The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

My First Shameless Plug

merm-8 promo flyer

If you live somewhere in Minnesota, and will be around Chanhassen, I will be reading from Merm-8 at the Author’s Fair on Sunday, Dec. 8 from 2 – 5 PM. I will be one of twelve authors reading and selling works.

Except me. I don’t have anything to sell yet. I’m reading from a book that won’t be out for more than a year. All I’ve got is some bookmarks from “Live and Let Undead” and promotional flyers I made myself.

What I Learned From a Seminar on Marketing (Part 2)

success kid meme

Last time, I left you with tag lines. Today I talk about “sticky stories” (this is the term the guy delivering the lecture used).

Stickiness refers to remaining in people’s minds. The lecturer used the example of the “wake up in a bathtub full of ice with your kidney gone” urban legend. My problem with this example is it doesn’t apply to a book. You haven’t written an urban legend for a novel, obviously. It shows you the destination without the map or compass.

The idea of the sticky story is to create a mystery. To stop the audience from evaluating and think. To illustrate this, you’re creating some kind of idea or ad campaign or story or avenue for advertising your message, using the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. acronym.

SIMPLE: Keep your message simple and profound, like a proverb. Not a soundbite that’s taken out of context. Find the core of your story. Determine the single most important thing in the message. This can be a visual symbol too, like Gatsby‘s green light, the Twilight apple (even though that has fuck-all to do with the story), the mockingjay pin, Harry Potter’s glasses/lightning scar. Tap into what people believe about your area of expertise.

UNEXPECTED: Like in the kidney story, you wouldn’t expect a drugged man to wake up in a hotel bathtub. You expect him to wake up mugged or kidnapped. That’s the key — break the established pattern. You want to create surprise and interest. Understand this is not a gimmicky surprise. This is more like using the gap theory of curiosity: when there’s a pause, a chasm, between what we know, and what we want to know. The lecturer used, in his story, “The girl gave him his drink and they talked for a while. That was the last thing he remembered until the next morning. (pause)”

CONCRETE: Use details that matter, not just abstract or generics. People understand and remember if there is a specific person, a specific organ that was harvested. Put people in the story. The more hooks, the better.

CREDIBLE: Make your audience believe. Convince them that this happened. People believe this kidney story like nobody’s business — that’s the nature of urban legends — because there’s nothing about it that sounds implausible. We all know about black markets, organs, date-rape drugs. Mix them together, and out comes something that theoretically “could happen”.

EMOTIONAL: Two things: create a sense of wonder, and a sense of “what’s in it for me?” for the audience (because people are self-centered). The reason to buy your product or service is rooted in emotion. The kidney story is rooted in fear and paranoia. A better example is Jared from Subway, a story that’s both concrete and emotional. Jared was a real guy trying to lose weight. Somehow he did it through simply eating Subway sandwiches. Maybe you can too? Buy a sandwich and find out.

STICKY: Maintain the message. Don’t change it based on the medium. A movie doesn’t alter the tagline in the poster, the commercial, the magazine insert, and the song.

STORIES: Jared applies here as well. People like stories. They’re more likely to listen to some kind of story than a message or a lecture. Subway created a story around the everyman with weight issues. Stories illustrate innovative and resourceful ways to solve problems (like weight loss). Stories provide simulation (knowledge on how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act).

Now how do you translate this into your book? I honestly have no idea. I do know that before you create your Facebook ads, your book trailers, you need to have some kind of content. “Now coming out: My Awesome Book by So-And-So” is not going to cut it. It gives people no reason to buy. So provide motivation, something to sink their teeth into. If you can make it like an urban legend, so much the better.

Me? I’m not sure what direction to go. To be honest, I’m just going to try copying what movies and big books do. Trying to take that style of an intriguing story, a must-see epic. I’m not an advertiser, so all I can do is my best.

What I Learned From a Seminar on Marketing (Part 1)

I went to an author’s meeting the other day about marketing.  This is something that I think a lot of people in my place need to learn about — self-publishers or going with a small press.

The thing is, no matter how big or small, from John Scalzi and Stephen King to the author of that “Sex with Dinosaurs” erotica, they all do some kind of marketing.  And there isn’t some bigwig telling them what to do.  They push their own agenda.

The thing that I learned is that a proper marketing push is more than saying “this is a book: you could read it” or buying ads on Goodreads or hiring publicists to tweet for you. You have a product, and you need to create a sticky message/story around that product.  A sort of “ad campaign”.

Here’s the thing: you need to create a recognizable, core message that sticks in a person’s mind.  Here’s a brief battle plan to engineer that.  The four parts are “Branding”, “Core Message”, “Audience”, and “Tag Line”.

Branding refers to recognizability.  We’ve all seen branding — it’s essentially a picture or icon that signifies the work.  We all know the red Nintendo logo, or the swoopy curves of Coca-Cola, or the sharp lines of a Metallica album.  You can recognize the word “Google” no matter how bizarre the Google Doodle is.  You don’t have to create a complicated picture (“Grand Theft Auto” shares the same font as “The Price is Right”), but you do need to think of some kind of iconography around your book.

“Lord of the Rings” has the one ring.  “Ringworld” has the Dyson ring in space. “Jurassic Park” has the dinosaur silhouette.  “The Fault in Our Stars” has the white cloud/dark cloud thing going that represents a lot (yin/yang, cancer clouds in x-rays).  When I made the “cover” for Merm-8 (which appears on the soundtrack and temp cover I showed my wife), it wasn’t the cover I intended.  But I knew core ideas: a big futuristic atoll on the water and mermaids.  I took an image from Stargate: Atlantis, a silhouette of a mermaid, placed one on top of the other with the title in middle, and voila.

