Blogger: Michelle Ule
Sitting in both today and tomorrow for the traveling Janet and for Wendy.
Over the next two days I’m going to talk about the marketing you do before you start writing. Today we’ll start with in your house, tomorrow we’ll examine where to hunt for information outside of your house.
What does that even mean, “pre-writing marketing?”
Today I’m going to define it as “information you investigate and discover about the potential marketing aspects of the project you’re thinking about/planning/hoping to write.”
It’s always important to count the cost before you begin any large project and writing is no different–whatever your status in the publication journey.
Four ways to examine your project’s marketing potential from the comfort of your own computer.
1. Does your project have a felt need in not only your heart but also that of the market?
Editors always want to know what the “felt need” is an author is trying to meet in their manuscript.
(This would be true both of nonfiction and good fiction.)
If an idea comes to you, particularly a strong one, it’s probably because you have a need for a book of that sort in your own life.
You alone know your circumstances and questions.
If you’re overcome by the idea of an awkward young woman falling in love with vampire–you should examine it.
Is this a common problem in the world you live in? Do people in your life voice concerns about this?
Do you think love can overcome all and you want to write a book that proves it?
See where I’m starting?
What’s the core component of the project you feel compelled to spend months/years of your life working on?
Would anyone else be interested in it?
That’s the marketing piece.
2. What are your kids interested in? Even if you’re not writing for children or YAs.
Those of you who still have kids in the house–particularly teenagers and college students–are in an excellent position to gauge what that age group is interested in.
I miss having my daughter around for a number of reasons, not the least of which was seeing what she and her friends were reading, watching, and talking about.
(She introduced me to lovelorn teenagers aching for vampires–and we quickly slammed that book shut. But she also dragged me into the magical world of Harry Potter, and he was very useful in some of those extremely trying years).
A businessman I know routinely buys his teenagers the latest electronic gadgets–and writes it off as a business expense because he watches the creative things they do with them and invests accordingly.
Kids can reflect the culture and show us what felt needs are–whether they’re willing to admit the felt needs are theirs or that of “a friend.”
Is it fair to do marketing research on your kids?
They’re your kids. Marketing gurus do it all the time.
(Who else do you think is watching their Facebook clicks. Or is Facebook passe, now, for the younger set?)
3. When you go to the library, what new books draw you?
Pay close attention to covers and the books librarians put on display.
(Our library is accessible over the Internet, so I don’t have to leave home to do this.)
Ask the librarians what types of books patrons are requesting.
Read some of those popular books and take notes on what you think those felt needs are and how your story idea could meet them.
4. What are your non-writer friends reading? What are their needs that can be met through a story?
Poll your friends–what types of books do they like?
You can do this via email, over Facebook or even ask them when they’re at your house for tea.
(You do have tea with reading friends, don’t you? I rarely have time for it either. Hi, Marianne.)
I once pitched an editor at Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference an idea that came to me while I was talking to him.
It had nothing to do with the project we initially discussed, but something triggered a recognition of a problem many of my friends were struggling with.
He loved the idea.
And more importantly, he had never heard it before.
Bonus! The most important point: Run your idea past your spouse, agent and close friends.
Because they’re going to have to hear about it until it’s done.
Pay attention to their reaction.
Every time I mention my Iranian prison story to my husband and my agent, they both roll their eyes and sigh.
My husband decided on an intervention: “Just who do you think would want to read that story?”
It’s always been clear to me: “Anyone interested in the up and down course of true love.”
It’s only half done . . .
How do you decide what to write?
4 points to examine when considering a writing project. Click to Tweet
Pre-writing marketing and deciding what to write. Click to Tweet
Generally, my writing been character-driven…people show up in my head and get rowdy until I write the stories they dictate. They own the plot and the arcs; I am constrained to listen and record.
But now I’m looking at what may be a market need; certainly it’s a perceived one, from where. I sit.
It’s got the working title of “Fixing’ To Die: What To Expect When Your Husband’s Expectant”. Expectant, in this context, is corpsman-speak for “…put this dude on the dead pile.”
Living this experience, I do see a lot of misconceptions, primarily related to what I now see as the ‘hole in the bucket”, the seemingly limited time-horizon. It’s perhaps the hardest dichotomy to explain, that even though rest may be needed, it’s undesirable because it takes up that most precious commodity now remaining, that of sunrises yet to be seen.
No one wants to see collapse through exhaustion and pain…but sometimes it’s best to let it happen.
