August 31, 2010

Lying to Yourself and to Others

What I’m Reading Today: Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars.

I am rapidly becoming a Seth Godin devotee. I started paying attention to his writing when he decided, like an increasing number of established authors, to go it on his own without a publisher for his next book. I read a bit of his blog and just now finished All Marketers Are Liars.

Marketing is one of the things I do for my day job. I used to do it freelance, and now it’s part of my job as an editor for a foundation. So I have thought a bunch about it and I’m always looking for ways to better connect with people.

I’ve long thought that an effective marketing technique, depending on the audience, is to tell a story. It has to be a good story well-told, granted ~ and a much abbreviated story.  You have to use the techniques of good storytelling. Use the five senses, clarity, the significant detail, a compelling narrative. You can’t generalize and you have to tell, rather than show, as much as possible.

The subtitle of this book is “The power of telling authentic stories in a low-trust world.” This subtitle seems in contradiction to the title, but as Seth explains he was actually lying in the title, or at least stretching the truth. Marketers actually have to tell a true authentic story ~ they can’t lie, and they have to believe what they’re saying. It’s the consumers who are actually lying, and they are lying to themselves. They desire something, they have a certain worldview, so they buy the stories that align with their desires and worldview.

What you have to do as a marketer is to choose your audience and choose your story. You need to choose an audience with a certain set of values and desires and suit your very-well-told story to that audience. You can’t try to reach everyone because your story has to be specific and concrete and appeal to a group of people. If you reach a specific group of people with a great story, they will tell their friends, who will tell their friends, and so on.

This all got me thinking about book marketing. As a novelist (or nonfiction book writer), our product is our book. So ideas, a worldview, is our product, so we need to sell our worldview, or that of our books, to a certain group of people. Not only the story we tell has to be compelling, but also the story about the story has to be compelling. We have to tell an authentic well-told story about the book that is the story.

I was thinking that that’s where the author’s origin stories come in ~ how they became a writer, what’s interesting about them. That’s why we need a website and a blog. We need to keep telling our authentic story. Also the origin story of that particular book. That’s also why readers want writers to be the characters in their books. Authenticity. They want Hemingway to be Jake and Henry and Macomber and the old man. They want Tolkien to be Bilbo and Frodo. They want to touch that elusive physicality of the Grail.

So, I’m going to be thinking more about the story of the story (of my novel). Also, I’m going to be reading more Seth Godin!

Questions of the Day: What’s your story about the story? Do you think an author’s work should stand on its own? Or do you think the author’s life is relevant?

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