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Monday, March 24, 2014

Price Wiggling Is Not a Strategy, Glitz is not a Strategy, Shotgunning is Not a Strategy

The thing about books and eBooks is that there are tried and true methods of advertising that seem to reach diminishing returns as more people do them and more people do them and too many people are doing them. Being free on Amazon meant something, when there wasn't really that much that was free on Amazon. Now there's so much free stuff on Amazon people don't need to buy anything if they aren't particularly discerning. Most people aren't. Remember, Duck Dynasty is the most popular show on television, right now. Also, print ads used to mean something, and a presence at book fairs. But there's too many places people go to read things, now. It's impossible to return the investment outside of a few, very expensive, and very specific sorts of markets. Genres narrow interests down into tiny corners. Comics go to comics. LitFic goes to LitFic. Romance to romance. True consumers of wide ranging media are not spoken to by marketing folks, yet most of us are true consumers of wide-ranging media. The manliest biker dude will sit through and try to enjoy the girliest romance movie if their significant other gets to pick this week. In fact, many romances, when well-done, are enjoyable no matter how macho one happens to consider oneself. How does anyone get the ubiquity of saturation necessary to get people to pick up a book? At the moment, films seem to be the deciders. This is where the marketing is narrowed to a point where instead of shotgunning out a whole bunch of books in huge wads with boxes and boxes of books arriving at marketing centers, the few movies that are released are targeted like laserbeams and positioned to maximize revenues both spent and earned. But, there's a huge limitation, of course. For all the good that Hollywood does at marketing, and cross-platform saturation, the moment the limelight looks away, there are crickets in an empty wasteland of forgotten VHS bins in piles at the dollar racks, and DVDs on sale that are all so easily and quickly forgotten. Nothing works. The great challenge that needs to be solved, then, is how to narrowly target over time a core set of folks who would like a book. Let's say a book about redheaded teenagers surviving in the poor, rural Midwest, from upscale New York exists. This imaginary book would appeal to people who shared that experience. It would also appeal to parents of redheads looking for a book their kids can relate with. How do you reach that group? How do you do it once? How do you do it for forty years straight, refreshing the message continually that this thing exists, and the audience of redheads and new midwesterners might find it appealing? How do you find that same set of tools for marketing when the book's subject matter is obscure? Who can relate to the Demon Children of Dogsland? Who would even want a literary cut-up epic fantasy novel about worlds that never were? There's something missing in all the noise and techniques that used to work. There is precision that is missing. I work at a Christian Book Store, but you wouldn't know it from the promos that show up. It doesn't look anyone really knows what we're doing, and who are demographic is, no matter how much we tell people that we are a specialty retailer, we get the latest YA thing that we don't know what to do with because our audience is much older than YA and buys a lot of books about the Eucharist and spiritual journaling. Bird by Bird is our kind of book. Teen vampire romps are not. Anyway, beyond just shotgunning books. Fidgeting with pricing will only work until everyone does it. Then, the audience will grow wise, and it will face the same problem that free giveaways have. What's the actual target? Fidgeting to drum up business seems to have no relationship to the target desired, at the moment, most of the time. And, there's simply too much of it happening to have any impact beyond confusion, for me, as a consumer. Internet advertisements are a flashing, red and purple noise in my eyes. They don't really work most of the time. Nothing works. Technology, build me something that works. Build me a marketing mechanic that is better than just shotgunning giveaways on GoodReads. Let me make a list of traits of likely consumers. (For example, readers of my books are probably interested in art installations of the grotesque and surreal, enjoy Wes Anderson movies, and drink oolong tea.) How could I build a target for my readers out of that? How could I make the marketing as persistent as the file for sale on eBook servers? Our eBooks never go out of print. Our marketing efforts dissipate quickly when our advertisements roll over and another book or another author stands blinking in the limelight of the world. How can we make our marketing as persistent as our eBooks and books?

2 comments:

Patrick Godknecht said...

I can only agree. Always learn to have a good feel of the market and where the prices are. This is especially true online, where the nature of the platform tends to make us disregard these sorts of things in favor of the instant gratification habit that the internet brings on. We're used to getting things for free online. Now its time we look into this tendency, and try and draw limits as much as possibilities.

PDG World Marketing

J M McDermott said...

To me there is a huge difference between rewarding subscribers to a newsletter with an early free download versus just playing games with prices. Price-wiggling has caused not a small amount of consternation and frustration in other industries so much so that whole subindustries exist to track, for example, the cost of airline tickets.