Business Musings: One Thing. Maybe One And A Half. (Niche Marketing Part 5)
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This little niche marketing series continues, and what we need are examples. Fortunately, I have them.
Note: if you’re new to this series, please go back and start with the first post.
In the second part of this series, I listed the various books I have published and which are currently still on the market. I didn’t list all of them individually, because that alone would have taken too much time and space.
Then, after I had written that, I spent some time with a few writers who worried about doing everything all at once. They seemed to believe that they needed to market all of their work equally and at the same time.
It paralyzed them. I get it. If I had to market all of my work at the very same time, I would give up entirely. I would go to bed with a blanket over my head. Or I would write and publish and never, ever, ever think about marketing.
I know writers in both of those camps.
But there are other ways to do this. Niche marketing really is the key.
So…how do we handle all of this product?
Well, one item at a time.
I like to think of it as whatever has floated to the surface.
A quick series of examples here, before I get to some nitty gritty. I have just finished the third Fey book in what I think is a five-book side series. We’re researching some design products for that book. It looks like I’m going to write the last two books one right after the other, because this story needs to get finished.
I did this with the Retrieval Artist Anniversary Day Saga in 2015 or so, and that method works well for certain kinds of stories.
It also gives me a chance to make sure the story is consistent across all of the books in the series. And it gives us time to do some research.
When the time comes, we will research our products and figure out what kind of marketing we want to do for each book and for the entire series.
I also finished the first book in a side series for the Diving Universe. You can read a short novella from that book in the July/August Asimov’s and a follow-up in the September/October Asimov’s. Those excerpts, by the way, are niche marketing.
The niche is the readership of the SF magazine Asimov’s. Sure, it includes my readers at that magazine, but it also includes the readers who adore Connie Willis and Sarah Pinsker and Robert Reed. And maybe readers who just discovered the magazine.
Do all of them pick up my Diving series? Heck, no. But some of those readers encountered the Diving series in Asimov’s instead of on bookstore shelves (virtual or otherwise). The nice bonus for this kind of advertising is that I get paid for it.
Do I have to submit stories there and risk rejection? Sure, like any other writer. But why wouldn’t I try to get paid for advertising my work? It costs me some organization and an hour or so to submit the work. That’s all.
That book, The Ivory Trees, hasn’t come out yet, so there’s nothing yet for the readers to buy in that side series. The book will be Kickstarted shortly thereafter, though, so they’ll be primed for it. And if they like the novellas, they can pick up any of the other 20 or so books set in the Diving universe.
The new readers will have lots to read.
Those books are floating to the surface. Other books are floating to the surface as well.
WMG just completed a successful BookBub promotion of the first book in the Retrieval Artist series, The Disappeared. So what has WMG done? They made sure that The Disappeared had links to our own store in the copy that the readers got for free. Now, if you go to the home page of the store, you’ll find the rest of the series on sale. They’re not on sale on Amazon, for example. The point is to encourage readers to come to our store to get their books.
We’ll see if that works.
Sometimes you know what’s going to float to the top. We didn’t know about BookBub, at least, not in our annual planning. BookBub does what BookBub wants to do. They reject us more than they accept us, so an acceptance isn’t in our plans. When it happens, we make some adjustments.
But you can plan for finishing books. You might not want to do much promotion. We did an exclusive with Storybundle for the release of How Writers Fail: Analysis and Solutions earlier this summer. The book went wide everywhere on Tuesday, but we didn’t do a lot of promotion. It’ll get mentioned on my site here and in my newsletter. WMG did some small work on it as well. But promoting How Writers Fail on a large-scale was not part of our plan. I wrote it as part of this blog, gave it to some of the tiers of my Patreon supporters early which is another niche marketing strategy, and then put it up exclusively with Storybundle.
We wouldn’t do that kind of promotion with any of the Diving books.
Note the different kinds of marketing going on here? All of it is niche. Each project is different from the other, and each niche that we’ve found is unique to the project.
Some of these happened simultaneously. But most do not.
We’ve learned over the years to focus on one thing at a time. Maybe one and a half. Hence the title of this post.
Right now, the major focus is the Pulphouse Kickstarter. We started planning for that in early summer, when we realized that it was time to do a subscription drive.
For those of you who don’t know, Pulphouse is our oldest brand. Dean and I owned a publishing company called Pulphouse Publishing back in the day. When we started WMG, we revived Pulphouse Magazine, which Dean edits. Here’s how Dean defines the magazine nowadays:
This reincarnation mixes some of the stories from the old Pulphouse days with brand-new fiction. The magazine has an attitude, as did the first run. No genre limitations, but high-quality writing and strangeness.
The fact that we had scheduled a Kickstarter for the middle of July gave us a deadline. We want to expand our reach into merchandising, so some of what we’ve been looking at are products for the folks who like Pulphouse.
