Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Writing is Hard: Disney marketing rules

I'm always interested in marketing and I'm a big Walt Disney World fan, so this post on Disney Marketing Rules is fascinating to me. Steve Spalding doesn't have any inside information, he's just an observant fan of the park who's noticed some things. Three, to be exact.

I thought it might be a good exercise to see if I could apply them to promoting books.

"It’s not what you see, it’s what you don’t see."

I think that - when it comes to books - this might be more of a craft concern than marketing. I know when I'm reading, I don't want to be distracted by the mechanics the writer went through to create the story. That's difficult for me because I'm always thinking about that on some level, but it's such a joy when I read those rare books where the storytelling is so easy and seamless that I can forget about what the writer's doing and just enjoy the tale.

In other words, good writing isn't something where I want to stop and marvel over the choices the writer made. Those choices should be transparent. That's really hard to do, but it's an important rule.

"You don’t sell products, you sell an experience."

This one's easy enough to apply to writing, but difficult to execute. When promoting a book, you've got to convince potential readers that they'll feel something as a result of reading your stuff. And that means so much more than just telling them that your book is "funny" or that it'll "leave you in tears." Nobody believes that. Nobody buys a book because that's written in a blurb about it.

Figure out what the experience is that you want readers to have and then figure out how to give them a taste of it before they buy. The first one is free; they've got to pay for the rest.

"Learn to turn work into play."

The idea here is to take the most negative thing about your product and turn it into a positive. With books, the biggest negative for me is how much time it takes me to get through them, because I'm always wanting to get to the next book in my reading pile.

The easy solution (again, easy to determine; extremely difficult to do) is to make your book so engrossing that readers don't mind spending a lot of time in it. Every page should have something on it that not only makes that page worth reading, but makes the reader excited about moving on to the next one as well.

If I'm correctly applying this rule to writing, this one's also more about craft than it is about selling. I admit that hearing the words "page-turner" applied to a book gets my attention, but I'm also a bit skeptical about it. I'll be the judge of what gets me turning pages, thanks. So, yeah, you can tell people that you've got a fast read, but it's another thing entirely to actually write one.

Stay tuned, because later on I'll post a review of Stephen King's Duma Key and talk about how he nails two of these rules, but doesn't do so hot on the third.

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