Marketing: A Metaphor

Thoughts on Digital Self-Publishing (DSP), Series Two

Imagine, if you will, that you are holding a large blanket – say an overstuffed comforter for a king-sized mattress. Say that is made out of some very heavy and bulky fabric, like wool or denim. Now imagine it even heavier, because it is soaking wet.

Further imagine that the reason you are carrying this dripping-wet king-sized comforter is because you are doing one of those team-building obstacle courses. The object of this particular challenge is for you to get the blanket over the wall you are standing in front of. The wall is twelve, fifteen... maybe twenty feet high, you're not really sure.

Standing on top of the wall is your challenge partner. If you can just pass the wet blanket up to him – a corner of it, even – he can gather it up and successfully throw it over to the other side. At which point, you'll win, pass the challenge, and be able to move on.

The task seemed straightforward enough when your guide explained the challenge rules. But now that you're standing here below the wall, looking up its smooth concrete height to where you can just see your partner's tennis shoes peeking over the edge, you're beginning to realize that it won't be as easy as it seemed.

Climbing the wall while carrying the comforter is clearly out of the question, so you try gathering the comforter into an awkward bundle and lobbing it – but it doesn't stay bundled, even when you fold it into the tightest, neatest package you can manage. The comforter unfolds mid-ascent, slowing itself down and falling short.

Nor can you toss up just one corner for your partner to grab. Even if the comforter were long enough for that – and you're not sure it is – the weight of the rest of the blanket pulls it back before it rises even halfway.

On top of these inherent difficulties, your challenge partner atop the wall is wearing a premium set of noise-canceling headphones, and can't hear you. He can't see you either, because he's facing the opposite side of the wall. He doesn't even know that you want him to catch the blanket. Nobody told him what the challenge was before he put on the headphones.

That's what trying to market your DSP book is like.

If you could just get your book into the hands of the right people – those readers who will become so excited about it they'll tell everyone they know to read it – inertia and momentum begin to work in your favor. The weight of your book's excellent qualities will carry it forward, freeing you to work on other challenges – writing your next book, maybe.

Until then, you'll feel like you're up against a brick wall holding a big heavy wet blanket.

How do you identify those first several enthusiastic readers? How do you get them to take time for your book while they're continuously surrounded by countless other marketers clamoring for attention?

As Han Solo famously said, “That's the real trick, isn't it. And it's going to cost you something extra.” Maybe not in money, but certainly in time. This is where working smarter, rather than harder, becomes absolutely paramount. Beware the Internet's limitless capacity to soak up your unwisely-spent cash and sweat. You can waste a lot of resources shouting or lobbing the wet blanket at your partner on the wall. With ill-conceived tactics you can almost definitely annoy him into turning around – but when he does, will he grab the blanket and haul it over... or throw it right back in your face?

Stay tuned. Strategies & principles for maximizing DSP authors' scarce promotional resources are up next.

1 comment:

  1. I am in the early stages of marketing my new book, Letters to Saint Timothy by Martha McAfee, and it all seems so daunting, like pushing a boulder up a steep mountain! If I honestly didn't believe in my book and in my ability to tell a good tale, I would never subject myself to such horror! LOL