Business Musings: What Is Discoverability? (Discoverability Part Oooops I Left This Out)
When I said I was quitting the regular Thursday blog after five years without missing a week, I mentioned I would do occasional business posts. I knew I had to finish some of the nonfiction books I’d started on that blog, and revise a book (Deal Breakers).
WMG Publishing has Discoverability, the book based on the posts I was writing from November to April, on the schedule for the fall of 2014, which meant I had to get off my butt and assemble those posts into something coherent.
I had hoped to have the large Retrieval Artist project done before I assembled Discoverability, but no such luck. I had a window between Starbase Human (which will come out in May [thanks for asking]) and the final book Masterminds (which will appear in June). So I’ve spent the last week reordering the Discoverability posts, setting up chapters, cutting out information that’s no longer relevant (in less than a year!) and realizing what I’m missing.
As I have, I’ve realized I’m missing three chapters, an introduction, and an appendix. I won’t subject you to the introduction, but you’ll get the chapters. (I’m undecided about the appendix.) I’m not going to change the language from book stuff to blog stuff, though. I’m just putting up the chapter as is, referring in some ways to other parts of the book.
If that other part exists on this blog, I’ll link. Otherwise, you’ll have to look at the finished book to see it.
If you want to read the bits and pieces that I’m assembling into the Discoverability book, you can find all of the links here. The book will present all of that information (and some current stuff not in the old blog posts) in an organized fashion rather than as I thought of it and wrote it down.
As my Retrieval Artist fans know, I write out of order. I do that in nonfiction as well. (You can compare the finished Freelancer’s Survival Guide to the original posts that are also on this website if you want to see how that works.) I write the pieces, and then I build the bridges to hold them together.
This post is one of those bridges.
Now remember, the Discoverability posts were for established writers, not newcomers. I’m attaching the list of assumptions from the original posts below. If you’ve never read any discoverability posts before, please read the assumptions and requests I’ve posted below before commenting. Thanks.
What Is Discoverability?
…besides a modern buzzword?
Discoverability is, in its purest form, marketing. The problem is that in modern American culture, salespeople and marketers have become the butt of a thousand jokes. Dumb, loud, clueless, the salespeople and marketers have become the people that the rest of us laugh at.
Until we need them.
Then, the savvy among us realize that sales and marketing done right isn’t just a cookie-cutter process: it’s an art. And the best practitioners of that art are often invisible.
Their artistry is also invisible.
We live in a consumer culture, surrounded by mostly invisible marketing that influences us in subtle ways. Most of what we notice and call marketing are the loudest forms of marketing.
Let me give you two examples:
1. The Call To Action:
A call-to-action is exactly what it sounds like. You address an audience or group and give them an instruction that includes an immediate response.
Buy Now! Hurry, Before This Sale Ends! Tell Your Friends!
Those late night infomercials? The ones that put up a phone number and say, “Call in the next fifteen minutes, and we’ll throw in a kitchen sink,” those are call-to-action commercials.
You’ll note that until the FCC changed the rules here in the United States, Call-To-Action commercials were often louder than other commercials.
There’s a reason for that. The reason is to get your attention so that you will take the action (whatever it is) immediately.
2. Push Marketing:
In marketing, there’s something called a “push-pull strategy.” Most of us only notice the “push” part, and don’t realize when we’ve been subjected to the “pull” part.
Most television commercials are push marketing. The advertiser pushes the product to the consumer, loudly and often. The point of push marketing is to push the consumer toward the product and force the consumer to buy.
Clearly, push marketing works only in certain cases. Movie studios use push marketing in the week before a major release, advertising a movie trailer over and over again until most of us can recite the contents of that trailer. Once opening weekend starts, the push marketing usually ends.
Pull marketing is the opposite of push marketing, in that the advertiser doesn’t advertise the product. Instead, the advertiser uses a variety of subtle techniques to pull the consumer into the store.
Consumers pull products. They pull the products off the shelves (virtual and otherwise). And sometimes, companies let consumers do all the work—the pulling.
