50 Shades of Marketing 101

What I know about marketing comes from watching Mad Men. I asked my BFF, The Marketing Maven, if there was something more to what she got a masters degree in, than tossing back the scotch, wearing fabulous vintage couture, and groping asses. Surprisingly, there is a lot more too it than chain smoking and having identity crises’. I asked The Marketing Maven five basic questions about marketing. Here’s what she had to say:

  • Livia the Clueless Writer:Who are you and why are you sitting in my living room dressed in a cowl and cape, drinking my booze?
  • The Marketing Maven:I am The Marketing Maven! Able to dazzle Madison Avenue in one clever catchphrase!
  • Livia the Clueless Writer:Seriously?
  • The Marketing Maven: Well, actually I’ve spent years branding commercial products and have a masters degree in marketing.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: What’s the deal with the cowl and the cape?
  • The Marketing Maven: Branding.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Cool. So… Five questions about marketing in exchange for my booze?
  • The Marketing Maven: Shoot.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: What’s the difference between marketing, advertizing and publicity?
  • The marketing Maven: Marketing is the strategy behind the advertising and publicity. The strategy is about how you want your product perceived and placed in the market- price, product itself, placement (where is it available for sale). Advertising is about how you show the consumer your strategy – who are you trying to reach, what do you want them to know and think about your product, price, etc. publicity or pr is about getting opinion leaders or celebrities to endorse, use or discuss your product. Marketing is the coordinating and overarching piece of it. What you are doing with reviews and interviews is a cross between publicity and advertising.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Do I need all three to sell a book?
  • The Marketing Maven: Yes. The key to selling anything is to have the end consumer familiar with your product. If they have never heard of you, they can’t buy your product. You need to know how to place your product, get people familiar with it and then get people to recommend it to their circle. To do that you need all 3 aspects working together.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Does advertising work?
  • The marketing Maven: Yes, advertising builds awareness and familiarity with your product. It gets your name known. It gets the trendsetters aware and possibly trying this something new. That is why we see advertising everywhere. Unfortunately my experience is not iBook marketing, so I’m not sure about the effectiveness in this industry. But generally, as you build awareness you build sales.
  • The marketing Maven: What we haven’t talked about is your strategy.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Uhhh…. Strategy? You mean like… What actually do you mean?
  • The Marketing Maven: Your strategy is all about who you want to reach and how you want to be perceived.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: I’m guessing I need a strategy?
  • The marketing Maven: I’m going to go with… YES!
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: If I have a strategy can I turn Memoirs of a Gigolo into the next 50 Shades of Gray.
  • The Marketing Maven: 50 Shades of Grey is honestly a freak. It is extremely rare for a new entry in a category to take off like that. I think it had a number of things working in its favor. One, it had a core buyer built in, by starting as Twilight fan fiction. Two, it started as an ebook,so people could read it anymously as a guilty pleasure. Three, it spread by word of mouth. It allowed traditional romance readers to delve into erotica, while still in a traditional romance format. It became all about the recommendations. Fourth, it profited from its own success. Once it became an in the know”” item, and was selling well, the publicity ran itself. It was picked up in the news, then came the paperback and the truly monster sales. Over all the quality of the writing didn’t matter. It was all about being in on the secret and enjoying a guilty pleasure.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Will you answer some questions from other clueless writers?
  • The Marketing Maven: Will the booze keep flowing?
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Do I secretly tell everyone that you never drink and that the booze is just our Mad Men joke?
  • The Marketing Maven: Why ruin the fun? Bring on the questions!

The Marketing Maven will be around answering your questions for a day or two – or more depending on how many questions there are. Post them in the comments and she’ll try to help us clueless writers unravel the mystery of marketing. 

Next week I will continue my exploration into what makes the next big thing in writing. Dr. Lulu will be around to talk about the psychology behind the 50 Shades of Gray phenomenon.

Recently Unearthed for Week 38

Wednesday seems like a good day to post some links to a few blog posts that caught my notice – here is a round up of the better blog posts I’ve found during the past week.

