It may seem kind of silly to write about marketing on a blog that showcases information about children and young adult writing ... but I say that a writer needs to understand how the marketing world works if she hopes to be famous!
I watched one of the most informative videos I've ever seen today, starring marketing wunderkind Seth Godin. He said that people only notice something if it's remarkable. Not just unique, but something to remark about. This idea is just another way of saying, "It's not what other people say, it's what they repeat."
Seth also says that no matter what we do for a living, we're in the fashion business. It's about change, it's about trends, it's about fads - it's about what's new and different. It doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing, it just has to be unique. This is all for the purpose of spreading new ideas.
I want to be in the fashion business as well. I love new things and I even go to fashion websites over and over, looking at the newest stuff. Why? Because it is unique. In fact, I used to love J. Jill because their fashions were kind of quirky and artsy. But now they've become just another upscale women's boutique, their palette has changed to more dull colors, they've gotten rid of their unique pieces ... and I don't like their stuff as much anymore. I go to Etsy all the time to browse the clothing and the new remarkable items I've never seen before. I may not buy from that person, but they've caught my eye.
Market products to innovators and early adopters, people who are NOT part of the mass market. The mass market is average and tired. But the fringe groups, the niches, the geeks and nerds and steampunkers and fantasy geeks and 'unaverage' groups eat it up. They WANT things that are custom-tailored to their niche, and they'll pay for it.
Once I market to this group of innovators and early adopters, this niche group, then they tell their friends and the idea spreads. Obsession is the new thing in products, and even in books, too. Harry Potter and Twilight fans are obsessed. The more obsessed they get, the more products they buy in relation to their obsession - movies, clothes, jewelry, Etsy stuff. Obsession leads to buying, because obsession is actually a sign of caring. These obsessed fans CARE about what they're buying. Super-dedicated fandom is the way to go.
It's about them BECAUSE it is a niche product. Average people don't buy geeky stuff, but geeky people buy geeky stuff and love that someone took the time to make something for them. Comic-book fans eat up the new movies, because they're finally being honored with great material. And so, what happens is that the niche market tells their frends and brings non-fans to see the movie. But the movies are good! So the non-fans start telling others that the movie is good ... and the market expands to include extra people.
Honor your fanbase by creating well-executed quality products (stories, movies, etc). They will eat it up, then tell their friends, and their friends will tell others outside the fanbase - and pretty soon, your niche market has expanded. Go from the inside out, and don't try to be universally appealing to everyone. Just nail your fanbase.
It's actually counter-productive to be 'safe' and try to make something or tell a story that appeals to all people. This is the big mistake I've been making. I've been trying to meet everyone's needs. But what if I became obsessed about ONE thing and then talked about it ad nauseum to my fanbase? It's less risky, I'll reach more people, I'll spread my ideas, and I'll sell more books. The big thing to watch out for is boring. Deliver well-executed and remarkable products that will be talked about by a loyal fanbase.
As an example, let's look at the Batman movies. The first Batman from 1989 with Michael Keaton was pretty decent and was certainly a change from the cartoonish TV show with Adam West. Batman Returns, from 1992, was different but kind of scary and certainly didn't overshadow its predecessor. The quality was getting slightly weaker and the product was not as well-executed. Batman Forever was weaker and Batman & Robin was so weak it lost money. Yikes!
So this amazing story that was SO incredibly popular with its comic book and TV show fans, this immensely obsessed fan base - wasn't getting its proper treatment of the story. The story was ridiculous and cartoonish, not dark and Gothic like it really needs to be. The animated series was better than the movies!
Understandably, the franchise was scrapped and no studio wanted to put out the money for making another Batman movie. Years passed and, though Batman was still incredibly popular in comic books and animated, no movies.
Then, along came director Chris Nolan who wanted to revamp the entire persona. Make it darker, make it Gothic, make it gritty -- and bring in the acting talent! Cartoonish antics and ridiculous villains were set aside and Batman Begins emerged, resetting the tone for the story. Nolan knew the fanbase was still there, as evidenced by the comic book popularity. They just needed to come out of hiding and spend their money on a project that delivered the goods.
