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Targeting a Readership Part 9: Creating a Market by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
The previous 8 parts of this Targeting a Readership Series can be found here:
Targeting Readership Part 1 is:
Part 2 is inside this post:
Part 3 is inside and woven into the following post in my Astrology Just For Writers series which by mistake has the same number as the previous part but is really Part 7:
Targeting a Readership Part 4 is:
Targeting a Readership Part 5 is:
Targeting a Readership Part 6 is:
Targeting a Readership Part 7 is:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/04/targeting-readership-part-7-guest-post.html A guest post by Valerie Valdes on use of setting
Targeting a Readership Part 8 is:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/06/targeting-readership-part-8-anne-pinzow.html A guest post by Anne Phyllis Pinzow, a journalist who has created a readership for a newspaper after its readership evaporated.
Note at the end of her guest post, Anne sums up the difference between 1955 and 2013 in terms of the themes exemplified in film:
Fifty's movie glorifies honor.
2013 TV series glorifies, well, Machiavelli and the uselessness of honor.
This and other value-shifts have been noted by many people -- some with approval and some with disapproval. Which attitudes are good and which are bad is not what WRITERS must figure out. We must be able to portray all sides of any issue, speak from the mouth of any character espousing any attitude and do it convincingly.
As Gene Roddenberry taught me, fiction is about asking questions not answering them. Frame it, pose it, exemplify it in the CHARACTER, SETTING, THEME, CONFLICT AND PLOT, keep it out of the words and in the visual symbolism, then tell the story.
That's what Robert Heinlein taught other SF writers, just TELL A WHOPPING GOOD STORY because you're competing for beer money. Or maybe today, white wine -- whatever Romance readers want to drink. A paperback costs about what a drink in a bar might cost - a little less some places.
Today you are also competing for your reader's time because the proliferation of media forces people to decide which media to consume in their shrinking spare-time-moments.
Knowing what you're competing against (other media, other relaxing pass-times, not other writers), allows you a chance to build an audience, a market that will prefer your product over others.
So here is Part 9 developing these notions into the study of creating an audience to target -- from scratch.
So on the SimeGen Group on Facebook, Donna Michele Fernstrom posted this link to an article about the dropping price of self-published e-books:
I commented on the Group:
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: There is always the factor of "supply and demand" reflected in "price." And there is the principle that the lower the price, the higher the demand. But there are a lot of other variables in any market situation. Each story is a "unique" product.
And Donna answered:
Donna Michele Fernstrom: Absolutely true. Also true is that we haven't figured out what the threshold is for something to 'go viral' and become so wildly popular.
Which raised a whole lot of thoughts about the "go viral" phenomenon.
Perhaps we haven't found the threshold because there isn't one?
Perhaps it's not a certain number of people reposting something that causes the notion to "go viral" -- perhaps going viral is more about WHO the item reaches, not about how many of them there are?
I also remember, from several years ago, an item by a social media expert marketer who pointed out you don't have to amass a gigantic following to leverage your social media followers into a living-wage. You really (as a self-publisher) only need to reach 1,000 people who become hooked on your stuff and will buy anything you write/publish.
I think there's some serious truth in that. You don't need the whole world at your doorstep to make a living from writing. But publishing is hard, which is why it's expensive and publishers pay writers a pittance compared to the prices they charge, because the rest is overhead and their salaries.
Publishing involves content-editing, copy-editing, creation of the product, distribution of the product, advertising of the product -- it's a full time job for a lot of people to transport a story from a writer's computer to a reader's eyes.
So a product, to be viable in the marketplace has to reach more than 1,000 people who will grab it.
Creating product is one thing; creating the business to transport that product is quite another.
So with the massive shift in publishing due to the explosion of electronic media, I've been watching for success stories among the abundance of failures I've been seeing.
Anne Pinzow has had some success finding stories the newspaper readers want to read (non-fiction, mind you!). It took years for the readers of the newspaper to discover that suddenly THIS paper contains the exact information they want to know, that no other paper even mentioned. But the paper, as a business, isn't quite making the dollars it must to survive even as its fame increases. It's exploring options to go online.
I know another local paper printed newspaper that I read is promising not to stop printing on paper, but is building their online presence as fast as they can right after that paper got sold to new owners. I don't think the print edition will survive.
And I worked for a print publication that went down over the same print/costs issues.
I'm sure you all saw this in the Huffington Post:
That's about the Koch Brothers bidding for failing newspapers, such as the LA Times.
When wielders of such massive fortunes as the Koch Brothers command make a move, you have to ask yourself what do they know that we don't know?
