The stakes are going up…
The picture below is what the Strip looked like in 1950 when the Dunes was a big deal. At that time, this was considered the height of modern luxury.
This what the Strip has become…
A steady escalation to grab the attention of a prospective gambler.
Keep in mind, there are more gamblers, and the industry is more profitable than ever.
Sure, the pandemic has hurt tourism, but it will bounce back.
What has changed is there are fewer casino operators, and those in the game are consummate pros, always getting better at getting gamblers into the casino.
As an indie publisher, you may feel like you’re trying to open an off-the-strip casino while the Strip keeps getting more ostentatious.
One takeaway is that there won’t be some equilibrium moment in the publishing industry where things get easy. It is imperfect, endless, ever-changing, and escalating.
This is the business you’ve chosen.
What I’ve observed is that social media is having content creators like you fuel the escalation.
Let me give you an example.
I heard authors talking about what was necessary to get the Instagram algorithm working in your favor. It required seven pieces of content in four different parts of Instagram every day. Every day in the hope of some viral visibility.
Some of this work would go into the platform where it would only exist for twenty-four hours.
All that work in the hope of getting visibility.
If you follow the recipe I heard from the authors, you may have a slightly better-than-average chance to get virality. But cumulative advantage is at play and boosted by audience engagement, so I calculate you have a 0.00000814% on any day of going viral.
We don’t perceive that because we focus on the 0.00000814% that go viral and see them as a rule, not the exception.
What we lose sight of is that dog isn’t chasing its tail. It has taught us to chase its tail through vanity metrics and gamification.
Why do you need to post to Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts?
Because we’re told the visibility algorithm favors those features.
Why those features?
They are adjusting platform visibility to get you to do the work they need to compete with the latest social media upstart.
This isn’t marketing. It’s PsyOps to get people to create free content that acts as bait to attract eyeballs.
Ask yourself why someone would be interested in that content you create?
Is it adding value to someone, or is its only real value to the machine god? Is your daily time sacrificed in the hope of a virality blessing?
The big tech battle for eyeballs is perverting our business practices.
In this email, I’ll clarify my position on marketing and advertising. My views may help you navigate the troubled waters we face as the Big Boys slug it out.
There is a public battle between Tim Cook of Apple and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
The funny thing is Facebook, like you, is collateral damage in the real aim of Apple.
Apple is defining their brand against Google. In the mobile operating system market, Apple finds itself again the underdog with less than 16% of the market share.
Apple is defining itself as a provider of privacy and choice.
This conflicts with Google and Facebook’s value proposition based on data and advertising, a battle that goes to the heart of these companies’ valuations.
The very value of Facebook is at stake. What is Mark Zuckerberg going to do when the stakes are that high?
How are you preparing your business for these changes?
Understanding what’s at stake now and how the market will continue to escalate is relevant to how you get visibility in a noisy market.
Because it will escalate, the platforms will continue to dictate how you must sing for your visibility supper.
You can’t help but be caught in the middle of the escalation because you seek visibility, and you provide the most precious ingredient.
You’re playing in a multibillion-dollar content and entertainment market. This is the high roller room. As more free time is created, we seek content to keep us from boredom.
Virality > Advertising > Marketing
Viral posts are advertising that you pay for with your time. Advertising isn’t marketing. Advertising can be a component of your marketing as an indie author MUST market books. Do you have to advertise?
Advertising is an amplifier of marketing. A method to access attention. Once you buy it, what will you give to hold it?
“But wait, I paid for your attention, so you should buy.”
Nope. You paid someone else to access that attention. Your ad disrupts the attention of its viewer. Now it must be worthy of that attention disruption.
You may think that’s when you start to market. No.
Marketing is about positioning your product in the mind of your prospect.
Without that meaningful connection, no one will buy from you. Your ad will look just like the others.
Your ad can snap them out of their boredom and use curiosity to get them to learn more about your brand and story world.
So, where does this leave you?
