Tuesday, 6 September 2011

I am not a brand, I am a free number! Wait...

Have you ever been persuaded to buy Axe/Lynx deodorant (for yourself or someone else) by one of those ridiculous adverts? You know, the ones where any woman who so much as catches a sniff of the smell goes absolutely rutting wild for the man wearing it?

Thought not. And yet, I have to admit, I buy Lynx deodorant (hey, I'm poor. If you think I should go up-market, buy my book). Not because I believe it will make the ladies unable to resist me - if I ever thought it might, the last eight rather pitiful years of my love life would have disabused me of the notion - but because when I think 'I need to buy some deodorant', Lynx is the first brand to spring to mind. Because the ads are so ridiculous, and they stick with you (and okay, the animated ones with the caveman biker riding the buffalo chopper were pretty funny).

What's this got to do with anything? Well, it's a very good way to advertise massive super-brands. It's a terrible way to advertise a book, particularly if you're a just-starting indie author. It's a matter of understanding what kind of advertising you're trying to do.

Big brand advertising works by raising brand consciousness so that a particular brand is the first thing to come to mind when you think 'I want a...'. There's nothing persuasive about it; the Lynx ads aren't really trying to convince you consciously that Lynx will make you more attractive. Apart from a few super-rare exceptions (J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson), that doesn't work for books.

When it comes to books, it's all about persuading a reader that your book is worth not just their money but also their time. You're asking for a big investment. You're probably also asking for a click-through process involving several clicks before any money changes hands; from your advert to your distributor and then through to checkout. At each step of the process you need to be upping the interest, because you're asking that little bit extra from your target.

Fortunately, you have at least one weapon that the people making Lynx adverts don't (sidebar: I once participated in a focus group that was part of the research for the next addition for the Lynx/Axe line, and the Unilever people seemed like pretty cool guys). You're selling a story, and human beings naturally want to know what happens next in stories. You're selling something with a bunch of mysteries in, and people want the answers.

Soooooo that's what you focus on. And here's the important part, the reason this lesson is important:

Brand-based advertising is basically spamming. It's shoving something in your target's face until they're so sick of it that they can't stop thinking of it when they go to the shops. Spamming will get you nowhere with trying to sell your book.

When you're advertising your book, you can't just keep linking to it (I'm looking at you, people whose book-plugging tweets go '[title] now on Kindle! [link] #then #a #string #of #hashtags'. DOING IT WRONG). You've got to get your target thinking 'What happens next?' or 'Where's this going?' - occasionally 'where's this come from?' works too, but there's a risk of confusion.

That means you need content in your adverts. Since my main networking is done on Twitter, I'm mainly thinking about Twitter, and I'm working on two main kinds of promotional tweet. The first is elevator pitches (and yes, more than one; if you can only make one elevator pitch about your book, it's too one-dimensional.) Here are a couple I'm using;

'Tom's fallen for the daughter of the man who killed him, and the Non-Agency will stop at nothing to keep them apart.'

'The Non-Agency can't convince Tom he's dead. But if he keeps resisting, they'll show him there are worse things than dying.'

I'm still working on the second one - I'm convinced I can get it a little bit shorter - but note that they stress two different sides to the book; the first is more romantic, the second more action-y. I'm currently looking for one that will stress the fantasy/magical aspect.

I've already done a post about writing blurbs and elevator pitches, so I won't say more about it now. The other part of my Twitter strategy focusses on the #novelines hashtag, created by Al Boudreau. This is where you take a line from your novel and post it up with the hastag and a link. In real terms, your chosen quote has to be less than 115 characters, and this is hard to achieve, but my writing style seems to suit it fairly well. I can't really explain how these lines work, and I'm still trying to figure out which work best, but here are a few I have tried or am going to try:

'“You mean, I’d get a chit from a priest that’s good for one murder?”'

'I begin my testimony, "In the small hours of the morning after my death..."'

'"Is there no-one you regret hurting?” If there was, I wasn’t about to talk about it with a man who oozed.'

My one definite piece of advice for playing with #novelines is to try to focus on the things that could only happen in your book - the things that make it unique. I've seen a few #novelines tweets along the lines of 'Her breath caught in her throat, her heart pounding. [link]', and no-one's going to buy that. That could be in any book, and something like it probably is in half of all books with female characters; the kind of situations that make for good stories tend to make for that kind of tension.

And that's it, really. I can't claim to be much of an expert (I've been published four days and sold 2 books, one to my mother. I consider this good going, but I'm sure if I had any real expertise I'd have done better), but that's my two cents.

Any advice on this or any other aspect of advertising? I meant to get on to other bits of my marketing strategy, but that can wait for another post, I think. Anyone want to confess to too much spamming/brand advertising? (once again, my book is on sale here ;D)

1 comment:

  1. "...I've been published four days and sold 2 books, one to my mother. I consider this good going, but I'm sure if I had any real expertise I'd have done better..."

    Just so you know, this makes me feel better about the fact that seven of the ten copies sold of my book have gone to family and friends (twice to my aunt who didn't like the Kindle app on her iPhone).

    I'm still struggling with tweeting advertisements. I like the people I interact with on Twitter and I don't want to annoy them! I don't get annoyed with most of my tweeps who promote a few times a day with their books, though. It's nice to see the tweets often, too, because as soon as I finish one book there's a reminder about another one I wanted to read.

    I like the examples you've provided for the elevator pitches and the #novelines. I've been wondering about those, so it's nice to see your reasoning behind them and how you craft them.