PAPER IS DEAD, right? I mean iPad and Kindle have become the subscription media for reading magazines and newspapers. Online (especially mobile) advertising just isn't paying the way yet, but people are starting to pay to get past the online pay-wall and get deeper articles.
There's a market for "news" and "commentary/analysis" -- and that requires a staff of hundreds to tromp over to the scene of an event and poke around, collecting the information you would collect if you were at the event. This saves you the time and travel - you can't be everywhere, but reporters can be.
So the process of gathering, editing, and distributing NEWS is still a viable part of a business model. There's a market for well digested, well presented, succinct and accurate information.
The way to make a profit on finding, digesting, and delivering that information is still changing -- businessmen are searching for the method that will leverage the electronic age into serious profit.
The Koch Brothers -- famous or maybe infamous for their Right Wing stance -- are looking at buying out the remnants of famous old newspapers as a framework for rebuilding their readerships just as Anne Pinzow found a method of writing news articles that readers of a printed paper wanted to read (and talk about -- her articles get coverage on local radio).
The only newspapers really left standing specialize in local news. National and international are on TV, Radio, and online.
That's the very lucrative non-fiction market impacted by the electronic revolution.
But what about fiction? What about Romance?
Romance novels represent a niche market, a specific and very exactly defined market. We, here, add in all kinds of other spice -- Paranormal, Interstellar wars, aliens, and any and every manner of Fantasy creature, but it's still all about Romance. Romance is what we DO -- if there's a human around anywhere, love is what drives the plot, any plot and every plot.
What we want in our fiction is a specific, defined and specialized as the Koch Brothers "Right Wing" niche activities.
The Koch Brothers item on their interest in buying the LA Times newspaper (did you know that decades ago the LA Times was right wing?) "went viral" when it hit the blogosphere and was carried by the various news services (which still exist but don't function as well as they once did).
Follow the Koch Brothers story as a lesson in "going viral."
The Koch Brothers story even turned up on The Blaze, the TV network created (from absolute scratch) by Glenn Beck.
I've discussed Glenn Beck at far more length than he deserves in previous posts here,
...but we must revisit his progress now in order to get a grasp on the possibilities for Romance to create its market in online streaming video, talk, author interviews, old movies, NEW MOVIES, and series.
A lot of what is labeled "Romance" is actually erotica or smut that's had the Romance part stripped out. Purified of the Romance parts, raw sexuality has a major market appeal, and makes lots of money. But the overall subject of my blog entries here is elevating the respect for the Romance genre, for the Romance story, and the Romance novel -- fiction with a core driving force toward a Happily Ever After ending.
As a writer, to let your characters plausibly achieve "happily ever after" or the HEA, you have to do a lot of clinically distant, unemotional, analysis of what "happiness" is, where it comes from, why some people have it and others don't, and how to change those who don't into those who do.
Fiction is all about CONFLICT, you know, and the resolution of a conflict requires the main character to CHANGE. In a Romance the change is from a person who does not have happiness into a person who does have happiness, and not only that but into a person who has crossed a one-way threshold into a realm of living where the happiness quotient will never subside below a certain level. That requires an internal change in the character, a spiritual enlightenment, a serious personality reset. "Life" is always the same; your view of it can change.
Yes, after The End, the level of happiness a character feels does go down, and life gets to be "life" again -- but the "ever after" part puts a floor under the down.
Maybe the floor is at the level of simple contentment, or maybe it's a bit above mere contentment, but from that floor the person's happiness quotient goes UP again, then down a little, and UP again, down a little, then UP again etc in an up-trend -- something special and very significant changes inside that Main Character in a Romance that achieves a new level of HAPPINESS that is permanent and ever-after increases from there.
That's what a Romance is all about.
I seriously doubt you'll easily find a single outlet in streaming or cable that specializes in that kind of story.
The level of rejection among the general population of the HEA as realistic is so high that this HEA kind of fiction is regarded as wish-fulfillment-fantasy and thus childishly self-indulgent fare of a loser.
That is exactly the way science fiction fans were regarded before Star Trek.
Glenn Beck has created, in The Blaze online newspaper and his streaming subscription network, ( http://theblaze.com ) a vehicle for a "message" that is as horrendously scorned as "starships" were before Star Trek, and Romance with an HEA ending is now scorned.
His message has nothing (at all) to do with our message, but his business success has everything to do with our goals because he has started from the same place we are in right now -- a large, lucrative, steady, hungry market with no real vehicle serving that market. And he's built something that is -- almost -- showing signs of actual success.