The bulk of the marketing you see and don’t realize you’ve seen falls into the pull-category. Book covers pull the eye to the book. The scent of baking bread pulls you into a bakery.
The problem is that a consumer must already be onsite before pull marketing usually works. In this day and age, pull marketing often happens on the internet, so you’re already online. You are pulled without even knowing it has happened.
Most companies use a combination of push-pull. They push until you’re familiar (overly familiar) with the product, then let the product pull you to buy it. Movie marketing has evolved into push-pull. The trailer pushes the movie, and then once the movie’s released, the consumer gets pulled in—and, if the movie is good, pulls in friends as well, through word of mouth.
Marketing is a very complicated subject. Universities offer majors in business and marketing. Entire schools are dedicated to the subject. I urge you to visit the marketing listing on Wikipedia. If you hit the link that takes you to types of marketing, you’ll find 75 different types of marketing listed, and I know that’s not an inclusive list.
Think you know everything about marketing? People who teach marketing don’t know everything about marketing. People who have been in the marketing business for thirty years don’t even know everything about marketing. You don’t either.
Because the biggest key with marketing is that it evolves.
Someone somewhere will come up with a whole new strategy that will do the job, and then others will jump on the marketing bandwagon. They’ll refine that strategy for different industries, and after time, that strategy will become old and stale.
Then someone else will revive an ancient strategy and make it new.
Conventional wisdom is not marketing.
Marketing is always new, always fresh, and always exciting.
That’s why advertising execs burn out. Because to be fresh, exciting, and new takes energy, and at some point, even the most savvy exec must take a break. Renew, rethink, and revive.
Because we associate marketing with its loudest and most obnoxious forms, we think it’s easy. After all, we know how to demand that people buy our work. We’ve seen it done millions of times. Literally millions.
Actually, though, the best marketing isn’t easy. It’s hard to do well, and it’s almost invisible. The best marketing makes you think that buying the product at that moment in time was your idea, not the idea of the company that made the product.
And yet, chances are, that the reason you bought that particular product wasn’t because you needed it, but because someone had marketed it to you.
Since we’re doing definitions here, let’s deal with marketing.
I love how Wikipedia defines marketing:
Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service.
I love that definition because that’s primarily how I’ll be dealing with marketing in this book. Marketing, in this definition, is discoverability (with the hope of selling the book after it’s “discovered.”)
But honestly, in business, marketing has a larger meaning. The fact that it has a larger meaning confuses the issue, particularly when writers read blogs written by true business marketers. The writers don’t understand that there are parts of the business marketing definition that writers should ignore—because we are dealing with an art product, not a manufactured product.
The management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.
The Business Dictionary then goes on to define the process, using another marketing phrase—the 4 P’s of Marketing (and no, I’m not making that up). The 4 P’s of Marketing are items that businesses believe to be in their control.
Remember: there’s a lot about business that is outside of your control. Worrying about those things gets you nowhere.
So, in business theory, the four things you can control (the 4 P’s of Marketing) are:
Product, Price, Place (Distribution), and Promotion
We will discuss all 4 P’s in this book, although not quite in that way.
In a regular business—such as a manufacturing business (where you make cars for instance)—you can refine the product to appeal to the most buyers. Most writers believe refining the product means writing to market—i.e. if vampires are currently selling well in novels, then the writers should write a vampire book.
That belief is wrong.
Writers create art, and art is best when it’s not manufactured. You write what you write, and then you market it.
This is why I said in the introduction that if you can’t think of your finished book as a product, you aren’t ready for the material in this book.
You commit art first. Then you declare it finished.
Then you look at that art, wave your magic wand, and transform that art into a product. Once you have a product, you must figure out how to package that product to appeal to the correct readers.
So in our 4 Ps of Marketing, we’re not going to have Product. We’ll have Package.
Please remember that.
We spent a lengthy section on Price, and revisited that topic often. Because price isn’t something arbitrary or something that your friends had success with. It’s a strategy that you have to understand before you set the price for your product.
