Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Annette Lyon Gets Socratic

by Robison Wells

Last week I wrote a big long blog about marketing, and Annette Lyon said "This is g-rrrr-eat! Next week, why don't you write more about how to target our ideal customers?!" Holy cow, Annette is such a mooch.

Dear Annette,
Why are you always looking for a handout? You're such a mooch.

Hugs and kisses,

Frankly, I don't want to talk about that because it sounds boring. So, blah. I'll talk about something else.

However, today's installment in Uncle Rob's Marketing Lolapalooza will feature Annette Lyon. In fact, she's here with us in the studio today!

Rob: Annette, thanks for joining us today. We're excited to have you on the show.

Annette: Oh no, the pleasure is all mine! It's always been a dream of mine to be interviewed by you.

Rob: I hear you have a book coming out?

Annette: That's an odd sentence to put a question mark at the end of.

Rob: You're no grammar guru yourself, Lyon. Ending a sentence with a preposition? What the heck?

Annette: You've found me out! Truth be told, I never went to college. I dropped out of high school when they told me I had to read The Grapes of Wrath.

Rob: No one can blame you there. So, I hear you have a new book out?

Annette: Well, yes I do. It's called Spires of Stone and it's about the construction of the Salt Lake Temple.

Rob: You brought a clip?

Annette: I did. Here's the setup: Ren McCormack, a new convert from Chicago, has just arrived to the temple site.

Shaw Moore: Welcome, Ren, to the temple site. We only have two rules here: no dancing, and stay away from my daughter.


Ren McCormack: Hey, hey! What's this I see? I thought this was a party. LET'S DANCE!

Shaw Moore's Daughter: I love you, Ren McCormack.

Ren: Did you ever get busted for boppin'?

Rob: Well, Annette, that looks like one awesome book.

Annette: It's also 100% punctuation-free. I'm trying to be more like Faulkner.

Rob: Wasn't this interview supposed to be about marketing?

Annette: Oh yeah. So here's my question. Can you tell me how to market my books?

Rob: I'm glad you brought this up, because this is something that has annoyed me for a really long time. Like, for years now.

Annette: What?

Rob: When you say "marketing", do you mean "advertising"?

Annette: Uh, duh. Of course.

Rob: Sometimes I hate this job. Here's the deal, sweetcheeks. Marketing is a whole heck of a lot more than advertising. In fact, there are four parts to marketing, and only one of them is advertising. And--guess what?--we authors tend to ignore the other parts. Maybe this is why our books sell lousy???

Annette: "Sell lousy" is bad grammar.

Rob: Your mom has bad grammar, Annette Lyon.

Annette: Zing!

Rob: Anyway, there are four parts to marketing. Think of them as the Four P's. Product, Price, Promotion, Positioning. Of those four things, Mrs. Lyon, which is advertising?

Annette: Promotion.

Rob: Yep. And of the remaining three, over which does the author have no control?

Annette: Price.

Rob: Correct as usual, King Friday. Generally, a publisher sets the price. The only exception to this is if the book is self-published. And if you're self-publishing a book, then you better know more about marketing than I can teach you in this blog.

Annette: How can you control Product? Isn't that, like, the cover? Doesn't the publisher generally pick the cover, and the title?

Rob: Yep. But Product is also the overall quality of the book. Is the grammar correct? Are there typos? Is the book fun to read, for crying out loud?

Annette: You know, you said that authors tend to ignore the other P's, but I think they do talk about Product. You know, in just about every blog/conference/how-to-write book?

Rob: Quit your sass, Lyon. Okay, you're right. Authors do focus on Product. I concede.

Annette: So what's positioning?

Rob: Positioning is actually the reason that I brought any of this up. I hereby declare that we authors don't ever think about Positioning.

Annette: Maybe that's because when we ask you what it is you don't tell us?

Rob: Possibly. Basically, Positioning is trying to figure out what need your book is going to fill. You should think about Positioning long before you ever write your book.

Annette: "What need your book is going to fill"? I'm not writing self-help books, Mr. Wells.

Rob: You need to figure out what you're offering that no one else is offering. You need to figure out why--of all the thousands of books on the shelf--the reader wants to choose yours.

Annette: Okay, so my position--my differentiation, if you will--is that my books are historicals about temples.

Rob: Perfect. You've done a really fabulous job of positioning your books, if I do say so myself. Your books are unique in the market.

Annette: You're making me blush.

Rob: HOWEVER. Here are some of the things that DO NOT QUALIFY as good positioning: "My book is a romance about real people with real problems". Annette, why is that not good positioning?

Annette: Because that could describe an entire genre, not just your book.

Rob: You learn so quickly, grasshopper. Another crappy positioning statement: "My book is a mystery, where the lead character is a cop."

Annette: Holy lame.

Rob: I assume by "holy lame" you mean that the author hasn't differentiated him or herself in any way.

Annette: Yes. Now wait a minute: there are a ton of non-unique books that sell like hotcakes. What about... those enormous shelves of romance novels that all have similar covers?

Rob: You spend a lot of time on that aisle, don't you?

Annette: Uh, yeah, because I like to see half-naked women.

Rob: ...

Annette: I was being sarcastic.