Glenn has done what we want to do but with non-fiction.
My point here is that when it comes to Targeting a Readership, to finding or creating or gathering an audience, a market, when it comes to the business end of story-telling, there's no difference between fiction and non-fiction.
Actually, watch a little Glenn Beck and that distinction between fiction and non-fiction blurs completely!
He got his start in show business as a clown, did talk radio (and still does), and basically spins a narrative web out of current events and into a fictional reality all his own.
But many are absorbed by his reality. I think that's because, several times an hour, he actually says something that's true, but that nobody else is saying, often something you wouldn't likely know because you don't have the army of researchers he has. What makes his audience stick with him is that scattering of obscure facts that fill their hunger for information. I suspect few of his audience use that information to derive the scenarios Beck specializes in. But facts are hard to come by these days, so I suspect a lot of his viewers and readers are doing their own thinking with his facts -- thinking he probably couldn't replicate.
He has some very smart people working for him, and that shows in the research behind what he presents. His people dig up real, solid information, stuff you want to know even if you never suspected it was going on. What he does with that solid information is --- well, that's another matter.
The important point to learn from studying The Blaze is the business model.
As a businessman, Beck is superb, insightful, fast moving, and in full command of the basic process of building a business. He's had successes and failures, and he's learned from all of them, even though as he emphasizes, he has very little formal education. In fact, his lack of formal education is part of the reason for his success. With The Blaze, he's done something NEW and it seems to be proving to be profitable.
The specific audience you and I are after is very different from Beck's primary audience, but the business model that seems to be working for him could work for Romance.
Search on Google for
romance channel online
...and you'll find a number of attempts to do something with "Romance" that are similar to what Beck has done and is doing. There's a lot of research someone planning to launch such a project with Alien Romance would have to do. But there's room for a replica of The Blaze focused on the Romance Genre instead of religion and politics.
I suspect Romance Readers/Viewers out-number Beck's audience. So take a look at what's going on with him in 2013.
After the resounding loss of the 2012 election, Beck moped in public for a while, then "doubled down."
He had a business plan that spanned 5 years, a plan to build his newspaper (The Blaze) and his streaming subscription TV online thing called GBTV and his publishing business Mercury Arts which also owns his radio show, into a single operation. He was adding TV streaming shows one at a time and producing a few "specials" covering topics in depth, building methodically. With the loss of the election, he decided to execute that 5 year plan in 2 years to build a platform before the 2014 elections.
He's worried about the direction of the country on a person-by-person level, about the values preferred by the general public today. Anne Pinzow pointed out one clear observation about this in Targeting a Readership Part 8, as I quoted above, and you really should read what she wrote about how she came by this observation:
Fifty's movie glorifies honor.
2013 TV series glorifies, well, Machiavelli and the uselessness of honor.
Substitute the word "Romance" for the word "Honor" and you have a perfect description of our problem. Now juxtapose that with an analysis of Beck's approach to exactly the same problem -- the general public does not share our sense of the plausibility (in real life) of the HEA.
Beck cites a peck or two of various Values he feels have been "lost." But he's found a large enough audience ( over 300,000 paying subscribers which is more than that 1,000 cited by the social media marketing expert) to support a delivery channel for that exact set of values.
Early in 2013, Beck started a campaign to rename his fledgling network from GBTV.com to theblaze.com -- combining the video delivery and newspaper style delivery. And he launched a bid to get his streaming-only TV channel (which had several shows, but not 24 hours of programming) onto cable systems. The audience response was tremendous, and several small cable systems came onboard immediately, then I lost count.
How many cable systems carry The Blaze now? The thing is, I don't know. It changes constantly.
In April 2013, Beck announced a Pennsylvania cable system acquired The Blaze TV channel, after I think it was 5 small local cable systems had signed on. In May a big cable system, Optimum, acquired The Blaze for it's upper tier subscribers in the North East.
------quote from Optimum----------
“TheBlaze is the rare independent network that has a built in passionate audience, and therefore adds value to Optimum TV’s channel line-up,” TheBlaze President of Business Development Lynne Costantini said in a statement. “TheBlaze serves a growing conservative and libertarian audience, and we are pleased to work with Cablevision on bringing our network to Optimum TV customers.”
TheBlaze TV will be available in May to Optimum’s residential customers with the Optimum Preferred, Silver and Gold Packages.
"Optimum" is by Cablevision.
