Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 13 New Entry Ways To Publishing

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 13
New Entry Ways To Publishing 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous entries in this Blog series are listed here:

As a professional reviewer, I get many books from publishers' publicity departments -- and I am offered many more than I accept or review.

I tend to focus on fiction, science fiction - especially galactic stories with aliens -- double-especially Relationship/romance driven galactic plots.

Every once in a while, I accept a non-fiction book, or one that's fictionalized non-fiction, and from those I sometimes hit a jackpot of information.

Today I want to point you to a book that is being promoted heavily by one of the biggest publishers in the world, Penguin Group.  I was offered this book by their publicist.

The first thing I noticed when I got the paper edition, in the acknowledgements at the back of the book, the author says she would never have attempted to write a book if not for the encouragement of a Penguin UK editor - she apparently knew personally.

Remember all the Faye Kellerman mysteries (Decker & Lazarus series) that I've pointed you at? 

Faye Kellerman is the wife of Jonathan Kellerman,

He's been an established mystery writer since before she published her first novel, a prominent award winner Ritual Bath (which is English for Mikveh).

Last week, I pointed you to an obscure title that just could not find entre into the major mass market paperback publishers that should have picked it up, given the popularity of futuristic mystery-romance, Murderer In The Mikdash.  (that's MIKDASH not MIKVEH -- mikDASH is the Temple; mikVEH is a deep pool of water.  Murderer in the Mikdash is set in the near-future, while Ritual Bath is set in the "present" of when it was written (see wikipedia) The Ritual Bath (1986) (Winner of the 1987 Macavity award for Best First Novel, nominated for the 1987 Anthony Award in the same category

So last week we pondered MURDERER IN THE MIKDASH, and why you hadn't heard of it before now.

And I analyzed why this particular draft of this particular novel could not get a toe in the door for this (incredibly accomplished) author. 

It's all marketing, and though there are principles of marketing you can learn from college textbooks and seminars -- this world is changing so fast that there just are no rules, except for the oldest, most dependable rule of all -- "It's not what you know; it's who you know." 

That's the founding principle behind LinkedIn.

LinkedIn.com takes it one further.  "It's not who you know; it's who knows you."  People who know a lot of people are averse to meeting people who want to meet them.  In other words, fame creates overload and overload creates aversion.

So we are back to the Victorian "society" where people "move in circles."

This week, we contrast the publishing presentation of that immensely worthy but obscure novel, MURDERER IN THE MIKDASH (a first novel) and this first "reality TV" style fictionalized non-fiction book, LOVE BY THE BOOK.

Murderer in the Mikdash has Romance aplenty, relationships, and powerful motivations based on the human search for love, respect, and establishment in life, security and a sense of personal identity.

That same description fits LOVE BY THE BOOK.  The format and artistic emphasis, the theme, the structure, the location, absolutely everything about LOVE BY THE BOOK is in stark, sharp, vivid contrast to either MURDERER IN THE MIKDASH or RITUAL BATH.

But the publishing trajectory of LOVE BY THE BOOK and RITUAL BATH also demonstrate a stark difference -- which is not due to content, to size of intended audience or potential sales volume, or even to potential film contracts. 

It's due to promotional money behind the title.

And not just to money.  If an Indy author like Gidon Rothstein spent the same amount of money to promote Murderer in the Mikdash that Penguin is spending to promote Love By The Book, he wouldn't be able to reach the same level of prominence with bookstores, online book sellers, or readers.

Why is it not just the amount of money spent?

Because the real secret to Best Seller volume is (as with launching a political campaign) "Organization."  An efficient, well established publicity organization can make a huge profit promoting things because the vast majority of the money is spent greasing the product's way through the distribution channels.

An Indy author does not have an "organization."  The publicist spends a lifetime creating and nurturing "contacts."  The Golden Rolodex used to be the touchstone of publicity -- today it's the Contact List.

Bottom line, though, it's going to the right parties, being personable and cheerful fun entertaining the "right" people, being part of the quid-pro-quot network of favor trading, -- just being a resident of the "right" neighborhood.  I don't mean that geographically, though it sometimes matters where you life.  I mean that neighborhood of people who know each other and see each other at gatherings in various countries all around the world -- the jet set of publishing.

It's not about who you know.  It's about who knows you -- and why they should care.

I don't know Melissa Pimentel personally.  All I know about her book's marketing is what she wrote in the back of this book.

