I have to preface this post with a huge giant thank you to author Lauren Layne. It had been a frustrating day of banging my head against the wall (figuratively, not literally) and wishing that I could think of some different things to do with my latest book release. I mean, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, right? So, why was I applying that to each book release?
I was living in my own land of insanity. And the crazy part is – I wasn’t alone!
I texted Laura, and her reply back was, “Have you ever heard of the book, Blue Ocean Strategy?” I had not.
Seconds later I was on Amazon purchasing the book and getting a hardcover copy “Primed” to my house. And folks, my world shifted.
Whenever a book releases in the world, whether it be indie or traditional, you have a marketing plan. And that marketing plan almost always includes the same things, because why change what works? You have a blog tour, sometimes a release day blitz. You have people review the book, and you hope and pray that enough buzz builds that it will translate into sales and putting food on your table. Releasing a book is basic, guys. Yes we LOVE what we do as authors, but we still need to pay bills, so when a book tanks it doesn’t just affect our mood, it trickles into every area of our life. It feeds into a constant insecurity that one day you will no longer be relevant or enough. And on top of that debilitating fear, you still gotta make money at your job. And if writing is your full-time job, it’s normal for panic to set in.
And if you’ve ever had a book tank (raises hand) you know what I’m talking about. It happens to us all, and it forces us to look inward. Was it the book itself? The genre? Was it my marketing plan? And I almost always go back to the basics: if I put my heart and soul into the book, then I chalk it up to the fact that it just didn’t appeal to the masses.
And then I question how I marketed the book.
The only problem? It seems like we don’t have a lot of options when it comes to marketing. I mean I’m just one of hundreds of thousands of authors trying to get seen. How do you reach the masses without just sounding like another voice among the noise? What’s the secret?
I’m not sure there is an actual secret, but what I did find with The Blue Ocean Strategy is a different way of thinking when it comes to marketing. And this way of thinking can truly apply to every area of your life. The Theory goes something like this: rather than competing in the shark-infested bloodied waters of the red ocean, where you just try to replicate what seems to be working for everyone else — go over to the blue ocean where there is space, new consumers, and tap into that marketplace.
You have to ask yourself, what sounds better? Constantly elbowing your way through a bloody fight, or sipping a margarita in the blue ocean while your brand revolutionizes an overcrowded industry?
How many of you just wake up tired from the fight? How many of you are tired of the insanity? If you’re reading this, I can guarantee that you are one of those people who are battered and bruised, who just want something—anything that’s going to help them feel rejuvenated when it comes to their own marketing.
So where do you even begin? What questions do you need to ask yourself? I know it’s a lot to take in, some may say overwhelming, but I’m going to give you five ways to move your thinking over to the blue ocean.
1. Don’t focus on competing.
Not only do you miss huge opportunities for growth, but your focus is on everyone else rather than your own brand. This is one of those “oh duh” points, but we all need to remind ourselves of it constantly. If you’re driving a car and looking to the car on your right going, “ugh they’re going so much faster then me, I’ll just accelerate” and, CRASH. Right, you crash, you go to the hospital, and you fume over the car who sped off into the sunset. Makes absolutely no sense. Now there’s nothing wrong with appreciating what other people are doing with their brands, but you aren’t other people. You are YOU. So what makes YOU appealing and how can you stand out rather than stand next to and compete?
2. Who. Are. You?
Write down what makes your brand unique. Ask your readers what they like best about you and your books. When people hear your name what do they think of? I have an example of this. When I first started writing, my agent would always write out my name. And it was getting tedious, so she started shortening my name in her emails to “RVD”. I was like, “oh that’s way easier than writing my full name”, and on top of that, it was distinctive, and since I had such a big backlist it was also easier to write out on people’s books, giving me MORE time to talk with readers at signings. It was a win-win-win. And now? Now I have RVD on all of my branding, logos, everything. It doesn’t make me any more special than the next author, I mean it’s just a name, but what it does do is make my name appear unique.
So sit down, ask yourself WHO you are, and make sure that it’s clear on every single piece of marketing material you have (and yes, this includes fonts, colors, etc.).
3. Offer something NOBODY else can.
I know this is a tough one–we all offer books. But what about the reading experience? What can you do that hasn’t been done. What’s missing with the reading experience? This is something I ask myself every day, and something I’ve been playing with for the past year. What can I do with my books that will offer something to readers that they don’t know they need? Hmmmm. Readers want more books, right? But writing more adds more stress. So how can you do this without adding more to your plate? Write down a few ideas and start to implement them, maybe in your reader groups, with your critique groups, ask your target audience (READERS!) and see what they come up with!
4. Discover where everyone else is at.
Something that was very evident during “Cocky Gate” (and that’s the only time you’ll see me mention it) was that despite the social media firestorm through Twitter, Facebook, and even Amazon of all places–readers were still buying books. And readers were still like, “wait huh? What’s going on?” Which tells us one thing. All of your readers are not just on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.
So where the heck are they? And how can you find them?
This is where I think having a newsletter list is pivotal, as well as having a presence on other platforms. What about YouTube? Wattpad? Where are like-minded readers and customers hanging out? Yes, this takes some work on your part but, part of this is figuring out how to reach this untapped market, which brings us back to Point Number 3: if you are offering something nobody else is, well they’ll find you, won’t they? Because suddenly, you’re no longer in the red ocean raising your shaky hands and yelling amongst the noise. You’re in the blue. They see you!
5. Redefine a current problem in the industry — and then solve it.
I know this may sound a bit crazy, but think about it. What’s something that’s always bothering readers? Or authors? Bloggers? Publishers? How can you revolutionize this and turn it in your favor? Something that my husband and I have been playing with is the biggest complaint of, HOW do I find really good books that are actually good? People don’t have time to search through the ‘Zon or Facebook. They get most of their reccs from authors and social media, or they randomly see something and go, “huh that looks intriguing”. How do we make this easier?
I don’t know the answer yet, but I do know its frustrating, plus everyone has an opinion, right? My books may be the ones they DON’T want (haha). They (readers) may want something entirely different, and we can’t guarantee that every reader will like us. Just the other day, I saw a blogger who said they put me on their “never again” list after starting just one of my books and I just smiled because it happens and it’s not in our control.
Another issue is getting information to readers in a way that’s fast-paced, easy, and easy to find. I get messages every day from people asking for the order in which they should read my books, and I’m like, “it’s on my website”. But if I’m still getting questions, clearly I need to do something different. Sit down and ask yourself: what big issues you are facing within your industry and think about ways to solve them.
Okay, it’s not really magic, but it’s important to shift the way you think. Stop thinking so red ocean; this is not a competition. My goal is for you to be successful, because when you’re successful, I’m successful.
We are all in this together. Stop giving side-eye to that author who just hit the New York Times bestseller list for the tenth time and turn your focus inward. That could be you. But you have to stop thinking of this as a competition, instead of an opportunity to bring about change, revolution, and a truly unique reading experience.
Until next time…