Cablevision Systems Corporation is one of the nation’s leading media and telecommunications companies. In addition to delivering its Optimum-branded cable, Internet, and voice offerings throughout the New York area, the company owns and operates cable systems serving homes in four Western states. Cablevision’s local media properties include News 12 Networks, MSG Varsity and Newsday Media Group. Cablevision also owns and operates Clearview Cinemas. Additional information about Cablevision is available on the Web at www.cablevision.com.
Here's another announcement Beck's newsletter carried the same day:
"...that has a built in passionate audience..." does that sound familiar?
At about the same time Optimum Cablevision announced The Blaze, The Blaze announced acquiring a programming addition to their children's program.
Glenn Beck on Thursday announced a new partnership for TheBlaze TV with major Hollywood producer Gerald Molen, whose credits include “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List” and last year’s “2016: Obama’s America.”
TheBlaze TV’s children’s education program “Liberty Treehouse” will start showcasing student work from “Sneak on the Lot,” an experiential curriculum for aspiring young filmmakers developed by Molen and partners Darrin Fletcher and Chet Thomas.
Previously, in April came this announcement:
New York – March 28, 2013 – TheBlaze announced today that it has entered into a carriage agreement with Blue Ridge Communications, the nation’s 21st largest cable operator. TheBlaze will launch on Blue Ridge Communications in April.
After a tremendous start on DISH Network, the TheBlaze has also entered into agreements with BEK Communications, Sweetwater Cable Television and Atwood Cable.
Beck's vision includes a hard-news gathering network spread internationally but as far as I know that hasn't launched yet. The news items on The Blaze website are becoming better written and more diverse with skyrocketing hit-rates.
In April 2013 I think April 30, Beck's publishing arm released a non-fiction book about the gun control issue, and as of May 2 that book was #1 Amazon paper best seller, and had been in the top 100 for 18 days (pre-publication counts, I suppose).
When our founding fathers secured the Constitutional “right of the people to keep and bear arms,” they also added the admonition that this right SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.
It is the only time this phrase appears in the Bill of Rights. So why aren’t more people listening?
History has proven that guns are essential to self-defense and liberty—but tragedy is a powerful force and has led many to believe that guns are the enemy, that the Second Amendment is outdated, and that more restrictions or outright bans on firearms will somehow solve everything.
They are wrong.
In CONTROL, Glenn Beck presents a passionate, fact-based case for guns that reveals why gun control isn’t really about controlling guns at all; it’s about controlling us. In doing so, he takes on and debunks the common myths and outright lies that are often used to vilify guns and demean their owners:
The Second Amendment is ABOUT MUSKETS . . . GUN CONTROL WORKS in other countries . . . 40 percent of all guns are sold without BACKGROUND CHECKS . . . More GUNS MEAN more MURDER . . . Mass shootings are becoming more common . . . These awful MASSACRES ARE UNIQUE TO AMERICA . . . No CIVILIAN needs a “weapon of war” like the AR-15 . . . ARMED GUARDS in schools do nothing, just look at Columbine . . . Stop FEARMONGERING, no one is talking about TAKING YOUR GUNS AWAY.
Backed by hundreds of sources, this handbook gives everyone who cares about the Second Amendment the indisputable facts they need to reclaim the debate, defeat the fear, and take back their natural rights.
Reread that and substitute "HEA" for "gun."
You all know how Romance often hinges on the twin issues of Control and Safety. Have you been watching the 2013 TV episodes of Beauty and the Beast? The whole romance between the genetically altered guy (yeah, a hunk) and the Beauty of a police detective is based on "I want to keep you safe." Safety is the sexiest issue out there!
The constitution does guarantee the right to the pursuit of happiness (not the catching of it, just the pursuit, not the HEA), so there's an equivalence between the Gun Control issue and the HEA issue that's eerie. Our topic is just as unpopular as Beck's topic -- and the comparison of Romance and Gun Control is even more appropriate if you consider the sex/violence paradigm.
Beck has amassed major marketing power with a subject-niche market that's smaller than ours. Color us embarrassed? What could we do with the tools he's using?
Keep in mind that Oprah Winfrey was likewise a popular talk-show host who went off and created her own network, OWN I think it was called, and starting it on Cable, she didn't succeed. Beck started streaming online subscriber-only, and is now inching onto Cable with a proven product way ahead of his own schedule, and his network is adding shows. His children's show adding young student producers education is important because he's decided the problem with America lies in how kids are being educated.
We have to follow in these business-model footsteps and infect the hearts and minds of our estranged audience with Love, and perhaps Beck is right that the place to start is with children's programming.
by Jacqueline Lichtenberg