Ads have become a constant, in-your-face part of our society. Open AOL, get pummeled with ads. BUY ME! SALE! HURRY, WHILE SUPPLY LASTS! You see an interesting news link, click it, and are taken to a video that starts with--you guessed it--an ad! You find a really cool YouTube video you want to view, but firrrrrst...you have to sit through a boring advertisement. Ads are on Twitter, Facebook, web sites, blogs, reader sites, book sales sites and in your personal email by the hundreds! It's a promotional warp core meltdown!
Recently I made a trip to Disneyland in California. I did the math and realized I hadn't visited the theme park in a couple of decades! While it was still a great experience, I was also a little bit dismayed by the in-your-face giant Disney advertisement the theme park has become.
The Haunted Mansion ride that I experienced just after it had first opened with its amazing holographic images and spooky themes, was now one massive advertisement for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Big thumbs down from me. The whole spooky, spine-tingling feeling of the original attraction was sadly missing. And instead of ending the ride by facing a dark mirror to find a ghost sitting between me and my ride partner, it was now a day-glo Christmas stocking. A Christmas stocking? Seriously? Not a leering, hulking evil spirit to haunt us? It was a major letdown.
More disappointment followed.
The once uber cool submarine ride that originally took passengers on an underwater adventure past marine marvels including a giant sea monster--is now one monster promo for Finding Nemo, with clips of the movie shown on underwater screens set among boulders and corral. It even has a flock of seagulls perched on a buoy bursting into their choruses of "Mine! Mine! Minemine!" every few minutes. Somewhat cute, but just didn't pack the punch of the original non-Nemo sea adventure. Instead I felt manipulated and even a little resentful.
The end result of these two "experiences" was no more effective than being pelted with ads in my email.
Now here's the tie-in to the world of publishing. Sadly, authors are contributing to this advertising blight. If I open any of the social media sites on any particular day, I am bombarded with bald-faced promotion.
- BUY MY BOOK!
- READ THIS FANTASTIC REVIEW (and BUY MY BOOK!)
- MY BOOK IS ON THE BESTSELLERS LIST! (BUY IT!)
- FAMOUS REVIEWER SAID THIS ABOUT MY BOOK (SO YOU MUST BUY IT!)
- READ THIS BRILLIANT EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, SO YOU'LL WANT TO BUY IT.
- MY BOOK JUST RELEASED. BUY IT NOW!
- HELP ME SELL MORE BOOKS BY VOTING FOR IT HERE.
- ENTER THIS CONTEST TO WIN MY FREE BOOK (AND LOSE, SO YOU'LL BUY IT INSTEAD).
Wait! There has to be a better way to introduce and promote a fantastic product like SFR? Right?
I think just about anyone will agree that "BUY MY BOOK!" is not effective promotion. We need to convince the customer why they will enjoy reading the book. In other words, using an age-old basis of good storytelling: SHOW the entertainment value contained in the read, don't just TELL the readers to buy it.
Let's go back to Disneyland, because it didn't totally fail in its promotional ploys. In some ways it succeeded brilliantly.
I found my epitome of great promotion in Tomorrowland. Here's where I experienced a whole different type of advertising--promotion that really worked by pulling the customers into the world that was being promoted instead of putting them on a ride and bombarding them with blatant advertisement.
Star Tours opened the air lock and immersed me in an epic space adventure, letting me experience what it's really like to be part of this world. It built expectation and excitement about the upcoming Star Wars installments coming from Disney. In a word...stupendous! (I rode three times and discovered there are at least two completely different adventures to enjoy.)
Each round included unique, authentic lines spoken by Vader right that perfectly suited the live action. Parents went wild snapping photos and shooting videos, and a whole new generation of future Star Wars fans was inducted into the world of "far, far away..."
But Tomorrowland didn't have the monopoly on fun.
The Indiana Jones adventure was an absolute rush--a wild ride aboard a bumpy, careening old War World II era truck, including the thrill of almost being flattened by a huge boulder and cameo appearances by the man himself, dangling from ropes and shouting warnings or words of advice. It included no movie clips, just let riders experience the thrill of being involved. Fun and effective!
Here you board a Cars style conveyance and get a crazy tour of Radiator Springs and its many colorful characters, and as a grand finale you get to race fellow riders in another Car over steep hills and around tight turns.
Again, no movie clips. You meet the Cars characters face-to-face, including a warning from the looming Sheriff to watch your speed and a grumbling confrontation between the Hippy van and the military Scout jeep. After this experience, anyone who hadn't yet viewed the movie Cars would be compelled to run out and rent or buy it!
My contrasting experiences got me brainstorming about book promotion and how we might do it better. True, we don't have a mega-blockbuster movie to tap into, but heck...we write SFR! We're imaginative, innovative and far-thinking authors. We know how to color outside the box--way outside the box. So maybe it's time to apply some of that imaginative "force" to our promotion efforts. How do we draw readers in--both into our books and the SFR genre in general?
Here are my questions to the SFR authors and readers community:
- How might we better promote our wares--romantic adventures in time and space?
- What can we do to excite readers and build expectations about our books?
- In what ways can we make our promotion fun and exciting?
- How do we give readers a taste of what we have to offer in terms of entertainment?
- How can we do things better and more effectively than we're doing them now?
- Could we possibly team up with fellow SFR community members to find new, innovative, mind-blowing ways to enthuse the reading public about our work?
Let's brainstorm. Please comment with your thoughts, ideas, experiences or efforts. For readers and fans, explain what works (or has worked) for you in terms of book promotion. And what doesn't.