In your Core Message, you’re figuring out what you want to say.  Now, I’m assuming that, in your work, you are trying to say something. There’s some overlying theme or motif or idea or symbol around the entire thing.  Some directive, a question or an answer, that’s being indicated.  What do you want to tell the world by your story?

And moreover, how does it benefit the world?  I’m hoping your story is saying something about humanity, questions or answers.  This must be a tangible representation of the story.  For “Jurassic Park”, it could be about how nature cannot be controlled by science.  For “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, it could be humility or desire or the wonder of magic.

Then the audience.  This should already be drilled into you from years of schooling.  Me personally, I always had trouble with audience and writing for one.  In Stephen King’s “On Writing” he talks about a Target Reader, and usually that’s his wife.  The problem is, you want to cast as wide a net as possible, for maximum readership.  And that’s fine.  Maybe your story takes place in Japan and has ghosts.  Then your audience is people who like the paranormal and/or the foreign and/or Japanese stuff and/or mystery.  The key part is “Who are you selling this to?”

Last is tag line.  If you’ve written query letters, you know something about tag lines (and how the two aren’t equivalent).  This is your core message in a nutshell.  In other words: what is your story about?

Ad-centric tag lines are like “In space, no one can hear you scream” or “finger-lickin’ good”.  To expand into book territory you’re talking “One Ring to Rule Them All” or “Don’t Go In the Water”.  “The Fault in our Stars” uses “Okay?  Okay.”  “Alice in Wonderland” could be “Curiouser and curiouser”.

It’s kind of a slogan.  See how they all indicate the appeal of the work they’re referring to?  Alien and Jaws indicate horror and fear.  LOTR indicates nobility and a conflict between powers.  See the commonality between them all?

First, they create mystery.  Why can’t I go in the water?  Why would I need to scream in space?  How could a ring have enough power to rule “all”?  What’s “curiouser” — that doesn’t even make sense!  Mystery emotionally unsettles you, and entices you to pick up the thing and read a little more.  That’s your “foot in the door”.

So an icon and a tag line.  That’s the two key things to take away from this article.  Without those, you really aren’t giving people a reason to read.  For all your audience knows, it could be a copied Wikipedia entry.  And yes, this will take work.  It will take cleverness and wit and time to think.

And that’s the key to this all.  The problem is lots of people don’t take time to think about creating a motivation for people to buy the product they’re trying to push.  Next time I’ll talk more about a detailed breakdown of developing the core tag line.  But for now, brain storm.

Book Marketing

marketing strategy street signs

So I’ve been thinking about how a book marketing works for… no reason. Specifically, for an author releasing a new, first novel in an e-market with little-to-no backup from the publisher. Again, no reason.

Here’s what I’ve got so far.

1. Facebook As much flak as I and the rest of the world gives Facebook, it survives by being marketing tool. If it’s meaningful, I’m not sure, but more views is good views. The easy part is creating a Facebook page for people to Like and such. Not sure what to do with it after that, besides post occasional statuses and pictures and links.

People have said Facebook ads are good idea, because they have perfect targeting. I wonder how expensive they are though. Especially with the proliferation and effectiveness of ad-blockers. I used to work in that industry and know how people tune them out. (Above statement applies to Google ads too).

2. New Communication Means Specifically, I need to create new email and Twitter accounts. The ones I have now are personal.  It shouldn’t be too hard, though. The author email can redirect and filter to my main box. Creating a new Twitter account should be effortless.

The problem is keeping my Twitter feed fresh. Making your stream more than just retweets and promotions is key to staying followed. It’s a great medium for stand-up comedians, because it’s like a little try-before-you-buy feed. Me? I’ve only made 500 tweets since I joined 5 years ago, and most of those are from my GoodReads feed.

3. Goodreads Speaking of, Goodreads is considered to be one of the best social media sites for book lovers. I use it frequently myself, just for fun.  And I already have an author account for my tiny short story anthologies. I use LibraryThing too, but GoodReads also offers ads and book giveaways.

4. Review Copies and Book Giveaways Word of mouth is, always will be, the best way to advertise. There’s no better endorsement than from someone who has nothing to gain by it.  Because you know they’re sincere.  They want to let people know about good things to make more people who like that good thing so they can talk about that good thing.

The only real way for an author to get that endorsement is to put his stuff in front of loud people. And even then, it’s no guarantee.  Reviewers pick and choose what they read, and how much attention might they give a small press e-book only?

This also means a chunk out of my own pocket to pay for those copies and giveaways. But that’s the rub when you’ve got a starting novel out. The aim of my “marketing plan” is the paradigm Scalzi (or Gaiman, I forget which) came up with: “money should flow toward the writer”. So I don’t plan to buy everyone in the world a copy.

5. Blog Tour This is the one that perplexes me the most. I’m an introvert, so I’m very much a lurker. I don’t have any connections to authors, reviewers, or important gurus. I read their blogs, but I don’t make comments, I don’t send fan mail. So even if I knew which blogs and web sites have the target audiences I’m searching for, how do I just out of the blue approach these webmasters and say “Hey, you don’t know me, but can I write a guest post that promotes my book?”

Of course, my strategy is never to do straight promotion. I’d be writing peripheral articles that meld the topics of the web site/blog with the themes of my book, kinda like The Big Idea. Otherwise I end up sounding like: