As many of you know, I have been researching the mystical and magical world of marketing. What I have found so far is there are some things in life that are just ‘beyond the call.’ For me, this is one of them. I spent my career in Computer Science. I was often mildly amused at people who couldn’t even do the simplest things with a computer. Not any more, I have full empathy with all of you and I apologize to everyone I ever shook my head at over the years.
So far, in my quest to learn this dark art, I have read a half-dozen books and spoken to as many people, all with the misguided intention of understanding what the words mean. After weeks of intense full-time study, I still have no idea what marketing is or even why it takes up valuable space in the world. Surely all this money spent on something so elusive could have been spent on something, I don’t know, like feeding hungry children or even filling in the potholes on my street?
Every book I’ve read and every conversation I’ve had on this subject begins with the same question, ‘What is your target audience?’ Honest to God, the next person that asks me that is NOT going to be invited to Sunday brunch ever again! The conversation usually goes something like this.
“Good morning. I’ve read your book and I really liked it. It was tender, poignant, and eloquent all at the same time. A nice read.”
“I see from the Prologue that you wrote the book to your children, is that right?”
“Well, if these stories are written to your children, why are they in a book? Why not just give them the stories and go on with your life?”
“It really wasn’t my idea. I wrote the stories on my blog and my growing readership loved them. Before long, everyone agreed that my stories should be published so everyone could enjoy them.”
“And how large is your readership?”
“There are about 2500 followers and about 23,000 reads.”
“That’s pretty good. What kind of people are they? I mean, do they generally fall in any particular category? Are they young, old, married, single, parents, grandparents, have children, have no children?
“You’re not being very helpful.”
“Perhaps, but nonetheless, the answer to your question is yes. The only thing that my readers really have in common is that they are all interested in the literary arts and they all seem to love what I write. I have become friendly with many of them but I wouldn’t say that I really know them very well.”
“Hmm, I think we need to narrow this down somehow.”
“Well, I can’t market your book to the entire 1.4 billion English speaking people in the world. It just doesn’t work like that. We need to find your target audience and put together a marketing plan for them. Who did you have in mind as your audience when you were actually writing these stories?”
“My two children.”
“OK, so let’s go through the book and see f we can identify who that audience might be. I see that the first few chapters are about you growing up. Those stories might be interesting to 20-something new parents.
“Yes, but most of the positive feedback I’ve received for that section has been from baby-boomers who remember growing up in that same era.”
“Hmm, OK, let’s put them down as well. Now, the middle of the book deals with your parent’s divorce, adolescent problems, education problems, and then your own divorce. These stories might be targeted to young adults who have experienced similar problems.”
“OK, but I don’t think very many young adults have read my stories, so I don’t have any data on that. Most of the positive feedback I got on the middle section was from middle-aged people who wished their parents had written something like this.”
“Let’s put them both down anyway. Then the last third of the book deals with the events that ultimately led to the happy life that you currently enjoy. Hmm.”
“I think you should target young adults. To me, that group will have the most to identify in your book. I can put together ………”
The next marketing professional and I would have a similar conversation except for the result.
“I think you should target the baby-boomer generation. To me, that group will have the most to identify …”
And the next marketing professional …
I think you should target the 20-something new parents. To me they will have the most to identify …”
You get the idea. I think that every marketing professional I spoke to was experienced and competent. They just had different experiences and different opinions. That doesn’t make one better than the other necessarily, just different. However, I’m just an old country storyteller. I know enough about this stuff to know that I need to do something. But it’s truly not helpful to be faced with such wildly differing opinions on the next course of action.
And so I empathize with those people in my past who couldn’t buy a laptop computer without the help of a professional. Some of you ended up with a Mac and some with a PC. What you bought was really only the product of the experiences of the person who was helping you. I get it. At the same time, faced with so many varying opinions, I end up doing nothing. And that is the worst thing any of us can do. Most of us, as new authors, are facing this same situation.
I feel badly that I’ve been talking to people about all of you without giving you the opportunity to speak for yourselves. Now is your chance, what do you think?
© J T Weaver
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