Batman Begins was a top-grossing success, surpassing all expectations. Dedicated fans came out in droves, then they brought their semi-dedicated fans, and those semi-dedicated fans brought newcomers. The niche market of comic-book readers mushroomed into a huge mass market based on the strength of Batman Begins. Quality product met niche market obsession and won everyone over.
Needless to say, the Batman Begins audience came out again in droves for The Dark Knight. Chris Nolan nailed it with a stellar cast, a gripping script, amazing score and fabulous production. It's a pleasure to watch, not just for the obsessed fan base, but for other target markets like myself, who appreciate darn good storytelling. I love the Dark Knight and thought it was one of the best movies I saw in 2008. I don't read comic books, but I sure recognize an awesome story when I see one.
For a bad example, all I have to do is mention the Star Wars prequels. My husband (along with several billion other people) fell in love with the original movies when he was just a kid. They're an amazing mix of science fiction and fantasy, and are rock-solid examples of the Hero's Journey, something every writer should know. I'm not as obsessed as Erik is, but I'll watch them simply because I like the good stories they portray.
However, the Star Wars prequels, especially The Phantom Menace, were terrible. George Lucas has one of the most obsessive and loyal fanbases in the world - Star Wars fans. And he didn't do his fanbase justice by putting out a well-executed product like they wanted. He under-delivered, to such an extent that it tarnished the Star Wars name, most 'true' Star Wars fans rarely talk about them, and it ruined a lot of the magic and mystique about the Star Wars franchise. It was an enormous letdown and, even though the prequels made money, they didn't reach even a fraction of the success of the original three films - all of which are in the top grossing movies of all time.
So, as a writer, to be successful and create something of extraordinary value and popularity, start with your niche group. Start with the fanbase first. What can you give an obsessed fanbase? Whatever answer you come up with, make it a well-executed product. Put in the time and effort to really craft your story well - memorable main characters, cool plots and interesting settings.
Once your story is the best it can be, market it to its niche group. Be enthusiastic about your story and go right to the people who will become as obsessed about it as you are.
If you get enough people talking, then they will tell their friends about it ... and if you're lucky, your target market will begin to expand. Little by little, your story will go viral, until you end up with a successful and popular book.
Then, if you get even more lucky, you'll be able to keep writing and giving your obsessed fanbase the awesome stories that they want and not only retain your popularity, but watch it grow even larger.
J. K. Rowling's niche started out as 8-10 year old kids who went to a British boarding school and read fantasy. The quality of her Harry Potter books was so well-thought and executed that her niche eventually mushroomed into millions of readers.
Stephenie Meyer's niche started out as normal teenage highschool girls who felt lonely and wanted a sexy awesome boyfriend. Her fanbase is totally obsessed about the Twilight books, catapulting the author into massive popularity.
Nicholas Sparks's niche started out as female romance readers between 18 and 25 looking for a deep lasting love. Nowadays, his massively popular books satisfy his obsessive fanbase again and again, while expanding his market.
Pixar's niche began as animated movies for 7-12 year old children. They nailed their fanbase and also satisfy other movie viewers: the children's parents. Pixar's winning combination of excellent storytelling and animated fun drives their box office sales through the roof.
Do NOT write just to please someone. Write about what you love, then find the niche where your story fits.
Do NOT write for the general public. Be unique. Be original. Being safe and writing for the general public is boring.
Do NOT skimp on the quality of your story. Give the story legs it has to stand on. Keep writing and keep writing better.
Find the niche where your story fits - and there's where you'll find your success!
Please come visit me at my new location at Meg North.com! Thanks and see you over there.
Tuesday, December 14
It may seem kind of silly to write about marketing on a blog that showcases information about children and young adult writing ... but I say that a writer needs to understand how the marketing world works if she hopes to be famous!
Sunday, December 12
I want to be a happy writer! I am happy with the long-term things I write, like novels ... but I want to be happy in the short-term, too. I think being happy is about enjoying the moment while still building something amazing over the long-term. :)
It's almost the new year - almost 2011! Let's see if we can build something of value together!
