Thursday, October 19, 2017

On Marketing Authors, Worlds, and what people want

Earlier today, Brian Niemeier posted some musings in response to comments from Nathan Housey on marketing. Now, there are some very good points in here, from both, don't get me wrong.

But in the instance of WoW, I have to wonder how much of it was pure marketing. How much instead was building a platform that was capable of popularity with gamers of different preferences? And I don't just mean raiders vs PVP lovers. There's people that hate raids that love the game. There's some that have been fans of Blizzard stuff since before Warcraft(yes, it has been around that long). There's room for casuals in the game. They made WoW a big brand, Blizzard is a brand that owns that brand. How much is simply going for the popular product?

Brian and Nathan both bring up Sanderson, and Brian noted that despite the success of his Cosmere, the marketing is about him, not the universe/multiverse. Brian mentioned that Tor markets likewise. Well, my response is as much as Tor markets anyone not Scalzi. Which isn't much. They push Scalzi more than Orson Scott Card. Now, they did push for a display of their last Sanderson book in B&N. Which was a waste of paper, as it was all reprints of novellas and shorts his real fans had in other volumes, with two maybe three exceptions. I wasn't dropping cash for that, even if I weren't already boycotting Tor.

Brian brings up Galaxy's Edge, which is an interesting study as it's by Nick Cole and Jason Anspach, two authors I've reviewed apart from each other as well. They're both really good. I want more 'Til Death, Jason. But, the brand here is not either author, but both. I don't think either could put out as good a work in the world alone. This is far from an insult, it's a compliment to how well they work together. It's a really good riff on Star Wars. I know of at least one more coming up.

There's a rather good one from Robert Kroese, which started off as a Star Wars riff, but has moved more to SF in general: Rex Nihilio of Starship Grifters. The brand? Kroese, hitting on notes from around sf culture.

One somewhat similar setting that was missed was Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy's Horsemen universe. The books are solo pieces so far(there's an announced shared novel). And only a few of the short stories have been cowritten. Here, the strength belongs more to the universe. Yes, it was established by two authors, but others are playing in it, and why is it working? Well, Mechwarrior and Robotech aren't doing the job, and I don't see any dominant anime now. Once again, we hit familiar notes.

So where's the alternate Trek(outside of Orville)? There's Starfleet Universe, but the publisher has done very little with it of late. A smart publisher/investor would buy those rights and do EVERYTHING they can. I don't know all the details of those rights, they may exclude film and tv. If not, Axanar should have bought them. But video and boardgames and rpgs there? They could move, and Nick Cole used Starfleet U in his Ctrl Alt Revolt!, not Trek.  Galaxy Quest did its thing(the best trek film), had some mildly amusing comics, and disappeared.

Which brings us to Brian. He claims that the level of originality has hurt him via the Amazon algorithms. I don't doubt that's somewhat true. But he's also not hitting a single familiar note with fans, either. His work is usually described with combinations of others, and that likely narrows his appeal to many. While I really dig what he's done here, to most people it will be like Beethoven's 9th was when it premiered: they didn't get it.

A lot of people want the familiar. They don't seek new music, they turn on the radio. They don't dig for old or unusual shows, they turn on the TV, and stick to a show or few.

So what am I going to do? I'm going to play with some old notes in a new way. We'll see if it works, I'm barely started, but I'm having fun so far. Maybe others will get it, maybe not. Guessing I might make some folks mad.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

1 comment:

  1. Great follow up! Omitting Wandrey, Kennedy, and Kroese was an oversight on my part that I partially correct in the comments at Kairos.

    Your assessment of the Soul Cycle is largely correct in my opinion--and hey, anytime I'm favorably compared to the Maestro, it's a good day :)

    Not that the SC is entirely original. I didn't reinvent the wheel so much as I added whitewalls, chrome nozzle caps, spinning rims, and baseball cards in the spokes.

    The biggest rookie mistake I'd caution new authors against is relying on the scattershot social media sales approach. I do alright by grinding every day on Twitter, Gab, and FB. But the shotgun approach confuses Amazon's algorithm, so once you start down the grinding path, forever will it dominate your destiny--at least until you release a tightly focused series in a good niche and cross-promote.