I’ve been listening to David Wright’s walking podcast, which he calls The Walking Dave. Today (-ish) he got onto the subject of connecting with fans as a means of marketing, and since my wheels have been turning in that direction lately, too, it gave me a lot to think about.
The days are gone when you ran an ad on TV and watched your sales go up. Ignore TiVo, Netflix, Hulu, etc. People don’t respond to ads the same way they used to. It’s a fact backed by data, and a lot of it has to do with how the internet is changing our relationship with media. And, the internet is definitely NOT like traditional media, and doesn’t respond as well to it.
The new reality of media is that there’s a vast ocean of free content of all kinds that you can dip into whenever you want. Want to play video games for free? Or buy cheap games? When I was a kid, getting a new game meant dropping $60. Now you don’t have enough time in a 24-hour day to play all of the REALLY FUN free games out there. How about books? Amazon has an uncountable number of free books, and enough of them are good that you could read forever, without stopping or spending a dime. News media? Music? How about expensive Hollywood-style fight sequences? Surely you can’t see those for free… except you can.
It’s a kind of golden age of media, except most of the media has a grayish-pink tint, standing out no more than anything else. This is the new quandary for the people producing that media; among this ocean of stuff, how can I catch enough attention to be able to make a living? And the second question alongside it, in this ocean of free stuff, how can I convince people to spend money on me instead?
In the past, it was enough to produce something of great quality. After all, the store shelves only held a certain number of books, and if a customer spent time at that shelf, there was a reasonable chance that they’d at least stop and consider your book before moving on. Now, the shelf holds millions of titles. On the smaller shelves of genre lists, they hold tens of thousands or more. Being on the shelf no longer guarantees anything at all. This is the new truth of selling anything, but especially media. You must, MUST spend some time capturing attention, because otherwise you’re hoping that readers will stumble across you instead of the millions of other options.
I think the question of how to get people to spend money is simpler to answer. Simpler, but not easier. You convince people to spend money on something instead of using a free solution by convincing them it’s worth the money. In other words, you offer quality. It’s the same kind of decision people make when buying a coffee maker. Is this nicer model worth the difference in cost? Is this $5 ebook worth $5 more than the free one I downloaded? If your work is good, their answer will be yes, and they’ll buy your book. If you fail to convince them of the value, their answer will be no.
A third variable enters into the equation at this point, though, the same point that Dave was talking about on his podcast. We can now boost our sales by selling ourselves as a brand. Not so long ago it was almost impossible to “get to know” the personalities behind your favorite television shows or music or whatnot. Now the channel is smooth and easy. What’s more (and better), it’s more available to people like writers than to large organizations. There is no single personality behind Coca-Cola, regardless of their Twitter feed or Facebook page. As a writer, though, I represent the whole work; I can tell you exactly why Reggie has those headaches, should I decide to share it with you. I can tell you what I was thinking while writing that certain scene, and, even better, you can change the future of my books by what you say to me.
That third variable is the one that is the newest, least researched, and least perfected. I’m still not finished with the marketing books I’ve gotten recently, so hopefully there’s some advice about building connections in there.