2011 will be about embracing all aspects of creating a happy life while we're building our project, whether it's a novel, a blog, a website, an online community, or a writer's group.
So, in 2011, we will live more meaningfully and passionately by concentrating on these areas:
The BIG Dream
Because this is what excites us. This is what keeps us going. This is the big picture we strive for, the one that lives like a shining castle in our minds.
I want to be on the New York Times Bestseller List.
This is my dream. What is yours? What is so big that it makes you tingle just to think about it?
The big dreams keep us going, but the daily living also needs to be happy, or we'll get discouraged on our journey. An awesome time out with friends, a creative twist to cooking dinner, sharing a moment with a family member, relaxing with a good book and our favorite cup of tea ... daily living infused with joy.
We can get there together, and we aren't alone on our journey. Who influences us and helps us? Who is there as a mentor ... and if we don't have one, who can become one? Have we thanked the people in our life lately for helping us? Heroes need mentors, and we are heroes on this path.
Who lights up your world? Who could use a hug or a phone call? Whose comments on a site really touched you? Reaching out to others and building relationships builds a better life for yourself, too. It's like tithing for people, by giving back through interest and listening.
I like enthusiasm more than passion, because it's so rare. Be an enthusiastic beacon of your work. Toot your own horn and share that enthusiasm with others. Spend your time doing things you're excited about, in both the immediate future and the long-term.
Where are you going? Your destination, your mission, can be part of your BIG dream, or a smaller milestone. Keep crafting your life towards your destinations, whether tangible or a representative place.
What is the next step in your long-term project? What is the next short-term step? What are you delivering each year that contributes to moving towards your destinations and BIG dream? Since we're living both in the now and in the future, it's easier to focus on what you're producing, rather than by a specific calendar schedule.
Growth is not the same as struggle and, when welcomed as part of the flow of life, is not a painful process. Have faith in the good process of growth, and develop your long-term projects to the best of your ability. Don't feel as if you have to sacrifice or give up something to grow. Some things may need to be let go, but trust in the process and keep moving forward.
How do you measure your progress? I tend to measure how well I'm doing by chapters. Chapter 1 is complete, then Chapter 2 and so on until the book is finished. My entire writing life could be summed up as a series of writing chapters. You could measure your blog by how many posts you write in a month, how many subscribers you have, and trackback links.
Your Writing Legacy
What is this long-term project you're building? What are you creating that will be an awesome contribution to the world? Short-term is where we live, but long-term is where we plan, create, and deliver. What will you contribute?
Saturday, December 11
This video is particularly awesome and kind of made me tear up in a few parts. Some of the best writing 'advice' really is summed up here ... and it's not just about a laser printer. :)
Friday, December 10
I love this little video - I admire the 'writer' bear's chutzpah to think he can become a bestselling writer ... kind of reminds me of how I was as a little kid (but not now!)
p.s. in other news, I've started the first chapter of one of my new YA stories. How fun!
After years of being an adult (a decade or so), I still don't really feel grown-up. But neither do I feel like a kid anymore. I guess I feel like an older teen, like someone who has responsibilities (mortgage, dogs, marriage) but also retains a huge sense of wonder about the world. I love mythology, fairies, fantasy adventure movies and candy.
To write for kids (ages 8-10) and tweens (ages 11-14) is to dig deeper into my autobiography and see what was going on in MY life during those years. What was I feeling? What was important in my life? Who were my friends? What did I love doing? What was my daily life like? What about my family?
When I was 10, I was living in Gorham, Maine, in a duplex sharing a bedroom with my younger sister, Lisa. Our bedroom was pretty large and we used a bookcase to split the room in half, so I technically had my own space. I remember it being sunny and fairly quiet. I spent a lot of time in my half of the room, listening to records on the record player (or tapes in the tape player!), reading in bed or playing with toys. My favorite toys were Legos, small nature animal toys, and skeletons. I loved reading and was often curled up with a book, like the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, Alice in Wonderland, anything by E. B. White or Roald Dahl, or whatever we happened to be reading in class.
