The basic insanity of book marketing

You’ve written a book.

There’s your first marketing mistake!

As anyone in marketing will tell you, first gauge what your market wants; then design your product around the customer’s needs!

So, all authors start at the wrong end.  They first design a product, then try to “find” its market.  Mind you, so do all artists… and all songwriters, composers etc.  And this is why you can’t compare marketing books with, e.g., marketing running shoes or houses.

Ark pointed me to a link:  Mathew Lyons discusses “what’s a book worth”. 

And he (Lyons, not Ark) hammers Amazon, and even traditional publishers, for “devaluing” books and making them cheap commodities.

If we all had to pay for a book what we pay for a painting by an estabished artist (R35000, with ease), most of us would not be able to read at all.  Books would be reserved for the privileged.  Books are, and always have been, a luxury; an outgrowth of our culture.  As is music, and art.

So, does that mean I agree with Amazon’s practices of making KDP-s books available for “free” to subscribers of the KU program?  Or with the pirate sites that feel that all books ought to be free?

It’s complex.  You could regard a library as a “subscription service”.  (How do you as author feel about libraries?)  And once a book is out of copyright (70 years after the death of the author), it legally becomes creative commons – at which point it should be available for free, at least as an ebook (paper books have physical printing cost, this is obvious).  So the Gutenberg Project (and IMSLP on the music side) has done a lot to boost culture.  And therefore, to help build the “market”, the readers.

Of course, readers, LOL, you’re not really getting all those reads for free!  You’re paying subscription, month after month.  It’s the equivalent of going to the shop every month to buy books to the value of $9.99.  The “free” is an illusion.  And for places like Amazon and Scribd, it’s a pocketed sale – $9.99 worth of sale monthly that they don’t have to worry about.  It will come in anyway, regardless which books you pick. (Nearly $120 per year, if you look at the big pic.)  If you want genuine free reads, go visit & support your local library.

But there is a conceptual problem with a subscription service for reading new books, by new authors.  It is this:  Fail to feed the artist and there will be no more art.  These programs throttle the market, instead of boosting it.  By killing the source.

So let’s investigate Lyons’ question:  What is a book actually worth?

A good book can change your outlook entirely.  It may change your life.  Good books have nearly god-like power over people; because people create their environment (and therefore, collectively, the world we live in) through their actions, which are directed by their thinking habits – which books have the power to overthrow entirely.  Think of Ayn Rand’s books, and the cult of that arose around her.  She is said to have had the critical impact on America’s top bankers, politicians, billionaires.  That is the power of Book.

For another example consider the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud.  Or, closer to home for some, the “Writer’s Guide”.  (Any one of them!)  And then, think of the way ‘Harry Potter’ has shaped a whole generation’s thinking.  Are you a muggle?  How about, ‘The Secret’?  Making us all magical beings that can create (‘manifest’) whatever we want in our lives?  (Namaste! – or should I say:  cheers!)

So, what is the value of a book?

Because writers start with the product, instead of with the consumer, this question can only be answered by the market.  The monetary value of a book is whatever it will sell for.  Ditto, the value of a painting, or a photograph, or a composition.  Until medical aids can be persuaded to add books to their list of items for curing ADHD and other learning difficulties, writers (and publishers) have to put up with receiving whatever the consumer is willing to pay – which is always less than we would like.

To quote Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes :  “A good compromise leaves everybody mad.”


Book Ad:

Having mentioned Ark, let’s mention here too that he is a writer, specializing in humour.

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Excerpt from Review by R. Luke Lively, on Amazon:
Pearce gives us a new perspective–and an uproarious journey. Between the spirit world and the world we all know as “real”, Pearce has sliced out a memorable group of characters, settings and story that transcends the living and the dead to remind us of our own humanity—while keeping us laughing all the way.

Grab your copy now before we decide that this unique book should sell for a LOT more than only $11.99 (paperback!).







39 thoughts on “The basic insanity of book marketing

  1. Writing books is an early warning of insanity. In most cases people will only be prepared to pay nothing – or a fraction of the worth – while in some notable ones they will vastly overpay for absolute tripe because of the onset of a fad.

