Sunday, February 06, 2005

Further Thoughts on Promoting Short Ficton

Let’s talk some more about promotion. The way I see it, promotion is one of three pillars that will support a burgeoning short story market. Any effort to start a new zine (on the small scale) or a new culture (on the large scale) will succeed or fail in large part because of the effort put into promotion.

Promotion occurs on two levels. The first is the grassroots level. On this level there need to be evangelists, people who are willing to buttonhole anyone who will stand still long enough and regale them with the virtues of the short story in general and any or all means of acquiring them in particular.

Some of that is already happening with an increase of short story panels at the various writer/fan conventions. That’s important. Convince fans that short stories are fun to read, that they are as meaty, at times, as novels, that short stories can make you laugh, cry, or get mad just as easily as a novel can in a much shorter period of time.

Another type of grassroots effort is blogs that talk about short stories (he said, modestly).

This all translates into word of mouth, and that’s a very powerful form of promotion.

However, in spite of what modern marketing gurus say, I don’t think that grassroots promotion will do all that needs to be done to make short stories popular among the general reading, or listening, public. Short stories need to be perceived as COOL. I’ve said this before, and I will keep saying it. If THE PUBLIC sees short stories as COOL, then the short story market will boom.

I emphasized THE PUBLIC because that’s who we need to be targeting. We all know or are being told that the number of people who read, books, magazines, newspapers, whatever, is shrinking. We need to reach the ones who are not now reading or are reading minimally. If they come to think short stories are COOL, they will demand short stories.

So how does something become COOL? I will point to two very successful marketing campaigns: iPod and “Got Milk?”. I’ve talked about iPod before, and I’ll probably do it again, but not today.

The “Got Milk?” campaign was successful because they used celebrities and produced images that stuck in the mind. At the time I thought the campaign was asinine, but it worked. I can’t argue with that.

A product becomes COOL when it is associated with someone or something that is already perceived as COOL. Tom Cruise is cool. Angelina Jolie is cool. Stephen King is cool. And he may be the only writer that is so perceived.

Promotion, promotion, promotion, people.

Oh, yeah. I said that promotion was one of three pillars. The other two are selection (of which price is a subcategory) and ease of use. I’ll talk about those in future rants.

4 Comments:

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Dave White said...

I agree with you, promotion to the public is key. Right now we're preaching to the choir. I've been around for about 5 years in this writing stuff and the internet stories have a buzz, but that buzz is though writers on the internet. The next key is getting it out to everyone, but how do you do that? I mean, I'm cool, but I'm not "Let me go read his short story" cool.

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Bob said...

I think, Dave, it's a matter of promoting outside "the community". A way to start is to get your local library to sponsor a talk about short stories with you as the talker. Go talk to the publisher of your local independent "free for the taking" newspaper. Get him to give you an article, or, better yet, a column. When you go to Bouchercon buttonhole Connelly and tell him he needs to write a short story for Hardluck or Shred or Thrilling or Shots or any of the other zines for no money. He'd be helping the little guys. I'm sure you can think of other ways.

 
At 12:37 PM, Blogger Dave White said...

Well, I've been the newspaper route, but now I might try it again. (The newspaper route ended up losing contact with me.)

 
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