Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Writing About The Future And For The Future
The Index to previous posts in this series can be found at
Recently, I was told by a contact on Facebook who was systematically reading through my Star Trek fanfic series, Kraith
that Star Trek should have picked up my vision of Vulcan Culture when they came to "reveal" the world where Spock grew up. I've been told that before, but this was a new reader currently living in the modern context.
Meanwhile, I followed the political developments as the Republicans won and the Democrats lost, not just the Presidency but in States and local contests up and down the ticket.
Officially, publicly, the professional politicians are telling their bewildered constituents how shocking, unfair, wrong, unprecedented, and just plain unacceptable these losses were.
I was not shocked, bewildered, or even mildly surprised. But I ranged far and wide among news sources (even abroad) and from long experience, interpreted the news media "story" or "narrative" in terms of what I knew about the players and the Constitution.
I understand (as few do) both Journalism and the Electoral College -- artifacts of my odd upbringing.
So I saw the "game" Trump played was for the Electoral Votes and never mind anything else -- it took him a while to get a grip on that process, but he swept up advisers who know what I know, and he believed them and altered course to scarf up all the Electoral Votes that were "low hanging fruit." And he ignored the rest.
Meanwhile, any sensible person could see that Hillary won the popular vote -- and with good reason. She ran a well funded campaign. I have noted over decades that all you have to do to predict the winner of a Presidential Contest is to find out which candidate has raised the most money. Then you can ignore all the noise that money makes with advertising.
This works well on local contests, too. The State and County nominees with the most money win. That's it. Follow The Money. Nothing else matters.
At least it has been that way until 2016. In many contests it did go that way. But it is no longer a certainty.
If you, as a futuristic Romance writer, intend to write novels that can be read (as Kraith is being read) decades hence and still captivate and stimulate readers to their own creativity, then you should think long and hard about how the 2016 Presidency went.
Trump ran almost no TV advertising -- got almost no newspaper endorsements -- and spent money mostly on his airplane, very tiny staff, and huge venues for his overflow crowds.
Frankly, it beats me why anyone would go to such a "rally" -- to hear him say in person exactly what you've heard him say on TV. After a while, he honed his pitch down to a boringly repetitive set of points woven around his random, stream of consciousness commentary.
Now think about this thing he did with the hats. Tiny slogan fits on front of the hat - his first appearance was with a white hat and that slogan. He threw the hat, just like they do at the Stock Exchange when the Dow hits a milestone, like 20,000.
Remember all the posts you've read here on SYMBOLISM.
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2016/01/theme-symbolism-integration-part-5-how.html -- has links to previous parts.
Trump built a fictional world right before your eyes. If you want to gain greater respect and prominence for Romance as a genre, but science fiction romance in particular, for the concept of the Happily Ever After, consider what you can learn from what Trump did.
Remember Trump is a marketing genius -- not-so-terrific-products (often failing, often bankrupt) hitting TOP TIER, or just below that and making enough profit to offset losses on other products.
Court costs of one "settlement" are just added on to the sale price of some other product of the business. Likewise with "taxes" -- it is a principle of bottom line truth -- corporations don't pay taxes; customers do. Tax on corporate profits is just figured into the sale price so the corporation makes the same or better profit. It takes years to level it out because there is resistance by customers to paying more, but with time the corporation prices their product up to cover the taxes they pay, and the customers scream at the government to make the government stop inflation because the price of what the customer buy has gone up.
It is a game governments play, flimflammery misdirecting public attention.
In fact, it is a precise mathematical formula called Public Relations. Using Big Data, this crowd management methodology is now targeting audiences with pinpoint accuracy.
Trump saw an audience that was starved for a product, and created that product, then sold it to that audience.
Which product and which audience is irrelevant to you as a writer of fiction.
Understanding the process of finding an audience, understanding what that audience wants before that audience knows it wants it, crafting the product to captivate that audience, and informing the potential buyers of that product where to find it --- those things you must understand.
Marketing Fiction In a Changing World is about foreseeing where the audience will be decades hence, way before that audience exists, and writing for that non-existent audience.
However, at the same time, you must craft your fiction for the current, contemporary, modern audience. It has to be readable, understandable and about the modern issues.
Where the future's issues (themes) and the current reader's issues (themes) overlap, and where they differ (or conflict) will provide you with the big canvas against which to throw your characters.
Trump's campaign connected the past with the present and with the future.
Instead of compartmentalizing issues as separate things to be solved any-which-way was politically expedient, he connected all the apparently different issues into a coherent picture.