  2. I was always told, the market value of anything is simply whatever a willing buyer is prepared ( or able) to pay a willing seller.
    Excellent post by the way. And I love that cat!

    • It’s an excellent book, lots of unexpected twists, and I just love the characterization of that police chief.

      Oo, only spotted the compliments now! 😀 Thanks, Ark!

    • It was fun to write, but I’ll be honest, I had no real ”plan” up front.

      I doubt that most writers do.
      Though on my blog Nan said she dod lots of research befgore she even put pen to paper.
      But her book is non-fiction a so I asked if this would naturally be a different approach to a straight novel.

      What do you think?

    • That is actually material for an entire blog post. “Violin Tunes” is non-fiction and I had the whole plan in my head before I put the first note on a stave in Cakewalk. Non-fiction books can be very well structured because usually they deal with a specific field of expertise. Fiction is different… in part we start writing it because we’re playing around with ideas, entertaining ourselves. Don’t you think?

    • The first book I wrote, a Science Fiction novel, I simply had an idea and sat down and wrote. There was not much thought of anything else, I’ll be honest.
      It was done mostly for fun.
      For Almost Dead in Suburbia, I was a little more aware of what was involved, and it must have paid off as the book was published!

      I have no experience with non fiction and wouldn’t know where to start.

  3. Almost Dead In Suburbia

    Where’s the end of the line, so I can rush over and stand in it? Huh? Huh? Where?

  4. Y’know, the whole problem with literature in general, is this end-driven thing. It’s so MALE! It’s like… I don’t know how to put this better… starting with an orgasm in mind and pretending that you started at the beginning with the first kiss. It is so ingrained in our idea of what a book should be, it’s like the whole 20c never happened.

    • I LIKE that comparison!! Exactly. Marketing is like that. It is end-driven, begins like you said with the orgasm in mind; and the first kiss is designed to sell the consumer into going all the way. Whereas the story exists for its own sake, it has no “beef” with marketing.

      Following this model, we all would have to write according to formula, and let the marketing people tweak the formula, the storyline, the themes, and especially the writing style until it “fits the niche”. To an extent something like that has been happening in music over the centuries, with the development of vibrato, production of louder instruments, raising of the concert-A from 436 Hz to (by now) 444 Hz (though I need verification for that last rumour, does anyone own a tuning fork from the 16th century?)).

      The marketing gurus will tell us that if we’re not writing about Zombie Apocalypse by now, we’ll be left behind by the YA genre…

  5. Where IS everyone today? It’s lonelier online than the last living cell in a dead body! Was it something I said? The garlic bread I had with lunch?

    • 😀 It may be that garlic bread. Thanks for the visit, Arch! I was also wondering, but I think everyone’s too busy packing for their Easter Break to blog. Did you see Nicholas Rossi’s post about the Espresso Book Machine? (I want a “benefactor” who gives me one as a present!)

    • Yes, read that.

      Benefactor” – is that a more sophisticated term for “Sugar Daddy“?

      Is Easter coming up soon? Boy, when you’re not religious, these things really sneak up on you! I’ll have to dig out my Easter stuff —

    • Easter snuff?

      😀 I think I’m too urgly for a sugar daddy. But, yeah, it would be nice to be showered in riches. We religiously go on a chocolate bunny hunt every Easter – it’s not Easter if we don’t! Even though the kids are teens now. Somehow the chocolate they use in Easter bunnies tastes different, can’t quite pinpoint it.

    • I’m almost ashamed of myself, I can do a better huff than that – how about, ‘storms off in a huff’? Or, ‘stomps off in a huff’? Either of those have to be less bland than, ‘leaves in a huff’!
      (Hangs head.)

  6. I think possibly my blog auto-moderated your comment, no idea why

    Even though I detest WordPress, in the process of trying to survive it, I’ve learned a bit. Many spammers, selling products or services, will do so by means of links to their sites, therefore your settings have a default position of two links before it sends a comment into moderation for you to decide if you want to allow it to publish or not. One link will pass through unscathed, each of my images contained a URL – ‘nuf sed. However you can change that in your settings if you like, but I doubt that it’s going to come up again that often.

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