If you read this blog, you know I’m a marketer — specifically, a market researcher and profiler (like the FBI, only not!) Though marketers do a lot of different techniques (like SEO, brand-building, copywriting, etc), everything we do originates from the objective of selling more stuff for our clients.
That’s the starting point, or should be. In my case, I create single fictional characters (market profiles) to help companies really get a handle on exactly who their audience is, and how their products solve problems.
But I don’t work in just any market.
Marketers — especially those with a behavioral science / psych background — tend to specialize by audience. It takes a long time to really understand the reasons and buying habits of a specific segment, and for whatever reason, we just get them and have a passion for helping them. My own “pet audiences” are DIY home & garden (the Home Depot / HGTV people, or armchair varieties of) and the tech job market: programmers, head hunters, and employers.
Why I avoided fiction marketing.
Up until this year, I’d resisted any fiction consulting jobs because I had too many jobs already, but also, because I had no experience in the entertainment audience. While that wouldn’t usually be enough to rule out an audience, I’d always felt like I had a personal blindness with entertainment. I’m such a consumer of it, especially adult fiction, and such a critical reader. I do not have that outsider’s perspective that is so valuable when you have to create a clear, gutsy sales pitch. Basically, it’s too close to home — kind of like hiring your family.
At the same time, I’ve desperately wanted to actually try my ideas in the fiction market. Yes, theoretically, I “know” that business is business — in my experience, and in the experience of every other successful marketer I’ve talked to, foundational principles of business apply, no matter if you’re selling health care to at-home parents, or video game systems to college-age boys.
Now, I get a chance to prove my ideas to myself.
I’ve finally taken on a fiction marketing client — and not just any. Probably, this is one of the most challenging situations I can think of. Not only is it a niche audience, but the readers aren’t in a typical book-buying segment. They’re young (high school and college), they read comic books and play video games, not go to Borders. And even more difficult: the writing is good dramatic storytelling, but the stories don’t fall into any clear-cut genre.
Dark, erotic adventure? Adult speculative mystery? Decadent, semi-romantic science fantasy? Though I can find ways to accurately describe it, it defies standard genre categorization.
But the business does have strong advantages. The client is very open to doing business stuff and not afraid to try anything. She’s extremely proactive and has sold some books already. Though she claims to be clueless about marketing, she’s got the essential quality: not afraid to sell. Because of this, she’s open to trying anything to get sales, including nontraditional techniques and things that are probably uncomfortable.
Thus far, I’m applying the one system that has always worked for me (and other marketers of my acquaintance.) Free sample -> list -> repeated contact -> sales. I’ll report back on my findings later.