And he made the issues coherent by speaking incoherently.
It's impossible to follow that man's speeches unless somebody writes them on his teleprompter. But he still includes -- makes up on the fly -- "applause lines."
Fiction writers who want to spin the most impossible (paranormal) tales and get readers to believe them should study speech writing - especially famous political speeches.
Trump captured the images, the symbols, churning through his audience's mind, and projected those images with conviction and power.
Hillary did the same for her audience, but with less power when speaking in person to audiences. Why did she come across with less power? Because the speeches were not in her own words. She was smooth, polished, incredibly presidential, projecting a vision of how we all want our world to be. She nailed the results we expect from a President. And most of the time she was letter perfect - very studied, very focused on her audience.
So why didn't she win? Her speech writers were even better at symbolism than Trump's stream of consciousness.
What really happened in this election - and how can you understand the Event and use it to write about the future in a way that will not seem "dated" to those who live in that decades-hence future?
Here's the thing.
They both won!
It was the Battle of the Titans - a classic Armageddon - and they both won.
Hillary won the popular vote and Donald won the power-vote.
Everybody loved Hillary, but everybody else trusted Donald to beat up their opponents.
This is shown clearly in the astrology of their Natal Charts. Most astrologers missed it because it didn't seem important by most systems astrologers use. But Hillary reached a lifetime peak of popularity on Election Day, and Trump reached a peak of unpredictable use of power, of explosive growth of power which will come into even higher focus on Inauguration Day.
America elected a Champion, a Superhero.
Note that Trump had started to run for President several times, flirted with the media over the notion, and backed off. This time he drew out the flirting and stretched and stretched, then made a production number (very SYMBOLIC) of declaring candidacy coming down the Trump Tower elevator (down, not up). He could have held the news conference UPSTAIRS and been seen going UP in that golden elevator. He chose DOWN.
The hats, the slogan, the direction - all symbolic.
The slogan is a succinct (have you ever heard him be succinct?) declaration of the theme of the novel he is writing before your eyes.
He could have done this years ago, but chose 2015 -- why? Because he found his audience -- not through his TV Show (APPRENTICE) -- but through those who don't watch the commercials.
Note how the amount of money spent on political campaigns has escalated in recent decades. The advertising, robocalls, actual person calls, signs, billboards, TV commercials, online commercials, emails, -- all is done by hiring and paying people to do these things. The best, most expensive, advertising experts who have sold terrible products at vast profits for failing companies, are hired for Big Bucks to hammer the public with the candidate's "message."
In the post-mortem of the election, the Democratic Party is dissecting their "message" to see why it did not produce the predicted votes in the correct places.
Hillary Clinton should have won -- and she did win by millions of votes -- but her message did not draw her voters to the polls in the exact spots necessary to win the Electoral College. So the Democratic Party is considering how to change their message -- not their behavior or the hearts of their people, but just their words -- to make people vote for them.
Just like the Republican Party (remember how emphatically the Party rejected Trump? He ran against the Republican Party - with a plethora of traditionally Democratic "messages." ) had used the same Public Relations "tricks" to make people vote for their candidates, the Democrats blame how they phrase their "message" not what they do when in office.
Fiction structure works the opposite way -- what the characters do is weighted more than what they say. Readers decode Character by Behavior - not words.
Readers - in the past, in the present and probably in the future - are intrigued by a disparity between what a Character does and what that Character says.
Compare that Reader preference to the 2016 political campaign. The term "Liar" was thrown back and forth (facts were distorted no more than usual, but exposure was much more frequent.)
Each of the Candidates was vetted by the media, comparing what they had done in the past with what they said in the present.
The Candidate who had done what she was saying she would do in the future as President garnered more votes. The Candidate who had done things in the past that were starkly at odds with what he said he would do in the future, won a strategic victory.
Look at Trump vs Clinton as the "conflict" line of a novel - the typical love/hate novel. You know that Clinton attended one of Trump's weddings - and other High Society Events hosted by Trump. They "move in the same circles."
Study the history of that and you will find a Regency Romance in there. You could write the same story set in the Roman Empire.
Why did Trump focus all his energy on rallies, not TV ads? But more importantly, why did that stupid strategy work?
Was it Trump's message, or his target audience? Was it his war-gaming the Electoral College? The Democrats have always been great at war-gaming the Electoral College - they carried California, a whopping prize. Why did they lose Pennsylvania?
Figure out a theory of why the election went to Trump and turn that theory into a theme, project that thematic truth into the far future, and write a novel for today's contemporary audience -- and you will have created a "Classic" that will be appreciated in the far future.