We are researching all kinds of products for all kinds of things, with an eye to a bigger Kickstarter in the fall. The Holiday Spectacular will have some other products and a few things that we want to try. But we didn’t want to do it there first.
So a bit of what we’re doing with Pulphouse is an experiment.
But mostly, what we’re doing on Kickstarter is good old-fashioned niche marketing.
The niche? Kickstarter itself.
WMG has built up a following on Kickstarter. There are people who only shop our products through our Kickstarters. They’re our solid backers, the folks who like almost everything we do.
We also work to attract new Kickstarter backers, people who have looked in the past but haven’t backed anything. Or people who have never seen Pulphouse on Kickstarter.
The products will help. We have a mug and a pillow with our mascot, Thumper, who is a lot of fun. We also have one of the wackiest calendars you’ve seen.
So pillow people, mug people, and calendar people might move over to this Kickstarter, maybe because they think Thumper is cute, or maybe because they want the weird-ass calendar.
What they’ll get is their reward…and a six-issue ebook subscription to the magazine. Every backer gets the subscription. Some won’t read it. Others will. And maybe they’ll back future Kickstarters from Pulphouse or maybe they’ll buy the Pulphouse anthologies or back issues.
We don’t know. This is all promotion and niche marketing, to a particular audience.
But here’s the cool thing about Kickstarters.
They work on another level too. There are folks who will never order from Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding site. Those folks either don’t like the interface or they only buy from their preferred retailer.
But when we promote the Kickstarter, we’re letting people know that Pulphouse Magazine exists. If they want it, they will go to their preferred retailer—say, Amazon—and pick up a copy. If they like it, they’ll buy more.
Some folks will also see the products promotion. If they want the Thumper pillow that I’ve put as the artwork with this blog, they can only get it on the Kickstarter or at a higher price on our store. The one good thing that came out of the hideous lockdowns in the pandemic was that people started shopping at smaller stores online.
So if someone wants a Thumper pillow, they can get it by coming to our store. Then they might pick up other things. A book, maybe, or a mug, or something else.
Remember what I said in the previous post. What you’re trying to do here is pick up one reader at a time. You won’t know where they found your product or how they found you.
If you start merchandising, then you’ll get people who only collect mugs (for example). They might want every mug you produce. They might never read your book, and that’s okay. It really is.
That mug is also an ad. That’s what merchandising does. It advertises a specific product, experience, or moment. Someone else might notice that if the mug gets used, and that might lead the someone else to Pulphouse Magazine.
And there’s that advertising rule: it takes a lot of impressions (some say seven; others say more) to bring a product to the forefront of a consumer’s brain. At some point, that consumer will realize that they want to investigate this magazine they’ve been hearing about.
Maybe they’ll come to the website. Maybe they’ll notice the Kickstarter. Maybe they’ll pick up a copy on Amazon.
We won’t know how they found us or what brought them to us.
Just this afternoon, I declined to take a survey about that for a product I bought. A company that I buy from regularly always asks me where I heard about them.
Well, I heard about them in 2015 from a friend. I told them that a dozen or so times, and now I’m done. I’m not mentioning that again.
I have no idea how it’s useful to them. Because now I pick up the product as a brand-loyal customer. Their interface doesn’t ask about that.
Personally, I don’t stress that part of marketing at all. I put the information out there and hope people will act on it.
Let me note something, though. The things we’re doing to market Pulphouse won’t work as well for other projects of ours. I almost wrote that I can’t imagine how we’d do a calendar for Diving and instantly, I realized we can use all those wonderful book covers…and still have months left over.
The Diving calendar wouldn’t be wacky. It would be science fictional. But that’s cool too.
And maybe calendar consumers (and I’m one) would like both of those.
The flipside of some of the promotion is not as simple. I can’t sell something about Pulphouse to Asimov’s. We can buy an ad in Asimov’s but it’s not the same. The readers interact with the stories in Asimov’s. Readers usually just glance at the ads.
The marketing is different per product.
When I started this post today, I imagined what I just wrote as the introduction to the meat of the post. Instead, it looks like I’ll need another post just to write more on individual niche marketing.
I do hope you’re starting to see my point, though.You can’t do it all at once, and you shouldn’t try to. But you can experiment, you can figure out what works for you and your readers by series or by pen name or by project.
And I’ll deal with more of that next time.
As you can tell from this post, we are running a Kickstarter. It does have some writer-oriented rewards and stretch rewards. So even if you’re not a Thumper fan, check those out.
We also have a class on merchandizing for writers. It’s called The Indie Author’s Products Class. You can find out more here.
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“Business Musings: One Thing. Maybe One and a Half,” copyright © 2023 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.