I was in fifth grade and played clarinet in Mrs. Matthews' band class, walked to school every day, since it was just around the corner. My best friend was a quiet girl named Jenn Allen, and I had my first serious crush on my next-door neighbor, Brooks, who moved in the beginning of fifth grade.
I didn't really get along with my sister, except if we'd play together. She kind of bothered me and spent a lot of time playing with her friends. My mom and stepdad weren't married yet, but my future stepdad lived with us. He was cool - he'd help carve our pumpkins at Halloween or help me put jigsaw puzzles together. We had a lot of pets, too - two mice, a guinea pig, a shetland sheepdog named Mac, a ferret named Weasy, and two cats - Smokey and Yoda. Smokey was gray and white, with double front paws and a kinked tail. He was my kitty!
My parents were divorced and Dad lived in Old Orchard Beach, in a tiny apartment across the street from the ocean. My sister and I would play on the beach or go swimming in his pool or watch cartoons during the weekends he had us.
Both sides of my family were involved in theatre. My mother was in a lot of plays and so was Dad, so I spent a huge amount of time at the theatre attending rehearsals and performances. I even went to cast parties.
So, that was life when I was 10!
We moved to Michigan the summer after fifth grade, so by age 12 I was living in a double-wide trailer in a large trailer park in Rochester Hills, Michigan. At first, I shared a bedroom with my sister, but I really wanted my own space, so I helped Mom and my stepdad clean out the den and I moved in. I painted the walls white and enjoyed my small cozy space, with my books and clothes and stuffed animals.
By 12, my reading material had gotten darker so I was going through a Stephen King/Christopher Pike/R. L. Stine phase. I also read fantasy, like Piers Anthony, and dabbled in historical fiction by reading "Clan of the Cave Bear" and the "People of the Wolf" series. I was just starting to get into classic literature, but read child versions rather than the actual stories.
My stepdad moved out with us, but they hadn't married yet. He was working for our trailer park as a landscaper and my mom got accepted to Wayne State University grad school, so she drove to Detroit every day. Living in an enormous and wealthy suburb was so different from small-town Gorham. We had little money, but my grandparents lived in the same town, so they helped us out. I'll never forget the day my grandma took me clothes shopping and bought me the prettiest outfit I'd ever worn. She also bought me my first really cool bike - a purple Schwinn! I rode around the park and was even old enough to ride the two miles to the nearest K-mart strip mall, where I'd buy lipgloss and candy.
The girl across the street was my new best friend, one year older than me and not the nicest person I'd met. She was bossy and authoritative, pushing me around and constantly talking about boys. I honestly wasn't that interested, except for this one guy Jesse. God, I liked him so much! I spent a lot of time thinking about him. :)
I still did well in school, but wasn't the smartest fish in the sea anymore. My grades were high and I liked my teachers overall. My middle school was enormous, with wide halls and lockers, a huge gym and a pool. Most of the kids I went to school with were quite rich, with name-brand clothes and the latest toys like Walkmans and Sega video games. There was a mall in our town, plus several others in the area, so kids went shopping all the time. I had a couple of acquaintances and didn't eat lunch alone, but felt awkward. I got braces and glasses in January of my sixth grade year and was one of the tallest skinniest girls in my grade. Add to that was puberty, which was painful and awkward. I was flat-chested, so didn't need bras like the other girls, and when I tried shaving I would cut my legs. Getting my first period hurt a lot, too. But I'd kept up playing the clarinet and was the best in band, so that helped my self-esteem.
Life at home was pretty lousy, since my mom complained that my Dad cut off child support when I turned 12. Lots of fights about money and stress about finances. My mom didn't get along with my grandparents, so whenever they'd show up it was stressful. I was jealous of my sister's carefree and busy social life, and didn't really like my future stepdad either, since he was also tired and stressed. I'd try to talk to Mom, but she'd complain I was too needy and once, when I showed her a story I was working on, she accused me of writing something too dark. I was reprimanded for not making enough friends, not helping enough around the house, and even scolded for asking for new jeans, since I was growing so much my clothes didn't fit. It was a tough time.