Mostly, I don’t deal with Place or distribution in this book, except to tell you how to maximize your distribution efforts. In the assumptions from the Introduction, I assume you have already distributed your book to every available ebook and paper retail venue that you can reach.
The more places your book is available, the better chance you have at selling a lot of copies of that book. It seems logical, but traditional publishers have never followed that model.
Finally, Promotion will be the other pillar of marketing that we’ll discuss in this book.
Writers who have no business background think all marketing is promotion. That’s only one small part of marketing and/or discoverability. I spent a lot of time on Package strategies and Promotion strategies.
By the end of this book, you should see how things as subtle as the correct image on your cover will help with your discoverability efforts.
You don’t have to be loud to get your book discovered. You don’t need to price your book in the discount section of the bookstore to do it either.
What you need is a great story, proper packaging, and just a little thought about how you want to present your product when you take it to the market.
My goal with this book is to help you market your novels in the most effective way possible. That effectiveness will be about time as well as money. In fact, as I say throughout, time is more important than money.
The more time you save, the more you can write.
The more you write, the better all of your books will sell.
My nonfiction blogs are the only part of my website that has a donation button. That’s because I started writing nonfiction without an advance here on the blog, and I need a bit more than the usual encouragement to continue writing nonfiction here. Financial incentives help.
I’ll be putting up at least two more nonfiction blogs in the next two weeks, so watch the site for those.
If this post has been valuable to you, please leave a tip on the way out.
“Business Musings: “What is Discoverability,” copyright © 2014 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
Please Read These Requests, Warnings and Assumptions Before Commenting:
Request: Please look over the list of already published blog posts on the Discoverability topics to see if I’ve already addressed your point. If I have, please read that post before commenting.
Assumption #1: With only a few exceptions, we will be talking about fiction here. There are promotion techniques that work for nonfiction—even on the first book—that do not work for fiction. I don’t want to muddy the waters here. We’re discussing fiction in these posts.
Assumption #2: You have learned your craft well enough to intrigue readers. You know how to tell a good story, you have grammar, spelling, and punctuation under control, you create interesting characters, and you write what you love.
Assumption #3: If you have indie published your work, then your work has a good blurb, a great cover, and a well-designed interior. Your work is available in ebook and trade paper formats. (I also hope you have audio books, but for our purposes here, I’m not going to assume it.)
Assumption #4: If you have indie published your work, your ebooks are available in every ebook venue you can find. Your paper novels are in extended distribution through your print-on-demand publisher. In other words, if a bookseller whom you don’t know and never will know wants to order your paper book, that bookseller can call up a catalogue from a major distributor (Baker & Taylor, Ingrams) and order your book at a bookseller’s discount. We have already discussed discounting. Look at the list of blog posts to find it.
Assumption #5: If you are traditionally published, your books are with a company that makes the books available in e-book and paper formats, and your books are still in print. (If they aren’t, ask for those rights back and then publish the books yourself.)
Assumption #6: You have at least a minimal web presence. You have a website that readers can easily find. You have a list of your published books somewhere, also findable. You have some passive marketing in place. (A mailing list, a social media presence, or a contact button on your website. Something.)
Assumption #7: You have published more than one book. Most of what I tell you won’t work on one novel. You’ll need several—or at least a novel and some short stories. If you’re haven’t published much, make sure you’ve done 2-6, and write the next book.
Those are the assumptions and requests.
Now, I have one big WARNING:
Everything I say here, everything, MUST take place after you’ve finished writing your story/book/novel. Do NOT take ANY of this advice into your writing office. None of it. Be an artist: write what you love. When you’re done, then worry about marketing it. This new world of publishing allows us to write whatever we want and publish it. Please take advantage of that. When you write, be an artist, be a great storyteller, not a marketer or a salesperson.
I know, I know. Lots of warnings, requests, and assumptions. But I had to be clear, because these points are extremely important. I don’t want to explain myself over and over again. I’d rather you read what I wrote before than try to say it all again in the comments section.