And yes, this does come at a cost to a caregiving wife, because physically stepping back calls for some emotional distancing. Watch someone you love flog himself to the edge of life and you’ve got to at least partially disconnect, or live in a boundless bourn of heartache.
It seems to me that this needs to be addressed, without sloppy sentiment or clinical chill. Don’t know if I’m the right man for the job or not.
Do kind of wish I could be writing about talking unicorns instead, but as they say in Inverness, “…there ye be, laddie, and ye may as well eat yer haggis.”
Trying to write this on a phone that purports to be smarter than me is quite a challenge; please pardon any typos I miss, and please excuse the comment’s length.
No righter man for this job than you, dear Andrew. You convey painful reality that curls my toes, wrapped in a worldview that makes me chuckle while I cry. Write on, friend, and pass me the tissue box.
Wow, Andrew. So glad you shared this, and that Michelle asked the questions.
Andrew. “You’ve got to at least partially disconnect, or live in a boundless bourn of heartache.” Whew … that spoke volumes to me, and is truth in many areas of life. I know I for one am guilty of that in at least one area of my life because the heartache, the feeling like a human yo-yo, is unbearable. But if it makes us run to our Heavenly Father … there’s purpose. You always bless me … always make me think higher, wider … and now, I’ve got Scotland on my mind again. 🙂
If you do write the book, Andrew. I’ll be reading it. Your insights on life, your perspective and your heart stretch and speak to me. Like Shelli said, you broaden my perspective with your words.
Andrew, you are the man to write that book. I think it is an audience that has not been served, and God may have prepared you for such a time as this.
If you ever have specific prayer requests about health of your wife’s well-being, feel free to share. We are a praying family at this blog.
I can certainly sympathize with the small phone keyboard. Apple spell check usually makes it only worse.
We grieve with you, Andrew, for the limited number of those anticipated sunsets. We pray, too, that the peace of the Lord will surround you in ways you can not even begin to understand and that your wife, too, will experience that inexpressible joy and content.
In the meantime . . .
I understand your comment about holes in the bucket and it’s an interesting image. I would guess your energy is limited as well. I also expect you have wise and insightful things to say that could benefit all of us.
Would it be easier to express those ideas into a tape recorder? Speak them and have them transcribed? From what I’ve observed, your ideas flow well and in beautiful form, but you seem to like the question to get your started.
(Or maybe not).
What if someone wrote out a series of questions, or you came up with the list yourself and then talked about them. Transcription would be the easy part (even without having to bother with Dragon software, though that’s another idea).
Being able to hear tapes are valuable for other reasons.
I recently unearthed an audio tape my aunt made when I sent her far too many questions for a biography of my grandfather I was writing. Her voice starts in it’s slow English touched with Italian–and she sometimes slipped into sounding very much like her childhood tongue–as she answers my questions about that childhood.
She died ten years ago. I found that tape in time for her granddaughter’s engagement party. We turned it into CDs, made a number of copies, and presented it to a young woman, whose own mother also had died. Her eyes went wide and filled with tears, unbelieving that we had such a treasure.
It’s not just your writing, your ideas, and thoughts that are important to the ones you love. Your spoke words are also cherished and moving to those who love you.
Yes. By all means. Speak or write from your heart. In an insane world that denies the reality and truth of death, yours may make the difference for any number of people.
Prayers and blessings to you and Barbara, always.
Michelle, and everyone, thank you so much. I only have a few minutes with the phone now, but your comments have brightened a trying day. And I will look into transcription – great idea!
Andrew Budek-Schmeisser » Good. Happy to help, always.
Andrew, it’s so good to have you back online with us. Your insights have been sorely missed. I really hope you write it. From what I’ve come to know of you through the blogs, I can’t imagine anyone better equipped to walk people into the valley with wisdom and humor. I hope God grants you strength and time to complete it.
Michelle, I’m definitely pulled by my heart. If the story/ idea brings me to my knees … I’m hoping it will others, too.
Shelli–which always brings us to the question: “Is it good if I cry while writing the book?” 🙂
Carol McAdams Moore
I am every watchful of what children and teens are reading. The library and the bookstore are great places to observe what they like. I also like to take a look at the flyers for children’s book orders through school. There is lots of great information about what is new, different, and reader-intriguing in them.
Carol–Absolutely, though I have to say walking through the YA section of the library these days is almost frightening. I finally found one book that looked at least somewhat encouraging and it was called How a War Saved My Life (and it was excellent and true!)
Kristen Joy Wilks
Oh I volunteer at our public school and I love it when my job is to staple the book orders!
I’m blessed with a wonderful sister who’s an avid reader of Christian fiction, so if she’d want to read it, I figure it’s a safe bet to write!
Target audience in the crosshairs AND your sister to boot! How perfect! You can make her cry and not feel bad. 🙂 (I’m being facetious. I don’t have a sister.)
Michelle, I have never thought about this topic in this way before. I love your suggestions. And most of them involve looking around me.
My stories come in different ways. The one I’m working on now was planting in me after talking with a friend about a mutual struggle. The story is very different than I first envisioned it, but the essence is still there. And I suspect, the theme is one many people struggle with at one point or another.
With one story I considered writing, a friend asked me a similar question as your husband asked you: Who would want to read this story? I had no answer. So, the idea sits in my Story Sparks folder to this day. 🙂
Jeanne–Good idea on the Story Sparks folder. Can we all borrow the title?
And even wiser to recognize in your friend’s struggle your own plus a way to address it in your writing. It could be very powerful because you can not only see it working out in your friend, but you can feel it working out in your life.
Actually, that’s a terrific set of insights for writing! Does she drink tea? 🙂
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Many indigenous people will say the same thing to the zealous but culturally blind and ethnically insensitive missionaries who came on the heels of conquerors.
From the Maori, the Quechua, the Native Hawaiian and the hundreds of Native North American cultures, the message has been the SAME:
We live here.
We have always lived here.
We know every square inch of this place.
This is our home.
One day, everything changed.
We saw you coming.
But you were coming for us.
You did not care to speak to us.
Only show us that your God said that our home belonged to you.
Down went your plows.
Up went your guns.
Down went our people.
For hundreds of years.
Ah, but we are still here.
Now, please, tell us how your God loves us.
Find a way to help us understand.
We have long memories.
Tell us in a way we can accept that your God loved us then, and that He loves us know.
We do not see it.
We never saw it.
We are not savages.
We are not beasts.
If we truly are the children of the King of Heaven?
It is up to you to act with justice, love with mercy, and walk OUR roads, with the God of all, and not make us feel like we must conform in order to be worthy of Christ’s sacrifice.
Cutting our hair and speaking English, Spanish, or French, does not make us Christian.
It makes us angry.
But, we still want to know, is it true? Does God love us?
More great insight, Jennifer. We have a friend who just went to her first international mission assignment–a place where she expects to spend her life. She was told her first six months was to be spent getting to know people, learning about the culture, working on her language, praying and dreaming. Plus, of course, keep her own relationship to the Lord healthy and robust. We visited her last month and it was so interesting to see how connected she already is to those people whom she already loves.
Good point about asking our older kids what they find interesting. As C.S. Lewis pointed out (I’m paraphrasing) good writing is good writing. Writers ought not to write down to kids and up to adults, but instead to produce a true, compelling story that works across age groups.
Good morning, Michelle! What an epiphany for me today. “See where I’m starting? Your heart.” I usually start with characters, voice that talk to me and tell me their story. Their backstory doesn’t (always) match my backstory, but as I examine the people who populate my stories, I can see that some are matters of my heart. For example, the hero of the book I’m editing now comes from a difficult background, but he found God in the lock-up and now lives a changed life. His problem? How do you prove you are different to people who knew you before? It takes time through actions and words, but does he have the patience? And if he doesn’t have the patience, does that mean he really hasn’t changed at all? (BTW, I’ve never been in the lock-up. 🙂 ) And my poor heroine is left wondering if he really and truly is changed. How can you know for sure? Um…she. How can SHE know for sure? 🙂
Thank you, Michelle. I’m going to mull all this over and come back to re-read.
But that’s part of the conflict that compels the reader through the story and turns it on themselves: how can I tell if I have truly changed?
Kristen Joy Wilks
There are so many stories that I am passionate about. That Biblical Fiction Adventure YA that I’ve been working on since 2003…but there comes a time when your passions all of a sudden line up with something that you think “Oh my goodness, this might actually sell!” A wonderful day indeed.
I’ve been waiting for a post like this one! I want to make sure what I’m writing actually answers a need in the market (besides my own need, apparently, to write it) and this post gives me a bunch of great tips for figuring that out. Thanks!
Michelle: Great. Join us tomorrow for some other suggestions.