We'd had to leave my cat Smokey behind in Gorham when we moved to Michigan, but on April Fool's day of my 6th grade year, my mother brought home a fluffy black and white kitten with golden eyes who soon became my new cat, Zuel. I loved him to pieces! We still had Mac, our Sheltie, but we no longer had the ferret, the mice or the guinea pig. Instead, we got our first bird - a cockatiel named Lucky. He was kind of cute, but neither my sister or I fell in love with him like Mom did!
So, that was life when I was 12!
We were still living in the trailer park in Rochester when I was 15, but life had gotten a little better. There were still fights at home about money, but Mom had graduated from grad school and gotten a decent job, so at least our finances had somewhat stabilized. My sister and I were in two different schools, so we only saw each other at home and didn't really hang out or were close. My grandfather passed away when I was 14, so my grandma now lived by herself. Mom was angry that Grandpa never apologized to her for the way he treated her, so his passing was a bit strange. My cat was now three years old and I loved him so much I wanted to be a vet when I grew up and take care of animals.
By 15, both of my parents had re-married so I had two new step-parents - Geary and Lorna. Dad and Lorna had moved out to Michigan very briefly, but then moved back to Maine and were living in Bangor. Even though Mom was really happy with her marriage to Geary, he and I didn't see eye to eye. He'd try to tell me what to do, which I've never liked! We bickered a lot. Our old dog Mac passed away when I was in 8th grade, so we got a new puppy named Puck. At some point, we also got a second cockatiel named Beaker and both my sister and I got hamsters.
I wasn't doing a lot of creative writing when I was 15, except for school, but still was a voracious reader. Now I'd really gotten into classic literature, especially Dickens and Jane Austen. I also was interested in screenwriting and, the day after Christmas of my 10th grade year, I saw Titanic, which changed my writing forever after. I wanted to write a story like that!
I was still playing clarinet and had tried out for the high school marching band - and got in! So, the summer before 9th grade, I went to band camp at Michigan State University and met a great group of new friends. That was an awesome week and I had so much fun learning the drills in the hot sun. I started crushing on a sophomore named Sean, one year older than me and the fastest runner on the cross-country high school team. He was amazing! My new good friend Amanda also crushed on the same guy, so we'd giggle about him together all the time.
Rochester High School was a huge new place and I remember being intimidated by the seniors with their highschool jackets dripping with medals, their cars, how tall they were, and how the guys were shaving and the girls looked like women. It was awe-inspiring to me. I no longer was the tallest or the skinniest, so I felt better. My height and weight stabilized, so I was finally able to go an entire school year without growing two or three inches! It helped enormously with clothes and shoes. In fact, I'm still the same height and shoe-size that I've been since I was 16!
School was easy, like it had always been, so my grades stayed pretty high. I was heavily involved with marching band, pep band, pit band for the school musical of "Oklahoma" and jazz band, so my evenings were busy and I went to all the football and basketball games. I had a great group of friends I'd eat with at lunch and my sense of humor started to flesh out, so I was one of the clowns of the group and kept everyone laughing. I felt a bit left out since I went to the school dances by myself and didn't have a boyfriend, but I had a lot of guy friends.
I'd started running track in 7th grade, but for my freshman year, because of my crush on Sean, I switched to running long-distance track that spring and had a great time. Ooh, those first weeks were always so sore and I'd limp from class to class. But then I'd limber up and running was more fun. I ran practice with this shorter girl named Amanda and a sophomore named Becky. At the athletic awards at the end of my freshman year, I even got my school letter! That was cool and I felt so proud, to get a letter even though I wasn't super athletic. I still have it, actually. :)
So, that was life when I was 15!
Growing up was hard, but I don't know if at the time it really registered that it was hard. I lived in the moment, only seeing what was right in front of me and not understanding or looking at the big picture. My parents were overworked and didn't have much time to explain or help, so I spent a lot of time alone with my own feelings. It wasn't until high school that I finally felt a sense of truly belonging and got my feet under me in terms of school, friends, and hobbies like music and writing. Life at home buckled and strained under the stress of finances, but at school I could forget all that and simply play my clarinet in band, giggle with my friends in the hall, or ace a test.