Think historically - from way back in Roman Empire times to now, and into the far future.
Have "messages" changed? Or have audiences?
The reason ancient Greek and Roman plays are still performed and studied is that the messages, the politics, and the romances have not changed. The reason those plays pull small audiences is that audiences have changed.
To write a classic, figure out what the audience of the future will be.
To understand audience change, consider the evolution of the media -- the medium through which a message must travel to reach a given person who wants that message.
That is what Trump did -- he understood that audiences have changed, are changing, and continuing to change. I'm sure he saw and understood the advertising numbers from The Apprentice garnered between 2004 and 2015. He knew that TV Advertising effectiveness was on the wane, and other political contest results (votes gained per dollar spent) bore out what he was seeing.
TV Cord Cutters are on the rise - college age people generally just don't subscribe to Cable, and won't waste time trying to find an over-the-air signal. They access news and entertainment streaming.
The younger people seem to still prefer printed paper books, but watch TV on phone, tablet or sometimes a TV screen attached to a little Roku or Apple box (maybe game boxes are more common).
Tivo lets you click to skip a whole run of commercials. Nobody watches commercials - even if they play, everyone talks or leaves the room. TV commercials don't deliver.
But there's a bigger trend behind that than cord cutters or inattentiveness.
The real reason broadcast or cable TV commercials don't deliver value any more is very simple -- the audiences for each show is shrinking.
Here's the century long trend.
At the turn of the 20th Century, Radio was being deployed widely, radio sets came down in cost, and slowly 3 Radio Networks knitted the country together, CBS, NBC, ABC.
At any given evening hour there might be as many as a bewildering 3 choices of what to listen to. The shows had sponsors -- usually one product or company would sponsor an entire half hour show - (fiction, news, music, standup comedy, variety).
Eventually, there were some local stations that weren't part of the nationwide networks, and some shows on network affiliates were not broadcast nationwide.
TV per-empted the explosive growth of Radio, but the same Big Three networks prevailed. In the 1950's there were many hours during the day, late at night, even during Prime Time that there was only one show on TV. Gradually, that exploded as TV Sets came down in price and were deployed into every living room (yes, max one per household!).
So at any given time during the 1950's and even well into the 1960's, people talked at work, over the back yard fence while hanging out laundry, in grocery store lines, everywhere about whatever show was on last night.
About a third of the country would have seen the same show. There was no way to record a TV show, so if you didn't see it, you never would, and would be out of the conversation. Radio kept going strong through the deployment of TV (just as it is strong today via Web Radio and Podcasts), and not everyone watched TV.
Companies that sponsored TV and Radio sold products so well, the market - the audience - for that product basically created the Supermarket (a store that carried a wide variety of products).
In other words, the Mass Market was born of Radio audiences - huge percentages of the total number of people in the country.
Old World War II movies will show you how Baseball (broadcast on Radio, then TV) was used to source passwords and identify "real" Americans.
All Americans had certain things in common with each other that were not in common with those living in other countries.
America was unified by Radio - then TV. Mass audiences became targets of Mass Marketing. Concurrently - right before, during and after, the turn into the 20th Century - fueling the perfection of PR, Public Relations.
We've discussed PR and its effect on our fiction marketing efforts previously:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/01/theme-plot-integration-part-4-fallacies.html (with links to previous parts in that series).
So media (from the first "broadside" published in the 1700's all the way through Newspapers and magazines to the Internet) has knitted a whole country into one market, unified our thinking, given us all something in common with each other that prevails over our differences.
And with that united Market, that Audience, to study, mathematics and psychology unite with statistics to produce Public Relations, the art and science of hammering individuals into identical consumers of identical products (because mass production is cheaper so everyone can have what only aristocrats could afford a few centuries ago.)
Then, the very success of Television and "networking" local stations into national syndication, took that unified audience and fragmented it.
We are in a massive fragmentation trend right now.
With distribution via DVD turning into Amazon Prime Streaming, Netflix Streaming, Hulu, various cable systems offering "On Demand" -- and other methods of getting entertainment without commercials had become commonplace rather than a yearned-for goal.
In the 1960's, people used to videotape (VCR) record TV shows they loved, with a finger on the PAUSE button, to stop the recording during commercials, thus producing a commercial-free copy they could watch or share with friends. Copying VCR recordings was deliberately (by VC R manufacturers under laws created under the hammer of lobbyists) prevented from making good copies of copies. Each iteration degraded until you got mostly snow.
