Wine into Water?

wine into waterAs writers, I hope you’re getting some of your marketing savvy from The Story of Telling. Not only is Bernadette brilliant, it’s the most writerly marketing description I know.

In her latest post she writes that “the customers you keep are not just choosing you—you are also choosing them. The fact that you make this choice means you get to do your best work and not the watered down version for people who might care some day.”

I co-authored a book with Rick Wilson called Hits or Niches. The diagram below outlines our shared perspective on why marketing should always aim at a niche and never aim at becoming a hit.

Hits or Niches

Everything I’ve read and learned and seen and experienced about marketing tells me that the one and only path to a hit is to aim solidly at a niche and let nature take its course. It takes talent. It takes persistence. It takes the right environment.

That means hone your writing craft so you can write great books quickly. Learn enough marketing to be aware of the marketplace so you can insert yourself into the environment most conducive to success.

But aim at the niche.

At Steven Pressfield’s blog Shawn Coyne points out that if people buy your book but don’t read it, it will never gain the word of mouth traction to become a perennial seller.

If you’re okay with a flash of 500 sales and then darkness, go ahead and sell.

If you want your sales numbers to go up instead of down, make people want to read your book. And give them a reason to talk about it when they do.

Who finishes books and then talks about then to all and sundry? Not the semi-interested. Not those writing a book report for school. Not those keeping up with those Jonesing for the NYT bestsellers.

The folks who read books and then word-of-mouth them all over town are the rabid fans who think it’s the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow, and eleven other animal parts.

Nobody, ever, got that excited about something bland. Nobody recommends a restaurant because it makes great toast. Nobody buys tickets to see the same band in 23 cities because their music is just okay. Nobody cries at the end of a movie that didn’t spike their emotions.

The only way to avoid bland is spice. The spice of truth driven deep into your writing, sticking out like a spear in a frog. Or something like that. Spice so powerful that only those who love love love it will finish the meal.

Do you want 1,000 3-star reviews or 100 5-star reviews? Even if the 5-star reviews came with an equal number of 1-star reviews, that’s what I’ll take thank you very much.

Aiming for a hit, watering down your writing, including your marketing writing, is like turning wine into water.

4 thoughts on “Wine into Water?

  1. Joel, I do sprinkle spice liberally over my writing, but I must not be serving the right table: not much of an audience yet. Maybe it’s that my niche of “everyone who is still in this bar after 1:30 am” is too broad.

  2. You’re saying there are too many broads in the bar? Eh?

    I have to agree that you don’t always give your niche enough information to self-identify. If you’re clear on who they are, who you’re writing for, then we should talk about how to make that clearer in your posts and newsletters.

    If not, we should take you out behind the woodshed until it becomes clear . . .

  3. You wouldn’t be the first person to suggest a good woodshedding for me. One of my tasks this week is to mull over new directions/focus for my blog and newsletter—if I can stop looking at shiny objects enough to focus on focusing.

  4. Important thing is to set and then meet expectations. If folks are only looking for writing tips because that’s what you said the blog was about, deliver. But if folks come because they want to connect with you, fiction, nonfiction, and mayhem all rolled into one, that’s good, too.

    At least, I hope it is.

    I’ve split my fiction off to another site ( because it works for my marketing, but that’s not a fixed rule, just makes sense for me. About who expected what, not about what I do, or don’t do.

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