So I have an unpublished novel manuscript, a few short stories, and a handful of readers. How do I turn a handful into a hundred, a hundred into thousands?
I know it won’t be easy, because everyone tells me so. ‘Just think of all those great novels lying undiscovered on publishers’ slush-piles. Be prepared for dozens of rejections. Remember: the successful author is the last one standing.’
But wait! Haven’t I spent my whole career dreaming up impossible schemes, making plans out in left field? And then persuading people to share my enthusiasms and get involved, to love what I love. OK, maybe it hasn’t always been successful, but it’s always made me a living – and sometimes much better than that.
So, why can’t I apply what I know about marketing ideas and products to the world of books? What’s so different? After all, a reader is just another kind of consumer, and the task is always the same: to identify them, to reach them, and to delight them.
Left-field thinking means taking nothing for granted, leaving no assumption unchallenged. Right now I’m thinking about my objectives as a writer. Most writers I know seem to be focused on the difficulty of finding an agent, then a publisher. But in the world I come from, these would only be channels to the consumer. So would the bookstore. My training and instincts tell me to focus on the reader first, and then work backwards from there. If the channels are blocked, maybe there’s a better way to build a market.
Am I right? There’s only one way to find out. I need to do some test marketing. To plan a campaign and execute it out there in the real world. And I need a product to use as a crash-dummy. I have one. It’s called The Lebanese Troubles.
This blog will be a daily record of my left-field book-marketing adventure. I’ll explain my plans, research and thinking. I’ll also be publishing the detailed results of the experiment – the number of readers, the sales, the costs. If you’re following along, there will be opportunities to get involved as I suggest a few research topics. Warnings, dissenting views and cheering from the wings will also be appreciated as I try to make the journey from part-time wannabe to someone who makes a full-time living from creative writing – A Real Writer.