There is a market for fiction that does not come interrupted by commercials.
People, having gotten Netflix and a taste of commercial free TV, now take it for granted.
Theaters run commercials but not DURING movies.
As a result of commercial-avoidance and the advent of vast diversity of entertainment sources (Game Machines, DVR, DVD, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Video, Tivo, or just hooking your laptop to your TV), and a proliferation content providers (Indie Movies, Foreign Movies and TV with sub-titles, all the networks, and now Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix Originals (and many more launching Originals) -- there is no appreciable percentage of the 330 million Americans that watch any given Show or Movie.
In 1964 there were fewer than 200 million people in the USA. The TV show The Fugitive pulled 78 million viewers. Typical audience size for a TV show that was wildly successful was about 60 million. In 2010, when the population had increased 30% or so, it was 42 million.
The Presidential Debates of 2016 pulled around 84 million, considered record viewership, but percentage wise of total US, not so impressive.
126 million, maybe a bit more, voted.
So while our total population has been growing, viewership of any particular item has been shrinking percentage wise.
Audiences have been fragmenting, and skipping or avoiding commercials.
The Democratic Party did not take that into account in 2016. They did better at it in 2008 when they exploited online advertising -- but Trump used very little online advertising (if you don't count Twitter). He posted YouTube videos on his campaign website, and some went viral. Mostly his Tweets made TV News.
And there's the crux of the difference. Commentators have repeatedly analyzed Trump's style as "dominating the news cycle" -- dominating being the operative word.
Remember I said above that he was in an astrological transit situation of massive POWER and unexpected growth. He won by DOMINATING -- and what he dominated was the part of the world he understands best - the media, and branding.
Branding is a sub-set of advertising. Trump branded each of his opponents in turn with a sobriquet -- and because the one or two word label accurately described the person, his sobriquet stuck.
With ever more outrageous and unpredictable Twitter-storms and offhand remarks at rallies, Trump had the media focused on his every minute because (in competition with the other outlets) they had to have a camera trained on him every second in case he "said something."
Unpredictable and Dominant -- all in the Natal Chart and Transits in effect during this time. His disastrous mistakes were also highlighted in the astrology.
Hillary Clinton could not match him for outrageous -- even her biggest controversies did not dominate the news cycle as much as Trump's commentary on her controversies did.
Why did Trump do that? Because he saw his audience, and showed that audience a potential future (just as any Romance writer shows readers the potential Happily Ever After, leaving out the sleepless nights and smelly diaper changes.)
The 2016 Election has become notorious for being a low-turnout election, just over 50% of the voting age population voted, and made the decision for all the rest.
Again, though there are a third more people than in the 1960's in the USA, the number of people who know any one, given, thing about current events is smaller.
We are a fragmented society.
Hillary Clinton tried to Unite this society using expensive mass marketing techniques -- Donald Trump assessed the fragmentation and used it to his advantage using targeted marketing techniques (techniques that are still being invented and perfected.)
In other words, Trump played to his future audience as well as the present one. He created a "classic" with his Election Campaign, a unique work of art that probably will never be copied.
So, what you as a fiction writer can learn from studying Donald Trump, is pragmatic marketing.
It wasn't Hillary Clinton's messaging that failed, but her assumption about the uniformity of America. Trump and Clinton are of the same generation - he saw the change, she didn't. We are a fragmented culture and each fragment has its unique taste. No single medium reaches all the fragments. As we have splintered over a century of technological change, so also will we unite over the next century. Write for the audience of 2100, a united audience, but take into account that your current audience is an isolated fragment.
Will one of the current fragments obliterate all the others, leaving only one fragment to dominate? Or will all the fragments drop their unique signature brands, and unite via what they all have in common?
Study how the 1800's and the Dime Novel turned into the 1900's and 300 Cable Channels, all with 24 hour programming. Reverse that trend using the futurology we've been studying.
Take an Ideal Future -- such as Happily Ever After or Love Conquers All, the core themes of Romance Genre -- and sell it to the fragment of the current market that is hungry for it.
So Kraith was written in a time when the TV audience was more unified, and still hits today's audience that is almost as fragmented as the world was before the Printing Press -- only today we have instant world wide communications (with Google Translate and subtitles!). Nobody was predicting this social shift. Will you predict the next swing of the pendulum?
If you guess correctly, work with a specific fragment of your audience, and that specific fragment's Brand becomes the Uniting Element among all our fragments -- then your fiction will be read a hundred years from now, and people will wonder how come it wasn't more popular back when.
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