Old School Marketing with Some Cumulative Advantage Twists
Below are the stages of customer engagement. They have been around for a hundred years. What has changed is our ability to see this journey through data.
Let’s talk about top-of-funnel awareness.
Marketing and advertising have always had the issue of not being able to attribute what caused the sale. Large brands understand this and have always focused a large part of the budget on awareness. This will make more sense if you read to the end and my P.S.
Consumer goods companies know that there needs to be awareness first. Without knowing about the product or what it does for me, why would I ever buy?
This is the know of know, like, and trust.
In Ricardo Fayet’s new book, he puts it so well.
“Authors don’t find readers, readers find books.”
Awareness needs to be about helping a reader discover your book. Just seeing it will not be enough.
How are you approaching awareness?
In the last email, I shared how we find most people on Facebook bored and in a trance. We looked at some things you can do differently with your marketing to get readers to understand the experience or adventure you offer.
Dean Jackson shares that 15% of customers buy in the first 90 days. That means the other 85% of those who see your ad or book promo are still potential customers who are PREPARED TO BUY but don’t for various reasons.
This is where we can change how we market.
Rather than ads being focused on getting a reader off the platform and buying a book, what can you do on that platform to get them to a place where they can experience your brand and community?
My thesis is that it is a complex behavior change to adopt an unknown author’s book. Therefore, the highest probability of conversion is when they are a member of a strong tie network applying positive peer pressure—the mesoscopic layer of cumulative advantage.
We then give the prospect time to adopt the behavior.
We often think of a Facebook community as a place to send readers after they buy. Why not get new readers to your group first?
Attracting the right customers is part of the equation. The other part is the complex contagion where you get them to adopt a new behavior. Who better to help new readers understand what you offer than your existing audience?
We want to commiserate with others in our tribe.
That Steve Wynn went for a top customer experience seems obvious. It attracts the top gamblers and leaves the rest of us to aspire to have that experience.
Those high rollers get the experience they expect, and those of us who aren’t high rollers can get a small taste.
A community on a social media platform can act similarly. It can serve both as a place for your existing customers to congregate and as a place of indoctrination. Aspiring readers can observe those who have experienced your work connecting about that story world.
How can you use the group to help visitors understand the story world and the experiences you offer?
If Facebook will make it harder and harder to leave, why not go with the flow and get the prospect into your group? Get the community working for you on warming a prospect up to reading your books.
You can use the questions for joining the group to collect emails. Yes, it’s a manual process, but you can get emails on the platform.
More important is how you facilitate community interaction. The purpose of the group has to have value for the reader. The holy grail is a reader having a community experience while also having an intimate experience with your characters.
Can you facilitate this experience in your group?
What about a read-a-thon as part of your next book launch?
A group activity that can be part of the launch celebration is a great way to build community. How is this different?
You’re getting the community to do something they enjoy (reading) as a group. It may surprise you to see how many people in your group haven’t read through your series or don’t know all the books you may have written.
These small changes shift the on-ramp to joining a group on the platform where someone is used to hanging out, then changing from a sales process to a community engagement process that encourages those who haven’t read past books to pick them up to understand what the group is talking about.
See how this is different?
Change the on-ramps…
P.S. Before I go, let’s talk about what will change from the IOS 14 update.
Digital marketing has made attribution a big deal. It has become easier for a marketer to see the customer journey and attribute a sale to an ad or marketing campaign.
Of course, those selling through other retailers like authors have always suffered from inadequate attribution.
We have never had suitable attribution, but we tend to connect the dots by associating sales and read-through to the ads we run.
Every ad platform wants to take credit for getting you the sale. This is why attribution is wonky. Was it your Facebook ad or your Amazon ad that caused the sale?
Maybe it was both. It could be neither.
Facebook ads attribution is going to get more problematic because of the war between Apple and Facebook.
The reason that Apple will make it harder to track data isn’t important.
What is important is that what the data can tell you will change.
This won’t have a significant impact on you since you sell most of your books in stores that don’t provide channel attribution.