Written by Brendan O’Meara
I read “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!” by Al Ries and Jack Trout. It’s a short book with short chapters that deal with marketing if you have a product the likes of Pepsi. Many of the laws help two-horse and three-horse industries. How does this effect what we do as writers? Before that, I’ll lay out what the laws are and bold the ones I feel can be applied to the writing life.
The Law of:
It’s important to view your book as a product. Once it’s published, it can be exchanged for money. Brilliant insight! Glad I clicked on the link! Thanks for sharing! Bear with me. Once you’ve honed the manuscript and crafted it into what you deem is a nice piece of art, it becomes a competitor against everything else on those book shelves. It’s a competitor for entertainment, food, gas, etc. When your book is on the shelf that’s one less spot “Fifty Shades of Gray” can occupy. So, yes, it’s in competition.
Okay, let’s look at how the three laws I bolded above can help you promote your work.
1. The Law of Focus
“A company can become incredibly successful if it can find a way to own a word in the mind of the prospect. Not a complicated word. Not an invented one. The simple words are best, words taken right out of the dictionary.”
FedEx swiped “overnight” or Crest got “cavities”. With laser-like focus you associate a word with your brand. In writing, John Grisham is associated with “law drama” and Steven King “horror”. Tim Ferriss is a “life hacker”. But where is Dave Eggers? He writes nonfiction, fiction, etc. Yet he’s wildly popular.
Focus gives us an area of expertise, an umbrella under which we become associated. Sadly, I’m associated with horse racing. The nichiest of niches. I’m broadening to sports (I’ve been a sports writer since 2005) and that’s a much more encompassing area of focus. I also want to do some true crime, but is that smart? Do Erik Larson and Mike Capuzzo own it? Is that their focus?
Focus also applies to platforms for social media. You can’t do them all. Pick the ones that are fun and the ones you’ll come back to.
2. Law of Line Extension
“One day a company is tightly focused on a single product that is highly profitable. The next day the same company is spread thin over many products and is losing money.”
Think Coca-Cola, New Coke, Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Coke Zero.
Dave Eggers, again, is the exception to the rule. He writes what he wants and hits it out of the park. Tracy Kidder writes just nonfiction and a large chunk of that nonfiction is rural “backyard” narratives. John Feinstein writes mainly golf, but he’s a sports writer as he famously wrote “A Season on the Brink” about the Indiana University Hoosiers basketball team.
If you’re going to violate this law, make sure the reporting and the writing is so tight and polished a reader won’t care who you are, just how great the story is. Thank you, Laura Hillenbrand for a book about a horse and a book about a WWII veteran.
This also applies to the social media you choose. You need it. And I’d say three or four is good enough. I blog from my website (2 for 1), Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads (where I am a part of the Goodreads Author Program. Goodreads is where readers hang out.). I will do no more. If I do more, one of those above must go. Which leads to …
3. The Law of Sacrifice
“The law of sacrifice is the opposite of the law of line extension. If you want to be successful today, you should give something up.”
As it stands, I use four social media platforms. If I were to give one up? Gun to my head, you’re pulling the hammer back on the pistol, the bean drops into the chamber, you better eliminate one right now!!!!!! I guess it would be Twitter (I put in a lot of time on Twitter and I don’t have the followers to show for it. I retweet people, I reply to people, I share my work and others, and I don’t get the reciprocation “social media experts” say I’d get. If you participate and do those things people are supposed to follow you. At least as a courtesy. Maybe I’m not interesting enough.)
Minimalism is a great way to approach the craft. Getting rid of physical clutter gets rid of mental clutter. I love this quote from Bruce Lee, “One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.”
I got rid of at least 100 books on my shelves by donating them to my library or to friends. I wasn’t going to read those again and they failed to make me look smart so what’s the point? Hey, look at all my books! The important ones are on my shelves now or in my head.
So the law of sacrifice should make you look at what I want to write. After all, what good is it if you write something nobody is going to read? Who would want to read a murder mystery from famed baseball writer Peter Gammons? Not many, we want to read his take on baseball.
Here’s where the novelist has it made. As long as it’s a novel, they can write whatever the f*ck they want. Nonfictionists don’t have this luxury. Why are you an expert in this field? Do you have platform? F*ckin’ platform!
I don’t mean that. Platform is mightily important. Mightily.
I hope these laws help you out and help you find your focus.
What are your thoughts? What is your marketing strategy? Do you find it all overwhelming?