Rob: Ah yes. Anyway, you make a good point. Yes, there are books out there that sell quite a few copies without being unique. Two things, though: first, that doesn't appear to work in the LDS market (because those books sell because of total sales volume in the genre, which doesn't happen right now in the LDS market), and second, those books will never go anywhere. Sure, they'll sell moderately well for a year (or however long), but they can never be a breakaway hit.

Annette: I think I get it: if you position your book to be average, you'll get average sales in return.

Rob: Bing!

Annette: I feel so learned.

Rob: Now let's take a look at some of the specific big sellers in the LDS market and figure out what their positioning is. I'll quiz you: Chris Heimerdinger.

Annette: He writes time-travelling Book of Mormon stuff.

Rob: That was easy. Gerald Lund.

Annette: The Work and the Glory.

Rob: That's a title, not a positioning statement.

Annette: The Work and the Glory was the quintessential church history series. Sure, there'd been fictionalized church history books before that, but never on that scale.

Rob: You're a fine student. Anita Stansfield.

Annette: I... well... I'd say her work has shattered the stereotypes of romance novels with her trademark ability to combine great storytelling with intense psychological depth as she focuses on the emotional struggles of the human experience.

Rob: You Googled her website, didn't you?

Annette: Well, yes. But her case seems to be what we talked about before. She writes, as you said, romance about real people with real problems. So, how does she sell so many books if she has such a general position?

Rob: I'd posit that her actual position is: she's Anita Stansfield. She is unique because of consistency and volume. Anita Stansfield isn't so much an author's name, but a brand. People buy her books because it says "Anita Stansfield" on the cover, and they know what that means.
This is all possible because she was one of the first to hit the market. Even though her category seems broad now, when she first started writing she was differentiated. It was an untapped market, and she got in on the ground floor. And, of course, she has been consistent, and continually delivers what her customers want.

Annette: So positioning and differentiation isn't just about new, wacky ideas--it's just about finding a target audience whose needs are currently unfulfilled.

Rob: Yes.

Annette: That's probably harder than it sounds.

Rob: There you go again with your bellyaching. You know, you are a writer. You're supposed to be creative.

Annette: But you said I'm already differentiated! Score!

Rob: It's all the other authors who are suckers.

Annette: Yes. But we never got to discussing Promotion/Advertising.

Rob: Shut up, Annette Lyon. The point is: you shouldn't even THINK about promotion until you've written a well-positioned book.
Here's something fun, if you're interested in positioning, fill out this positioning statement:

For the reader who wants _______________, my book is a (genre) that offers ______________________. Unlike other books in my genre, my book provides __________________________________.

Annette: This is an awfully long blog today. And weren't you supposed to be interviewing me? This has been more like Ask Mr. Wizard.

Rob: Well, if you want to call me that, I won't argue.

Annette: I didn't mean that as a compliment.

Rob: Shut up, Annette Lyon. And goodnight everybody!

(Many thanks to Annette Lyon and her being a good sport. Go buy her book. Do it NOW.)


At 11/06/2007 1:36 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I love your interviews, Rob. Thanks for breaking away from the grind to do this for us.

At 11/06/2007 2:32 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Wow--I had no idea I was such a quick study. Or that I had ever said or learned this stuff. :D

Good points all around--especially that last bit about buying my book . . .

At 11/06/2007 3:51 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Great interview, Annette. I'm glad you were able to put Rob in his place.

At 11/06/2007 4:24 PM, Blogger Carole Thayne (Warburton) said...

Rob, Good thing Annette is such a talented and quick study so she could provide you with this insightful interview. Lots of fun.

At 11/06/2007 5:04 PM, Blogger Josi said...

Note to self: Never interview Annette Lyon, I'd never keep up.

P.S. to self: Buy Annette's book

At 11/07/2007 1:48 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Loved the Footloose excerpt. =)

I have a question about marketing or advertising or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays (yo! LOL Bling!)

Jeff said that those stands that hold a million copies of just your book are referred to as "coop" (Rhymes with poop) Is it possible that he's misread this word, and it's actually "co-op" (rhymes with, um, no op? whoa stop?)

At 11/07/2007 1:52 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Jon, to answer your question, I have no idea what Jeff's talking about. (Now or ever.)

At 11/07/2007 2:07 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

It's true. I tell Rob, so really valuable stuff and he mods the whole them, then says, "I don't get it." Which may be why he makes up these interviews. BY the way, doesn't his little black and white picture right above make him look like the Beev?

Yeah, John. It is short for co-op advertising or co-op dollars. But slang for co-op is coop. As in his publisher cooped him or look at all of his coop. (Nice pointing out that it rhymes with poop.)porbably just got us banned on 10,00 internet filters.

At 11/07/2007 2:15 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

What the crap? Jeff says stuff like "I tell Rob, so really valuable stuff and he mods the whole them" and yet he expects me to "get it"?

At 11/07/2007 3:21 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Whatever you say, Beev. Actually I'm in Buffalo, NY and my fingers are just numb.

At 11/12/2007 1:12 AM, Blogger Janette Rallison said...

Oh crud . . . as if I don't have enough to think about trying to figure out where not to dangle my participles. Now you tell me I have to think about positioning too?

At 11/14/2007 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL! you guys crack me up!

At 11/18/2007 7:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this was so fun to read your bogus interview with annette. thanks for the chuckle grasshopper! :) kathleen

At 8/03/2009 3:59 PM, Anonymous Chas Hathaway said...

Awesome! So when are you going to interview Chris Heimerdinger?

= Chas


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