(Analyzing Your Book Marketing Approach After the Fact)
My dad used to say Too soon old, too late smart. It was his gentle commentary on the situations people rush into without thinking, and that feeling of mild remorse we have afterward. As Homer Simpson himself would have said, smacking his own forehead, “Doh!”
In this vein, I was smacking my own head the other day over a small investment I’d made in an ad for my new book, The Rogue Pirate’s Bible Heretical. I’m a member of IWOFA, Infinite Worlds of Fantasy Authors, and they offer to run 1/16 of a full page spread for $130 in Realms of Fantasy magazine. Hell, Infinite Worlds of Fantasy. So, I sent in my money without thinking twice about it. After all, my Pirate’s Bible is pure science fiction fantasy, the perfect entry, the perfect place for such an ad. But is it, really? Let’s take a closer, more hard-eyed look.
The first clue that should have given me pause from my small but reckless expenditure: The other authors were all women. Now don’t get me wrong, they are a terrific list of top-flight writers-Phoebe Matthews, Caroline Aubrey, Lynn Crain, Angie Fox, Barbara Monajem and Lee Barwood, to name a few. However, I felt belatedly alerted, and I took a closer look at the ad proof (it’s running in June, hits the stands in April) to see if I could determine the genre of the competition, reasoning this would give me some idea what sort of readers would be attracted to my ad. My cover featured a picture of a grim-looking pirate’s space ship. The fifteen book covers alongside my own were quite different. I did my research (too late smart) and found they represented the following genres and sub-genres: Erotic Romance, Historical Fantasy Romance, Erotic Para-romance, Vampire something-or-other, Historic Romance/Magic, Semi-humorous Magic/Romance, Erotic Demonic Romance, Erotic Ghost Romance, Historical Romance, Erotic Para-romance, Comic Horror Romance, Vampire Romance, Horror Fairy Tail Adult Romance, and two straight Para-romances.
Now, if I were the ad agency responsible for this horrible investment, I would argue that my straight sci-fi Pirate’s Bible would do very well because it stood out; it counterpointed the others and provided a ‘real’ science fiction story in an ad dripping with sexy romances. But when you’re your own client, there are no such weak excuses. Truth is, Realms of Fantasy attracts more readers looking for fanciful romance than anything else, and real hardcore science fiction fanatics probably avoid it like herpes.
Some authors don’t believe in magazine ads, and I guess that’s one way to avoid this problem. They think blogs and websites and book fairs and personal readings are the answer. I personally think ads should be a part of the mix, if you can afford them. But I also think you might be a little smarter than I was in selecting your venue. For some of you who write romance in one form or the other, you might look into the IWOFA Realms of Fantasy ad. It could make sense for you. But a smarter investment for my Pirate’s Bible would have been to dig around to find out where the hardcore sci-fi buffs hang out.
John Klawitter is a Hollywood writer, producer and director who writes fiction and non-fiction books. He often adapts his novels to screenplays that he then peddles around town. (So far, a few fat options, but no brass ring.) His novels are based on his years surviving as a creative person in the ad biz and in show biz. It is an interesting life.
He has worked as the Creative Director of Disney Studios in Burbank, and as an independent creative resource for Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Paramount and the Disney Channel, as well as for many indy production companies including Hanna Barbera, Franke Films, Pink Planet Productions, Eyeline Films and Zoiyu Productions. His films and television specials have appeared on NBC, the BBC, and the Disney Channel, and he has written many memorable song lyrics, advertising jingles and television show openings, including “Disney’s Wonderful World”, “Now & Then”, and “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show”.