WRITING FOR THIS AGE GROUP:
As a young reader myself, I read to escape. I wanted to join adventurous children on voyages of their own, like the Pevensie kids into Narnia, Alice into Wonderland, Dorothy into Oz, or James aboard his giant peach. Their situations seemed so much more exciting than living with divorced parents who argued amongst each other, fought over money, and moved around. Their friends seemed more welcoming and friendly than snotty middle-school girls who teased me or had more money than me. Their problems seemed more surmountable than trying to fit in, find my own identity, distinguish myself, or just be happy.
And isn't that the beauty of writing a story for young adults? I can take them away from their problems and yet, at the same time, present them with a character who has his/her own worlds to live in, own friends to make, and own problems to overcome.
I hold out my hand and beckon them.
Come! Come with me! Forget your fights with your mom and your dad, your jealousy of your sister, your loneliness and awkwardness and pain and confusion ...
Come with me. Let us journey together. Let us feel happy and alive ... with a story. :)
Thursday, December 9
I've wanted to be a bestselling author for a long time ... so someone suggested the other day that I make a vision board. You put pictures of what you want on a bulletin board and look at it every day, trusting you'll receive what you want.
Well, I decided to take this a step further - so I created a mind movie. :) I thought I'd share this with everyone ... so here it is!
Friday, December 3
Here's a list of digital writer resources that you can use to create digital content, transform plain content into eBook content, read digital books, and more.
Brainstorm eBook Ideas:
DtBits - desktop sticky notes
List of tools for creating ideas
Microsoft OneNote - note taking
MindGenius - mind mapping software
StickyNotes - virtual Post-it Notes
Create Digital Content:
The Journal 5 - Journal Software
Liquid Story Binder XE - Novel Writing Software
PageFour - Creative Writing Software
StoryBook - Open Source Writing Software
Open Office - free word processing and spreadsheet software
Adobe Digital Editions
Amazon Digital Text Platform - create Kindle versions
Calibre - change eBook formats
Cute PDF - create PDFs for free
Stanza - iPhone/iPod Touch eBook reader
Kobo eReader and eBooks
Mobipocket eReader - for Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Palm
Nook eReader, by Barnes & Noble
Scribd - great place to distribute free PDF eBooks
iBooks for the iPad
Kindle Apps - free!
Mobipocket Online eBookStore
myPadMedia - eBooks for the iPad
PubIt! - publish eBooks for the Nook
Scribd - great place to upload and distribute free PDF eBooks
Sony eReader Store
Windows Mobile - can read Microsoft Reader and Mobipocket
Free Books and Research:
The Free Library
Online Writers' Groups:
Authonomy by HarperCollins
Red Room - Where the Writers Are
NaNoWriMo - National November Writing Month
Online eBook and Story Publishing:
Author Solutions - publish eBooks for the Sony eReader
East of the Web Short Story Publishing
OR Books - POD publishing with a progressive twist
Smashwords - eBooks from indie authors
Successful Digital Writers:
Leo Baubata, of Zen Habits
Chris Guillebeau, the Art of Nonconformity
J. A. Konrath
HTML Code Tutorial - highly recommended (this is how I learned HTML)
W3Schools: HTML Tutorial
HTML.net - Free Tutorials
Thank you everyone for stopping by and wishing me well. One of my closest friends - more like a family member - unexpectedly passed away, and it's been really hard on me ... So, thank you again for being patient.
I will continue with the creative writing class and other writing-related posts, but my focus has changed. I apologize if you were onboard with the digital-writing bent, and I obviously will leave it in the archives.
But, what's ended up happening is I've gone back to writing young adult and children's stories, which was my first writing-related passion as a child myself. So, this blog will gradually take on more of a fantastical, whimsical, and youth-centered look and feel. Less business-like and more fun. I've kind of been a literary party-pooper - so it's time to liven things up a bit!
Thank you again for sticking on-board with me as this ship has sailed on different waters and for your kind words and thoughts. I'll be back tomorrow!