I also think it’s a mistake.

Yeah, I know, most of you reading this post already know my name (as well as my new pen name) and will argue that you don’t want or need to wait until I have three books ready. I know that, and I’m sorry to make you wait. Really, I am.

But I’m sort of hoping to sell books to more than five people. Looking at this from the perspective of an unknown reader, it just doesn’t make sense to rush to publication and do this piecemeal. The importance of seeing things from that perspective, being aware of the discovery process of the unknown reader, is something writers can’t afford to ignore in this new realm of DIY publishing.

So if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t published anything yet, that’s why. Yes, I could have. But just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should. And I believe there are compelling reasons why it would be foolish to do so.

Of course, none of this matters AT ALL if no one enjoys the books. So, back to working on that part of it.


Filed under goals, marketing, self-publishing

You are doing it wrong

No, not you. I can’t even see you. I have no idea what you’re doing. I’m sure whatever it is . . . *squints at the screen* . . . is just fine. Probably.

No, I’m talking about retailers. More specifically, their marketing departments. This has been on my mind because of the recent disclosure by Google that they are now going to stalk all our internet activity across all platforms and somehow, I don’t know, smush it all together. So they can do a better job of stalking us.

Well, all I can say is, it’s about damn time. Because so far, efforts have been pitiful at best. Retailers need to pay attention and ramp up their efforts as well.

You want examples? You’re in luck. I have examples [and in future, be careful what you wish for when you notice I haven’t posted in a while].

Last Christmas — not the one we just had, the one sixteen months ago — I bought my son some clothes. Online, at Macy’s. And for the next eight months, every other week, I got an email from Macy’s telling me about the biggest newest sale they were having. On men’s clothes. This, in spite of the fact that my “real name” is not one of those names anyone would ever mistake for a man’s name. Really.

At the same time, I also bought an Italian cookbook over at Amazon to give as a gift. Last week, way more than a year later, I got yet another monthly email from Amazon telling me about yet another new release in Italian cookbooks.

Okay, first of all, retailers should just assume anything purchased in December — maybe even late November because, incomprehensibly, some people don’t wait until the last minute to shop — is a gift. And not an item of lifelong personal interest. Second, how many Italian cookbooks do they imagine one person needs? If they were smart, they’d think, hey, this customer likes to cook! and offer French or Thai or Indian cookbooks. Or maybe send ads about unique kitchen utensils. Or unusual spice collections. But no. Every month I get an email about the latest Italian cookbook.

Then there was the rental car company that stalked me with big yellow pop-up ads for four months. Thanks for the reminder that your rates were the highest of all the companies I researched. Thanks for reminding me, every day for four months, of a particularly stressful time in my life when my daughter’s car needed expensive repairs and we decided to sell it instead (to a guy who loves to fix cars) but then we had to rent a car at the last minute so she could drive back to New Orleans in relative safety. I was trying to block all that from my memory, thankyouverymuch. You can be sure I’ll remember you next time I need to rent a car.

And last fall, when my son mentioned he was going to an ECU football game and I later wondered who they were playing, so I went to the ECU website because I figured that was the fastest way of answering that question. Yeah, right. Thanks ECU, for stalking me with ads for a few months, telling me what a great educational experience you offer. But it just so happens I’ve already paid you way more money than any one entity truly deserves, regardless of my son’s Econ degree. Thanks for the reminder about that parent loan I’m still paying off.

Oh, and thank you Domino’s for all your advertising stalkery after I had a momentary lapse in judgment and self-control and ordered a pizza from you online. Obviously, you don’t know that my body has issues with gluten. Eating pizza, even a thin crust pizza that has really thin gluten, is a really bad idea. Really. But hey, thanks for reminding me over and over and over again what an idiot I am and just how awful I felt afterward.

And then there’s the women’s clothing store where I bought a couple things for myself in early December. Things I really liked. A lot. Happy birthday to me! And I’d shop there again. Maybe next December, on my next birthday. Except . . . I’m starting to fucking hate you because you’ve sent me an email EVERY SINGLE DAY since then, telling me about the latest INCREDIBLE SALE you’re having. Every. Damn. Day. That reeks of desperation. What are you thinking? I don’t even read them anymore before I hit the delete button.

And then there’s all the stuff I click on and look at on the internet that’s a result of research for writing. Or idle curiosity. Or boredom. Someone mentions a pretty necklace or a cute pair of shoes, I go look. I’m not shopping, for godsakes. I hate shoes and most jewelry makes me twitch. I’m procras– um, I’m trying (and failing) to see the attraction.

Or maybe someone used an obscure word in an article and suddenly I’m not sure I remember the precise meaning, given the way it was used (glaringly). So I google it. Because, as a writer, precise meaning is important to me (even if it isn’t to others). That does not mean I want to see six months of ads for the stupid thing.

Yes, I know, I could get rid of much of this nonsense by erasing my history or deleting my cookies or opting out of email. But I don’t want to. As irritating as it is, it’s fascinating to watch companies getting it so very wrong. Like an epic train wreck of grossly ineffective high-tech stalkery.

So I’m delighted and cautiously optimistic about Google’s intention to pay closer attention. I hope they’ll realize that I’m interested in damn near everything. And that they won’t start limiting my searches to things I’ve already seen. Maybe they’ll even realize that until they start asking me what I think about the things I’ve seen, the meaning of a website click is not necessarily what they have so far assumed it to be.

Sooner or later, someone is going to figure out how to do it right. And that doing it right means no restrictions. No pre-determined preferences. No narrowing of boundaries. Because my curiosity and capacity for procras– um, thirst for knowledge are limitless and far more diverse than any search engine or marketing department could ever imagine.

In fact, I’m waiting for the search engine that knows me so well, they’ve discovered I’m a writer. Perhaps they’ll contact me to say, “We noticed that last month you were searching for articles about undetectable fatal poisons — frankly we’re a bit disturbed by that, but we know you’re a writer so we’re trying to stay calm and not contact the authorities, but still, please don’t ever invite us over for lunch — and thought you might be interested to know there have been two new articles on that topic published since then and here are the links.” Because that would be awesome. Also, helpful.

And maybe, eventually, some company will send me an email saying, “Hey, we noticed you’re a writer! We bought your book and read it and loved it so much, we bought copies for all of our employees and our mom too!”

I’m telling you, THAT company will have gained a loyal customer for life. I don’t even care if all they sell are Italian cookbooks.


Filed under just for fun, marketing