  1. Jeanette Vaughan, author of Flying Solo, has a similar view to mine of the next big thing  and shock value.
  2. Guest blogger Tali Spencer discusses book theft and copyright protection at Shira Anthony
  3. Always a favorite, Two Nerdy History Girls (any chance they might need a third?) and a gorgeous prom dress from the 50’s.
  4. EL James on Katie by Emma Jay at Smokin’ Romance
  5. Adele DuBois unveiled the cover for her latest She’s Furry Yiffy. Hand up – I had to google furry yiffy to figure out what the heck it was, but I think I’m going to like this one!
  6. Secret Shame on Eleventh Stack
  7. ingoodtastedenver takes us to the Pompeii exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
  8. 80 Breakfasts does a redo on the grilled cheese that I can’t stop eating.
  9. A primer in verbal gymnastics from makeapowerfulpoint
  10. Need help coming up with a name? The Random Name Generator.

50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 1

I have a friend that owns a bunch of small bookshops in Dublin. When there is a scheduling pinch and I’m free, I go in, sit behind the counter, read, and take peoples money. I could make a career out of this. Possibly the best job I’ve ever had. And get to sit around and read AND I get paid in books!!! Sweet!!!

So what have I noticed as I sit perched on my stool reading and drinking a latte? There’s always a BOOK. That one book that just about everyone walks in the door and asks for. Last year it was Game of Thrones. Every other person that walked in the door, regardless of age, sex, race, or fashion sense, wanted Game of Thrones. Couldn’t keep it on the shelves.

No shock, the BOOK that everyone has to have right now is 50 Shades of Grey. Disturbingly, I had a bunch of old ladies in when I worked a morning last week looking to buy 50 Shades of Grey. Even worse, they asked me about it. They were sort of cute about it actually. Very giggly and girlish. I had to tell them the truth. I hadn’t read it. Bondage isn’t really my thing. Besides, I’d heard that it’s not really that good. This comes from a few unrelated sources that I usually trust when it comes to books. The big critiques; poorly written, the characters are wholly two-dimensional, the sex isn’t all that great. One of the nice old women in her petal pink windbreaker with the Princess Cruises emblem on a sticker stuck to her boob, very rightly pointed out that I had said myself that I hadn’t read it. So, who am I to judge?

Absolute right! I haven’t read it. I am in no position to judge. Number one thing that bugs me about people smack talking a book or an author is when they haven’t even read the book themselves. Hand up – guilty as charged. They left with their books wrapped in discrete little paper bags and I picked up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. I sat there on my perch with my latte in one hand and the current BOOK in the other hand. My mind couldn’t get into the story. I kept on coming up with alternative names. 50 Shades of Tie Me Up and Tie Me Down. 50 Shades of Smack Me on the Ass Because I’ve Been a Bad Bad Girl. 50 Shades of Please Don’t Make Me Read Anymore of This Crap.

Oh my… sigh… If we lived in a meritocracy where only the truly stellar books made it to the top of the sales charts, then 50 Shades of Grey would be lingering on EL James’ laptop never to see the light of day. I have writer friends that are working like dogs to get noticed that produce books of much higher quality than 50 Shades of Grey. Yikes it’s bad!

It’s not that I think it isn’t sufficiently erudite or contains the sort of verbal gymnastics most people with advanced degrees in English think books should have before they become worthy of our notice, it’s just really poorly written. I mean ehhhh…. I’m a firm believer that books should be thought provoking, entertaining, accessible, and have a plot that can be found by the average reader without the need of a compass and a flashlight. I would have cheered 50 Shades of Grey for being at the forefront of the push to make erotica mainstream accessible and acceptable. But it stinks.

So how the heck did it get so popular? How did such a badly written book become the next big thing? I don’t know. I have no idea. If I knew I’d be out doing it. I’m pushing my new release Memoirs of a Gigolo like it was one of a million other books available for download on Amazon… which it is. I know two marketing people. I’m going to try to wrangle them into talking with me about what drives this sort of mass hysteria when it comes to a book.

50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 2 will be available a week from today