You will never be able to replicate exactly what happened to her -- an editor at a big publishing house with a big publicity department urged her to create this hybrid-fictionalized non-fiction book, and then publicized it.

It's a "gimmick" book.  "Gimmicks" are a gamble, but when they work, they go Big.

The gimmick here is that Pimentel found herself at loose ends in London and decided to run an experiment, reporting it in a Blog.

She read a Dating instruction book a month and spent the month applying those instructions, reporting the results on the blog.

She admits that the book is re-arranged because she met the Man of Her Dreams early on, but in the book doesn't reveal which man it is until the end.

So in a way it's a mystery.  No murders, though. 

So, the author read non-fiction, wrote non-fiction about the non-fiction, and then wrote semi-fiction about the non-fiction titles.

Only today could we have such a gimmick in our hands!  The power of blogging is brought to the fore.  The general interest in "dating" and the idea that one needs instruction to do it "right" is as old as the hills.  The distribution of testing results on those instructions via the Web is NEW.

So just like Hollywood asks -- give me something the same but different -- Pimentel did.

I don't know how the editor came to notice the blog, or the hit-rate and discussion furor on that blog, but you couldn't do that for yourself on purpose anyway. 

Blogging is not how you get to know people -- it's how people get to know you.

That's why linkedin.com has begun a "blog" type section where members can sound-off on topics they think are interesting.

If you can grab the attention of "the right" person on linkedin.com and induce them to get to know you, then you might just find your own, new and unique, way into publishing or film production.

On Twitter, at #scifichat, in January, the topic brought to notice the dearth of comic books slanted toward 7 year old girls.

The topic of the #chat spun off from this article -- blog.


And @DavidRozansky decided to explore adding a comics line to his publishing house, aimed specifically at this wholly unserved market.  His particular expertise is marketing, and his field is Gaming, Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy -- all our stuff.

If an actual line of published comics results -- it will be a result of people talking on Twitter.  Such a "gimmick" line of products might be discussed in the NYT book review, and blogged about. 

And again, my point is that finding that big break is all about who knows you, not about who you admire or who you know or look up to.  Not about all the famous people who have influenced your thinking, but rather it is about how you influence them.

The influence you want to have on them is to further, enhance, enlarge, and progress their career -- not your own, theirs.

Who knows you is about them, not you.

Who you know is about you, not them.

It takes both to close the circuit and get something to happen.

So while you are working on your writing skills, also work on your social skills, your social circles, and your social spirals.

Which brings us back to LOVE BY THE BOOK.  Read this book, (it's very readable, engrossing, well constructed, and well paced).  Note particularly how the author picks up different advice books on that one topic - dating - and evaluates the applicable elements in each book, then sums it all up.

You all know how many books are in print advising you how to break into print, how to break into the movies, how to break-in. 

Pick a break-in topic, and blog your heart into it, maybe on LinkedIn, keeping in mind "who" might be reading it.  Entertain your target audience, just as you would at a cocktail party, standing in a circle, telling people a story about your adventures getting to the party.  (the airline lost your luggage, what you did about that, who you met along the way)

The point of the blogging exercise is for others to get to know you - not for you to get to know others. 

The changing blogosphere is part of the publishing landscape.  Learn your way around.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. That's an intriguing distinction between who knows us and whom we know. I think it's a very subtle and perhaps powerful idea that the people who know us -- whom we may not even know -- are the ones who count.

    I have been keeping two blogs -- one about nature, chimpanzees, turtles and flowers -- and another completely different one about history and politics -- for quite some time. I have an international readership.

    But when I came out with my "Theodosia and the Pirates" books, I thought my audience lay among the historical romance fans, the Aaron Burr buffs and the Jean Laffite aficionados. My books are crossover romance between the world of Aaron Burr's daughter, Theodosia, and the world of Jean Laffite. But unlike other crossovers, they both really did live in the same era and had mutual friends. I contacted the Jean Laffite Society and even gave a talk before them last summer. I also contacted the Aaron Burr Association. But as these people did not know me, it somehow did not help that my work was intimately tied in with their special subject of interest.

    Meanwhile the people who do know and read me do not seem to be buying my books, even though I incorporated new insights from my ape language research into the involuntary communication events in "Theodosia and the Pirates."

    It's a problem trying to get the connections that we see between different areas of life across to people who know us, but whom we do not know. Sometimes the idea of the niche blog is counterproductive.