Community Branding

Upfront, let me tell you I love this guy: Joe Konrath, self-publishing wizard, in-your-face blogger of all things useful to the writer in the age of e-books.  Read his column.

But read this first.

He writes here about how he does a lot of publicity and rarely sees any spike in his book sales from it.  The reason?  He has become known as the voice of self-publishing; the readers of his blog – and his annual hits number in the millions – are writers, not readers.  Readers don’t care about the publishing industry; they don’t read the articles in which he’s featured, they don’t follow his blog.  He has created an incredible, strong brand for himself… but it’s not one that sells books.  His brand is not one that reaches his target customer.

Does that mean he shouldn’t have done it?  Not at all.  I, for one, value his advice and pass it along all the darn time.  We writers would be much the poorer if he pulled down his shingle and went home.  And I don’t want to imply that there’s no value for him in being the one to whom other writers turn for advice.  I hope he gets a lot out of it, both personally and professionally.

But it’s not moving his widgets off the shelf.

So here’s my advice to you: think about your brand, not just in terms of your passion or your expertise, but also your audience.  What is your vision for yourself?  Who will buy your wares and what can you offer them that will bring them into your circle?  How can you tweak or expand your brand to reach both your peers and your customers?  You want to move widgets; there’s no shame in wanting to make your business a financial success.  If they really were widgets and not books, no one would think twice about creating a brand specifically to help people discover and buy them.  So put on your CEO hat and take a good look at your brand and your customers, and how you can make the one more appealing to the other.

And then go read Joe’s invaluable blog.

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Pitch, Baby, Pitch

Last week, as we were working on her pitch for a new TV show, one of my clients asked me how many people actually sold their TV pitch.  “Almost none,” I replied cheerfully.

This was not what she wanted to hear.  C’mon, it’s not what anyone wants to hear.

But it’s the truth, especially for someone in her position, where this was her first time up at bat, going in with her idea to a major studio.  And you know what else is the truth?  Her question is completely irrelevant.

Selling a pitch – for a book or a screenplay or a series – is terrific.  It’s winning the lottery.  And the odds feel about the same.  But selling a pitch isn’t the only possible win.  It’s not even the most important win.  When you go in to pitch, you are sharing your story and your vision, but you are also creating a relationship with the person across the desk from you.  You are showing them your talent, your expertise, your professionalism.  There may be a thousand reasons, none of which are in your control, to keep them from buying your pitch.  But when you walk out of that room, there should be no reason on earth why they wouldn’t want to work with you in the future.

That’s the bit most writers don’t understand: you’re not selling just a story when you pitch, you’re also selling yourself and your specific expertise.  Plus you want to develop, if not friendships exactly, at least friendly professional relationships.  People like to work with people they like.  You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and they won’t be yours; the more people you meet, the more likely you are to connect with the handful who really get you and your work.  These people will become steady clients, welcoming markets, cheerleaders and even champions of your career.

Pitching is an opportunity to build that kind of relationship.  The more you do it, the more fans you’ll accumulate, the more opportunities you’ll have to succeed.

Just like the lottery.  You’ve got to be in it to win it.